Question: What is the best course of action if an employer has closed my 401(k) account so I don't have access to close the account myself? I've been out of work for nearly a year from a serious knee injury with no workers’ compensation payments and haven't been able to make payments on my 401(k) loan.

Answer: It sounds like two separate issues here, says Kaleb Paddock, CFP, founder of Ten Talents Financial Planning.

First, to access your 401(k) account via online login, you will need to contact your prior employer to learn if they auto transfer small 401(k) accounts (less than $5,000) to an IRA custodian. 

Oftentimes, employers will “sweep” small, old 401(k)s belonging to prior employees to an IRA custodian, which they are allowed to do by law, because it helps keep their retirement plans running smoother. 

Kaleb Paddock, CFP

Kaleb Paddock, CFP

You need to ask if this happened to you. If yes, explains Paddock, find out the company your employer used for the auto account sweep. If no, confirm which financial institution (Fidelity, Schwab, Voya, Empower, etc.) they used for your 401(k) plan and establish login access using the financial institution’s platform and customer service.

The second issue you mention is a 401(k) loan. “In most 401(k) plan documents, a plan loan is due and payable in full upon separation of service with your employer,” says Paddock. You either pay back the loan in full in your final paycheck or your employer will have the plan administrator issue you a Form 1099 for the outstanding balance of your plan loan.

“If you haven’t been making payments on your 401(k) loan and you are separated from service with your employer this has likely already been processed and you will owe taxes and penalties on the outstanding loan balance,” he adds.

Got questions about Social Security, Medicare, retirement, taxes, estate planning, insurance, investments, or money in general? Get answers. Email Kim McSheridan assisted with this report.