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Bipartisan Bill Would Create Lost and Found Participant Database


Legislation has been reintroduced to create a national, online “lost and found” database to help plan participants keep track of their retirement accounts as they move from job to job. 

The Retirement Savings Lost and Found Act sponsored by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Steve Daines (R-MT) would create a national lost and found for retirement accounts by using data employers are already required to report to the Treasury Department. Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Jim Banks (R-IN) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. 

Noting that it’s not always easy for workers to track, manage and consolidate retirement accounts as they move from job to job, the bill’s sponsors cite estimates by TIAA that 30% of employees left a retirement account at their previous employer, including 43% of Gen Xers and 35% of Millennials.  

Additionally, the sponsors further contend that, because of their short employment period, these workers may leave behind retirement accounts with small balances, which can decline in value from fees. To that end, they cite Government Accountability Office data that between 2004 and 2014, “separated employees left more than 16 million accounts of $5,000 or less in workplace plans, with an aggregate value of $8.5 billion.”

And they note the problem is only expected to grow in the coming years, as the median job tenure for workers between ages 25 and 34 is less than 3 years, according to data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

“Millions of Americans lose thousands in savings each year because of lost retirement plans from previous employers and other roadblocks to tracking multiple accounts,” Warren said in a statement. “Our bipartisan Retirement Savings Lost and Found Act of 2020 is a common-sense step we can take now to help hard-working Americans build a little more security and retire with the dignity they deserve.”

In addition to the national lost and found, the legislation would:  

  • make it easier for plan sponsors to move small, abandoned accounts into target-date funds, rather than money market funds; and  
  • require plan sponsors to send lost, uncashed checks of less than $1,000 to Treasury so that individuals can locate this money and continue to save for their retirement. 

The legislation introduced in the last Congress had included steps outlining the responsibilities employers and plan administrators had to undergo to connect former employees with their neglected accounts. The new bill, however, omits those steps and directs the Labor Department, Treasury Department and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to issue joint guidance no later than a year after enactment to define the term “lost or missing participant.”