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Lost pensions

Finding an old pension: a complete guide

Tim Heming
Written by  Tim Heming
Jonathan Leggett
Reviewed by  Jonathan Leggett
Updated: 05 Apr 2024

There are billions of pounds in lost pensions in the UK waiting to be claimed, but how do you find out if any of them are yours? Our guide explains

How do pensions become lost?

While it might seem unlikely that you could lose a pension, lost pension pots are more common than many people might think. A study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research revealed 4.8 million UK pension pots were considered 'lost' in 2023.*

There are a number of reasons pensions become lost. These include:

  • You move house or relocate without updating your contact details with your pension provider and lose track of correspondence

  • You change jobs and forget who your old workplace pension is with – perhaps because you only worked at the firm for a relatively short period

  • Your pension provider merges or rebrands, causing difficulty in finding out which company you need to contact

  • One of your family members dies and leaves their heirs unaware of existing pension plans

*Over £50 billion in pension savings at risk of being lost in the UK, PensionBee, 2024

older couple at a fruit market

What happens to old pensions?

Unclaimed pensions in the UK are typically held by pension providers or pension schemes. If you lose track of your pensions or fail to claim them, the funds remain within these accounts. 

Over time, unclaimed pensions may be transferred to a dormant accounts scheme, but you can still claim the funds and ensure you receive your rightful benefits.

Why should I try to find my old pension?

Finding a forgotten or lost pension is always worthwhile because it’s your money and gives you extra funds for your retirement.

Even if you didn’t work for a company that provided a pension scheme for long, it’s still worth finding and retrieving any old pensions. 

Because pension pots are invested over years to try and maximise their growth, you may also be surprised just how much wealth is available in the lost pension.

Can I find a lost pension with my NI number?

Knowing your National Insurance (NI) number can help you find your lost pension, but you’ll also need to know other details such as the name of your old employer or pension provider.

If you have these you can use the Government's Pension Tracing Service to find the contact details.

If you don’t know these details or the name of the employer or pension provider has changed, it can be more difficult to track down old pensions. Private companies offer tracing services, but there might also be a fee to pay.

How do I find a lost pension?

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help locate a lost pension.

  • Gather information. Collect any relevant documents, such as pension statements, old employment contracts, and letters from pension providers. This can help you remember where you might have had a pension in the past

  • Use the Government's Pension Tracing Service. If you know the name of your old employer or pension provider, you can retrieve their contact details

  • Contact former employers. Ask them for details of pension schemes that were running during your time working there

  • Contact pension providers. Provide your personal details and any relevant information to help them locate your pension

  • Review old addresses. Consider whether you’ve moved house and may not have updated your whereabouts with a pensions company

  • Check for mergers. Some pension schemes merge or change names over time. Research if your pension scheme went through any changes

  • Contact a pensions specialist. If you're still having trouble locating your pension, consider seeking help from a financial advisor who specialises in pensions

  • Stay patient. Locating a lost pension can take time. Keep calm and persist until you have found all your old pensions

Is it free to reclaim an old pension?

Yes, it is free to reclaim an old pension, as the pension pot is legally yours. You may face a fee if you use a private company to help you locate a pension, though, so consider the costs before taking this option, especially if it’s something you can do yourself.

How do I recover a SERPS pension?

The State Earnings-Related Pension Scheme (SERPS) supplemented the State Pension from 1978 to 2002 when it was succeeded by the State Second Pension. 

To recover your SERPS pension, contact HMRC, including your NI number, full name, previous name, address, and date of birth.

HMRC will respond in around 30 days with your pension provider details, and you can then contact them to ask about your SERPS pension value and how you access it. 

What should I do once I have found my old pension?

Once you've located your old pension, contact the pension provider to verify the key details, including its current value and options for accessing the funds. Make sure you update your contact information with the provider to receive future communications.

The next steps will depend on your personal preference, time of life and how the pension is performing.

Either way, it’s vital you review your pension's terms and conditions, and seek professional advice if needed.

You may want to consider consolidating the old pension with your other existing pensions for easier management. It’s much easier to keep track of one pension, rather than multiple pots.

Even if you don’t consolidate it with other pensions, keep track of your pension's performance and periodically review its status to ensure it aligns with your retirement goals.

Compare pension plans with our partner Profile Pensions

Comparing pension plans with our partners Profile Pensions is easy. The service is hassle-free, easy to use and puts you in control of your pensions at all times

They can help you track down and combine your old pensions and they will choose the best investment plan for you, selecting funds from the whole of the market. You will also have your own dedicated Pension Adviser to help you. 

When using the Profile Pensions Find, Check & Transfer service, a one-off arrangement fee of 1% of the pension value is charged when you transfer. All pensions found using this service will also be checked for any existing benefits or penalties. 

Capital at risk. Past performance is not a guide to future performance. This website does not constitute personal advice. If you are in doubt as to the suitability of an investment please speak to a financial adviser. Prevailing tax rates and reliefs are dependent on your individual circumstances and are subject to change. Ltd is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Profile Pensions, a trading name of Profile Financial Solutions Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. FCA number 596398. Registered in England & Wales, Company Number 07731925. Registered office address: Norwest Court, Guildhall Street, Preston, PR1 3NU.

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