The Mystery of the Missing Pensions

Research has shown that a large number of people have forgotten UK pension plans, or lost track of a plan from years ago or from previous employment. The value of these lost pension funds is around £19.4 billion according to figures from the Association of British Insurers in 2019.

Other research estimates that one in eight UK citizens has at least one forgotten pension. When studies show that some 60% of UK adult are concerned about their retirement planning, it makes sense to ensure you don’t lose out by not having access to all your pension money.

Workplace pensions

Many of these ‘lost’ pensions are employment related. Some are the old-style, valuable, final salary schemes, others are more flexible investment-linked ones. If someone moves house and doesn’t provide a new address they will no longer receive annual statements. In the UK, people move house on average eight times in their lifetime and have six different employers. For expats, the numbers are much higher.

Company and scheme names change, as do pension managers, and it can be hard to track down schemes from years ago, especially if you only have limited information.

Private pensions

For person pensions, not only is there the issue of changing addresses, but the names of UK insurance companies have changed numerous times over the years, companies get taken over, and collections of pension plans can be moved to another provide for administrative reasons. How many people now know who manages plans from once well-known pension companies such as UKPI, National Provident Institution or National Mutual? The policies all still exist but under different names.

Why it is important to track schemes down sooner rather than later?

In theory you can ignore your plans and try and find them when you are ready to take the benefits but this is not a good idea for two reasons. Firstly, the longer you leave it the harder it can be to find a policy, and secondly, and more importantly, old pensions may have high charges, poor fund options and are not likely to be invested in the best way or in line with your requirements, both of which can mean it is worth less than is would have been if properly managed.

Too often I come across plans that have not been looked at for over 10 years where money has been left in poorly-performing closed funds.

How to find your old pensions

If you have details of your old pension plans, you can contact your former employer or the insurance company, or come to me. For many schemes, I will know who manages them now or can easily track down the administrator. That’s the kind of fascinating information you know after 25 plus years of advising on pensions!

For others, there is the UK’s Pension Tracing Service which deals largely with workplace pensions. Anyone can access it here: Pension Tracing Service

Expert independent advice

Proper management of all investments matter, whether personally owned or in a pension plan. Too often I come across people with money in investments that are languishing in poor and underperforming funds that that will significantly affect the value of your investments, your pensions and then your standard of living in retirement.

According to ABI research, more than a quarter of savers admitted that they never review their retirement savings, while almost a fifth of those with a UK pension said they had reviewed it less than once every five years. It is hard to know if you are doing the right thing but that is where experienced and professional advice matters.

A large part of my business is about managing investments, using specialised fund management research tools, and years of experience that mean I know what doesn’t work as much as what does.

An adviser, as opposed to a salesperson, will provide you with real ongoing management and regular written reviews. Advice should be personal, based on your specific needs. My clients receive personalised reviews and recommendation with full and transparent information. Experience and knowledge make a real difference to returns. Even with the recent market volatility and falls in UK stock markets, my clients’ investments have continued to outperform markets.

 Pension transfers

This can be a contentious area as there has been too much mis-selling but is can be a good idea to consolidate plans, although not always. Some schemes such as UK statutory schemes (i.e. NHS, teachers) cannot be transferred and some plans should not be, either because there are guarantees to special benefits that would be lost, or because the scheme has good benefits that could not be matched.

All plans need to be reviewed and the best options considered. I rarely think it is beneficial to transfer out of a UK final salary (defined benefit) pension scheme these days but plans where the growth is based on investment returns need to be properly reviewed.

Next steps

If you have UK pensions that you have lost track of, it is worth spending a little time to track it down and we can assist. With the average ‘missing’ pension being worth £14,000 and people often having more than one, the numbers can add up.

If you have UK pensions that are not being properly looked after, please get in touch for honest and professional advice. If you are resident in the UAE, a UK based adviser or company is not able to give you ongoing advice. I offer friendly advice without any hard selling, in plain English, and with a fair fee structure.


I write articles such as this one as part of the holistic personal financial planning service and that I provide to expats, and the general consumer, financial and legal information that I provide in The National newspaper, on Capital Radio UAE, and on the Facebook group British Expats Dubai.

To arrange a meeting (online or telephone) to discuss any aspect of your personal financial planning, please email me at     Please take a look at the other useful articles on this website.

About FinancialUAE

A qualified and experienced Independent Financial Adviser based in Dubai, UAE. Professional and ethical. Freelance writer on personal financial issues & the On Your Side column in The National. Founder of Facebook group British Expats Dubai. Senior Partner at Holborn Assets LLC, Dubai, UAE.
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