How to track down lost pension pots

£400 million worth of pensions savings unclaimed

broken piggy bank with coins. ...

Nearly 1.6 million pension pots are lying unclaimed, with their owners having lost track.

According to the government, the average person has 11 employers during their lifetime, which means that many may have a dozen or more pensions.

Some may not even realise that they have a pension, thanks to automatic enrolment, while others may have been sold a contracted out policy in the 1990s which they don't currently have access to.

And while some of these pension pots may be tiny, many are not to be sniffed at - indeed, lost pension specialist PensionsLink says that the average unclaimed pension in the private sector would provide an annual income of £3,000 – and for the public sector, the figure's £7,000 a year.

The government is working on a Pensions Dashboard that would give people access to all their pension information in one place, and has signed up 11 of the UK's biggest pension providers to take part.

It's promising a working prototype by March next year that could, it says, help release the £400 million worth of pensions savings that the Department for Work and Pension estimate are currently unclaimed.

"Think of a future where you can compare your pension pots with the touch of a button," says economic secretary Simon Kirby.

"The Pensions Dashboard will unlock a huge amount of information that will help people make the best choices for them, and I am delighted that eleven of the largest pension providers have agreed to work together to build a working prototype by March 2017."

In the meantime, though, there are other ways to track down a missing pension pot.

The Pensions Advisory Service recently launched a new online tool to help people track down lost pensions.

Meanwhile, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) also has a free Pension Tracing Service with details of more than 320,000 pension schemes. Just enter your former employers' details, and you'll be given information on schemes you may have paid into.

As a general rule, if you left the job before April 1975, you'll probably already have received a refund of your pension contributions. If you left the employer between April 1975 and April 1988, you will have a pension, just so long as you were aged 26 or over and had completed five years in the scheme. If not, you'll almost certainly have had a refund of your pension contributions and have nothing more to claim.

If you left the employer after 1988, you'll be entitled to a pension, as long as you completed two years' service; with less than this, again, you probably received a refund of your contributions at the time you left.

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