Have you ever dreamed of unexpectedly finding a long-lost bank account, full of cash, with your name on it? Many of us have, and in our minds, we've spent the money on a new car, a luxury holiday or by giving a gift to our family.
You'd be surprised at how many people are seeing this dream become a reality. It happens when they're reunited with pension savings they'd lost track of, and often completely forgotten about.
Around 1.6 million people in the UK could be entitled to thousands of pounds in mislaid pensions. Right now there's probably about £20 billion being looked after by pension companies, but they don't know who the money belongs to.
Could some of that money be yours?
If you've ever been employed by a UK organisation, it's worth asking the question - was money put into a pension scheme in my name?
For many people the answer will be 'yes', even though they've forgotten about it. The good news is that it's probably possible to trace your pension. You even may be entitled to more than one.
Why are there so many lost pensions?
If you lost a penny on the street, would you bother to pick it up? Or a two-pence piece? Maybe you'd stop to find a ten or fifty-pence coin.
You'd definitely stop if you dropped a five or ten-pound note.
Most of us are quite good at looking after cash. But maybe we're not so careful when our employer or a pension company sends us a few sheets of paper that aren’t easy to read.
Because that paper isn't cash, it feels less valuable. But those documents could be telling us about our pension savings that are worth thousands.
As the years pass, we lose track of these pieces of paperwork. We’re not sure what to do with them, so maybe they're tucked away in a cupboard, somewhere.
It's easy for them to get mislaid and even thrown away, particularly when we move from one home to the next.
Because of these moves, the pension company loses track of us - it didn't cross our mind that they need to know our new address.
This is how pensions become separated from their rightful owners. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people can't access money that's being held in their name.
How to start looking for my pensions
If you think you're entitled to a lost pension, or you don't know whether you are, finding that old paperwork is a good place to start. Can't find it? Don't give up hope - there are other ways to trace your pension.
A next step is to get in touch with your old employers. They should be able to direct you to whoever administers pensions for ex-employees.
If that doesn't work, you could try the Government's pension Tracing service. You can use it for both workplace and personal pensions, either in your name or on behalf of someone else (with their permission).
The Pension Tracing Service can be reached through their website or by calling 0800 731 0193. No one will ask you to pay anything for this service - it is free. You will need to know the name of your employer or the pension company.
Raindrop also offers a free pension-finding service, based on your National Insurance number.
Find out how your pensions are doing
For many, tracing their lost pensions ends with good news - they're reunited with the provider of the savings scheme.
But the journey doesn't end there. Once you've discovered your pension, you want to know what's happening to the money. A pension is a savings plan for retirement and, like all savings schemes, money put into it should grow over time.
You'll want a statement of the current value of the pension plan. If it's worth less than £10,000, special rules mean you could withdraw the entire amount as cash. Depending on your circumstances you may be required to pay tax on some or all of it.
However, the average value of lost pensions is around £13,000. Some will be worth less. Others will be valued at considerably more.
Transfer your old pensions to a new plan
If you have more than one pension, you may want to combine them into a single plan.
Doing this makes them easier to manage, it could save you money on fees, and it could make your money work harder. Older pensions, particularly those that have been lost for a long time, may not be growing at the same rate as other pensions.
You want your pensions to keep growing, because this is the cash that will help you through retirement.
When combining pensions with a single pension provider, you should consider the fees they charge and their approach to helping your funds grow.
Not all pensions can be combined together. Some workplace schemes, such as defined benefit pensions, operate differently and combining may not be appropriate. You're required to take financial advice if you want to move a defined benefit pension worth more than £30,000.
If you are considering consolidating your pensions with a view to starting to take your benefits from them, you should consider speaking to a financial advisor, or visiting the UK Government’s Pension Wise service, to help you decide what the best option for you might be.
Combine your pensions through Raindrop
We can help you find your lost pensions and, if you choose, combine them into a single plan, through the Raindrop find and transfer service.
This gives you the benefits of a consolidated pension pot that draws together all your different pensions, including any that we have found on your behalf.
It's important to remember that the value of your pension is not guaranteed. Your capital is at risk because the value can go down as well as up.
Choosing to combine your pensions is a big decision, because it has an impact on the value of your retirement savings. However, those savings could be worth so much more, if there's a lost pension out there with your name on it, and you're able to find it.