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 the Association of British Insurers, there are around 1.6m pension pots worth nearly £20bn waiting to be claimed by their owners, 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.

If you think you might be interested in speaking with a financial advisor, VouchedFor is currently offering Rest Less members a free pension check with a local well-rated financial advisor. There’s no obligation, but once you’ve had your check, the advisor will discuss the potential for an ongoing relationship if you think it might be useful to you.

Have you managed to track down a lost pension, or do you think you have some forgotten retirement savings that you’re going to try to locate? If so, we’d be interested in hearing from you. You can join the Money conversation on the Rest Less Community or leave a comment below. 

Links with an * by them are affiliate links which help Rest Less stay free to use as they can result in a payment or benefit to us. You can read more on how we make money here.

8 thoughts on “Tracing lost pensions

  1. Avatar
    Judith on Reply

    Hello

    I was a Temp with a company and let go 1 day before qualifying 1 year Employment there.

    Do I qualify for a Pension?

  2. Avatar
    Shelley Graham on Reply

    I’ve worked all my life manea in UK I arrived when I was 23 years 1981. I am now sorry I am now 62 going on 63 next month I’ve worked all my life here in the UK so I want my pension sorted out…I’ve been a lecturer a performer I’ve paid my tax is all the time I’m and I’m sure that they quite a lot of pension for me to claim and I want to put down the person who I want to claim this pension 0llie dines he is my next of kin. But he must first make up with his daughter for them to get the money if this does not happen then, it says he’s made a bins with his children if not then I’m going to have someone else take my pension not my husband maybe Jackie Hughes.

  3. Avatar
    Mrs J Cole on Reply

    If I phone the companies I was employed with, will they be able to help me. Hoping of course they are still in business. If they are no longer in business, what can I do? Thank you in advance.

    1. Avatar
      Gaetano on Reply

      Hi Mrs Cole. Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, we can’t advise on individual financial circumstances. However, the Pensions Advisory Service should be able to assist with your question or, if not, point you to who can. Please click here to access their site. All the best

  4. Avatar
    Ericka Richards on Reply

    Hello,

    Do you know of any advisor regarding pensions abroad.
    I worked in Spain for 7 years, first year was employed and my social and pension was paid by me employee then I went self-employment and paid all my taxes and social. I did have an accountant etc. Is there anyway that someone knows if I can get a pension from Spain or I can transfer into my British state pension. I’m 58 now but obviously trying to sort out when I reach retirement age and I’m finding that time is flying by!!!! Thank you.

    1. Avatar
      Gaetano on Reply

      Hi Ericka, many thanks for your message. Probably the best thing for you to do to get the right information on your query is to follow the guidelines that we have outlined here:
      https://restless.co.uk/money/retirement-planning/retiring-abroad/
      In particular, at the end of the articles you will see the chapter titled “Returning to the UK” and the one with “Useful contacts” and I have a feeling a call to the International Pension Centre, https://www.gov.uk/international-pension-centre, will be very useful.
      Hope that helps.

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