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Finding lost pensions - the complete guide

This article helps reunite people with their lost pension pots. Discover how to find your lost pensions, why so many are missing and what this means for your money

Published on 12 Nov 20216 minute read

Written by Frances Bruce

In the olden days we typically worked at the same company until we retired. One job. One pension. One gold watch at retirement. These days we usually change jobs often and acquire different pension pots on our way to retirement. Most of us are aware we have a few pensions floating around in our name…somewhere.

Rounding up your lost pensions is savvy financial housekeeping – you can stay on track when you know how much you have in pension savings.

Tracing lost pensions is easier than you think and won’t cost you a penny. Let’s get started.

Why are there so many lost pensions?

More than 1.6 million people1 in the UK have lost track of their pension pots, totalling an estimated £20 billion2. It’s not just you – it’s most of us.

The staggering number of lost pensions is rooted in how we live and work:

  • Changing jobs – people change jobs an average of 11 times3 during their lifetime and usually have a pension attached to each job. Even though most of us are auto enrolled in a workplace pension these days, our pension doesn’t auto follow us to our next job. It’s up to us to round up our pensions.
  • Moving house – 96% of us don’t let our pension providers know our new home address when we move.  And it’s estimated we move to a new house eight times3 in our lifetime. For generation rent this is likely to increase.  

The good news is your old pensions can be traced.

How do I trace my lost pensions?

You can trace lost pensions yourself by going through your old paperwork and looking for the correct name and current contact details of your ex-employers’ pension provider. Or you can get the Government to do it for you – for free.

You might find this hard to believe but tracing lost pensions is not usually complicated or difficult, it just feels like it might be. The Government created a free pension tracing service to help us find our pensions. All 1.6 million of us.

So, the next time you have five minutes to scroll, jump on the Pension Tracing Service website. There are four questions and five steps. No paperwork or detective work, just the Government helping you find your pension pots, free of charge.

All you need is the name of your ex-employer and the Pension Tracing Service will scan its impressive database and provide the correct name and current contact details of the pension provider you need.

Another handy tip: there are times the database behaves more like Mr Bean than James Bond and you’ll need to contact your ex-employer yourself.

The whole process takes a minute or two online, and you can call them on 0800 731 0193. 

And that’s it, you’re done. You have everything you need to contact your pension provider with an email or phone call, hand over your updated contact details and find out how much is waiting in your pension pot.

But have you thought about how you’re going to keep track of your pension pots now that you’ve been reunited?

Why is consolidating my pensions a solution for my lost pensions?

Consolidating your pensions - keeping them in one place - is a fantastic way to strengthen your retirement savings and keep track of your pension pots once you’ve found them.  

Everything is easier to manage when it’s in one place. Combining pensions means you only have one username, one password and one balance. You’ll spend less time fossicking about with your pension and more time doing what you enjoy – and you could save on fees too.

When you consolidate your pensions it’s easy to check how much you have saved, monitor how your investments are doing and see whether you are on track to achieving your retirement goals.

How Bestinvest can help with your pensions

If your newly found pensions need a new home, we offer a Self-invested Personal Pension, the Best SIPP*. It’s an easy to use, great-value personal pension that gives you total control over your retirement savings and investments. You can open a Best SIPP online in minutes and access your account around the clock. 

And don’t forget we pay up to £500* (T&Cs apply) towards your existing provider’s exit fees when you transfer to us. Give us a call on 020 7189 2400 and our friendly team can help you. 

Did you know we offer free coaching? All our Coaches are qualified financial planners and hold the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning. A Coach can help you make sense of all your financial conundrums from untangling pension paperwork to helping you set and smash financial goals. 

Each coaching session lasts 45 minutes so they are easy to slot into busy schedules. All you have to do is choose a date and time that works for you - and if you’re a Bestinvest client you can have as many free coaching sessions as you like. 

Book an appointment


1. The Association for British Insurers, Why do insurers struggle to reunite lost assets with their owners?

2. The Pension Tracing Service, Find your lost pensions

3. Which?, Nearly £20bn of pensions unclaimed in the UK: can you trace your lost pots?

*SIPPs are not suitable for everyone. If you don’t want to invest across different asset classes or don’t think you will make use of the investment choices that SIPPs give you, then a SIPP might not be right for you.

Before you consider transferring a pension, it is important to ask yourself: Will I lose any valuable benefits or features from my existing pension plan? Will I incur any penalties on my existing pension if I transfer? Is it an occupational final salary pension scheme? (in which case it is very unlikely to be advisable to transfer) Have I considered the charges on my current plan? (a new arrangement may be more expensive – especially if you have a stakeholder pension). Exit fees may apply if you choose to leave Bestinvest.

This article does not constitute personal advice. If you are in doubt as to the suitability of an investment please contact a financial adviser.

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