It’s not always easy keeping track of your pensions. This is especially the case if you’ve changed employers or been part of multiple schemes throughout your career. However, it’s important that you claim your pension – so the sooner you find a lost one, the better.
On average, people will work for 11 different employers during their lifetimes. As a result, many find it difficult to find old pensions from previous jobs.
Over time, pension schemes can be closed, merged or renamed. So, even if you do remember the name of each scheme, they could now be called something totally different.
The introduction of auto-enrolment, where eligible employees are automatically enrolled into a company’s scheme, means many more people are ending up with multiple pension pots. This is making it increasingly difficult to keep track of our pensions from old jobs.
People are at most risk of having lost a pension if they have:
The more old pensions you have, the more likely you are to end up losing one. Finding lost pensions from years ago can be a hassle, but it’s easier than you might think.
We’ve put together this handy guide explaining how to find a lost pension. If you’re worried about missing out on some of your old pensions, go ahead and take a look at our top tips for how to find old pensions.
If you think you might have had a pension with a previous employer and have lost track of it you need to get in contact with them. If you no longer have the contact details for an old company, the Government’s free pension tracing service might be able to help you find them.
Once you manage to get in touch with your old employer, you will need to provide them with the dates that you were employed by them and your National Insurance (NI) number. You should then ask them to check their records and to pass on the name of your pension provider and policy number.
Finding your pension pot will be much easier if you have as much information as possible. Make sure you include all the necessary details, including:
Unfortunately, however, this will not tell you how much your old pension is currently worth, how it is performing or what pension options you have at 55. Thus, you will have to do a bit more work by contacting the pension provider too.
Before you embark on the lengthy process of finding a lost pension, you should find out whether you’re likely to be eligible for that pension.
While you might have payslips showing pension deductions or a certificate from a pension scheme, this doesn’t always mean that you have pension entitlement. There are a number of reasons why you might not be eligible for a pension:
So, if you want to find a lost pension, make sure you have actually paid into that pension scheme first.
So, how do you find out if you have a pension from an old job?
To make sure you’re on track to reach your retirement goals, it’s important that you review your pension savings regularly. This will help you estimate the income each pension is likely to generate when you eventually retire.
So, if you are missing one of your pensions, the sooner you find it, the sooner you can start planning properly for your retirement.
Once you’ve established that you have a pension entitlement, you can view or request a statement. Your entitlement will differ depending on whether you have a defined benefit or a defined contribution pension.
A defined benefit pension is one which pays a retirement income based on your salary and how long you’ve been a member of the scheme. These are also known as ‘final salary’ or ‘career average’ pension schemes.
Defined benefit pensions tend to be public sector or older workplace pension schemes. If you belong to a final salary scheme, your pension provider should send you an annual benefit statement. This statement should show you how much pension you might get.
A defined contribution pension allows you to build up a pot of money that you can then use to provide yourself with an income in retirement.
The value of your pension pot depends on a number of factors, including:
Defined contribution schemes include both workplace and personal pensions. They are usually run through an insurance company or master trust provider, or you might be a member of an individual scheme set up by your employer.
You should look at your annual statements to get an estimate of your future pot value, and the regular retirement income your pension is on track to generate. This is based on you using your pension pot to buy a guaranteed income for life (an annuity).
A pension number is a number unique to you that’s used to identify your pension and tends to be found at the top of your pension paperwork.
If you fail to find your pension number at the top of your paperwork, you should get in touch with your pension provider – they will be able to help.
The State Earnings-Related Pension Scheme (SERPS) was designed by the government to top up the State Pension. It existed from 1978 to 2002, when it was replaced by the State Second Pension, and both schemes were often known as the additional state pension.
Millions of people who were in occupational pension schemes chose to opt out of SERPS during the 80s and 90s. This was known as “contracting out” and instead people redirected their National Insurance contributions into a personal pension.
They hoped that this might provide them with a higher income at retirement than the one they would have received from SERPS.
If you were employed in the private sector between 1987 and 2012, and you are worried you might be missing a SERPS pension, it is definitely worth checking because a missing pension can make a huge difference to your retirement income.
To perform a SERPS pension check, you will need to write to HMRC, providing your NI number and a few other personal details, such as your full name, previous name, address and date of birth.
HMRC should take around 30 days to respond with the details of any pension providers you paid into as a result of opting out of SERPS. Then, you will need to contact each provider to see how much any pension is worth and whether you can access them.
What happens to your pensions if you change jobs?
Don’t worry, when you leave your current employer, you won’t lose the benefits you’ve built up in your pension pot.
If you’ve changed jobs and remember paying into a pension at your previous workplace, it’s likely you’ll have an old pension there.
As with all pensions, you have a number of options when you leave your employment. You can:
Most of the newer forms of workplace pension allow you to continue contributing to them once you’re no longer working for the sponsoring employer.
While you may be allowed to move your pension after leaving your employer, it is quite often worth keeping it as the charges on workplace pensions are fairly low, and with some in-house workplace pensions the costs are covered by the sponsoring employer.
What is important is not losing track of your pension plans and keeping an up-to-date record of each one. It’s also essential that you keep the pension provider informed of your new address when you move house.
If your old company no longer exists, it is possible that the pension pot has been taken over by the Pension Protection Fund (PPF). This offers a safety net for companies that can no longer meet its pension obligations.
It might also be helpful to talk to former colleagues to see if they have more information. They may be able to give you further details of the scheme, such as its name or contact information.
If you become self-employed or stop working, you have various pension options to save for your retirement. These include:
It’s important that you make an effort to find all your old pensions to ensure you get the amount you’re eligible for when you choose to retire.
The easiest way to keep track of all your pensions is to keep up-to-date plans and remember to inform your pension provider of a change of address.
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