How to Track Down Your Old Pensions
Pensions come in lots of different forms, and if you have been working for a number of years and switched jobs during that time, the chances are that at some point you’ve contributed to a pension fund through your previous employers. An occupational pension is essentially a company pension plan, and many large companies have set up these plans so that employees can make regular contributions to and employers may or may not also contribute to. Smaller companies that don’t offer occupational pensions tend to give employees the option to join a Personal Retirement Savings Account (PRSA), a long-term savings account where contributions made by employees are deducted from their gross pay.
When you are working in a company, it often feels like your pension is looking after itself, but as soon as you leave that role, your pension fund doesn’t follow you. In fact, many professionals aren’t aware of the benefits or may have simply forgotten that they have accumulated as part of a previous role. If nothing is done to claim these benefits, they miss out on extra funds that could potentially be reinvested to help them meet their retirement goals.
It’s been estimated that there is currently €500 million of unclaimed pension benefits in Ireland. So what can you do to find out if you have any pension benefits with a previous employer – how can you track down your old pensions?
Where are my pension benefit statements?
We are now living in a largely paperless society, but this certainly wasn’t the case even just 5 years ago. The paper trail for most previous pension funds can be found largely on payslips (where you can see your contributions), and in correspondence that has been made directly with you by your pension provider. For example, every year, you would usually receive a benefit statement from your pension provider. The problem for many people with this, however, is that they have changed addresses, sometimes multiple times and wouldn’t necessarily know where their annual statements are being sent to.
You might be hesitant to get in touch with an old employer because most or all of the staff members from your time there have since moved on. However, you can certainly contact the HR or accounts department of the company. They should be able to pass on the details of the trustees of the scheme in question and give you the details you need to contact the pension provider directly. That’s the obvious option, but it might not be possible for a number of reasons. Maybe the company has gone out of business, or you left on bad terms. Perhaps the employer has switched pension providers or changed their company name. If you have lost track of a pension that you contributed to when you were working in the UK many years ago, you may not have any details relating to the fund.
If this is the case, your best bet is to contact the Pensions Authority. As all schemes are legally required to register their details with the Authority, they should be able to help you track down the details of the trustees of the scheme.
Alternatively, a qualified financial advisor can help you track down any previous pension funds. Financial advisors are pension specialists who liaise with all pension providers so they can go straight to the source to recover any old benefits on your behalf.
I’ve found my old pension fund – now what?
Tracking down any pension funds that you may have accumulated with previous employers is just one part of the process. The next step is taking control of the pension benefits that you’ve worked hard to locate. Even if you trace your old pensions, they will still remain in that particular scheme until it’s time to draw them down at retirement. Because you are no longer an active member of that particular scheme, it means that you won’t receive any further benefits, nor will you have any say as to how the fund is invested. Whatever amount of money that was in any of your previous pension pots on the day you finished employment is what will be in them on the day you retire. Taking inflation into account, your fund will be worth far less at retirement age than it is now.
Whereas, if you transfer all of your previous pension benefits into a Private Retirement Bond, you’ll have all funds under one umbrella, in your name. With the help of a financial advisor, you’ll decide how your PRB is invested, and you can make changes to it as your circumstances change over time (as they inevitably do). You’ll also be able to access the fund from the age of 50. So instead of having multiple pension pots that are sitting idle unnecessarily, they could be making a significant difference to your overall retirement fund.
Want to know more about moving your previous pensions under one umbrella? Check out our No-Nonsense Guide to Transferring Your Pension and get in touch with us for help tracing your previous pensions. We offer a free 15 minute 1:1 consultation, so book one today!