Where are my pensions and what can I do about them?

Pensions can be difficult to understand at the best of times, but locating where they all are can be even harder. In fact, recent research from the Association of British Insurers estimates that UK workers have lost track of up to 1.6 million workplace pension pots, leaving a staggering £19.4 billion languishing in dormant pension accounts1. The result of which is that many people could be substantially worse off in retirement if left unchecked.

Regardless of how many pension pots you hold when you’re nearing retirement or considering when you might take that next step, you’ll need to get all of your affairs in order to truly understand your financial position. Whether you’re thinking about retiring or just thinking about how your plans are progressing, tracking down all of your schemes is a sensible idea. But where do you start?

Where should I start? 

There are a few steps to take to better understand where your pensions are and what you should do with them. 

Step 1: Write down what you know

The first step is to note down all of your previous employers and the time that you worked for them. Noting your different employers may give you a better idea of the pensions that were set up.

If you can’t remember the type of pension schemes that were set up, we would advise that you get in touch with your employer/s, who should be able to provide you with contact details of the pension provider. Better still, the Government’s Pension Tracing Service may help you source your pension if you are unsure of where it is – it’s free to use but in order to get the ball rolling you will require the name of the provider and/or scheme.

Step 2: Do your homework

The next step should be to try to source any policy documents for each of the pensions. Sourcing any documents will hopefully enable you to find out who your pension was run by and any corresponding policy number. The policy documents may also help you better understand the total value of your pension pots, and how they might be invested.

Step 3: Speak to your provider/s

A third step would be to call your pension provider/s. When you call it’s a good idea that you ask for an up to date statement, which will give you the latest information on your pension, including the current balance. At this point it’s often good practice to update your provider on your most recent address too, that will ensure that any future policy documents are sent to the correct address. You might now be in a better position to understand where all your pensions are held. But what do you do next?

Step 4: Seek help and advice

One channel that you might wish to explore is speaking to The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS). The service is backed by the UK Government which offers free guidance for anyone with a company or personal pension. However, it’s important to note that although TPAS will be able to talk to you about some of the things that you should consider with your pensions, and the possible implications of your decisions, they are not able to give regulated financial advice.

What this means is that they can give you information only but can’t recommend what you should do with your pensions or recommend a particular product. If you are seeking financial advice and help on making an informed decision you should speak to an independent financial adviser who is regulated by the FCA.

Professional qualified Financial Advice - How we can help?

At The Private Office we have vast experience advising individuals and families on pension planning. As part of any advice on pensions, we will take an in-depth look into your policies, gathering an understanding of some of the key questions: 

  • How can you access the money in your pensions? 
  • How can your pensions pass on to your beneficiaries on death?
  • How are your pensions invested?
  • What are the charges that you are paying?

Gaining an understanding of the above questions is an imperative part of any pension planning as it will help inform you of whether your current pensions are fit for purpose and whether they will help you meet your lifestyle and future goals later down the line.

Any planning we undertake will also advise you on whether you should make changes to your pensions, and whether consolidating your pensions into one pot might be an appropriate course of action.

As part of any pension planning, we also use a tool called cashflow planning which brings an individual’s financial plan to life by showing you a visual picture of your current and future financial position. We use the software to input key financial details including your income, expenditure and all your assets including your private pensions and your State Pension, to assess your future financial position and whether you can achieve your aspirations.

This allows you to answer the most burning questions, such as “When can I afford to retire?” and “How much can I spend in retirement?” so that you can retire with the confidence that you won’t run out of money.

Pensions can be difficult to understand, but with the right advice you’ll be in a position where you can take control of your financial future. If you are considering retirement soon and would like to find out more about financial planning and the importance of pensions, we are running a free Webinar “Design your own retirement for you and your family” in January.

We’ll be covering some of the key considerations when navigating the minefield of pensions in the run up to taking the next step from working life to retirement or even semi-retirement – helping you to devise a plan for your own stress-free retirement. 

Please note: A pension is a long term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down. Your eventual income may depend on the size of the fund at retirement, future interest rates and tax legislation. The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate Cashflow Modelling


1. Article from Abi