How to trace a lost pension

If you've worked at multiple companies throughout your career you may have lost a pension pot along the way, but there is a way to trace down all the money you have paid into your pension

Jar with coins
(Image credit: Getty)

When it comes to getting your pension in order, it's important to understand just how much money you have saved, so that you can enjoy life after work.

But if you’ve moved house over your working life and did not tell your pension provider, you may have lost track of some old pension pots. According to the Association of British Insurers, one in 23 people do not tell their pension provider they have moved house, resulting in £19.4 billion in pension pots left unclaimed—that’s an average of £13,000 each.

Around 10,000 people try to trace their lost pensions every year, but do not know where to begin, according to the government’s MoneyHelper

If you think you may have some pension savings from previous employers, then here’s how to track them down.

Trace your lost pension manually 

Pull your old paperwork together

Make yourself a cup of tea, grab a pen and paper and jot down all the companies that you have worked for and check your pension. Not all of them will have signed you up to their pension schemes, but it’s a good starting point. Add to the list any personal pensions you may also have.

Most pension schemes send you a statement through the post every year, detailing the size of your pot now and an estimate of what it could be worth by the time you expect to retire—but if you didn’t tell your provider you moved, then you won’t have this.

Make a note, next to the companies you have written down, of the details of any associated pension schemes if you know them and write to them with as much information as possible and your new contact details. 

What information do I need to trace a pension

The more information you can gather up in advance, the better chance you will have of finding any missing pension pots. When contacting your former employer or pension provider, give the dates that you were employed with the company or when your pension was set up, and your national insurance number. Ask them to check whether you were enrolled in a company scheme and the name of your pension provider and policy number. 

If you are unable to get anywhere with this, perhaps because the company no longer exists, then there is always the Pension Tracing Service.

What to do if you have no pension paperwork

If you do not know who the pension provider was, you can get in touch with your old employer, or old colleagues, and ask them for details.

If your employer no longer exists, was taken over, or they have changed their pension provider, then it may be harder to get this information. 

If you think you had a personal pension that you were paying into, check old bank statements. 

Use The Pension Tracing Service

The Pension Tracing Service is a free service from the government that can help you find the details of your old employer or personal pension provider. You can phone 0800 731 0193 or submit a request online, including the type of pension you are searching for and any details that you can remember. It will then perform a search of over 200,000 pension schemes on its database that you may have been part of and display a selection of results.

If you are still struggling to find anything, then you could use the Unclaimed Assets Register, which is a search engine for unclaimed pensions and costs £25 per search. However, the number of schemes is much more limited.

You can also get free help from MoneyHelper with government-backed guidance online and over the phone about all pension matters, including how to start tracing your different pension pots. You can call them on 0800 011 3797.

Once you have tracked down your pots, ask the scheme or provider for an up-to-date statement to show how much you have saved,

Knowing exactly how much you have is vital in helping you plan for when you eventually do come to retire. Searching for lost pensions may feel like a lot of work but it could be worth thousands, even tens of thousands of pounds. It’s a small price to pay now for a more comfortable future.

Georgie is the contributing editor for The Money Edit and also covers finance for Woman & Home.  Georgie is a multi-award-winning financial broadcaster and journalist and a trusted voice on all matters personal finance and consumer affairs, hosting a number of money podcasts and appearing regularly on TV, radio and in print.