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£27 billion in lost pensions is gathering dust in UK

The National Pension Tracing Day campaign aims to change this and reunite people with their lost pensions. They urge people to use the extra hour when the clocks go back on 29th October to check for lost or forgotten pensions. It is estimated that one in 20 people in the UK[ii] may have lost pensions, estimated to be worth on average £9,500 each.

Research* of more than 2,000 people in Britain for National Pension Tracing Day set to uncover why the mountain of money in lost pensions, now standing at around £27 billion, (up by a third in four years[i]) continues to grow.

The survey found that while 95 per cent of respondents who have owned a car remembered the make and model of their first car, less than half – 44 per centcould recall the company behind their first pension.

The National Pension Tracing Day campaign aims to change this and reunite people with their lost pensions. They urge people to use the extra hour when the clocks go back on 29th October to check for lost or forgotten pensions. It is estimated that one in 20 people in the UK[ii] may have lost pensions, estimated to be worth on average £9,500 each.

NPTD founder and driving force Alan Morahan, Chief Commercial Officer, Punter Southall said: “If pensions were a Passat, Capri, Fiesta or even a Porsche, everyone would instantly recall where and when they first got behind the wheel. I’d be the Jeremy Clarkson of workplace pensions and there would not be 2.8 million pots waiting to be reunited with their owners.”

I’ve spent a professional lifetime making the case for pensions and one fundamental has not changed: it’s difficult for people to connect with the idea of saving now for later and many forget about the pensions they’ve already got. National Pension Tracing Day aims to get people thinking about any pensions they may have mislaid and give them the tools to help track them down. And they can do so for free.”

Research on finding pensions:
Despite the potential financial windfall, a staggering 86 per cent of respondents who have a pension plan have not traced a lost pension.

Eighty-three per cent also hadn’t heard of the government’s pension tracing service, the main free resource for tracking down a mislaid pension. Forty-five per cent admitted they wouldn’t know to how to go about it, where to start or who to contact, or simply cannot make the time.

Alan said: “If this proves one thing, it’s that we were right to create this campaign and keep it going. We want to increase awareness of this lost money and make it even easier for people to find it.”

Lots of pots…
The survey also found 78 per cent of respondents who have a pension plan have accumulated between one to three pensions in total, with six per cent having between four and six.

However, 16 per cent admit they don’t even remember how many pensions they have, which could be contributing to the issue.

For those who have misplaced or forgotten a pension, the average value sits at £9,500.

…but not lots in them
The survey also revealed people are not saving as much as they may need in retirement.

  • 41 per cent have less than £50,000 in their pensions.
  • Only nine per cent have between £50,000 to £100,000 saved.
  • 13 per cent have more than £100,000.
  • 37 per cent either couldn’t recall their savings or preferred not to tell us.

These figures contrast sharply with Standard Life’s analysis of the PLSA’s Retirement Living Standards[iii] on the recommended funds for retirement. For a minimum standard of living, a pension pot of around £50,000 is needed, while a moderate retirement requires roughly £285,000. To be “comfortable”, requires around £530,000.

The survey also highlighted people’s potentially misplaced confidence as just under half (48 per cent) of those with a pension plan and who are working or retired, felt they are saving enough – when they are probably not – and 52 per cent were less confident or unsure.

Alan said: “People always underestimate how long they will live and how much money they will need to see them through. Tracking down savings now is a reality check to help them nurture a more personal pension connection.”

Cost-of-living impact
The escalating cost of living is also being felt. Just over a quarter (26 per cent) of respondents whose retirement plans have been affected by the increase in the cost of living say they will not be able to afford to retire now and a further 25 per cent have had to shelve plans to retire early. Thirty-nine per cent said they intend to continue working as long as possible.

Alan said: “The increase in living costs is forcing many people to reconsider their retirement plans and for some retirement now seems to be unattainable. If we could reunite them with a lost pension their plans might change again.”

The £9,500 question
The survey also asked people what they would do if they found a lost pension worth £9,500 and found:

  • 43 per cent would save it.
  • 22 per cent would fund better retirement.
  • 20 per cent would put it towards bills/ debt.
  • 14 per cent would put it toward the cost of later life care.
  • 4 per cent would buy a car

Alan said: “It’s encouraging to see long-term financial decision-making trumped buying a car, but taking cash out of a pension to put into savings can mean paying more tax. It’s why campaigns like National Pension Tracing Day and Pension Awareness Week and the Pension Attention campaign are so important.”

What to consider on National Pension Tracing Day
Alan concludes: “As evenings become darker, finding money you didn’t know you had may make you feel a bit brighter. Many people have done, and you could be one of them.”

*Punter Southall

[i] https://www.pensionspolicyinstitute.org.uk/sponsor-research/research-reports/2022/2022-10-27-briefing-note-134-lost-pensions-2022-what-s-the-scale-and-impact/

[ii] Briefing Note 134 – Lost Pensions 2022: What’s the scale and impact? (pensionspolicyinstitute.org.uk)

[iii] £285k needed for a moderate standard of living in retirement – even with a full State Pension (standardlife.co.uk)

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2066 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15th – 18th September 2023.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

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