Do you have a forgotten pension?

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Brits are still sitting on unclaimed pension pots totalling hundreds of millions of pounds, unaware that they're entitled to the money.

With the average person having 11 jobs over the course of a lifetime, it's easy to forget all about a tiny pensions that you might have contributed to decades ago.

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And according to recent research from Aviva, as many as one in eight people with one or more pensions have forgotten all about at least one.

"It's unsurprising that so many people have pensions they have forgotten about. The 'job for life' is now a distant memory with people much more likely to change employer on a regular basis," says Andy Curran, Aviva's managing director for corporate and business solutions.

"With auto-enrolment doing such a great job of getting more people saving for retirement, we are likely to see the number of pension pots that people hold increase further as each time a person gets a new job they get a new workplace pension."

So could you have an unclaimed pension pot?

Last year, the government launched the Pension Tracing Service, making it far easier to find out if you're entitled to anything. If you're trying to trace a workplace pension, you'll need your employer's name; you'll then be given contact details for the right pension administrator.

You can then contact the administrator with your name, National Insurance number, date of birth and the rough dates you think you were paying in.

You can also use the system to track down lost personal pensions, or civil service, NHS, teacher or army pensions.

There have been more than a million searches using the system since it launched last May.

If you do find an unexpected pot or two, you'll need to decide what to do with it.

"People need to be aware of the potential risks of having a number of different pension pots with small amounts of money in each. It's likely that there will still be charges taken out of those pots for their management and administration and that can have implications if you are no longer contributing into them," says Curran.

"Consolidating all your pension pots into one place can have its advantages, but needs to be looked at carefully as some pensions come with valuable guarantees that could be lost."

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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.

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