If my employer goes bankrupt, will I lose my retirement money?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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You shouldn’t lose your retirement money even if your employer files for bankruptcy. The law requires your employer to keep your retirement money separate from the employer’s own funds, but if your employer’s business appears to be failing it’s worth your effort to ask questions about what’s happening with your retirement money.

In addition, plan fiduciaries must comply with the ERISA provisions that prohibit the mismanagement and abuse of plan assets. If contributions to a plan have been withheld from your pay, you may want to confirm that the amounts deducted have been forwarded to the plan’s trust or insurance contract.

Moreover, the Federal Government may insure some pension benefits. Traditional plans, or defined benefit plans, are protected by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), a Federal Government corporation. If a plan is terminated because an employer has financial difficulty and cannot fund the plan, and the plan does not have enough money to pay the promised benefits, the PBGC will assume responsibility for the plan. The PBGC pays benefits after termination up to a certain maximum guaranteed amount. On the other hand, defined contribution plans such as 401(k) plans, are not insured by the PBG.

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