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"Potential Private Retirement Benefit Information" notice from Social Security

(Updated: November 22, 2019)  Questions or comments to: info@hpalumni.org

Retirement plans operated by employers report information about all plan members every year to the IRS, which regulates retirement plans.

When you apply for Social Security, the Social Security Administration may send you a notice about a possible retirement benefit.

If you received a "Potential Private Retirement Benefit Information" notice from Social Security, it is usually based on outdated information -- as indicated by the "Year Reported" date on the form included in the body of the notice.  (Note the word "Potential.") The notice is based on any entries found in the IRS Retirement Plan database under your social security number.

The SSA sends this well-meaning but unnecessarily-confusing notice in an effort to help people avoid losing track of money in old retirement plans. [For official gory details, scroll to the bottom of this page.]

The key item in the notice is the "Year Reported" box on the form robotically pasted into the first page of the notice. For example, "2001" in this actual notice received by an HPAA member. The SSA and IRS have no information about what happened with that account after the date given in the notice.

In the case of employment-related accounts, they should have been resolved when you left that employer -- and you would have received notification at that time.

The "Plan Name" box gives further clues -- in this case "Compaq Computer Corporate 401K Investment Plan." The reverse side of the notice decodes the "Type of Benefit" and "Payment Frequency" boxes -- in this case, "A single payment or lump sum" and "Lump Sum." It turns out that the person in this example remembers rolling over their 401(k) when they left back in 2001. In this case, there probably isn't a forgotten retirement fund.

An another example: Ex-EDS folks may receive a notice referring to the EDS Payroll Stock Ownership Plan. EDS stock is no longer traded. HP paid $25.00 per share to the owners of record as of August 26, 2008. ($13.9 billion -- a 32% premium over the market price of $18.86 before announcement. NYTimes ) You should have received a check at the time. If the check was uncashed, the money would have eventually been turned over to a state unclaimed property department. Details and HPAA advice for former EDS employee shareholders

If you aren't sure what happened -- and the amount is significant -- it is a good idea to investigate. (Note that the "Plan Administrator Address" given in the notice is usually no longer valid.)

HP Inc is generally the legal successor to the companies acquired by HP before the HPI/HPE split  -- and has responsibility for any commitments.  (Does not depend on whether your last business unit subsequently ended up in HP Inc or Hewlett Packard Enterprise in the HP Breakup.)

Who to contact:

1. If the notice refers to a 401(k), IRA, or pension: Contact the HP Inc Retirement Service Center (operated by Fidelity Investments.) manages pension and 401(k) accounts for HP Inc (formerly named Hewlett-Packard Company.)

1-800-457-4015, M-F 7:30 AM to 11:00 PM Central Time. Outside the US, call 1-508-787-9902 collect. Fidelity website: Fidelity

Also manages any pension or 401(k) accounts that Hewlett-Packard predecessor companies may have had:

- EDS. If you were employed by EDS or "EDS, an HP Company" before January 1, 2009 you may have an EDS pension that you have forgotten about. Details: https://www.hpalumni.org/eds

- Digital. You may have a benefit under the HP Cash Account Pension Plan if you were formerly employed by Digital Equipment Corporation, including benefits earned under the Digital Pension Plan prior to March 1, 1996. Details: https://www.hpalumni.org/DEC

- Other predecessor companies. Details: https://www.hpalumni.org/contacts-Other

If you have an existing HP 401(k) or personal brokerage account at Fidelity, go to http://netbenefits.com and use your existing username and password. Otherwise, call Fidelity at 1-800-457-4015 -- select "ESPP" -- on any business day (except NYSE holidays) between 8:30 a.m. and midnight Eastern time. Outside the US, call 1-508-787-9902 collect.

2. If the notice refers to an HSA (Health Savings Account): Contact the HP Inc Benefits Center (Operated for HP Inc by Alight Solutions -- formerly Aon Hewitt. Also manages retiree health coverage for many HPE retirees and any retiree health plans from predecessors such as DEC.)

1-800-890-3100 -- 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Central Time, Monday - Friday
1-847-883-0465 -- Outside the United States, Puerto Rico, or Canada

3. If the notice refers to stock: An HP Alumni team developed a step-by-step process to find it, protect it, and prevent double taxation. Employee Stock

Official gory details:

Details on the processes behind the notice are on the IRS website:  Notice Contents   Handling Inquiries   Discrepant Forms

The US Government Accountability Office was asked by members of Congress to investigate the overall private pension reporting and disclosure process, of which this notice is a small part.
- This SSA notice: "...poor management of the data, spread across three agencies, results in misleading information included in notices provided to some retirees."  "...inquiries require investigations into plan records only to find, in some cases, that the benefits have already been distributed."  "Representatives of one plan sponsor said that they recently received an inquiry based on an SSA notice that took 16 hours to research because the record was from 1978.
- Other pension notices: "...some notices are written in language that even lawyers cannot understand." "Some callers stated that they did not know how to interpret a disclosure and were frustrated or alarmed, suspecting their benefits might be in jeopardy." 
GAO Report

Related topics...

Employee stock: With any employer, no one but you really cares about your employment-related stock. You may have stock in up to seven HP-related companies. It may not all be held in the same place. With each spinoff, the cost basis for your shares changed. Many find stray accounts -- or need to retrieve stock or dividends turned over to a state as "unclaimed." You could pay taxes twice on the same income. Your heirs may not find it all. An HP Alumni team developed a step-by-step process to find it, protect it, and prevent double taxation. Employee Stock

Other benefits -- such as Social Security, Medicare, annual enrollment, COBRA, troubleshooting retiree health coverage, etc:. HPAlumni Benefits Menu

For more mutual help on this topic and many others, join the independent HP Alumni Association. If you were formerly a regular, direct employee of HP or HPE -- or are in the process of leaving -- join HPAlumni. No charge, thanks to HPAA members.

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