When you start your first job after leaving school, college or university you may not be too bothered about what your pension will look like when you retire. As you step onto the first wrung of the career ladder you are probably too preoccupied with the job at hand to care about preparing for the future. Retirement seems way off in the distance but there’s one thing guaranteed time doesn’t stop ticking and before you know it you’ll be eager to calculate the value of your pension.
In today’s working world employees are automatically enrolled into a workplace pension. The employer arranges for a percentage of the employees wages to be placed into a pension scheme each payday. This is a way of saving for the employees retirement. There are a few stipulations as to whether the employer contributes and whether the employee is eligible, all of which needs to be checked with the employer.
Before the introduction of workplace pensions employees could opt in or opt out of a company pension scheme. And if they flitted from job to job over this time they may not even remember whether they had a pension at a company or not. For those amongst us who are admin savvy and account for every piece of paper within their awe inspiring filing system might think this sounds absurd. How could someone not keep track of something as important as a pension? Well according to a recent article published on moneywise the ‘UK is sitting on a £20 billion lost pensions mountain’. That’s a lot of money that people are leaving unclaimed.
Well firstly let’s just say it’s really not as ridiculous as it sounds. Over an individuals lifetime it’s unlikely that someone will stay in the same job for life. It’s more likely that they will move from job to job. Some lose jobs or get made redundant, companies fold, others out grow their jobs and move onto other careers. And when they leave they tend to be more interested in obtaining a reference then asking questions about their pension fund.
However when an individual does leave a company and if they did have a company pension they will still receive a statement. This will be sent to the registered home address on file. This is where the complexity starts to arise as people don’t just move jobs they also move houses. And when they do it’s unlikely that their pension provider will be at the top of the list of companies to contact to advise of a change of address. Another complication arises for women who upon getting married change their names and forget to update their pension documents. And lest not forget time, over time we just simply forget about the pots of money we signed up to previously.
For anyone who has lost a pension fear not there are ways for you to track this down and you don’t need to be a private detective to find it.
1. Contact your old employer – this is probably the easiest way. Just contact your old employer and they should be able to tell you if you had a pension with them or not. If you did they will give you the name of the pension provider and the details you need.
2. Contact the pension provider – if you know the name of the company managing your pension scheme you can contact them directly. Even if you don’t have a policy number they should be able to track your details using your name, date of birth or national insurance number. If you do manage to track your pension and your details are incorrect you may need to write to them providing evidence of your identity to get your details updated on their system.
3. Contact the Pensions Tracing Service – this is a free online service provided by the Department of Work and Pensions. To trace a workplace pension all they need from you is the name of the employer. To help you track a personal pension they need to know the pension provider or the scheme name. You can use their online form or contact them directly over the phone.
The trace may just lead you to a pot of gold. Upon finding your pension fund be sure to update your details so that you can continue to track your fund. You may even be able to track it online, just ask your pension provider if they have this facility.
Everyone should be tracking their pension funds regardless of age. At the very least you should know where each fund is held, its value and the type of scheme. Obviously those closer to retirement age will have a more urgent need so they can plan their actual retirement. However there are other reasons such as someone going through a divorce may need to provide a written statement of the current value for their financial consent order.
Whatever the reason just keep a track of it, retirement really does come and when it does you’ll want to know your future is catered for. And when you do reach retirement age and if you’re not ready to kick back into formal retirement you could choose to make your money stretch a little further by starting a business. Fill the void by turning a hobby into a business, find something you love that could make you money, or become a consultant, invest in a franchise or buy a business. The options are endless.