Many Americans Abandon Assets in Old 401(k)s

Nearly 30% of respondents indicated they failed to rollover their retirement savings into an IRA or new 401(k) because they are unsure about the rollover process according to a survey commissioned by ING DIRECT USA's ShareBuilder.

Respondents were also unsure where to put their money, don’t have the time to roll their retirement money over, or have simply forgotten about their account.  Of these, nearly one in five (18%) have left $50,000 or more in old employee retirement accounts, according to a press release. Nineteen percent have between $25,000 and $100,000 sitting in retirement accounts left at previous employers.     

Twenty-two percent of younger Americans (ages 18-34) with a 401(k) or equivalent account at a previous employer that they have not rolled over are “not sure how to transfer or roll over” an old 401(k), compared to 10% of Americans ages 35-44. Ten percent of younger respondents said they have already forgotten about their old 401(k).   

More than half (56%) of younger Americans who participated in a 401(k) or equivalent retirement plan at a previous employer have not rolled over any of their accounts, compared to 40% of Americans age 35-44.  

The announcement said nearly a quarter of Americans (24%) with old 401(k)s have between $10,000-$49,999 in these accounts, the survey indicated.  Eleven percent of Americans with 401(k)s they have not transferred, don’t know or can’t remember how much money they left in those old accounts.  Respondents closest to retirement (ages 55 and older) are leaving the largest amounts of money in previous 401(k)s, including 29% with $50,000 or more in these old accounts. 

Some respondents cited advantages to leaving their 401(k) assets with previous employers.  Two in 10 (21%) who maintain a 401(k) account at previous employers do so because they like the cost and/or performance of their investment, and another 12% prefer having their assets in a 401(k) rather than an IRA.   

The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of ING DIRECT’s ShareBuilder from August 30 – September 1, 2010, among 2,207 adults ages 18 and older, 525 of whom have any retirement accounts from a previous employer that have not been rolled over.