A much-quoted statistic is that the average person has 11 different jobs over the course of their working life so there’s a chance you’ve accumulated a number of pensions during that time.
They all play a part in helping you build a decent retirement income but if you lose track of one you could be leaving yourself thousands of pounds worse off in retirement.
It can happen very easily. You may move house and not update your contact details with your pension provider and before you know it you’ve lost track.
Research from the Pensions Policy Institute published last year estimated there were 2.8 million lost pensions worth an average of £9,470 each.
If you find a sizeable pot, then it could mean the difference between struggling in retirement or being a bit more comfortable. It might mean you only need to work four days a week rather than five for the final few years of your working life.
Even the smallest pension can grow over time so you may find you have much more than you thought. It’s well worth taking the time to make a list of everywhere you have worked and making sure you have recent pension paperwork for all of them.
How to track down a lost pension
If you do find you’ve lost track of a pension, then there is help available through the government’s Pension Tracing Service which is free to use.
You need to give them the name of either your employer or pension provider. They won’t be able to tell you if you have a pension with that provider or how much it’s worth but they can give you contact details so you can find out for yourself. You can contact them by phone or online at the government's "find pension contact details" page.
Once you’ve got values for all your pensions you can make more informed retirement decisions. You may find that you can afford to retire a bit earlier or that there are still gaps that need to be filled. You may find that once you’ve tracked them down then it’s easier to consolidate all your pensions. Having one overarching view makes them easier to manage, cutting down on paperwork, admin and potentially saving you money in fees.
What to check before consolidating your pensions
There are things to be mindful of before you do so though.
Check for exit fees or charges for transferring your pensions before you do anything.
You also need to be sure that you aren’t giving up valuable guarantees such as guaranteed annuity rates which can really boost your income in retirement.
It’s also worth noting that transferring out of a final salary scheme is usually not a good idea given the secure income they pay out over the course of your lifetime.
Tracing a lost pension may only take a short amount of time but it has the potential to transform your retirement planning so it’s well worth taking the time.