Unclaimed Pensions in the UK Highlight the Growing Issue of Orphaned Accounts

By David Thompson

Oct 25, 2023 08:49 PM EDT

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash(Toa Heftiba on Unsplash) (Credit: Getty Image)

Recent reports have highlighted a concerning trend in the UK's pension landscape. About three million accounts, often referred to as 'orphaned' accounts, contain significant sums of money that, as yet, remain unclaimed by the rightful owners. On average, these accounts each hold approximately £9,500. In terms of unclaimed pension funds, it comes to a staggering total of £26.6 billion.

Charlotte Ransom, the founder of Netwealth, expressed her concerns on the subject, saying, "Given the current economic challenges and escalating living costs, many are concerned about their financial future come retirement. With life expectancies increasing, (albeit at a slower rate than other G7 nations) the need for average retirement savings becomes even more crucial. It's imperative that individuals track down any pensions they might have forgotten about and take the appropriate action to reclaim them."

Sarah Layden, a prominent figure at Aviva, offered some light on why so many people lose track of their pensions. She explained, "Many of these policies have been around for decades, tracing back to the early stages of people's individual careers. The situation has been exacerbated since 2012 following the introduction of automatic enrolment."

The automatic enrollment system has, in fact, revolutionized the UK's pension scene, providing over ten million new people into the workplace pension system. However, with the rise in the number of savers, the likelihood of pensions getting misplaced has also increased.

Helen Morrissey from Hargreaves Lansdown added her perspective, stating, "The average individual will switch jobs multiple times throughout their career. With auto-enrolment in place, this could mean a new pension with each job change. It's no surprise that many lose track. Recent studies have shown that a significant 55% of individuals have more than one pension. If we're not diligent about updating our contact information when switching jobs or relocating, pensions can easily be overlooked, leading to potential shortfalls in retirement income."

Hetty Hughes from the Association of British Insurers emphasized the importance of being proactive about your pension. She remarked, "While diving into your pension details might seem overwhelming, considering the average unclaimed amount stands at £9,500, it's an effort that could be highly rewarding."

The problem regarding unclaimed pensions is not just one of personal concern; it also has broader implications for the UK's economy. These unclaimed funds represent a huge amount of capital that could be invested in the UK economy, creating jobs, funding infrastructure projects, and stimulating growth. When left unclaimed and dormant, these funds become stagnant and do not contribute to the nation's economic status.

Moreover, as the population ages and more people enter retirement, the strain on public resources will naturally increase. Ensuring that people have access to their full pension entitlements can help alleviate some of this pressure by reducing their reliance on state-funded pensions and benefits.

Of course, financial institutions can play a vital role in helping to address the matter of unclaimed pensions. They can implement more robust tracking systems, update their customer information on a regular basis, and actively reach out to account holders concerned.

Public awareness campaigns can be launched to make the public aware of the situation and educate them on the importance of regularly checking their pension accounts and consolidating them when necessary.

The fact of the matter is that the average retirement savings amount per UK citizen is way below where it ought to be. Under 25s have on average £2,533, 25s to 34s have £4,775, 35s to 44s have £6,751, 45s to 54s have £14,591, and over 55s have £35,607.

A comfortable retirement income is around £19,000 per single-person household. It can be made up of both a private pension and a state pension. But you need to save approximately £7,300 every year so that by the time you take retirement, you have at least £266,000 in savings or investments to achieve this target retirement income.

It is essential for individuals to be proactive in terms of their financial future. Regularly checking on and consolidating your pensions can ensure that your hard-earned money doesn't remain unclaimed. With the current economic landscape, the stubbornly high cost of living and inflation, plus the uncertainties of the future, every penny saved today can help in making a significant difference when it comes to securing a comfortable retirement.

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