3 Crucial Things I Learned From Losing My 401K

I lost my 401k.  Literally.  There was a check in an envelope sitting on the kitchen table, then the next day it was gone.

Ever do something so hugely stupid that you can’t tell anyone?

I kept thinking, “I’ll find it…yeah…I’ll totally find it.”  For three days I told myself that.


Brief Recap:  Last year, I left my job at the bank to be a stay-at-home mom.  Eventually, paperwork showed up in the mail regarding my 401k.

I decided to roll it over into my existing IRA.

Soon, my 401k check came.  I mailed it to my financial adviser.  Done and done.

As they say, the devil is in the details.

Several months later, my ESOP portion of my 401k came.  All I had to do was mail the check to my adviser.  Again.

But now it’s confession time.  I have never been the most organized person.  So when I don’t finish an important task (like mailing a big check), it sits in a pile of important papers until I get to it.


How I fixed everything – And by that I mean – How I got extremely lucky


On the third day of being 401k-less and feeling more and more like gum on a shoe, I looked through our car.  No check.

Feeling slightly panicky, I scooped up the trash in the car and dumped it in our recycling bin.  As I glanced down, I saw something.  A bunch of envelopes.  A sliver of hope coursed through me.

I tilted the bin as I reached for an envelope.

It was my freaking 401k check.  Just glaring at me.

I clutched it to my chest and ran inside the house, feeling elated and mortified at the same time.

It has since found its way safely into my IRA.  But I learned a few valuable lessons from the whole ordeal.


Lessons to be learned:

1.  Money you don’t “feel” is still important.

This is big.

Last month, I earned money from a consignment sale.  A check was mailed to me for $178.50 (more details on consigning here).  I waited each day with bated breath for my check.  The minute it came, I tore open the envelope, digitally deposited it with my phone, and filed the stub.

When my 401k ESOP check came – for 10 times the amount of my consignment check – it wasn’t money I had “just earned”.  It had been trickling into an account for seven years.  Also, it wasn’t money I was going to “spend”.  Moving investments is as exciting as writing your will.

But, your investments are worth pursuing.  The numbers are staggering.  Did you know that the average monthly payment on a new vehicle is $479.00?  If you invested that at 10% over the next 30 years, you’d have $1,040,062.87!


2.  Be honest with yourself when dealing with important details of your life.

I had most a plan.  I arranged to have my 401k rolled into my IRA, then promised to send the check when it came.  But I knew I was disorganized.  I should have just filled out an envelope ready to be mailed.  I’m the type of person who needs stuff like that.


3.   Procrastination is more dangerous than it seems.

This doesn’t need explanation.  You get it.



Join the conversation:  Do you thrive on the details?  Help me out and share ONE tip that keeps you on top of the clutter.


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