Making the effort to trace lost or old pensions is vital to make sure you receive everything you’re owed in retirement. The Association of British Insurers has estimated that around £19.4bn is sitting in 1.6 million lost pensions simply because people did not notify their pension provider when they moved house. Working out at an average of almost £13,000 per forgotten pension, these are sums of money that could provide a very important boost to your retirement income.
How to trace a pension
What you need to do to find a pension will depend on how much you remember or know about your lost pension.
- Search for any old pension statements you might have hidden away. If you find one, the identity of your pension provider, the pension scheme name and a plan number is almost certain to be on there.
- If you know you had a pension with a specific pension provider, get in touch with that pension firm. Try to give them as much detail as possible to help them check their records. If possible, this should include:
- your policy number
- your date of birth
- your National Insurance number
- the date you started the pension.
Pension tracing by National Insurance number can be highly effective. If you don’t know your National Insurance number you should be able to find it on past payslips, P60s or any correspondence you have about tax, pensions or benefits. Otherwise, contact the National Insurance helpline on 0300 200 3500.
- If you’ve lost a workplace pension, your old employer should be able to tell you who the pension provider was. The information they will ideally need from you to help work out which pension scheme you would have been in might include: your national insurance number the dates you worked for the company the dates you were in the pension scheme.
- If you remember the names of any employers or pension providers you may have had but can’t find any contact details, the Pension Tracing Service might be able to help.
What is the Pension Tracing Service?
The Pension Tracing Service is a free scheme operated by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that aims to find the contact details you need to trace a lost pension.
If you can provide the name of your previous employer or a pension provider, the Pension Tracing Service will search a database of 200,000 workplace and personal pensions to try and find who you can contact about your pension now. It won’t, however, confirm whether you actually held a pension with a scheme or not.
You can start a search with the Pension Tracing Service online or by calling 0800 731 0193.
What should I do when I find a lost pension?
Once you have tracked down a lost or old pension there are several questions you should ask your pension provider:
- Start by asking for a statement so you can see the current value of the pot and what your retirement income from this pension is likely to be.
- Check how your pension is invested and ask what options there are for changing the investments.
- Next, ask them what fees and charges you are paying for the management of the pension and compare these with what you could pay elsewhere. If you are considering transferring your pension, ask if you would pay any exit fees.
- Finally, and very importantly, check if there is a nominated recipient for any death benefits from the pension. This could be an ex-partner so make sure it’s up to date.
How can I transfer my pensions into one pot?
Once you’ve found all your pensions you may want to consider bringing them all together into one. This can simplify your pension admin and make it less likely that you’ll lose one of them again. But there can be significant drawbacks from high exit or transfer fees, or you could lose valuable benefits such as a guaranteed minimum pension.
Transferring a pension is a big decision so it is usually a good idea to get professional advice before you start moving your retirement savings – sometimes you’ll only be allowed to transfer once you’ve received advice. An independent financial adviser can help you work out if consolidating your pensions is the best option for you.
Be careful too as transfers can attract pension scams where fraudsters are keen to part you from your savings.
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Dive even deeper
A qualifying recognised overseas pension scheme – or QROPS – is a pension scheme based in another country that might prove a suitable destination if you wanted to transfer your UK pension scheme abroad. You should definitely consider getting advice before making a QROPS transfer.
You might have a guaranteed minimum pension if you were a member of a contracted out final salary scheme before April 1997. A GMP pension should pay a level of income that is at least comparable with how much you would have received if you had been contracted into SERPS.