How Can I Find Out My 401K Balance?

by D. Laverne O'Neal, Demand Media

    Retirement seems so far off. You pat yourself on the back just for having the foresight and discipline to contribute to a 401(k). After all, you're doing better than about 40 percent of workers with access to a plan, according to USA Today. Checking up on the progress of your investments might seem like too much work. With decades before you need the funds, it just doesn't seem like a priority. However, to ensure you reach your retirement savings goals, regular monitoring of your 401(k) funds is a must.

    Step 1

    Log in to your online account. Many 401(k) custodians allow plan participants to access their accounts via the Web. You will likely need a username and password, or other identifying information, to access the site. If you have misplaced your login information, you may have to provide more personal information, such as a Social Security or employee number. Alternatively, you may need to submit the answer to a security question you provided when you created your login.

    Step 2

    Navigate to your 401(k) account summary or account balance page. The link to this page should be prominently displayed as a standalone or as part of a drop-down menu on the landing page.

    Step 3

    Scroll to the line entry that includes your current balance. Be sure not to confuse your current balance with your beginning period balance. A period may be defined as a month, quarter or other span. The difference between the beginning and ending period balance figures reveals how much your investments earned or lost during that time. Your current balance figure will have been calculated as of the end of the most recent stock market trading day. For example, if you check your 401(k) balance over the weekend, your current balance figure will reflect activity as of 5 p.m. Eastern time the previous Friday.

    Tips

    • Depending on your company's 401(k) plan rules, you might also be able to determine your current balance by phoning or faxing a request to your plan administrator.
    • If you are not happy with your current plan balance, you may opt to reallocate, or shift the percentage of your money in various investment vehicles, to better align your returns with your retirement savings goals.

    Warning

    • The balance reflected on any paper statement you may receive is, of course, the balance as of the day the statement was printed. This will likely be your end-of-period balance.

    About the Author

    D. Laverne O'Neal, an Ivy League graduate, published her first article in 1997. A former theater, dance and music critic for such publications as the "Oakland Tribune" and Gannett Newspapers, she started her Web-writing career during the dot-com heyday. O'Neal also translates and edits French and Spanish. Her strongest interests are the performing arts, design, food, health, personal finance and personal growth.