Tracing lost pensions

If you’ve worked for several different employers over the years, or you’ve moved home a few times, there’s a chance you might have lost track of one or more of your pensions.

According to estimates from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) there’s a whopping £400m in retirement savings currently lying unclaimed, so if you think you might own a share, make sure you claim what’s yours.

Here, we explain why so many of us have missing pensions, and how to go about getting hold of any forgotten retirement funds.

Why pensions go missing

Losing track of a pension, or pensions, can be easier than it sounds. The average person has 11 different jobs in their lifetime, the DWP says – that’s a lot of pensions to stay on top of if you’ve been enrolled in a company pension scheme each time.

Moving house can also make it hard to keep track of all your pension paperwork, especially if you haven’t always arranged for your post to be forwarded to your new address. Unless you’ve updated all your pension providers with your new contact details each time, it could be that any annual pension statements sent to your old address may have ended up being thrown away.

There are other reasons why so much is lying unclaimed. Often people put off looking for lost pensions because they think they’ll need loads of details which they don’t still have, or because they think any missing amount might be so small that it’s not worth tracking down.

Why finding forgotten pensions matters

Locating a pension or pensions you might have lost track of doesn’t have to be complicated, and you might discover that what you thought was a tiny nest egg has grown into a more significant sum.

If you don’t find your missing pension savings, then it can have a real difference on your quality of life in retirement as your income could be notably lower.

It’s also important not to put off tracing your lost pensions based on the assumption that you can do it just before retirement. This is because there’s a good chance that your money won’t be working as hard as it possibly can for you, and the longer this underperformance goes on, the smaller your pension will be at retirement.

For example, your money may be languishing in a pension with high charges, or it might be in investments which aren’t appropriate for you based on your investment timeframe and your approach to risk.

How to locate lost pensions

If you’re trying to track down an old workplace pension, the first place to start is by calling the pension provider if you know who it is. Most big pension providers will have a customer service number on their website so if you know who your pension is with, you should be able to simply pick up the phone and give them a call.

If you don’t know, or can’t remember which pension provider your employer used – you can start by contacting your former employer. They should be able to provide you with contact details for the pension provider, and at the very least be able to tell you who it’s with.

It may help if you have the dates you worked for the company available and how long you belonged to the pension scheme.

If you’re not making much headway, for example, because you can’t find the contact details for your previous employer, the government’s Pension Tracing Service may also be able to help.

You’ll need the name of an employer or pension provider to use the service, but provided you have that, the service should be able to help you find the contact details for your workplace or personal pension scheme. The service won’t, however, tell you whether you have a pension, or what its current value is.

As well as using their online service, you can also contact the Pension Tracing Service by phone on 0800 731 0193.

If you’re not sure what to do with your pensions once you’ve found them there are many reputable companies and advisors who can help you decide whether to combine your pensions or transfer to a different scheme. However, it’s always sensible to be on the lookout for potential pension scams, and high charges. To help protect against scams, always ignore any unsolicited calls, emails or contact as genuine companies will never contact you out of the blue. Pensions cold-calling is in fact illegal, so if you receive an unsolicited call about your pension, get any information you can, such as the company name or phone number, and report it to the Information Commissioner’s Office via their website or on 0303 123 1113.

Always make sure that any advisor or company you plan to use to help you with your pension is regulated by the FCA, which you can check here, along with the FCA warning list of unauthorised firms. It’s also important to understand exactly how much you’ll pay if you do use a company to help you with your pensions, and to check that you won’t lose any valuable benefits if you decide to switch from an existing scheme.

If you have a pension worth more than £30,000 with certain benefits such as a guaranteed annuity rate (which will provide you with an income at a set rate for the remainder of your life), the Government has mandated that you must seek professional independent financial advice before you can transfer it to a new provider, in order to protect you from inadvertently giving up a number of valuable benefits.

If you’re not sure what to do with your pensions, or are struggling to track them down. It may be helpful to speak to a regulated financial advisor who can help you understand your options and make the best decision for your personal circumstances. You can find a local financial advisor on VouchedFor or Unbiased.co.uk, or for more information, check out our guides on How to find the right financial advisor for you or How to get advice on your pension.

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