Make the most of your savings: the complete guide to finding and combining pensions

Starting to think about how much you’ll need for your retirement? If you want to see if you’re on track with your saving, you may want to find and combine your pension pots into one – a process that is probably a lot easier than you think.
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How do you feel when you think about your retirement? If the answer is 'nervous', it might be because you don’t know who some of your past workplace pensions are with, or you have no idea how to go about tracking down your old pensions. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Finding pensions is a life admin task that many of us are guilty of putting off. We hate to break it to you, though – this is something you might regret doing further down the line.

In fact, the amount of lost pensions amounts to over £19 billion1 – and that’s just in the UK.

One of the most common reasons for pensions becoming lost is as simple as moving house and forgetting to let your pension provider(s) know that you have a new address. You may also have pensions from way back in the day before it became the norm to be emailed a statement each year – or these communications are simply being sent to a company email you once had.

Is any of this starting to sound familiar? If so, there’s no need to panic. All is not lost.

As this handy guide will demonstrate, there’s a few ways you can go about finding pensions that have fallen to the wayside. And when you’ve tracked down those pesky pension pots, we’ll explain how you can make your life easier by combining your pensions into one.

Why should I consolidate my pensions?

The benefit of combining pensions is that you’ll have one pension pot that follows you from job to job – sort of like a loyal puppy. This will make it easier to keep track of exactly how much you have saved for your retirement at any point. So, you can easily decide if you need to increase how much you’re contributing each month to achieve your dream retirement (which would be in a beachfront house in Hawaii for me!).

Not only that, but one thing you may not realise about your pension pots is that they’re not free. In fact, each provider will charge a fee, and how much this is will vary depending on who your pension is with. Obviously, if you don’t know what their fee is and you don’t have access to your account, then you’ll be completely in the dark when it comes to how much you’re being charged each year – and you could be paying over the odds.

However, when you consolidate your old pots into one personal pension, you can shop around for the best provider for you and choose one that offers lower fees. Yep – it really is as simple as that.

So, how do you find a pension you’ve lost track of in the first place?

How to find old pensions

The first step is an obvious one, and you might have already done it. But just in case you haven’t, go through your junk draw (we all know the one; the one where all your important letters and random bits and bobs end up) and see if you can find any old statements you’ve been sent over the years. If you did move house since you left a job with a workplace pension scheme, you may have received a few of these letters before you packed up your belongings.

These won’t just tell you who your pension is with, but they should also have your policy number on them, meaning that you should be able to create (or recover) an account online and take a look at what you have saved so far (and anything else you need to know about your old pensions).

Although a lot of workplace pension schemes are set up with employee emails, some employees do use their workers’ personal email accounts, so it could also be worth rooting through any of your old inboxes you have access to. You never know what you might find.

What if you can’t find any communications from them and think that you may never find a pension you once paid into? No need to panic; there are other options.

What if I know who my pension provider is?

You’re off to a great start. If this is the case, you may be able to call your provider who can give you your policy number after you’ve answered a few security questions. So, wrack your brains and see if any names come to mind.

 What If I can’t remember who my pension is with?

This is where things get a little tricky, but not impossible. If you had a workplace pension, then your first port of call will be to contact your employer. They should be able to tell you who your pension is with, and when you have this information, you can get in touch with your provider directly to discuss the next steps of accessing it. Once you’re in, you can continue to simply keep track of it until you’re able to withdraw it (this is typically when you reach 60 or 65 for many workplace schemes2), or transfer it to another provider.

What if your employer is no longer in business or has seemingly fallen off the face of the earth? You’re not the only one, this happens more than you might think! Why not try the government’s Pension Tracing Service? You should be able to use this handy little tool to locate your past pensions or find pensions belonging to others with their permission.

When you provide your information, it will trawl through a database of over 200,000 workplace and personal pension schemes for you to help you find your lost pension.

It will ask you a series of questions to help you find a pension you’ve lost track of, such as whether you had an NHS, civil service, teacher, or armed services pension and if you didn’t, whether it was a workplace or personal pension. If it’s a workplace pension you’re looking for, then you’ll need to know either the name of your employer or the name of your workplace pension scheme to search through their database. 

What if I did have an NHS, civil service, teacher, or armed forces pension?

If this is the case, the service will direct you to contact their personal enquiry service directly, and they should be able to help you. Information on how you can get in touch with these services in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland can be found on the NHS, civil service, teacher, and armed forces section of the Pension Tracing Service.

What if the online Pension Tracing Service didn’t work?

You can also request contact details from the Pension Tracking Service by phone. If you’re in the UK, you can call them on 0800 731 0193 on weekdays between 9:30am to 3:30pm. Make sure you check any call charges before you give them a ring though.

How to consolidate pensions

If you’ve put off this task because you don’t know how to combine pensions and think it’s a complex and time-consuming process, we’ve got good news for you. The process is much simpler than it sounds – especially when you choose the right company to help you through the process.

What should I look for in a new pension provider?

When choosing a provider, thoroughly do your research before you make any decisions. Low fees are obviously desired, but you should also check that your new provider is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

For the more tech-savvy among us, the ability to manage your new combined pension online is also a big plus, as this will make it easier to keep track of how much you have saved for your retirement so far and see whether you’re on track to achieve your goals. With platforms like Wealthify, you can also easily make changes to your contributions when needed.

What information do I need when combining combine pensions?

When moving to a new provider, they will generally ask you who your pensions are with, what your policy numbers are, and how much you want to transfer over. Most companies (like us here at Wealthify) will then take care of the rest for you, only getting in touch if they need you to sign anything or want any additional information from your old provider.

Don’t know your policy number off the top of your head? If it’s not on any paperwork you have, it’s as simple as getting in touch with your current pension provider and asking them for it. They should be able to able provide this to you after asking you a few security questions.

Is there anything else I need to consider?

Yes – unexpected costs. When combining pensions by transferring them to a new provider, be wary of any exit fees (especially with older pensions) as this could reduce how much yours is worth in future. So, make sure you weigh up the cons for each of your pensions when deciding to consolidate them.

You will also need to decide if you want to transfer your old pensions into a new workplace pension scheme you’ve been enrolled in or whether you want to set up a personal pension (also referred to as a ‘SIPP’) – the choice is completely up to you. However, it’s worth noting that with a Personal Pension, such as the one offered by Wealthify, you will have increased flexibility over how much you contribute each month and easily make changes to this amount when needed. Plus, it will follow you around like a loyal pup, and we all know that dogs are man’s best friend!

Ready to start combining pensions and keep better track of your retirement savings? Find out more about our Wealthify’s pension consolidation service.

With investing, your capital is at risk. Please remember the value of your investments can go down as well as up, and you could get back less than invested.

Wealthify does not offer financial advice. You should seek financial advice if you are unsure about investing.

  1. https://www.abi.org.uk/news/news-articles/2020/05/19.4-billion-of-pension-pots-unclaimed-just-because-of-house-moves/
  2. https://www.moneyhelper.org.uk/en/pensions-and-retirement/taking-your-pension/when-can-i-take-money-from-my-pension
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