Tracing lost pensions might sound boring, but it’s just another name for potentially finding money.
Even if you're not sure you have any lost pensions, Government figures suggest there’s around £400 million 1 to be claimed, so it might be worth checking out.
Don’t be put off because you think it’s a lot of work, or that your lost pension isn’t worth it. It’s actually a lot simpler than you might think, and after several years of growth, you could be surprised at how much you find. Even if it’s a small amount, you don’t want to throw away money that’s rightfully yours.
Have you lost a pension?
It’s quite common to lose a pension. You might know your pension exists, but you’ve forgotten details like your pension number or provider. Or, you might have a pension you’ve forgotten about. Often this is because you’ve changed jobs and left your pension behind. Over time, you’ve lost track of it.
We understand things like this can happen, but thankfully it won’t stop you from tracking down your pensions. We’ll explain how you can do this in just a moment.
You might even discover a pension you never knew you had, like a workplace pension your employer paid into but you didn’t personally contribute to. This can be welcome news for your retirement planning.
Why should you trace lost pensions now?
If you’re putting off tracing your pensions because you’re not close to retirement and think you have years to do it, consider this:
- With a lost pension, you probably don’t know how your money is being invested, what growth rate it’s achieving or what fees you’re paying on it. All these factors affect how much that fund will be worth when you retire. The sooner you can track it down, the sooner you can take control of it, and make sure it’s working effectively.
- However far you are from retirement, it’s important to know if your savings are on track. If you don’t know where all your savings are, it’s unlikely you’re on top of your retirement planning.
- Finally, we know that a lot of people have more time at home at the moment because of furlough or lockdown. This is a way of spending that free time that you could really feel the benefit of later.
How do you trace a lost pension?
Where to start depends on how much you already know about your lost pension.
If you know who your pension provider is:
You can get in touch with your pension provider directly. It’ll help if you can give them your:
- Date of birth
- National Insurance number
- Pension number
- Relevant dates, such as when you think the pension was set up and when you last contributed
Don’t worry if you don’t have all of these, just supply what you can.
If you don’t know who your pension provider is:
Your current and previous employers will be able to tell you who your pension provider is and how to contact them.
Or, you can use the government’s free pension tracing service. You can search online for your provider using the name of your employer or the name of the pension scheme, if you know it. You can also access the service by phone, by calling the numbers on the website.
What should you do when you find your lost pension?
It’s your choice. You can leave your lost pension invested where it is, but update your contact information with the provider so they can keep you informed about its progress.
Or, you might want to move the money from your lost pensions into your current pension. This will help you to keep track of all your retirement savings in one place so they could be easier to manage. For example, if you ever decide to make changes to your investment strategy, you’ll only need to contact one provider.
Transferring pensions isn't right for everyone though, and there's no guarantee you'll be better off. You should check to see if you would lose any safeguarded or valuable benefits by transferring, as well as comparing the features, charges and investment choice of both pensions. The value of pension investments can go down as well as up, so you could get back less than has been paid in.
Once you know where all your pension savings are and what your pension value is, you can check if you’re on track for the retirement you want.
Try our retirement planner tool to see how much your pension could be worth when you retire. If it’s not where you want it to be, you can think about increasing your contributions or making a one-off top-up, to grow your pension faster.
If you’ve found a lot of money in a lost pension, you might want to speak to a financial adviser about how to make the best use of it.
If your plans include transferring a pension, you may be required to take advice before proceeding. An adviser may charge for their services.
How can you keep track of your pensions?
Make sure you hold on to any pension documents you’re given, and keep a note of your pension number. Add your pension provider to the list of companies you need to inform if you move house.
If you change employers, remember that payments into your existing pension will stop, and your new employer will usually set up a new pension for you. This means you’ll have two (or more) pensions to keep track of.
For a lot of people, it’s more practical to just look after one. If this is what you’d prefer, you have two options: you can ask your new employer to contribute to your existing pension, or you can transfer your existing pension to the new provider. In either case, you should consider carefully and start by having a conversation with either your employer or your pension provider.