Brits missing £400 million in 'lost' pensions

There are 230 pension schemes in the UK alone

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People are losing out on savings

The average person will have 11 jobs over the course of their working lives - and in many they'll put away money for retirement through more than one pension pot.

That's all well and good, but with 230 pension schemes in the UK alone, it's possible that some might lose track of what they've saved, and where, by the time they need it.

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According to government figures, there's £400million in unclaimed cash stashed away, and unclaimed, right now.

Much of this is forgotten money - lost because people simply cannot remember where they worked, the company shut down or they have lost the paperwork to locate it and were employed before everything went digital.

But there is a way to find it.

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The government's Pensions Tracing Service launched in May 2016 to help workers find cash they originally saved for retirement.

Over the past 17 months, the service has been used more than a million times - helping people across the country track down their lost or forgotten savings.

It's relatively straightforward – just type in the name of your former employers, and you'll automatically see the contact details for any listed workplace pension schemes you may have paid into.

You can also track down employers that have since shut down.

Guy Opperman, minister for pensions and financial inclusion, said: "Keeping track of pensions savings over your career can be difficult, but with millions of pounds in unclaimed pots waiting to be reunited with their rightful owner, I'd encourage everyone to get in touch with the Pension Tracing Service today.

"After all, every pound traced is another pound towards a more secure retirement."

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Credits: Cultura RF

Millions of people will have paid into pots pre-internet, which means unless they've still got the paperwork, it could be hard to track down

Pensions advice specialist at Portafina , Jamie Smith-Thompson, adds: "Billions of pounds is forgotten in pensions each year because of lost details such as names and key dates.

"Most of these schemes will be from the pre-internet age and so all the information people hold at home will be on bits of paper," he explains.

"The good news is that the government, the companies involved and the various regulators all want these lost pensions back in the hands of their rightful owners, and hence there is a lot of free support available to do this.

"It is well worth looking into as even a long forgotten pension can be a significant asset. Plus of course, there may be a better pension that it could now be transferred to in order to improve its growth, once you have recovered it."

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Tracking down a workplace or personal pension

The money is basically sitting and waiting to be claimed

The government's free online Pension Tracing Service (0345 600 2537) can help you track down any lost money you may have available elsewhere.

To track down a personal pension, you'll need the name of your provider as well as your national insurance number and date of birth to hand.

Of course, it may be that you have no idea of the pension name, when it was taken out, or indeed how many pensions you have in all. So first of all, you'll need to gather as much information as possible.

Have a look at old bank statements where money was debited to a pension provider and dig out your old storage boxes as you may have old certificates or annual statements stashed away.

The name of the provider will be on your statement, all you have to do is type this name or the keywords into the Gov.uk website and it'll draw up a list of matching results.

To find a lost workplace pension, you'll need the name of the employer or the name of the pension scheme. If you've worked for more than one employer in your lifetime to date, start by making a list of all the firms you can remember, then try to work through it.

If it's been a while, you may struggle to remember some of the names. Have a look through old paperwork, ask former colleagues or use the government's workplace database Companies House to help track the names down. The latter also lists firms which have since closed down or changed names.

Try to think about the following:

  • Any previous names it had

  • The type of business it ran

  • Whether it changed address

  • When you belonged to the scheme

Contacting your employer

Once you've located the firm, your employer should be able to provide you with information about who the provider was, who in turn will be able to clarify exactly how your pension is performing at the moment.

To obtain an overview of your pension, ask the following questions:

  • What is the current value of your pension pot?

  • How much has been contributed?

  • What management charges am I paying?

  • How much income is the pension pot likely to pay out at my chosen retirement date?

  • What options are there for making changes?

  • Would there be any charges to transfer the pension to a different provider?

Can I combine my pensions?

Credits: Getty

Once you've found it, you might want to amalgamate it

If after all your research you discover that you've got several different pots scattered around, you might want to consider consolidating them into one complete scheme closer to retirement - and one that best maximises your savings.

This is done by transferring the pots (or part of it) into a single scheme (either a new scheme or one of your existing pots).

Your pension scheme(s) may charge you for transferring your pots, the small print can be quite complicated and you may wish to speak to an independent financial advisor (IFA) first.

The Pensions Advisory Service has a guide on how to find the right FCA protected IFA for your needs here . You can find out free advice on transferring pots here , or for how to switch to a new pension, click here .

How to make sure you don't lose track of a pension again

Prevention is better than cure, so be sure to keep all your pensions paperwork in one place.

Each time you chance employer or scheme, tell your previous pension scheme administrator about any changes of address. This way, you'll remain in the loop.

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