How do I find my pension from years ago?

Woman looking through binoculars at birds on the lake

We’ve got answers for you. October’s National Pension Tracing Day, part of the #PensionAttention campaign, is all about helping people find lost pensions.

There could be over £26.6 billion sitting around in unclaimed pension savings, according to estimates by the Pensions Policy Institute (PPI). Some people think this only scratches the surface and the real amount could be higher.

Either way, there’s lots of money out there waiting to be reunited with its owners. Could some of it be yours?

How do pensions get lost?

You move home. You need to tell lots of people and organisations your new address. Did you remember your pension providers? If you’re like most people, you didn’t – and this is a common way for pensions to get lost. The pension provider’s still got your money, but they can’t get in touch with you.

Pension providers do try to trace people using specialist organisations that run tracing services. But with all the data privacy rules there are nowadays, it’s difficult. So it’s worth going through your own work history and seeing if there might be any pensions lurking in forgotten corners.

Maybe you didn’t even realise there was a pension with a past job. Before auto enrolment started in 2012 employers didn’t have to provide pensions, but many still did.

How to find your old pensions

Can you remember all the places you’ve ever worked? Go through your old records – CVs, employment contracts, letters and emails – and list all your jobs in order.

Once you’ve done that, start looking for evidence of pensions. These could be pension statements, or old payslips showing pension contributions. How many of your old jobs can you match up with pension evidence?

Using the pension tracing service

If you don’t have contact details for your old employers and pension providers, the government’s pension tracing service can help.

You’ll need an employer’s name to start. Even if the employer doesn’t seem to exist any more, it’s worth trying an internet search with any name you can remember. Even if a company has changed its trading name or been taken over, an old name might still show up in a search. You can also try searching the Companies House register.

Some employers use personal pensions as their workplace pension (you may see these called group personal pensions or GPPs). So if you haven’t found a workplace pension, try searching for a personal pension. In this case you’ll need to know the name of the pension provider. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has a list of pension providers, including old ones that have been taken over.

Can I find my pensions with my NI number?

Yes – you’ll definitely need your National Insurance (NI) number if you want to go pension hunting.
Once you’ve found an old employer or pension provider’s contact details, you can get in touch with them directly and ask if they’ve got any pension records for you. They’ll need you to prove who you say you are – and that’s where your NI number comes in. It’s a better identifier than your name and address (which could have changed) or your date of birth (which could be the same as someone else’s).

I’ve found my pension, what do I do now?

This is a great opportunity to look at all your pensions and see where the pension you’ve found fits in. If you need help with understanding pensions, have a look at the government’s free MoneyHelper website, which has lots of information about pensions and retirement.

You could think about putting all your pensions together in one place. This could save you money, as you wouldn’t be paying charges to several different pension providers.

But it’s not always a good idea to do this. Some pensions have guarantees or benefits you’d lose if you moved them – so you’ll need to check all your pensions carefully.

How do I check my pension?

Here’s a list of things you might want to check or ask your provider.

  • Do you have an up-to-date benefit statement showing the value of each of your pensions? If you don’t, ask the provider to send you one.
  • What kind of pension is it?
    • If it promises a yearly guaranteed income based on part of your salary and the number of years you built up the pension while working for your employer, it’s defined benefit (DB).
    • If it’s an invested pot of money, it’s defined contribution (DC). Pension savings with us at NOW: Pensions are DC.
  • What’s the retirement age or date? Does it line up with when you want to retire? If not, ask if you can change it. Your planned retirement age for NOW: Pensions is your State Pension age unless you’ve told us something else.
  • If it’s a DC pension, are you happy about how it’s invested? Is there a choice of investments?
  • Does it have any guarantees of benefits you’d lose if you move it out into another pension? For example, if it’s a DB pension, you’d lose the promise of a guaranteed income.
  • Can you manage it online – like our Gateway? Ask your provider if there’s a pensions website you can get login details for.

Our CEO Patrick Luthi says we must find ‘holistic solution’

‘With many people taking stock of their finances amidst the rising cost of living, it’s deeply concerning that the value of lost pension pots has risen again, with worrying implications for savers approaching retirement. As lost pots now total £26.6bn, such a significant sum could be the difference between many people enjoying a comfortable retirement or just getting by.

As an industry, it remains imperative that we establish an automatic consolidation solution that reflects our modern working patterns. With more job changes expected in people’s careers than ever before, we must find a holistic solution to make sure their pension savings follow them and are combined in one place that can be easily accessed upon retirement.

With the number of small or deferred pots set to reach 27 million by 2035, we are actively working as part of the Small Pots Co-ordination Group to find a sustainable long-term solution. Action is essential to ensure all savers get the best possible retirement pot to enjoy the retirement they’ve earned.’

Get involved in National Pension Tracing Day

The National Pension Tracing Day website has lots of resources to help you start looking for lost pensions. And everything’s better when you share. Tell your family and friends, so they can start looking for lost pensions too.