Pension tracing: how to find your old pension pots

Updated on 10 September 2019

There are more than 1.5 million 'lost' pension pots out there. Here's how to track down your old funds.

How so many of us lose track of pensions

A staggering £20 billion worth of pension cash is sat waiting to be claimed by its rightful owners, according to data from the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

With workers changing jobs anywhere between five and 15 times in their career, it's all too easy for pension pots to go missing along the way.

In fact, research carried out late last year by ABI estimates there are roughly 1.6 million lost pension pots, which are each worth £13,000 on average.

Dr Yvonne Braun, director of policy, long-term savings and protection at the ABI, said its findings highlighted the "jaw-dropping scale" of the lost pensions problem.

"Unclaimed pensions can make a real difference to millions of savers who have simply lost touch with their pension providers," she added.

So how is it that so many pots can simply go missing?

A separate survey by wealth management firm Tilney sheds some light on this issue.

It found the main reasons given by respondents was that they have “never kept an interest”, “lost paperwork” or “forgotten to notify providers of address changes.”

Significantly, 20% of people said they would have no idea about how to find a missing pension, added Andy James, head of retirement planning at Tilney.

"Tracking down missing workplace pensions can be particularly problematic where a previous employer from many years past has been acquired or gone bust, moved or re-branded.

"But it really is vital to track down these pots of assets and to determine whether they remain fit for purpose." 

So, how can you go about finding a long-lost pension – or saving some money by consolidating those you have?

Go through your paperwork

Most pension schemes will send you an annual statement that will tell you the balance of the pension at the time of the statement, and a projection of what income it might generate when you reach retirement age.

Go through your old paperwork and see if you have anything relating to your pensions.

If you find something, contact the pension provider to update your contact details and request an up to date statement.

Contact the pension provider

If you have no paperwork but can remember which company administered your pension, then get in touch with them and ask them to search their records to see if they can find your pension details.

Try to provide them with as much information as possible to increase their chances of finding your old account.

If you have it, give them the plan number, and the date your pension was set up.

At the very least, give them your full name, date of birth and National Insurance number.

Get the Government’s help

If you have no idea who your old pension provider was, then you can still hunt down old pension pots.

The Government’s Pension Tracing Service, which launched in May 2016, holds the details of over 320,000 pension schemes

You just need to enter the name of a former employer and the service will search to see if you are registered with any pension schemes and provide contact details you need to go about claiming your cash.

Once you have the details, you can contact the provider to ask them to check their records and provide you with an up to date statement for your pension.

Contact old employers

If the Pension Tracing Service doesn’t uncover anything and you are convinced you had a pension with a previous job, contact your old employer.

Give them the details of when you were employed for them and your National Insurance number and ask if they can check their records to see if you had a pension.

You can find template letters for contacting an old employer about a lost pension on the Money Advice Service’s website.

Pay for help

If all else fails, or you simply can‘t be bothered to put in the legwork, you can pay £25 to do a search on the Unclaimed Assets Register.

Simply provide your name, address and previous contact details, and it will search through millions of unclaimed share dividends, unit trusts, pensions and life insurance policies.


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