Tracking down your lost pension pots

Annabelle Williams


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Saving for retirement is vital but over decades of working people often amass a number of different pensions – and sometimes lose track of what they have invested and where.

Government plans to help people find lost pensions

There’s an estimated £19.4 billion languishing in unclaimed pension accounts according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), money that’s been forgotten about by people who have changed employer, lost the paperwork or can’t remember the name of the provider.

It’s unsurprising since the same figures show that the average person has 11 employers during their career – which means potentially an individual has just as many pension pots to manage.

The government has plans to radically change this. An online ‘pensions dashboard’ is in the pipeline and it will allow people to log into a single account and see all of their pension accounts in one place, including their entitlement to the state pension.

Once it’s up and running the dashboard will make it far easier to:

  • Have a realistic view of how well prepared you are for retirement
  • Keep track of workplace and personal pensions accumulated
  • Compare investment performance of different pension providers
  • Compare fees on different pension schemes
  • Move your pensions to providers with lower charges and better investment performance

How to Find Old Pensions

Unfortunately, the pensions dashboard won’t arrive until 2023.

In the meantime, here’s what you can do to track down old pensions.

1. Make of list of previous employers

Look through old payslips, P45s and any tax documents you have to work out if you were paying into a pension with each job. Make a note of any instances where you had a pension but have mislaid the paperwork.

Prior to 2012 employers didn’t have to help staff save for retirement. Since then, a scheme called ‘auto enrolment’ means employers are legally obliged to give each member of staff a pension and make contributions towards it – unless the individual opts out.

The rules only apply to staff who meet certain criteria, which include:

  • Earning more than £10,000 from a single employer
  • Aged between 22 and the state pension age

2. Find the pension provider

You should be receiving annual statements for any pension schemes you’re a member of.

If you’re not receiving these statements – perhaps because you moved address and forgot to inform the pension provider – you should:

Contact the provider if you know it, and ask to receive information on your pension pot. They will need to know as much information as possible including date of birth, national insurance number, and ideally the pension plan number and the date it was set up.

Contact the HR department at your old employer and ask who the pension provider is, if the same provider was used when you worked there, and if they can find your records.

3. Use the government’s pensions tracing website

The government has a pensions tracing service which is online and free to use.

You can either search by previous employer names or by pension provider. In some cases, your pension provider might have changed name – this service will help you find the new name.

The pension tracing service will bring up contact details for the pension provider.

Should you bring your old pension pots together?

To minimise the amount of pension admin you need to do in future, it’s possible to transfer most old into one pot with a single provider.

You will need to select a provider that you trust to have good investment performance alongside reasonable fees – it could be beneficial over the long-run too.

Consider speaking to a financial adviser about the pros and cons of consolidating your pensions and remember that there’s the risk of worse outcomes too. Some pension schemes come with valuable benefits that would be lost if you transferred out so make sure you do some homework.

Open a pension today

Risk warning: As with all investing, your capital is at risk. The value of your portfolio with Nutmeg can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you invest. A pension may not be right for everyone and tax rules may change in the future. Please note that during any transfer, your investments will be out of the market. If you are unsure if a pension is right for you, please seek financial advice.

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Annabelle Williams
Annabelle is personal finance specialist at Nutmeg. She is also the author of Why Women Are Poorer Than Men, which looks at economic inequality and gender. In addition to her interest in addressing the gender gap in savings, investment and financial outlook, she is interested in the role of socially responsible investing and the moves the industry is making to offer more ESG-focused investments to retail investors.

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