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Unclaimed pensions – the hidden cost of moving home

There’s £19.4bn left in unclaimed defined contribution pension pots, thanks in part to moving home. We look at how to track down lost pensions and share three tips to staying in touch with your pension.

Important notes

This article isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure whether an investment is right for you please seek advice. If you choose to invest the value of your investment will rise and fall, so you could get back less than you put in.

It’s estimated that people move home eight times across their lifetime. There are some things we’re only too keen to leave behind – like noisy neighbours or tiny kitchens. But your pension is unlikely to be one of them.

With so much to keep on top of when you’re moving house, it’s easy to lose track. Most of us remember to tell our bank we’ve moved, yet, according to research by the Association of British Insurers only 1 in 25 of us automatically think to tell our pension providers.

No wonder it’s previously been estimated 1.6 million defined contribution pensions, worth £19.4 billion, are lying unclaimed. And it's expected to get a lot worse. The government has previously estimated as many as 50 million pensions could be dormant or lost by 2050.

Below we look at how to track down lost pensions. We also share three tips to staying in touch with your pension.

How to find old workplace pensions

The number of people who have ‘lost’ a workplace pension is likely to have increased since the introduction of auto-enrolment. Each time you change jobs, you’ll leave any pension pot behind (unless you choose to transfer it).

The more paperwork you have, the easier it should be to find a pension. It should show the details of the scheme administrator or the pension company holding your money.

If you can’t find any paperwork, try to contact your old employer. Get in touch with details of the dates when you worked there to hand, and ask for contact details of the pension company.

If your employer moved or changed name since you left, you’ll need its new details. A simple search of Companies House should help track down its latest incarnation.

If you can’t find any paperwork or contact your old employer, try the government’s Pension Tracing Service. It will search a database of more than 200,000 workplace and personal pension schemes and supply contact details of companies you might have a pension with. You can then call the company and get them to unearth your forgotten pension.

Before using the service it’s best to gather as many details as possible, including:

  • The name of your previous employer
  • The type of business it was (or still is)
  • The address of the company
  • When you started employment
  • Any old pay slips

This service will tell you the name of the pension administrator and their contact details. You’ll then need to contact the administrator directly to find out if you have a pension pot and how much it’s worth.

TRY THE PENSION TRACING SERVICE

If the Pension Tracing Service draws a blank, you could also try HMRC. If you were contracted out of the State Second Pension in the past through a workplace scheme, HMRC might have details.

How to find personal pensions

Try to dig out any old paperwork to give you an idea of where your money is held. The more you can find, the easier the process should be. But if you don’t have anything else, check your bank statements which should show who you were making contributions to.

You can then contact the pension company directly and ask them to track down your pension.

If you can’t find anything at all, the Pensions Tracing Service should be your first port of call.

If you draw a blank there, the Money Advice Service provides a template letter to send to providers for more details. Alternatively, you can pay a fee to search the Unclaimed Assets Register.

Three tips to staying in touch with your pension

1. Make it easy

It’s far easier to keep on top of things if you don’t have loads of pensions in different places. Look through what you have, and see whether you can consolidate them, without losing any valuable benefits or guarantees.

There might also be some schemes with such significant exit penalties that switching would mean you’d lose a big chunk of your money. So you need to get to grips with the details before considering a switch.

More on transferring

2. Take advantage of online services

When you go online you can see everything in one place, and access your account information easily without having to store a mountain of statements in the spare room.

3. Pay attention when you move house

Make a list of every company you have dealings with, and work through them methodically. It might also be worth paying the Royal Mail to redirect your post for at least a year, to cover any companies sending annual statements. Then whenever you receive redirected post, make sure you contact them to change your address immediately.

This article isn’t personal advice. If you are at all unsure you should seek advice.


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    Important notes

    This article isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure whether an investment is right for you please seek advice. If you choose to invest the value of your investment will rise and fall, so you could get back less than you put in.

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