How to find a lost pension

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) there are more than 1.6 million “lost” pension pots which are worth a total £19.4bn.

Harding surprising. The days of working for one employer for 40 years and then retiring with a gold carriage clock are over. Research suggests that average workers will now have 11 different jobs during their life

As people move from job to job more and more frequently, it becomes harder and harder to keep on top of old pensions.

This issue is even more acute for expats as we not only move from job to job but also from country to country.

However, keeping on top of old pensions is definitely worth the effort. That extra plan may just be the difference between you maintaining your desired lifestyle in retirement and not. 

Tracking down a personal pension

Pension providers must send their members an annual statement. 

These statements include a current value as well as an estimate of the retirement income that the pension pot might generate when you reach retirement.

If you are no longer receiving these statements – most likely because of a change of address – then to track down the pension, you should start by contacting the pension provider.

Contact the plan provider

When you contact the plan provider, assuming you have their details, you should have as many of the following details available as possible:

  • Plan/policy number
  • Date of birth
  • National Insurance number
  • The date your pension was set up

And by asking the following questions, you’ll get a thorough overview of your pension pot:

  • What is the current value of the pension pot?
  • Is there a nominated recipient for any death benefits?
  • How much has been contributed into the pension pot?
  • What charges are you paying for management of the pension pot?
  • How much income is the pension pot likely to pay out at your chosen retirement date?
  • How is the pension pot being invested and what options are there for making changes?
  • Would there be any charges if you wanted to transfer the pension pot to another provider?
  • What are the death benefits – in other words, how much money would be paid from the pension if you died?

Contact the Pension Tracing Service

If you are still struggling to make progress – perhaps because you can’t find the contact details for the provider or they may have merged or been taken over by another company, you can contact the Pension Tracing Service.

This is a free service which searches a database of more than 200,000 workplace and personal pension schemes to try to find the contact details you need.

You can phone them on +44 (0)191 215 4491 or you can use this link to complete an online request form.

Before using the service collect as much information as you can, including:

  • The name of your previous employer or pension service (you will need this to get started)
  • Any previous names it had
  • The type of business it ran
  • Whether it changed address
  • When you belonged to the scheme


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How do I find an old employer pension?

If you want to trace an old workplace pension, i.e. a scheme run by a previous employer – then your first point of contact should be that employer.

When contacting them, you will need to have the following information ready:

  • Your National Insurance number
  • The date you started work with them
  • The date you stopped working there

Start by asking them what type of plan it is (for example, defined benefit or defined contribution?) and unless it’s a defined benefit scheme, which provider your pension is with.

If it is a defined benefit scheme, ask them to send you an up-to-date statement.

However, if your employer provided access to a personal or stakeholder scheme, then you should ask them for the pension provider details (see “Tracking down a personal pension scheme” above.

If you cannot find contact details for your old employer, then, as with personal pensions above, the Pension Tracing Service should be able to help.

How to find a non-UK pension

Unfortunately, there is no international or cross-border pension register.

Your only option is to contact the HR department of your previous employer and ask them for details.

You will need to have the following information ready when you contact them:

  • Local Tax Identification Number (TIN)
  • The date you started work with them
  • The date you stopped working there

How to get an estimate of your State Pension

You can get a state pension forecast here.

I also create a State Pension Guide for expats. You can find it here.

Get in touch

If you would like to understand more about how to track down a lost pension or have any specific questions, please drop me a line.

By Ross Naylor

Ross has been a financial adviser for the past 26 years. He uses the experience that he has gained over this time to help busy expats to understand their options, make smart decisions and avoid costly mistakes.