How can I track down old pensions?

UK Money Jar on a white shelf in a household living room. Saving for Pension Concept

Ask the expert at Smith & Pinching about tracking down old pension funds - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

I’ve had a number of jobs over the years and have moved house several times. I’m sure I joined a couple of company pension schemes in my thirties but I can’t find any paperwork relating to them. Can I track them down easily? The companies involved have been closed or sold since I worked there. They won’t be large, but every little will help.

Douglas Bridges is an Independent Financial Adviser with Smith & Pinching

Douglas Bridges is an Independent Financial Adviser with Smith & Pinching - Credit: Smith & Pinching

Douglas Bridges of Smith & Pinching responds:

The government provides a pension tracing service to help in exactly this situation on their website at  www.gov.uk/find-pension-contact-details. You only need very basic information – usually the name of the company is sufficient – and if it was a scheme registered in this country, they will have a record of the contact details. They won’t know specifically about your pension, so you will need to use the contact details to write to the pension provider to ask for a valuation.

I should warn you that having an old pension fund doesn’t always mean that there are benefits waiting for you to collect. Pension rules have changed over the years: some schemes may have had minimum qualifying periods of employment for benefits to be retained, for example. Even if you are entitled to benefits, their growth over the years may have been limited, particularly if the scheme has been closed and so not subject to any kind of active management. There may also have been ongoing charges levied on your fund, which would erode the final value.

On the plus side, some old schemes had guaranteed benefits or may have benefited from steady growth, providing a larger nest egg than you might have anticipated.

If some of your pension funds are quite small, you may be able to take them as lump sums under the small pots rules. You can’t touch them until you reach the minimum retirement age (currently age 55 but due to go up to age 57 in April 2028) but after that, you can take up to 25pc free of tax, with any remaining withdrawals taxed as income. Taking small pots won’t affect your entitlement to build up your other pension savings further, subject to the relevant annual and lifetime allowances for contributions.

I suggest you review all your various pension schemes and consider whether consolidating them or transferring them to another scheme would be of benefit, either for improved performance or reduced charges, for example. Please get independent financial advice about doing this, however, as some schemes may have guaranteed benefits or other valuable entitlements such as life cover.

Any opinions expressed in this article do not constitute advice. The value of an investment and the income from it could go down as well as up. The return at the end of the investment period is not guaranteed and you may get back less than you originally invested.

For more information, please visit www.smith-pinching.co.uk