Money Helps
By Ellen McGirt

(MONEY Magazine) – A Mutual Fund Gets Lost in Transition

Q In March 2004 my company's savings plan changed investment firms and everyone's account was switched over. One of the two mutual funds my money was in disappeared in the transition. I've been writing to the new company since March, but I've heard nothing. Where's my fund? --Daniel Vandeberg, St. Paul

ANSWER Talk about a money-losing investment. One of your mutual fund holdings--340 shares of Pioneer Indo-Asia worth $5,098.01 at the time--simply vanished. Good move: noticing the error. Not so good move: complaining to the wrong company.

The self-directed portion of your particular retirement plan works just like a 401(k): You contribute pretax dollars, select from an array of funds and then let your money grow for retirement.

When your plan (including the back-office part you never see) switched investment companies to HarrisDirect last year, transferring $15 million, there were glitches. That's typical in a transaction of that size, so you were smart to be vigilant. When you notified HarrisDirect of the missing fund, you were told to be patient. But your shares still hadn't shown up six months later, and your patience ran out.

The takeaway in this situation is that if you're tracking financial transfers of any kind--cash or securities, or even entire accounts--the place to start hunting for lost assets is the institution that initiated the transfer, not the place where the funds were headed. It makes sense because only the transferring institution can confirm what should be in your account.

We called HR at your employer--the State of Minnesota, which administers the plan--for answers. The disappearance was an easily remedied glitch. Your 340 shares should reappear with a new name--Pioneer Emerging Markets--and a new value ($7,951.40 at press time). Mark Manion of the Minnesota State Retirement System advises, "Check the number of shares--not dollars--that left one company, and make sure they match the number that arrive at the new account." That's how best to see if anything got lost along the way.