Lost Pensions Guide

In a 2013 AGE UK survey it was revealed that 23% of adults in the UK have lost track of at least one pension scheme.

3. Tracing a lost workplace pension

Tracing a lost workplace pension can be a little easier than tracing a personal pension that you have lost. That is because often your employer or former employer, if they are still in existence, should have the details of their pension provider. If you want to track down an old workplace pension, simply follow the steps below.

Start at home

The first place to start looking is at home. Dig out as much paperwork as you can and check to see if you can find the details of any schemes you have forgotten about. Take a look at any old payslips and check to see if there were any deductions for pension contributions. If so, and you haven't, at a later date taken a refund, you could have a pension you've forgotten about. Also, contact all of your previous employers and ask for the details of their pension schemes. They should be able to give you the provider's contact details and you can contact them directly to ascertain if you were a member of a scheme or not.

If you are still having difficulty tracing your workplace pension, you can use the government's online pension tracing service. Their website is www.gov.uk/find-lost-pension or you can call them on 0845 6002 537.

I now know who my pension provider is. What details will I need to provide?

The more information you can give the provider the better, as it will make tracing any pension both easier and quicker. Details you should give them include:

  • Name (current and previous, if different)
  • Address (current and where you resided when working for the company in question)
  • Date of birth
  • NI number
  • Name of the company you worked for
  • Address of the company you worked for (in case your company had multiple branches/outlets)
  • Date you began working for the company
  • Date you left the company
  • Date you joined and left the pension scheme (if known)

The questions you need to ask

It's vital to ask a number of questions to find out more about any pension scheme you may be part of.

It is important to know whether it is a defined benefit scheme or a defined contribution scheme. Defined benefit schemes are also known as final salary schemes (though there are career average schemes too) in which your pension is based upon the number of years worked and your salary at retirement age. Defined contribution schemes are based on contributions into a pension pot which are nested into a pension pot which can be accessed at any time after the age of 55.

Defined benefit scheme: If you find out you were a member of a defined benefit or final salary scheme, then your pension provider should be able to give you a very accurate estimate to what you can expect to receive when you take your pension. This is because your pension is based on salary and service and is not subject to the ups and downs of the stock market.

Defined contribution scheme: If you find that you have a workplace defined contribution scheme that you had forgotten about, then you need to be asking the same sort of questions as you would if you'd have found a lost personal pension. You need to find out:

  • How much has been contributed into your pension pot?
  • Current value of the pension pot
  • What is the estimated value of the pension pot on your expected retirement date?
  • Are there management charges for the pension scheme? How much are they?
  • How is the pension pot being invested?
  • What are the details of the death benefits on offer? How much would my nominated recipient receive?
  • Is there a nominated death benefit recipient on file? Who is it?
  • If I were to transfer my pension to another provider, would there be any charges? How much would they be?

Now you have the full details about your lost workplace pension, it is important to take advice as to what you should do with it. There are various options dependent upon the type of pension and the particular provider but options can include leaving it as it is until you reach retirement age or, if you have another pension or pensions, you may choose to combine them into one pot. What you choose to do will depend upon your personal circumstances, lifestyle and retirement expectations.

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