The five essential pieces of financial paperwork you must never lose

Mid adult woman reading bills while making online payment at home financial paperwork
Losing track of key financial paperwork can cause problems down the line. (Portra via Getty Images)

In an ideal world, we’d all be completely on top of every aspect of our financial admin every second of every day. In the real world, things slide.

However, if we mislay key documents, it can cause real headaches when we eventually need them, so it’s worth tracking down five of the most commonly-lost bits of paperwork.

A Hargreaves Lansdown survey found that one in four people have lost track of old pensions, and another fifth think they might have done.

It’s easily done, because most people are automatically put into a new pension each time they move jobs, so if they move house and forget to update their address, they can stop receiving paperwork and forget about an old pension entirely.

It’s worth making the time to list everywhere you’ve worked during your career, and to hunt for your pension statements for each one.

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If you can’t find them, you can contact the government’s pension tracing service with the name of the company you worked for, the name of the pension scheme, or the name of the provider.

Once you’ve found them all, you can consider bringing them together in one place to make them easier to keep an eye on. However, before you do this, check there aren’t any expensive exit fees or valuable benefits you might lose if you move.

When you started your current job, you’ll have been given lots of paperwork, and in among it will be details of your employee benefits.

If you have any insurance cover, it’s good to have the small print on hand, so you can check what you have, and the right procedure for using it if you need to. If you’ve lost it, get in touch with your HR or reward department or check the intranet to see if there are details there.

You should also check you completed a "nomination of beneficiaries" form for your pension. This will say who gets any benefits if you pass away. If you don’t fill this out, the company will decide who receives death benefits, so if you want your workplace pension to go to an unmarried partner or to children, you will need to specify this on the form. If you can’t find it, you may not have completed it, so check with the HR department.

We’re used to doing things online, but if you bought certificated shares, you should have a certificate, and you will need it in order to sell.

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If you’ve lost it, there is usually a fee for a replacement share certificate, so get in touch and check. It’s also more expensive to sell certificated shares, so once you have your certificates, it may be worth transferring them to an investment platform, where you can sell them more easily and cheaply.

As a student, keeping track of paperwork may not be top of your list of priorities, but after you graduate, it’s worth keeping an eye on what you owe, what you’re repaying, and when you’re likely to have paid it off.

If you haven’t kept the Student Loans Company informed of house moves or changes in your contact details, they have no way of getting in touch. It means they can’t send advice on avoiding overpayments when you get to the end of your repayments. If they don’t have your up-to-date bank account details, they can’t automatically refund overpayments either, so make sure they have what they need.

When someone passes away, it’s already a horrible time, so your loved ones don’t need the added stress of not knowing where your will is. The same is true for powers of attorney, which name people who can make medical or financial decisions for someone if they’re no longer able to make them themselves.

You might want to keep a copy of your will and powers of attorney with your solicitor and one at home. Just make sure it’s somewhere that’s easy to locate, and let your loved ones know where it is.

You might not need any of these things for years, but then you may need them in a desperate hurry. It makes sense to track this paperwork down now, and keep it safe, so you can save the stress of a panicked search at what might be the worst possible time.

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