For decades, most workers stayed in the same job until they were ready to retire. They had pension plans they were counting on for retirement, and they never lost sight of how to access those dollars when it came time to retire.
These days, though, workers are much more likely to hold multiple jobs over their lifetimes. Job changes happen so frequently that it’s even become commonplace for people to lose track of pension benefit plans from former jobs. Even if you kept all the paperwork when you left the employer, what happens if they change their name or are bought out years later? If this happens, your pension isn’t necessarily lost for good. However, it might take researching unclaimed funds in order to find it.
If you believe you have an unclaimed pension plan, here are the steps to take:
- Reach Out to Your Former Employer
If your former company still exists, great. If they don’t, you may need to find out how to contact the successor or parent company. Even if it seems like a completely new company, it’s possible it inherited the legal obligation to pay pension benefits to former employees of the original company. If you have trouble locating who to call, do a quick internet search for news articles or reach out to former coworkers. Your ultimate goal is to get in touch with the current pension plan administrator.
- Investigate Financial Institutions and Insurance Companies
Is you strike out in step one above, you may need to do additional digging. It’s possible that your former employer turned over their pension plan assets to a financial institution or an insurance company as part of a merger, buy-out or legal proceeding. This entity holds the funds for payout for any employees who couldn’t be reached previously.
- Search through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
Referred to as the PBGC for short, this government entity insures private pension plans. If a company fails, the PBGC may pay out pension benefits up to established limits. They maintain an ongoing list of unclaimed pension recipients numbering in the tens of thousands. If you think your name may be on the list, you can check here. If you ever worked for United Airlines, W.T. Grant, Nortel Networks, Circuit City Stores or U.S. Airways, you may find yourself on the PBGC’s unclaimed pensions list. You should also check here if you live in the states of New York, Illinois, California or Texas, as they have the greatest number of residents with unclaimed pensions registered on the PBGC’s list. Conversely, if you are a doctor, lawyer or other professional who worked for a company with fewer than 26 employees, your pension likely was not insured by the PBGC. You also won’t find your name here if you’re searching for an unclaimed 401(k) plan.
Finding a lost and unclaimed pension could be pivotal to your financial security in retirement. Although it takes time to go through the above steps, they may very well yield a positive result that will prove valuable to your long-term goals.