How can I find my pension plan from a previous employer? 

1 min read by Kate Morgan Last updated June 4, 2024

This article will explain how you can find your lost pension and claim your money.

Summary

  • A pension is a defined benefit plan that is established and maintained by your employer.

  • Over 80,000 people across America have unclaimed retirement benefits and are missing out on their hard-earned money.

  • Finding a lost pension can be time-consuming, but it is becoming easier with new government initiatives.

  • financial advisor can help you create a solid retirement plan and reach your retirement goals.

What is a pension plan?

A pension is a defined benefit plan that is established and maintained by your employer. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, it provides retirement income or defers income until termination of covered employment or beyond.

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A pension promises a guaranteed income in retirement.

Traditional pension plans have fallen out of favor with the private sector in recent years, with companies shifting towards 401(k) plans. Today, only 15% of private industry workers have access to a pension, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If you’re one of the few workers who is provided a pension by your employer, you need to ensure you have access to it in retirement.

The long road to retirement may involve working for multiple employers and contributing to numerous retirement plans, including pensions, 401(k)s, and IRAs.  

As you edge closer to finishing work, you’ll want the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have access to them all.

How can I protect my pension?

Protecting your pension is protecting your future.

Despite this, people often lose track of their pension arrangements.

According to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), there are currently more than 80,000 Americans across the country who have not claimed their earned defined benefit pension. 

The good news is that even if you haven’t kept track of your pension plans, the money isn’t lost.

The hours you may have to put into tracking them down will seem well worth it for the reward of a more comfortable retirement

If you’re struggling with financial planning for retirement, it’s wise to get expert help. A financial advisor can help you create a solid retirement plan and reach your retirement goals. Find a financial advisor perfectly suited to meet your needs with Unbiased.

How do I find out if I have a pension from an old job?

If you’re one of the 80,000 people who have an unclaimed pension, here are some steps you can follow to get your money back: 

1. Reach out to old employers

Your first port of call should be to contact your old employers.

Before doing so, you should gather as many details as possible about your time with them. This includes your start and end date and your Social Security number — the more information you can provide, the easier it’ll be for them to find your details and give you the information you need.

If a company you work for no longer exists, don’t panic. Check out any news online about corporate bankruptcies and mergers since a new company may have inherited your old employer’s legal obligation to pay out retirement benefits.

Alternatively, your pension plan assets may have been handed to an insurance company, which will have the obligation to pay out your benefits.

2. Review your paperwork

Gather up all of the documents you have and undertake a comprehensive review.  

You should also have any documentation from your employer that demonstrates your rights to retirement benefits.

For pension plans, you may find a benefit statement or exit letter from your previous employer, which will help you prove your eligibility for payments. Items such as pay stubs or W-2 forms will also serve as evidence for your start and end dates at a company and will often contain the name of your pension plan.  

You may also be able to track down the details you need from the company’s HR department, as this is generally where your pension plan was arranged.

3. Get in touch with the PBGC

This is a federal agency that insures private-sector traditional pension plans and pays out benefits up to certain limits if the plan fails. 

It holds a database of more than 80,000 people who are eligible for pension payments but couldn’t be located either by the PBGC itself or the person’s former employee.  

PBGC has created a searchable database to help people find their unclaimed pensions. All you need is your last name and the last four digits of your Social Security number to get started.  

Alternatively, you can use an online tool offered by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators that allows you to search for any unclaimed assets by state or use missingmoney.com to search multiple states.  

4. Contact financial and insurance companies

If your pension has been turned over to a financial company, they will hold the money until you are located.

If an insurance company now has your pension, it is legally obligated to pay you an annuity once you retire, per the terms of your plan.  

5. Check your state’s government website

If you were a state or local government employee, you can check your state government’s website to see if you have an unclaimed pension or retirement account.

This step only applies if you were a state or local government employee.  

If you need guidance when finding a missing 401(k), click here.

How do I find my pension?

Thankfully, finding lost or unclaimed pensions and other retirement accounts is set to become easier.

The SECURE 2.0 Act, part of President Biden’s 2023 spending bill, directs the U.S. Department of Labor to establish a national searchable lost-and-found database by the end of 2024. 

The database will enable retirement savers who might have lost track of their pension or 401(k) plan to search for the contact information of their plan administrator.

The law also allows employee benefits to be automatically transferred between companies when they start a new job.    

What happens if I find a missing pension plan?

If you uncover a missing pension plan, claim it as soon as possible.

Doing so for a pension plan will involve contacting the PBGC directly to prove your identity.

Once you have successfully claimed your lost pension, you own it and can start drawing on the benefits once you reach retirement age.

Match with a financial expert

Taking steps to ensure a comfortable retirement will have huge benefits when the time comes to finish work.

One way to help you get on the right track is to work with an expert. A financial advisor can help you create a personalized retirement plan and ensure you’re on track to meet your retirement goals.

Unbiased can help you find your financial advisor, who will offer their support and expertise with your retirement goals in mind.  

Match with a financial advisor now.

Content writer

Kate Morgan

Kate has written for leading publications and blue chip companies over the last 20 years.

Need help planning for retirement?

We’ll find you a financial advisor who will help you build your retirement plan.