How to check how much pension you have

Marianne Curphey

Many people have no idea how much they are entitled to in terms of their overall pension and amalgamated pension pots. Also, they might not also know how much entitlement they have accrued for the state pension, or when they can retire. Money expert Marianne Curphey shows you how to check in on your pension.

How do I find out about my workplace pension?

According to a recent survey by Which? nearly one-fifth of people over 50 have never checked how much money they have saved up in their pension pots, and a further 21% say they don’t know where to look.

If you are still working, look at your pay or wage slip. This will tell you how much you are paying into the scheme.

If you don’t understand anything, or you want to increase your contribution, talk to the pensions office at your workplace.

You should receive an annual statement showing how much you have saved up in your current pension. If you don’t have an up to date valuation you can request one.

Many schemes now offer the option to register to view your pension details and see your valuation online.

 

If you’re tracing a workplace pension

If you want to trace a workplace pension then contact your former employer or their pensions department and give them as many details as you can remember.

Even if you don’t have any documents they may be able to trace your pension if you have your National Insurance number and the dates you worked there.

When you have established some details about your pension you can ask how much you have previously contributed, what it is worth now, and how much income that plan is likely to pay you on retirement.

You should also enquire about ongoing charges, the cost of making a transfer out to another scheme, and what your pension is invested in.

If you are still having trouble tracking your Pension then you could 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 the Pension Tracing Service on 0845 6002 537 or you can complete an online request.

 

What about lost pensions?

If you have moved jobs and changed addresses it may be that your pension statements are going to the wrong address.

You can use the pensions tracing service at the Pensions Advisory Service.

You should only use these free services and should be wary of any company that offers to trace your pension for a fee.

The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) gives information and guidance to members of the public on state, company and personal pensions. It helps any member of the public who has a problem with their occupational or private pension arrangement.

Generally speaking, if you left your employer before April 1975, it’s likely you will have received a refund of your pension contributions. If you didn’t pay into the scheme you probably won’t be entitled to anything, unless you were in the scheme for at least 15 to 20 years.

If you left the employer between April 1975 and April 1988, you will have a pension, provided you were over age 26 and had completed five years in the scheme.

If you left the employer after 1988 you will be entitled to a pension, as long as you completed two years’ service. Otherwise you probably received a refund when you left.

 

What are my options at retirement?

If you are close to retirement you can have a free and impartial talk with an expert at Pension Wise, a government service which helps people nearing retirement.

If you have a defined contribution (money purchase) pension scheme or a personal pension (not a final salary pension) you may be entitled to take some or all of your pension from age 55. For more information see the website.

 

What if my pension looks a bit small?

If you check your various pension plans and you are worried that you are going to have insufficient income in retirement then you have two options—to pay more in now or to defer your pension (or both).

You can top up your pension with extra contributions—you’ll receive a boost in the form of tax relief, and you can also choose to wait a few years before taking your pension in the hope that your fund will have grown more.

Don’t try to make up for a lack of pension fund by trying to invest in risky assets—you might actually lose money this way.

For more tips on boosting your pension see the guide at the Money Advice Service website.

 

When will I be entitled to the State Pension?

If you have not yet retired then it is likely that you will be affected by new legislation covering the New State Pension.

The new State Pension will be a regular payment from the government that you can claim if you reach State Pension age on or after 6 April 2016.

The full new State Pension will be £155.65 per week and whether or not you receive it will depend on whether you have made 10 qualifying years of National Insurance contributions.

You can check when you will be able to draw your State Pension.