How to find old pensions
If you’ve moved jobs or changed address, you might have lost pension pots waiting to be found. Here’s how to track yours down.
Last Updated: 1 November 2022
Around 2.8 million pensions worth £26.6 billion have been left unclaimed in the UK. That's an average of £9,500 each. It just goes to show that losing sight of old pensions is all too easy, if you're not careful.
To help you track down any lost pensions and make sure you don't lose any in future, here are some essential tools and tips.
This article isn't personal advice. If you're not sure what's right for your circumstances, ask for financial advice. Remember you can't usually access the money in your pension until you're 55 (57 from 2028).
Why are there so many lost pensions?
Two of the main reasons people lose pensions are changing jobs and moving address. And when you consider that we have 11 jobs in a lifetime and move house eight times on average, it's no surprise we sometimes forget to pack our pensions.
You might think it's your employer's responsibility to make sure your personal details are kept up to date with your pension provider, but it isn't.
Employers are responsible for there being a pension scheme available, making sure you know who the pension provider is at the time, and paying in the right contributions under pension rules. Everything else is up to you. That includes making your pension provider aware of any address or name changes throughout your life (regardless of who your employer is). But also continuing to regularly review how much you're saving and where you're invested.
The value of investments can fall as well as rise in value so you may get back less than invested.
How to track down lost pensions
Search for old paperwork or statements
Nobody likes looking through paperwork. But a bit of unpaid effort now could be worth thousands at retirement.
The more paperwork you have, the easier it should be to find a pension. It should show the details of the 'pension scheme administrator' or the pension company holding your money.
If you have a personal pension, and you don't have any paperwork relating to it, you can check your bank statements which should show who you were making contributions to. If you have a workplace pension, you could check any old pay slips.
Retrace your steps
You'll need to take a trip down memory lane. Cast your mind back to your first job. If you have a vague recollection of pension deductions coming out of your pay, you could have a pot of money waiting to be claimed.
Gather as much information as you can about your previous jobs, including the name and contact details of your past employers. If your employer has changed name or contact details since you left, you can try searching on Companies House to track down their new details.
Reach out to old employers
If you can't find any paperwork, try to contact your old employer. Directly ask them for more information about the pension scheme they offered at the time of your employment, including the provider's details. You can then ask the pension provider to check if you were a member of the scheme, and what your pension value is.
Ask for help
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.
If you draw a blank there, Money Helper provides a template letter to send to providers for more details. Alternatively, you can pay a fee to search the Unclaimed Assets Register.
How to avoid losing your pension
Review your accounts regularly
To avoid losing your pension, give yourself time to go through your pension statements at least once a year. This is a good way to keep track of what you have. But also, a useful time to review things like how your investments are doing, and whether you're on track to reach the level of income you might want or need in retirement.
Consider consolidating old pension pots
It can be difficult to manage multiple pensions. Finding the time to juggle different providers can be a stretch. It's much easier to keep on top of things if you don't have lots of pensions in different places. Look through what you have and consider consolidating them with one provider.
Before consolidating, it's important to compare the service and fees of your current and future provider. Be sure to check for any high exit fees first and that you won't lose any valuable benefits or guarantees by transferring.
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.
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.
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