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UK’s lost pensions total £20bn: how to track yours down

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

A “jaw-dropping” 1.6 million lost pension pots worth nearly £20bn could be sitting unclaimed, according to new research from an insurance trade body.

Frequent job changes and home moves are the main reasons why people lose track of their pensions, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said.

Research carried out by the Pensions Policy Institute (PPI) on behalf of the ABI surveyed half of the private defined contribution (DC) pensions market.

The PPI found 800,000 lost pensions worth an estimated £9.7bn.

It estimates that, if scaled up to the whole market, there are collectively around 1.6 million pots worth £19.4bn unclaimed – the equivalent of nearly £13,000 per pot.

The figure is likely to be even higher as the research did not look into lost pensions held in the public sector, or with trust-based schemes typically run by employers.

Dr Yvonne Braun, ABI’s director of long-term savings and protection, said: “These findings highlight 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.

“The industry has stepped up its efforts to re-connect savers with their lost nest eggs, developing a new framework launched earlier this year to help pension providers trace ‘gone-away’ customers more consistently. But industry efforts can only go so far – we need a radical digital solution to cope with the way society is changing, or the problem will get worse.”

She said it is important the government “stands by its promises” to take forward the Pensions Dashboard, an online hub, which would enable savers to view all their pension pots in one place.

Insurance providers spend millions every year trying to reunite people with lost or forgotten pensions. In 2017 more than 375,000 attempts were made to contact customers, leading to £1bn in assets being reunited with them, according to the ABI.

However, it said firms are unable to keep pace with a mobile workforce that moves jobs and homes more often than ever before, so a digital solution through the Pensions Dashboard is now more important than ever.

How to track down your lost pension

For savings in a workplace scheme, you can use the Department for Work and Pensions’s (DWP) free site via the Pension Tracing Service which has a register of all workplace schemes or you could contact your former employer.

For personal pension savings you can contact the Pension Tracing Service or you can go through the Pensions Advisory Service which will help guide you through what to do. You’ll need to give as much information as possible regarding the scheme, dates of employment and copies of any certificates you still have.