On average, people will work for 11 different employers during their lifetimes, which can make it difficult for many to find their pensions from old jobs.
The introduction of auto-enrolment, in which eligible employees are automatically enrolled into a company’s scheme, means many more people are now likely to end up having multiple pension pots.
The more pensions you have, the easier it is to end up losing one. But the good news is that you can easily find pensions with your National Insurance (NI) number.
People are at most risk of having lost a pension if they have:
- Opted out of SERPS (the State Earnings-Related Pension Scheme) in 1980s or 1990s
- Moved house often and not updated their pension provider
- Changed jobs multiple times
According to research by Profile Pensions, one in four people aged 55 or under believe they have some missing pensions. So for them, and for you, here are some tips on how to find your pensions from years ago and claim them.
Can I find a lost pension with my NI number?
There are usually two ways you can find lost pension contributions using your NI number.
- Sending it to HMRC to find out if you contracted out of SERPS
- Sending it to an old employer to ask for details of your pension scheme administrator
You will, of course, need to give some other basic personal details, but your NI number is your unique identifier to allow companies and the Government to trace your lost pension contributions. It can be found on your current or previous payslips.
How do I find out if I have a pension from an old job?
If you think you might have a lost or missing pension with a previous employer, get in touch with them. If you don’t have any contact details for them, the Government’s free pension tracing service may be able to help you find them.
Once you have these, you’ll need to give them the details of when you were employed with them and your NI number and ask if they could check their records to get the name of your pension provider and policy number.
You’ll usually have a much better chance of finding a missing pension pot if you can provide as much information as possible, so make sure you include your full name (and any previous names), your date of birth and your address.
This won’t, however, tell you how much your lost pension is currently worth, how it is performing or what pension options you have at 55 with it, so you’ll need to do a bit of work contacting the pension provider. You can of course get pension advice and get a full review of your pension in order to find out if you have a good pension pot.
Did I have a SERPS pension?
The State Earnings-Related Pension Scheme was designed by the Government to top up the State Pension. It existed from 1978 to 2002, when it was replaced by the State Second Pension, and both schemes were often known as the additional state pension.
Millions of people who were in occupational pension schemes chose to opt out of SERPS during the 1980s and 1990s. This was known as “contracting out” and instead these people redirected their national insurance contributions into a personal pension, in the hope that this might provide them with a higher income at retirement than the one they would have received from SERPS.
If you were employed in the private sector between 1987 and 2012, and you think there’s a chance you might have a missing SERPS pension, it’s well worth checking because a missing pension could make a big difference to your retirement income.
SERPS pension check
You can perform a SERPS pension check by writing to HMRC with your NI number and a few other personal details, including full name, previous name, address and date of birth. HMRC will take around 30 days to respond with details of any pension providers you paid into as a result of opting out of SERPS. You’ll then need to contact the providers to see how much any pension is worth and whether you can access them.
Profile Pensions has so far found more than £152m in missing pensions for people who opted out of SERPs, and the average size of the lost pensions found is £23,000.*
Finding old pensions is all very well, but you can often find you’re getting a bad deal for these pensions. Most old pensions will be costing you more or do not allow you to access your pension flexibly from 55 (or 57 from 2028) because they don’t offer the option of pension drawdown.
Get experts to find what pensions you have
Simply tracking down a pension can be hard enough, let alone checking your pension to see it’s value, where it’s invested, and how much you’re paying in charges.
You can avoid doing the heavy lifting involved in finding lost pensions by getting experts to do it for you.
The Telegraph Pension Advice Service, powered by Profile Pensions, will arrange an HMRC pension trace on your behalf to track down any missing SERPS pensions you have.
You can get a full review of any pensions found by getting pension advisers to do the legwork. This includes contacting your pension providers and analysing all your pension information to see if you would be better off in retirement by transferring them to a single, better plan.
 Association of British Insurers, May 2020 https://www.abi.org.uk/news/news-articles/2020/05/19.4-billion-of-pension-pots-unclaimed- just-because-of-house-moves/
 Yougov on behalf of Profile Pensions. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,096 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15 and 16 October 2019. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
*Based on 6,500 policies located since January 2017.