Changes made to the way that British workers benefit from workplace pensions in the last few years has meant that it’s never been easier to pay into your pension pots. At present, you can pay into a workplace pension straight out of your monthly salary, and your employer will be able to match you up to a certain amount. This means, effectively, you can get potentially double your money to put aside for retirement. That’s great news if you’re really building towards a nice little getaway once you reach pension age.
However, here’s where things get a bit confusing. Different workplaces will, of course, have different pension schemes. You can choose to move your pension to a private pot when you leave an employer, but unfortunately, things can start to get murky. It’s easy to leave pots full and half-full of pension money from employer to employer as, especially for younger people, it’s not always the first thing on your mind when you are looking to move jobs.
What should you do if you have multiple pension pots left behind at various companies? Is there an easy way for you to track your money down, and to combine everything together? It’s easy enough for you to forget about a workplace pension once you leave a job. However, this is money that is rightfully yours so it’s important you know where it is and how to access it.
In this guide, I’ll take a look at workplace pensions in general, and I’ll consider everything you need to know about hunting down any potential missing pensions from previous employers. You also may want to combine old pensions together in one place. Let’s take a look at the options.
What Happens to My Pension if I Leave My Job?
Effectively, when you leave a job, you will normally leave a pension pot behind. Thanks to auto-enrolment and contribution matching schemes set up by the government a few years ago, it’s starting to get a bit tricky to find out where you might have money stashed away, and how much you might have available later in life when you retire.
When you stop paying into a workplace pension – i.e. when you leave a job – this will normally be referred to as an ‘old’ pension. When you move to a new job, you will start paying into a new pension instead. This means you’ll be opening up a whole new pot, and that’s where things can start to get a bit confusing.
Ultimately, it’s worth remembering that the money you pay into a workplace pension will generally stay where it is when you leave a job and contributions will stop being made to that pension pot. However, there are ways for you to track down who has what, and ways for you to bring your money together in the long run.
It’s worth remembering that your pension rights won’t expire when you leave your job. You’ll still retain full rights to the money you pay in, and everything in between.
Can I Transfer My Pensions?
Many schemes will be more than open to you moving contributions across to different pension pots. You can move them over to your current employers, for example, or you can even set up a personal pension. You could look at setting up this type of scheme with a leading high street financial brand, such as Barclays or Aviva for example.
One of the benefits of this process is, of course, that you can transfer your pension pots around at any given time. There’s no later limit on when you can and can’t start moving money around.
Do keep in mind that if you have paid into a scheme that’s classed as a defined benefits pot, you will need to ideally look for help from a financial advisor. This is because you may risk losing the benefits and perks you have accrued in that specific pot.
How Many Pensions Can I Have?
There’s currently no upper limit on how many pensions you can have. Of course, if you pay national insurance, you will have access to a pension fund from the state after all is said and done, too. However, when you switch from job to job, you will continue to auto-enrol, which means you will have as many pensions as you have job roles.
Therefore, you can keep paying in for as long as you want. However, there are other limits involved which are worth keeping in mind. For example, you can currently only have up to £1,055,000 in pensions in total. This is called your lifetime pension allowance.
Can I Combine All My Pensions Into One?
Yes. You can combine pension pots into schemes where you can access all your money at a later date. You can also choose to combine payments and pension funds into one lump sum if you want to use an annuity provider. However, in some cases, you may find that a pension pot is not big enough for you to move over into consolidation schemes.
However, pension consolidation is becoming more commonplace, and there are providers such as PensionBee who are making it easier for you to combine multiple pension pots.
How Can I Find Out if I Have a Pension From a Previous Employer?
There are plenty of ways you can find out if you have a pension plan in place from old jobs. One of the best ways is to do a manual search. By this, we mean that you should look through your old bank statements and look through any letters or statements you may have from old workplaces. It’s tempting to get rid of all your old employer paperwork as soon as you leave!
However, it’s really worth holding onto paperwork from your old employer. As you never really know when you’re going to need to track down your pensions in the future. It’s also a good idea to keep statements to hand so that you have a vague idea of what you paid in, and when.
However, there are services you can use to hunt down your previous employer pension pots and then potentially combine multiple pensions into one.
As part of this guide, I wanted to take a look at a government service which you can use to trace old or lost pensions, as well as PensionBee, an online pension provider that offers consolidation of multiple old pensions.
What is the Pension Tracing Service?
The Pension Tracing Service, which is run via GOV UK, is a searchable database of pension provider contact details which will help you to find the details for any pension administrators you may have paid in with. It’s a great little service to use if you are looking for specific contact details, and if you want to make sure where your money has gone.
The Pension Tracing Service, however, won’t give you much information beyond contact details. Therefore, while it is really useful for tracing specific office information, it won’t tell you how much money you have in a pension, nor will it actually tell you if you have a pension at all with a given workplace or service.
What are the Benefits of the Pension Tracing Service?
While the Pension Tracing Service won’t let you know outright if you have pension pots at any specific places, it’s a great stepping stone if you want to take down details for pension services where you believe you have money paid in.
The PTS should give you direct contacts you can use to approach workplaces and services you may have been involved with in the past. The pensions administrator should then be able to let you know what happens next.
There are some drawbacks to the PTS, and one of the major factors is that there’s no guarantee all services and providers will be listed on their free service. However, it’s free, and it’s a solid starting point.
What is PensionBee?
PensionBee is a service that I’ve written about before. I’ve compared it directly to other online pension providers that help you take better control of your investments. It’s a brilliant service for anyone looking to simplify and streamline the way they handle their pension pots by combining multiple pensions into one easy to manage plan.
PensionBee’s main selling point is pension consolidation. You provide them with as much detail as you can about your old pension providers. From there, you can then choose one of the plans available, which you can use to consolidate your money and then continue to build upon it. Once you have provided as much detail as you can they will start contacting your previous pension providers to begin the process of moving your money to your new PensionBee pension.
What’s the Catch?
There are no real catches. All around, it is a fairly straightforward and appealing option for consolidating pension pots. However, there are a few points to consider.
To use PensionBee to its full advantage, you’re going to need to pay a few fees. You might have to pay up to 0.95% for the service to manage your cash and to invest your money. However, there’s no tax that you need to pay on top, which should be a big plus if you really want to make the most of your money.
You might also find that certain pensions can’t move over at all. Government pensions, for example, aren’t always easy for you to move over. The same will apply to pension pots that belong to some public sector roles. Teachers, for example, may not be able to move cash over to PensionBee.
Do also remember that they will charge you a fee if you want to cash out your pension within your first year of using the service.
As you can see it is perfectly possible to hunt down old pension pots and consolidate them into one place. Utilising the Pension Tracing Service to help track down any missing information then consolidating your old pensions into one plan with PensionBee means you can easily manage your pension pot going forward and most importantly know exactly where your money is.