One in five people with more than one pension have lost track of their savings completely, and two in five have no idea how much they have put away for the future. Pension trends mean that these figures are going to soar over the coming years. So what can you do if you lose a pension?
A survey by Aegon found that at the moment 62% of people have more than one pension. One in five of them have lost track of at least one of their savings pots, and as a result 6.6 million people may have lost a pension.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, however, because over time these figures are going to get even more alarming. Auto-enrolment means millions more people with have a pension through the workplace, and every time they change their job, they could be starting a new one. The average person has 11 jobs during their lifetime, which could mean pensions in double figures, and millions more people losing track of their retirement savings.
Kate Smith, Head of Pensions at Aegon points out: "It's very hard to plan your retirement without a full view of your savings and it's important everyone has a clear idea of how much their pension is worth and what their state pension entitlement is likely to be." So it's worth taking steps to get on top of your pensions.
What can you do?
The first step is to track down your pension. The DWP has a pension tracing service, which lets you enter your old employer's name, and it will generate a current contact address. You can then write to them with your current and any previous name, current and previous addresses and your National Insurance number. You should also include the dates when you worked for the company.
Once you have sent your letters, it may be worth getting a state pension forecast too, which is available either online or on paper. You can apply for one on the government website. The figure provided won't be a cast iron guarantee, but it will give you an idea of what the state might provide.
Once you have tracked your pensions down, you don't have to do anything else. You can simply file details of each scheme somewhere safe, and keep an eye on them. The government will make this easier after 2019, because it will launch a pensions dashboard, which means you will be able to see all your pensions - including your state pension - in one place.
However, it's worth looking into each pension and what it offers. Some will have valuable benefits or guarantees attached; others will have a range of attractive and well-managed funds with low charges. It may be worth hanging onto these.
Others, however, may have expensive or complex charges, offer no access to pension freedoms, and not let you manage them online. If some of your pensions aren't up to scratch, it may be worth consolidating them into one - which you can choose for its low charges and flexibility. This will have the added benefit of making it easy to keep track of.
If you are finding it difficult to decide whether your pensions are worth consolidating or not, then if you have significant sums in those pensions, it may be worth taking professional advice. An adviser will be able to help you make your pensions more manageable in future, and although their advice will cost money, if they save you substantial ongoing charges from pension companies, their advice could pay for itself several times over.
How we spend our pensions
How we spend our pensions
Figures from Saga show that the over 50s now account for the majority of money spent by Brits on travel and tourism. They have the time to spare, the money, and they are healthy enough to take on the world.
A poll from Abta found that in the wake of pension freedoms, 35% of people were considering cashing in at least part of their pension to travel. A separate study by Senior Railcard found that pensioners take an average of three holidays a year, plus two weekends away, and 17 day trips.
Research from Senior Railcard found that retirees eat out an average of three times a month. However, one in ten do so more than twice a week, and one in three people said that one of the first things they did when they retired was to go out for lunch with their friends.
Of course, just because retirees want to enjoy themselves, it doesn't mean they are happy to throw money away. The vast majority are keen to eat at lunchtimes, when a fixed lunch menu tends to be cheaper, and canny retirees are skilled at tracking down pensioner special offers too.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that on average nearly a fifth of the money spent by people aged 65-74 is on leisure. This includes everything from the cinema and theatre to golfing and gardening. They spent more on this than on food, energy bills and transport.
A report by Canada Life found that retirees are spending £4,279 a year on having fun - that’s more than £1,000 more than they spend on boring essentials, and is a 74% increase over the past ten years. It went on to predict that this trend was set to continue, and that pension freedoms would encourage people to spoil themselves a bit more in retirement
Pensioner property wealth is now over £850 billion, and all these family homes don’t look after themselves. The Senior Railcard survey put home renovations in the top 20 activities people got stuck into on retirement, and figures from ABTA found that almost a third of people who were considering raiding their pension pots under the new pension freedoms planned to spend the cash on their home. This seems like an eminently sensible investment - looking after what is undoubtedly their most valuable asset.
Unsurprisingly, while some pensioners are very well off indeed, others are struggling with debt. Figures from Key Retirement found that the average retiree has £34,000 of debt.
Most of this is mortgage borrowing - in many cases driven up by the number of people who unwittingly signed up to an interest-only mortgage. However, credit cards, overdrafts, and loans are also common. It’s why so many pensioners have used pension freedoms to access enough cash to pay their debts.
The day to day basics are swallowing up their fair share of pensioner cash too. On average, people aged 65-74 spend a third of their weekly income on essentials like food and bills - which is hardly living the high life.
The bank of gran and grandad has become an increasingly vital source of cash for families. According to Key Retirement, of those who release equity from their property, 21% of them use the cash to treat their children and grandchildren. This includes an average of £33,350 to help children get onto the property ladder, £6,000 to buy them a new car, £11,000 on family weddings, and £24,780 giving grandchildren a helping hand.
While retirees are quite rightly spending what they need to enjoy retirement, they are hardly all throwing caution to the wind, buying flash cars and spending the kids' inheritance.
Most expect to have something left over to pass onto their family after their death. Some 69% expect to leave property in their wills, and 75% expect to leave cash - according to Unbiased.co.uk - because while baby boomers know how to have fun - they also know how to save for the future.