It seems crazy to think that 23% of people in the UK have lost at least one pension. These things are worth thousands of pounds, and are the single most important factor determining how we spend our golden years. It's like losing a car - or in some cases a small house.
So how do these pensions go missing, and how can we track them down?
The research from Age UK discovered an incredible number of lost pensions. While 23% overall had lost a pension, this ranged from 18% in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, to an incredible 36% of people in the South West.
The researchers didn't try to estimate the value of these lost pensions. However, the Pensions Policy Institute says that the average pensioner receives £189 a week in occupational pension income. Assuming this is from five sources, it would mean that each person with a lost pension could be missing out on just under £38 a week.
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When asked how they went astray, 47% of people said they had simple been lost 'in the mists of time'. This was a common excuse in the North East - where 60% of people blamed these mysterious mists for the disappearance of their pension.
Meanwhile, 20% said they had mislaid the paperwork. This was a particular problem for people in the East, West and South Midlands, 28% of whom couldn't find their correspondence.
Some 10% of people blamed the frequency with which they have changed jobs - this was a particular problem for those in the South and South East - where 16% say this is the cause of a missing pension.
This is likely to be an increasingly significant factor. The average person who is currently retired had five or six employers over their lifetime. If they each offered a pension, it's not impossible to keep track of.
However, 23% of people aged between 25 and 34 have already had this number of employers. They could have 20 pension pots scattered across schemes from each of their employers by the time they retire: it's easy to see how one or more could go astray. Worryingly 37% of people between the ages of 18 and 44 have already lost a pension.
Lucy Harmer, Head of Services at Age UK, said: "It's really important we all set aside time to keep on top of our personal admin, such as organising paperwork and keeping details of any financial products safe and secure. This is especially crucial for pensions as it may be some years down the line until they need to be accessed."
"With the number of jobs we have over a lifetime increasing, it's likely that people will accumulate several small pension pots. In many cases these bring a less fruitful income in later life than one large pension pot."
What can you do?
There's a large degree of confusion about the best way to go about finding a pension. The Age UK research found that nearly a quarter of people (23%) would ask previous employers for help; 15% would consult the government or tax office; 11% would look online for advice; and 7% would turn to a friend or relative for help.
Fortunately, if you lose a pension there is something you can do. Age UK says there are four straightforward steps:
Start by collecting as much information about your previous employer as possible including names, the type of business it ran, previous addresses and scheme dates
Search for any paperwork that you may have received with the pension
Try to remember if it was a workplace or personal pension
Call the Pension Tracing Service which can help to track down your lost pension on 0845 600 2537.
Seven retirement nightmares
Almost one in four have 'lost' a pension
Figures from charity Age UK show that 29% of those over 60 feel uncertain or negative about their current financial situation - with millions facing poverty and hardship. Even though saving for retirement is not much fun, the message is therefore that having to rely on dwindling state benefits in retirement is even less so. To avoid ending up in this situation, adviser Hargreaves Lansdown recommends saving a proportion of your salary equal to half your age at the time of starting a pension. In other words, if you are 30 when you start a pension, you should put in 15% throughout your working life. If you start at 24, saving 12% of your salary a year should produce a similar return.
Many older couples rely on the pension income of one person - often the man. Should that person die first, the other person can therefore be left in a difficult position financially.
One way to prevent financial hardship for the surviving person is to take out a joint life annuity that will continue to pay out up to 67% of the original payments to the surviving partner should one of them die.
The disadvantage of this approach, however, is that the rate you receive will be lower. Again, the Pensions Advisory Service on 0845 601 2923 is a useful first port of call if you are unsure what to do.
Around 427,000 households in the over-70 age groups are either three months behind with a debt repayment or subject to some form of debt action such as insolvency, according to the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS).
Its figures also show that those aged 60 or older who came to the CCCS for help last year owed an average of £22,330. Whether you are retired or not, the best way to tackle debt problems is head on.
Free counselling services from the likes of CCCS and Citizens Advice can help with budgeting and dealing with creditors.
Importantly, they can also conduct a welfare benefits check to make sure you are receiving the pension credit, housing and council tax benefits, attendance and disability living allowances you are entitled to.
The average UK pensioner household faces a £111,400 tax bill in retirement as increasing longevity means pensioners are living on average up to 19 years past the age of 65, according to figures from MetLife. And every year in retirement adds an extra £5,864 in direct and indirect taxes based on current tax rates to the costs for the average pensioner household. You can be forced to go bankrupt if you fail to pay your taxes, so it is vital to factor these costs into your retirement planning.It is also important to check that you are receiving all the benefits and tax breaks you are entitled to if you want to make the most of your retirement cash.
The cost of a room in a care home in many parts of the country is now over £30,000 a year, according to figures from Prestige Nursing and Care. So even if the prime minister announces a cap on care costs - last year the economist Andrew Dilnot called for a new system of funding which would mean that no one would pay more than £35,000 for lifetime care - families will still face huge accommodation costs. Ways to cut this cost include opting for home care rather than a care home. Jonathan Bruce, managing director of Prestige Nursing and Care, said: "For older people who may need care in the shorter term, home care is an option which allows people to maintain their independence for longer while living in their own home and should be included in the cap." However, the only other answer is to save more while you can.
Older Britons are often targeted by unscrupulous criminals - especially if they have a bit of money put away. For example, many over 50s were victims of the so-called courier scam that tricked into keying their pin numbers into their phones and handing their cards to "couriers" who visited their homes. It parted consumers from £1.5 million in under two years. Detective Chief Inspector Paul Barnard, head of the bank sponsored dedicated cheque and plastic crime unit (DCPCU), said: "Many of us feel confident that we can spot fraudsters, but this type of crime can be sophisticated and could happen to anyone." The same is true of boiler room scams that target wealthier Britons with money to invest, offering "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunities to snap up shares at bargain prices. Tactics to watch out for include cold calling, putting you under pressure to pay up or lose the opportunity for good, and claiming to have insider information that they are prepared to share with you.