This content is provided for general informational purposes only, and is not intended to constitute investment advice or any other kind of professional advice. Before taking action based on such information, we encourage you to consult with appropriate professionals. We do not endorse any third parties referenced within the aforementioned article. Do not infer or assume that any securities, sectors or markets described in this article were or will be profitable. In addition, past performance is no guarantee of future results. There is a possibility of loss. Historical or hypothetical performance results are presented for illustrative purposes only.

How to check your 401(k) balance: Online, phone, and more

It’s important to check your balance every year or so and adjust your 401(k) contributions and strategy accordingly. Explore different scenarios and solutions below.



April 19, 2024

11 min. read

What's Playbook? We're your friendly step-by-step app for growing your money and minimizing taxes so you can live the life you want, sooner. Learn more

Key Takeaways:
  • Easily check your balance online, over the phone, and through your employer.
  • Paper statements also come in the mail, usually quarterly, so keep an eye out for updates. 
  • 401(k) investment fluctuations are normal and nothing to worry about, but you might want to update your investments or contributions if your goals or allocation mix has significantly changed.

In this article

      Checking your retirement accounts at least once a year is a good way to monitor your progress toward your retirement goals. If you need a refresher, there are several ways to check your 401(k) account balance, including over the phone, online, and through your employer.

      All you have to do is contact your plan administrator or employer, and they can give you the information directly or let you know where to find it. 

      But what do you do with that information? Learn what your account balance means and the options to maintain your 401(k) value below. 

      First thing’s first: Locate your 401(k)s

      Ideally, you’ve rolled over your old 401(k) accounts and neatly consolidated them into one account. 

      If so, you just need your current 401(k) account number and administrator contact information, which you can get from your employer if you’re not sure who the plan administrator is. Then, you can jump ahead to finding your balance. 

      Realistically, we know 401(k) rollovers are easy to overlook when transferring jobs. If you have a few long-lost accounts out there, it’s time to track them down.

      You’re in luck because finding your 401(k)s is relatively easy. You have a few options:

      • Go through your personal records to find old account paperwork or mail statements.
      • Contact previous employers that can put you in touch with the correct company and plan administrator. 
      • Try a free 401(k) finder to search online databases with your Social Security Number and other personal details. 

      While you’re at it, we recommend tracking your retirement accounts in a handy-dandy spreadsheet that includes each account’s:

      • Plan administrator
      • Employer provider
      • Account number
      • Contact information

      This will make your life much easier. 

      Pro Tip: Anytime you contact your plan provider or employer, save a step and ask about your balance. Both contacts will have that information available. 

      Image explains where old 401(k)s end up and solutions for each location.

      Once you know where all of your old 401(k)s are, find each account’s balance with these options.

      Option 1: Check online through your plan provider

      It’s a digital world, and you can access almost anything online with the right information. That includes your retirement accounts and balances. 

      You’ll be able to access your 401(k)’s current balance and performance through an online portal with your plan provider. The portal should be easy to find on Google as long as you know what company holds your account. For example, try searching “(plan provider name) 401k login”.

      Screenshots show that you can search plan providers and access their online portal.

      You might have to create an account if you haven’t accessed the portal previously. The portal should have a step-by-step walkthrough, but you can chat with your HR department for help. 

      Most companies have online access by now, but if you can’t log in, you have other options. 

      Option 2: Check with your employer

      Since your 401(k) is an employer-provided retirement account, your job can hook you up with your current 401(k) details. They know what company manages the account and the plan administrator’s contact info.

      Some authorized employees can even review your contributions and account balance, so you can check in with HR for an update. 

      Some employers also work with the plan provider to set up a portal on their own website for employees to access benefit information. Again, your HR department can help you access this if you haven’t logged in before. 

      Option 3: Call your plan provider

      If online access isn’t available or you prefer to speak with someone, your plan provider should have a toll-free phone number you can contact to review your account balance. It’s available on the company’s site, and your employer likely has the number, too. 

      If you’ve ever called your bank before, you probably already know the drill. Prepare to identify yourself, as your plan provider will likely ask to verify your Social Security number, name, birthday, or address.

      Option 4: Review your mail statements

      Unless you’ve opted out, there’s a good chance you’ll receive regular snail-mail statements with balance and performance updates from your plan provider. These monthly or quarterly statements are an easy way to track your balance delivered right to your door. 

      Any mail about your 401(k) also probably includes your account number and provider contact details. So, if you have a physical statement, you can also access your benefits online or over the phone. 

      illustrations represent the reasons you should check your 401(k) balance and what to look for.

      Reasons to check and how often you should check

      Unless you plan to retire at 30, retirement investments are a long-term game and take years (even decades) to fully pay off. There’s really no reason to check in every month or more. Quarterly to annual checks are a good place to start

      But, why check your balance, anyway? 

      • Monitor your progress to gauge the success of your retirement strategy and adjust as needed. You might change your 401(k) contributions or decide to open an IRA. 
      • Track your investment performance and make sure your portfolio is balanced (your mix of stocks, bonds, and cash) according to your risk tolerance and goals. 

      What to do with your 401(k)

      Now you’ve found and organized all of your accounts and know a little more about how they’re performing. You have a few potential next steps depending on your account balance and investments. 

      If you’re looking at investment performance, remember that these are long-term investments, and it’s normal to see short-term volatility month-to-month.

      Historically, you’re less likely to lose money in an investment the longer you hold it. In one scenario using the MSCI World Index performance, the chance of losses dropped by 20 points for those who held onto their investment for 10 years (3%) vs. one year (23%). 

      With that said, let’s walk through a few scenarios:

      Image explains how to maintain your 401(k) depending on how your asset performance.

      If your account’s doing well, leave it be

      You don’t have to do anything with your 401(k) if you’re satisfied with the results. Leave your investments alone and enjoy the compound growth until you check in next time. 

      This isn’t just about your balance, though. Look at your mix of stocks, bonds, and cash. If one investment is doing really well and has become a significant portion of your mix, or one is consistently underperforming, consider rebalancing your portfolio. 

      Slow growth? Boost your current contributions

      If your current account balance is slow to grow and falling behind for your retirement strategy, consider increasing your 401(k) contributions. The sooner you make this decision, the better. 

      Retirement accounts like your 401(k) grow with compound interest. So, the more money you contribute, the larger your returns will be. And this cycle continues year-to-year, so a large investment with 30 years to earn compound gains will fare better than a large investment with just 10 years of growth. 

      Here’s an example with a recurring $23,000 annual investment (the 2024 contribution limit to 401(k)s) and an assumed 4% annual return:

      Total account balance Contributions Earnings
      10 years $276,044.41 $229,920 (83% of the balance) $46,124.41 (17% of the balance)
      30 years $$1,289,504.89 $689,760 (53% of the balance) $599,744.89 (47% of the balance)

      And this example doesn’t even consider if your investments pay dividends, which further grow your balance. If your current lifestyle and budget feel comfortable and you can afford it, extra contributions now will really pay off later. 

      Investments under- or overperforming? Rebalance your portfolio

      Your investments will fluctuate, and there’s nothing to worry about early in retirement planning. It’s a long-term game, and moving assets every time a market dip happens will hurt your retirement. 

      That said, if your investment performance varies too much, it will mess up your portfolio mix. Ignoring your allocation is a retirement mistake to avoid. The goal is to balance a mix of assets based on your risk tolerance and retirement goals.

      Experts have a lot of recommendations on how to balance your portfolio, but there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But to explain rebalancing, here’s an example mix:

      • Stocks: 60%
      • Bonds: 30%
      • Cash: 10%

      Let’s say this is your ideal mix and how you originally invested your money – a moderately aggressive allocation with a focus on stocks. If your stock investments are doing well this period, they might balloon to make up 75% of your portfolio value. 

      While you’re earning more money with a well-performing asset, stocks are riskier than bonds and cash. If that stock drops, you have more to lose with so much money invested in it. 

      If you’re uncomfortable with the added risk, you can sell some stock and rebalance your portfolio to align with your original mix. 

      That said, you can change your mix at any time. Younger investors have more time to make up for large losses, so they can be a little more risky. But it’s generally a good idea to transition to a more conservative portfolio as you age. 

      Have several 401(k)s? Consolidate your accounts

      Managing multiple accounts is possible, but it requires extra organization and can cause account and investment fees to rack up. Also remember that you can’t contribute to an old 401(k), but you can earn returns on what’s already invested.

      So, if you have several 401(k) accounts, consider consolidating them into one. 

      One option is to arrange a direct 401(k) transfer to move all of your funds into your current employer’s 401(k) plan. This way you can manage your investments from one place and earn returns on a larger balance. 

      Rolling your 40(1k) into an IRA is also an option. You’ll still have a few retirement accounts, but an IRA gives you more investment choices, and you don’t have to worry about shuffling the funds when you leave your job, since the account isn’t managed by your employer. 

      Illustration shows the pros and cons of different ways you can manage old 401(k) accounts.

      Just make sure you complete a direct transfer rather than an indirect transfer. This leaves the transfer up to your 401(k) manager and the brokerage where you open a new IRA and helps you avoid possible penalties.  

      Both 401(k)s and IRAs charge investment and administrative fees. So read the fine print and consider if one charges significantly more than the other before consolidating your accounts. 

      Of course, you can leave your old 401(k)s intact. They’ll still generate earnings, so it’s worth preserving if the current investments are doing well, or if you have access to employer stock. You can chat with your plan administrator or a financial advisor to discuss your performance and options. 

      The Playbook take: Don’t leave your retirement to chance

      Your retirement is your responsibility. 401(k)s make it simple to start investing in your nest egg, but a successful retirement strategy requires a little due diligence. 

      Check your account balance and investment performance every year or so to keep tabs on all your retirement accounts – not just your current 401(k). 

      Want help organizing and monitoring your retirement assets? Try Playbook to nail your investment strategy and maximize your tax advantages. 

      No items found.
      About the author

      Theo Katsoulis, CFA

      Head of Investments

      Theo brings an extensive background in Institutional Asset Management. With a B.A. from Villanova University's School of Business, and having passed the rigorous Series 65 and CFA examinations, he brings significant expertise from portfolio management to understanding intricate financial infrastructures. As Head of Investments at Playbook, he ensures consumers receive exceptional diligence and care for their investment portfolios.

      Tanza Loudenback, CFP®


      Tanza is a CFP® certificant, writer, and editor. From 2015 to 2021, she was a top-read author and editor at Insider. Her work focuses on helping people make smart decisions with their money and is published by a variety of online publications.

      Get an airtight financial plan
      in minutes.
      Playbook is a step-by-step app for growing your money and minimizing taxes so you can live the life you want, sooner.

      Save your cents from Uncle Sam

      Grow your wealth with a personalized financial plan and tax-advantaged investments.

      Start saving today

      Save your cents from Uncle Sam

      Grow your wealth with a personalized financial plan and tax-advantaged investments.

      Start saving today

      Save your cents from Uncle Sam

      Grow your wealth with a personalized financial plan and tax-advantaged investments.

      Start saving today

      In this article