There’s an estimated 1.6 million pension pots worth £19.4 billion - the equivalent of nearly £13,000 each - which have been lost or forgotten.
To make sure you don’t lose out, we’re urging investors to check the whereabouts of all their pensions and claim back any that have been misplaced. If you’ve moved jobs or changed address you could have an old pension waiting to be found.
To help you hunt down your lost pensions, we’ve gathered some helpful tips and tools below.
Important information: The information on this website isn’t personal advice, if you’re unsure what’s suitable for your circumstances, please seek advice.
How to hunt down lost pensions
Look through old paperwork
You can start at home by looking through your paperwork to find any annual pension statements or starter packs you got when you first joined. If you’re not sure whether you had a pension with an old employer, you could look through your old employment contracts or payslips for any signs of pension contribution deductions.
Look out for details of the scheme administrator or the pension company holding your money.
Contact your old employers
If you can’t find any old paperwork, or the provider's details aren’t clear, then get in touch with your old employer. Confirm when you worked for them and ask for the name of the company’s pension provider at the time, along with their contact details.
If your employer has changed name or contact details since you left, you can try a simple search of Companies House to track down their new details.
Try the Pension Tracing Service
If you’re still having no luck and you need a helping hand, try the government's free Pension Tracing Service. The service can’t give you pension values or policy numbers, but it can help you find contact details for:
- Your own workplace or personal pension scheme
- Your civil service, NHS, teacher or armed forces pension
- Someone else’s scheme, if you have their permission
Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for registering for this pension tracing webinar. My name is Duncan May and I work at Hargreaves Lansdown as a financial wellbeing specialist.
There's an estimated 1.6 million pension pots worth around £19.4 billion in the UK, so that's roughly the equivalent of £13,000 in each pension pot, which have either been lost or forgotten.
Big factors contributing towards this are people changing jobs, so in the case of workplace pensions we move jobs on average 11 times throughout our careers, and moving home as well, typically eight times throughout our lives. In each case it's quite easy for us to forget to tell our pension provider when we move, and ultimately the statements stop coming through. The industry has launched the UK's first pension tracing day on the 31st of October. Of course, it doesn't matter when you act but this session is intended to give you the tools to act to start locating any old pensions you might have, and what to do next.
This is an overview of the next 13 minutes or so. We'll be talking about locating old personal and workplace pensions; so, we'll look at how you can find them and what to do once you have found them, so things to update with your old pension providers, also things to check relating to the pensions themselves. A lot of this will relate to the differences between pensions we might have so we'll look at our general pension and retirement options and look at areas where we can compare what we're offered by different pension providers. Finally, we’ll look at we can do when getting ready for retirement. So, I hope you find the presentation useful.
So, what we’ll first look at is locating old pensions, what we can do to find old personal workplace pensions we might no longer have the details for? The first, and most obvious, thing we can do is check for any old paperwork, so digging out old statements. Ultimately, we need to find anything that might have the pension provider's name on.
Another thing we can do is speak to our old employers in the case of old workplace pensions, so that means speaking to an employer and telling them the dates we worked there to find out who the pension provider was for that period.
We can also speak to old colleagues, so if you do have old colleagues who still work at the company you used to work for you can ask them, that's a really easy way to get access to the name of the pension provider. This can be quite difficult, for example if your old employer has been taken over, and pension providers merge as well so it may take some digging. We need to work out who the pension is currently with and the name of the provider or administrator so you can then go to them directly.
A useful website we can use is the government's pension tracing service which is more of a register of workplace and personal pension schemes. There’s a web address there, www.gov.uk/find-pension-contact-details. You can use this by searching the name of an old personal pension you might have or putting in the name of your old employer. Bear in mind that this search tool does have the habit of coming up with a lot of results that you might need to sift through, not all of which will be the right company or the pension provider that is holding on to your money. Hopefully with a bit of digging you'll be able to locate at least the name of the pension provider who holds your money and what you can then do is go to them directly with some information to get access to the pension details.
If you go onto a simple internet search you should be able to find a contact number or a contact us page or email address. Just bear in mind they may not be willing to disclose all the information you're looking for straight away and you might need to write to them. What you can certainly do is at least first identify if they've got any money for you. If you've got the plan or policy number of course reference this. If not include things like your date of birth and National Insurance number; if a company has a pension in your name, they'll have both bits of information on their records.
Another thing you can do is give them your old address, or old addresses, the date you think the pension was set up, or your dates of employment in the case of a workplace pension. This is the information it's worth having to hand when you first contact them so either if you're calling or sending an email or writing. Again, just bear in mind that you may need to provide some supporting documentation before they might be able to send you any up-to-date statements regarding your pension.
What we'll move on to next are some things to check once you have found or located your old personal and workplace pensions and some things to ask to get a good overview of what your pension offers. There's quite a long list here but we'll go through them in order.
The first thing, the obvious one, is to update them with your new correct details. Ultimately, we don't want to lose track of that pension again, so update them with your current address, email, telephone, and see if you can get an online account set up, that will make it a lot easier to manage your pension if you can access the information online. Bear in mind as well if you are looking to transfer a pension the address that you hold needs to match up on both sides of the transfer; that will prevent it from going through if the old provider holds an old address for you so you will need to get that updated at some point if you're looking to transfer.
The second, check the current value. When we're planning contributions it's important to know what we have saved up to date because that is one of the biggest factors in determining what our pensions will be worth if we carry on contributing at our current rate. When putting details into things like a pension calculator we always like to look at all our pensions as one big savings pot that's going to fund our retirement spending.
Another question is, does the pension contain any guarantees? An example could be if it's a defined benefit scheme, it’s important to check if you have any old defined benefit pensions,these are often best left where they are because the benefits offered are quite valuable in comparison to what you might get should you transfer that pension away. Also, there is a requirement to take financial advice if you're looking to transfer a defined benefit pension valued more than £30 000. But it might not be a defined benefit pension, there are other guarantees that you may lose if you choose to transfer away; things like a protected retirement date, protected tax-free cash, these are types of guarantees that you may lose if you transfer away.
The next thing to check is nominated beneficiaries. This is again important; to nominate who you'd like your pension to be paid to should anything happen to you. You need to update each pension provider individually. If you update one provider that instruction won't carry across to any other pensions you have so that's something to check and make sure each pension has somebody in place. After this you can compare how each pension differs, what you're being charged and how the investments are doing, and we'll come on to how you can look at this in more detail later. Another thing you can check is the options that you have at retirement. Different providers will give you access to slightly different options, for example not all pension providers will offer drawdown, so it's worth checking this as you may end up looking to transfer later, or at the point of retirement.
The final thing is to check our death benefit so that's how your pension is paid should anything happen to you. What options would your beneficiaries have and other factors. So, we've got here support and tools, does the pension have an online account, is there an app to download, what resources support and tools are available to you to get a grip of things like your options at retirement, and how easy is it to make changes, for example, to your investments. These are some useful things you can check with your pension provider and compare what you're being offered from the various providers of the pensions you have dotted around.
We’ll look at some of these points in a little bit more detail here, what we're now going to focus on is understanding our pension and retirement options. We'll start off by doing a basic overview of how your pension works. You may be quite familiar with this, but we also appreciate that for many of us pensions can on the face of it seem complex, so we're going to start with the very basics.
So, unless it’s a defined benefit pension, which is something very different we won't necessarily be discussing in too much detail here, your pension is ultimately a savings pot for retirement. Pensions differ from ordinary savings accounts firstly because you can't access the money until retirement but also you get some useful tax advantages. The main one being that your contributions qualify for tax relief; we get tax relief or an income tax saving on any money that we choose to pay into a pension.
If we've got a workplace pension, we've also got the benefit of our employer paying in and do check if your employer is willing to pay more because you sometimes can more of an employer contribution if you increase your own by a certain percentage. What happens is that money is paid into the savings pot, which is all your money, and then that money is then normally invested. So, you'll normally have a pension fund, part of which will be invested in things like the stock market, and any growth on the investments within the pension is completely tax-free.
What we get out of a pension is largely dependent on these two things, so these are the two most important things to think about when planning for retirement in advance. How much money we're paying in, or is our current contribution level enough, and are the investments right for us, are we getting the most out of the investment options available.
When you come to access your pension, 25% can be accessed tax free, the remainder is taxed as income and you have broadly three retirement options.
You can access pensions from the age of 55, that is due to rise to 57 in 2028, and that's going up because life expectancy is going up on average.
Generally, you can start withdrawing money 10 years before your state pension age so you don't need to wait until your state pension age to retire and you also don't need to have stopped working as well as you can start withdrawing from your pension from 55 currently, even if you're still working.
It is quite common to phase in retirement as opposed to stopping work in one go. The rules regarding contributions are quite similar, there are limits to how much you can pay into pensions, but there might be a slight difference with how you benefit from tax relief so double check how this works either with your personal pension or workplace pension provider.
Where pensions largely differ is in this middle section, the investments phase, and how your pension is invested. You'll typically be invested in a fund. A fund is a pool of money, gathered from a wide range of investors. In the case of a pension fund this will be ourselves and other people saving for retirement. A professional fund manager, or team of managers, will then use that money to invest in a potentially wide range of assets. For pension funds this will normally be at least partly in the stock market and they'll also invest in other assets so things like bonds, property, and potentially commodities, and cash as well.
The idea is that investing your money over the long term will give you a better chance of beating inflation than you'll get if you leave your money sat in cash.
How well our pension grows depends on how well those investments on the right-hand side perform. If you are comparing where you are invested across different pensions it's worth bearing in mindthat pension default funds do have quite a lot of common features typically, bear in mind they won't all meet these exact criteria, but you'll often find they will be in this Mixed Investment 40-85% Shares sector. This means that 40% to 85% of your money can be in the stock market at any one time.
That's important as shares have historically provided the highest returns, but as we will most likely know shares also come with the highest risk as share prices tend to be affected more by what's in the news compared to other assets. So, it’s normally a very balanced approach to risk and default funds are often very much a one-size-fits-all option. For that reason, they're not necessarily going to be the perfect approach for everyone.
So, they're going to be very diversified, so global funds, and your pension will normally have some form of lifestyling arrangement in place. This is where your pension provider will automatically de-risk your pension as you approach your retirement date.
The scheme retirement date is typically a default retirement date so it's often 65 for workplace pensions. That may not be in line with what your plans are for retirement, you might be looking to retire earlier, you might not be looking to retire at all at that stage, so it’s important to be aware that these backup lifestyling instructions are often in place, and to make sure you update each of your pension providers when you have an idea of what your plans are.
The final think to mention is you will be being charged. There will be an annual management charge for each pension you have so this is something you can certainly compare.
With workplace pensions there is currently a cap on the total ongoing charge for a default investment arrangement in a workplace pension, but if you have left that workplace scheme, if you've left your employer, just be aware that the cap might no longer be in place, so the charge may be different to what it was previously when the pension was initially set up.
So, it's often the case that you'll be invested in quite similar funds across each of your old pension pots, remember that you do have the choice of where your pension is invested, and the default fund isn't always going to be the perfect approach for everyone.
Pensions do give you the option to mix and match investments within one plan, this means you can tailor the risk approach you're taking to your own attitude to risk and reward, meaning you can potentially go for a slightly more adventurous option if you're willing to accept a high level of risk for a higher potential return. The extent to which it's easy to switch between investments will vary from provider to provider and the investment options will also vary significantly so do that's something worth checking, what the other options are for each pension you locate.
Something we’ve mentioned already is the ongoing charges, so pension charges again can vary but this is typically how it works. You'll have a charge for the fund or the investment itself and you'll also have a pension charge or an administration fee of some sort. So, the fund’s charge, that's the one that is paid to the fund manager, that covers the ongoing costs involved in running the investment. That can vary significantly from fund to fund.
The ongoing pension charge will typically be the same, that's what you pay to the pension provider themselves for administrating your own pension pot. The total charge is the figure you want to look at when comparing what you're being charged by each provider.
Another thing we’ve mentioned as well is nominating beneficiaries. This is something you'll need to do for each provider, remember it doesn't carry across. If you've got an instruction with one pension that won't carry across to any other providers; so, important to update each company individually.
You can typically split your pension between multiple beneficiaries and you can nominate anyone you like. It can of course be your partner, it can be other family members, children, friends, you can nominate and leave your pension to charities as well.
Money you hold in a pension is normally outside of your estate for inheritance tax purposes, so it can be passed on inheritance tax free and potentially tax-free depending on how old you are when you pass away. If you die before the age of 75 it's normally completely tax-free for your beneficiaries. If you die after the age of 75 it's normally taxed as another source of income.
For example, with the HL SIPP, beneficiaries have the option of taking the entire pension pot as a lump sum, or taking it as income, so you can also leave it invested as well.
This is something we should review periodically and update if our circumstances change.
You do have the option to consolidate, and you don't need to have multiple pensions dotted around. The main potential benefit, and the most common reason for transferring, is to have everything in one place, to make things easier to manage. Before transferring it's important to check things like exit penalties, is there an exit fee or a charge, there might not be, but it's worth double checking because this may impact the decision to transfer.
Similarly, we should check loss of guarantees, so any defined benefits, things like protected tax-free cash, guaranteed growth rates, protected retirement dates, are all examples of guarantees that you may lose if you look to transfer a pension away. It may be the case that if your pension contains guarantees it may be left where it is.
If you're looking to work out which provider you're better off with, you can compare things like the charges, ultimately these will be eating into the returns on our pension, and of course investment performance and choice. How much flexibility do we have to make changes, we can also look at factors that are not related to the performance of the pension itself, things like what's the service like, do they have a helpdesk, what tools and resources do they have to help me manage my pension. Do you have an online account?
When you transfer a pension you typically request the transfer through the provider you're looking to transfer to so, you'll either have an online or a transfer form to complete where you give them details of your old pension enabling them to request the transfer on your behalf.
Pensions are normally transferred as cash, so unless you can find a pension provider who can hold the same investments as you hold in your current pension, it normally means that your pension will need to be converted to cash before it is transferred. This means that you'll be out of the market for a period which can work in your favour or against.
The final section we'll look at here is getting ready for retirement. We'll look at an overview of the three main retirement options, bearing in mind that different pension providers may offer you access to some but not all the options. It's important to have a good understanding of all the options available before deciding.
These are broadly the retirement options we have, so we have annuities which give us the option of secure income and potential for tax-free cash at the start. Annuities used to be the only way in which we could access our pension. Now there are more flexible options such as drawdown and lump sums, which give us the opportunity for more flexible income and it’s just how the tax-free cash is paid which is slightly different for the two.
There is no best or worst option necessarily, but we can ask ourselves questions like: do I want secure income? If so, how much secure income do I need bearings in mind our state pension, how much more secure income might I need on top of that? Will my income needs change? The ongoing management is a consideration. How much tax-free cash do you need, as you get the option of taking all your tax-free cash straight away from 55 currently, but do you have a need for that tax-free cash if you can leave it and withdraw it later and potentially get more of your pension tax-free in the long run. Another question is how your pension is treated when you pass away? That is different for each the retirement option.
So, we’ll look at the options in a bit more detail. Firstly, we'll start off with annuities.
So what is an annuity? In a nutshell, with an annuity you are swapping money in your pension for a secure income that is guaranteed for the rest of your life. This means that you can normally take 25% of your pension tax free at the start. What would happen in practice is when you take out an annuity, 25% of your pension, or the amount of your pension that you're using to buy an annuity, is paid to your bank at that point tax-free. The remaining 75% is paid to an insurance provider and they will then pay you income for life regardless of how long you live.
That's the main benefit, the income is guaranteed, and this is the only secure way of accessing your pension. It doesn't matter how long you live, that income will be paid to you each month, or each year, or however you've requested it. You can have it so that your income increases, you can have it go up in line with inflation or perhaps by a fixed amount. This means that hopefully the buying power of your money will keep up in line with rising prices throughout retirement.
You can also have income paid on after you pass away if you pick certain options when you get quotes, or when you apply for that annuity. That's one common misconception with annuities, that the annuity income dies with you, that isn't necessarily the case.
There are some drawbacks however, firstly you can't normally change your options if your circumstances change, so once you've taken out that annuity policy that normally means that is it and you certainly can't cash in your annuity later.
Another risk is annuity rates, they might rise in future and if your annuity is already in payment you won't benefit from the increases. But of course, the opposite could be true as well and annuity rates could get worse.
When shopping around it's important to get access to the whole of the annuity market as your current pension provider may not and often won't offer you the best rate. Hargreaves Lansdown aren’t an insurance provider, so we don't offer annuities, but we can help you find an annuity quote from the whole of the market. You can speak to our retirement helpdesk and we've got an online annuity calculator as well. Another thing which is almost unique to annuities is you can get enhanced rates by disclosing certain health and lifestyle factors, so something to bear in mind when shopping around. That's something you can speak to our retirement helpdesk about.
The next option we'll talk about is drawdown. This is possibly one you may have heard of drawdown gives you the option to keep your pension invested in retirement and the option to take income as and when you want to. So, you can take as little or as much income as you want.
In practice, what this means is again 25% of your pension, or the amount that you're looking to move into drawdown, can be taken as a tax-free lump sum at the start. The remaining 75% is moved out of your pension into a separate investment account which is called drawdown. Through drawdown you can carry on investing as you are through your pension. For example, with Hargreaves Lansdown you have the same investment options through drawdown as you do with your SIPP. It's up to you if you want to carry on growing your money, if you want to try and grow it up in line with inflation by taking less risk, or potentially invest so your investments pay you income and live off the natural yield from your investments. These are all options you have through drawdown.
The key benefit or attraction is the flexibility. You can withdraw as little or as much as you want to. If your circumstances change you keep your options open as well, for example you can buy an annuity with money in drawdown later.
Investing gives you the option to try to beat inflation. Any money left over gets passed on so can be passed to your beneficiaries in the form of either a lump sum or as in the form of income. However, there are some risks. The money in drawdown is ultimately a pot of money, so it is possible you can run out of money in drawdown, for example if the investments don't perform as well as we'd hoped, if we withdraw too much too early, or if we live longer than we expected. The income isn't secure it can fall or even stop completely and as with any investment it’s possible you can get back less than you put in.
Through Hargreaves Lansdown we give you access to a wide range of investments, there are tools like our drawdown calculator, investment ideas and research to help you pick your own investments. In drawdown it's important seek advice if you're unsure as it is a higher risk way of accessing your pension.
The final option we’ll look at is lump sums. Lots of the pros and cons that apply to drawdown also apply to lump sum withdrawals as well. In a nutshell, with lump sum withdrawals you can keep your pension invested, but this time your money stays in your pension and each time you want to take a withdrawal you simply request a withdrawal directly from your pension.
Each time you request a withdrawal 25% of it is paid to you tax-free, the rest is paid subject to income tax. Again, you can withdraw as little as much as you want to, you keep all the other retirement options available so if your circumstances change any money left over and your pension can be used towards an annuity or drawdown. Because you're investing your money you can potentially beat inflation, and anything left over gets passed on to your beneficiaries similarly to money held in drawdown. But again, you can run out of money, the income isn't secure and there's a possibility that you can get a bit back less than you put in.
So, as I mentioned, lots of the pros and cons apply to both drawdown and lump sums. The main difference is how the tax-free cash is treated, so with drawdown the tax-free cash is normally paid to you initially, whereas with lump sum withdrawals each withdrawal contains 25% as a tax-free element.
The final section we'll look at is to run through a brief pre-retirement action plan, so some things to consider in the lead up to retirement.
Something might want to think about in advance is our retirement goals. When do we want to retire? This will impact how long our pension will need to last. You can also have the think about how much income we’ll actually need in retirement, this is quite a difficult question to answer but there is some useful information on a website called the Retirement Living Standards (www.retirementlivingstandards.org.uk) which is some research that was carried out by the PLSA.
What they did is interviewed current retirees and they came up with three levels of income that they believe meet a minimum, moderate and a comfortable retirement. These might be a useful starting point when working out how much you might need. It’s also worth thinking about things like, have you or will you have paid off a mortgage by that point, or do you have any dependents.
Our retirement goals might change but once we’ve had a think, we can start thinking about whether we're on track based on our current planning. A worthwhile exercise at any point leading up to retirement is to put our details into a pension calculator. So, you can put in how much you've got saved to date, that's why it's really important to know what we have in our current pensions even if they are in lots of different places, we can put in how much we're looking to contribute, and then based on that the pension calculator tool will be able to give us a rough idea of what annual income and tax-free cash we might expect to receive based on our current planning.
We can find pension calculators on the websites of most pension providers, including our own which you can find in the Learn and Pensions sections. Of course, when doing that it's important to remember that we also have a state pension, so you can check your state pension forecast online by going onto the government website which will give you information such as what state pension you're on track to receive and when you get it.
Once we have an idea of whether there's a shortfall or not, we can think about reviewing our contributions and investments. It's always worth considering paying you more bearing in mind the tax saving we can get on any contributions we make, and if we can afford to pay more it's worth considering.
We can also think about our investments as well, perhaps look at our current investments, what level of risk we're currently taking on, and whether that matches our own attitude to risk and reward, how long we have. If we still have 10-15 years until retirement, there still may be plenty of time for investments to make up any shortfall that we can't be meet by increasing our ongoing contributions.
The final thing is to keep things simple. We’ve talked about locating old pensions, hopefully once you've found them that will make things a lot easier to manage. It's worth considering consolidating after comparing things like charges or perhaps if the value is relatively small. There is a lot to think about in advance of retirement, so it does pay to start planning early.
The government has a service called Pension Wise and you can get a free telephone or face-to-face meeting if you’re over the age of 50. There's also lots of information online, on our website and elsewhere. It’s also worth considering advice, particularly if your situation is complex or you're concerned you might not make the most of your pension. If we're ever going to take advice it is typically at the point of retirement.
There's lots of information in our Pensions section and there's also a whole section on retirement which talks about the different options available. There are calculators, guides, and lots of useful information there. If you haven't done so already you can download the HL app to manage your pension online and do let us know if you have any questions. There's an email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, you can send any questions related to using the website or more technical questions, and there's also a telephone number there we're open six days a week. I hope you found the presentation useful.
The presentation is intended as information as opposed to personal advice. Stock market-based investments aren't guaranteed and can fall in value as well as rise so you could get back less than you invest. Pension and tax rules can and do change from time to time and any benefit will depend on your personal circumstances. Once in a pension, your money isn't accessible until age 55, rising to 57 in 2028. Before transferring, please check you will not lose valuable benefits or incur excessive penalties. Pensions are usually transferred as cash, so you will be out of the market for a period. Please refer to the SIPP Key Features and Terms & Conditions for full details.
Watch the HL National Pension Tracing Day Webinar
It’s easy to lose sight of old pensions. Thankfully our experts are on hand to help you track them down. Watch the webinar to:
- Learn how to find old personal and workplace pensions
- Understand what to check once you’ve found them all
- Find out more about your retirement options
- Discover how to prepare for retirement
Next steps once you've found your pension
Reconnect with your provider
Once you’ve found out which provider holds your pension pot, you’ll need to contact them directly to find out how much it’s worth, and to update them with your new contact details. They’ll probably need to do some security checks to verify who you are too. Make sure you have your past and present details to hand, like your previous names and/or addresses, and National Insurance number.
Review investments, charges and service
Now you’ve found your lost pot, it’s important to take a closer look. Check what the scheme rules are around your retirement age, and that your investments still match your attitude to risk and your financial aims. You should also check what fees you’re paying and how easy it is to access your pension online.
Bring your lost pensions together under one roof
If you’re less than satisfied, it could make sense to consolidate your pensions and transfer them to one easy-to-manage account, like the HL Self-Invested Personal Pension. Just check the fees first and that that you won't lose valuable guarantees or benefits. If you decide to go ahead, remember pensions are usually transferred as cash so you will be out of the market for a period.
- More control - Manage your pension online, by phone, post, or through the HL app. See exactly what your pension is worth, and where it’s invested, 24/7.
- Wide choice - Access thousands of investments and ideas from our experts to help get you started.
- More support - Any questions, you only have to make one call - 0117 980 9926. Our helpdesk will answer your questions in plain English – no jargon.
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Help and support
If you have any questions about pensions, you can speak to one of our UK-based client support experts.
Call us on 0117 980 9926
Alternatively, you can email us.