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Author: Age UK
Published on 11 April 2013 12:01 AM

Confusion and uncertainty over pensions leave many in a muddle and plans awry when saving for retirement


  • New research* shows 23% of UK adults have lost track of at least one pension
  • Consumers are confused and uncertain about how to trace a pension
  • 23% of younger workers (25-34) have already worked for five to six employers – matching the average total for those aged 65+1

A shift in working cultures and confusion around retirement planning is resulting in a pension ‘black hole’, with almost a quarter (23%) of UK adults stating they have lost track of at least one pension scheme – according to a new online poll* for Age UK. 

The poll, commissioned to understand more about people’s attitudes and plans for retirement, reveals that nearly a third (30%) of UK adults would try to trace a pension if they realised they had lost track of it. However, people are unsure about how and where to start hunting these pensions down.  

Reasons behind the UK’s missing pensions:

  • Nearly half of all missing pensions (47%) are simply ‘lost in the mists of time’
  • 1 in 5 (20%) people missing pensions say they have lost their pension paperwork
  • 10% blame the fact that they’ve moved jobs too many times to keep track of their pensions
  • Younger generations are more likely to have lost track of a pension2, with 37% of those aged 18-44 already having experienced this.

Lost pensions: a symptom of the times

The trend for adults to have a variety of employers over a lifetime, often resulting in multiple work place pensions, is one of the root causes of the emerging pension ‘black hole’. 

Tellingly, the average person over 65 has worked for around 6 (5.6) employers in total, while a quarter (23%) of those aged 25-34 have already worked for a similar number - yet have more than approximately 35 years left before they are likely to retire. This indicates that the younger generation will almost certainly have a variety of pension pots as they get older. 

With the UK’s financial situation remaining precarious, the findings revealed a mixture of scepticism and uncertainty about long-term financial planning, with 12 per cent saying they don’t think that there is any point as ‘nothing is guaranteed’, and nine per cent not knowing how to start out planning for retirement.

Worryingly, 24% of adults said that they were aware that they should be financially planning for their retirement, but currently can’t afford to.

Tracing a pension

Age UK’s research shows that there is much confusion and uncertainty about how to trace a pension. If they realised that they’d lost a pension, nearly a quarter (23%) of potential pension-hunters would ask previous employers for help; 15% would consult the government or tax office; 11% would look online for advice; and seven per cent would turn to a friend or relative for help.

Commenting on the findings, Lucy Harmer, Head of Services at Age UK, said: 'It’s really important we all set aside time to keep on top of our personal admin, such as organising paperwork and keeping details of any financial products safe and secure. This is especially crucial for pensions as it may be some years down the line until they need to be accessed. 

'With the number of jobs we have over a lifetime increasing, it’s likely that people will accumulate several small pension pots.  In many cases these bring a less fruitful income in later life than one large pension pot.'

Lucy Harmer continued: 'While some measures are being taken by the Government to account for smaller pension pots likely to be created under automatic enrolment, existing pots that we may already have are not being accounted for. This makes it more important than ever that we keep on top of what we have already accumulated.

'We strongly advise people to seriously think about planning for retirement and the kind of lifestyle you want - it’s never too early.  At Age UK we have a range of information and services available to help with pension preparations, including a pension planner, help and guidance, as well as information on the state pension.'

Tips from Age UK on finding a lost pension include:

  • Collect as much information about your previous employer as possible including names, the type of business it ran, previous addresses and scheme dates
  • Search for any paperwork that you may have received with the pension
  • Type of pension - try to remember if it was a workplace or personal pension
  • Call the Pension Tracing Service which can help to track down your lost pension on 0845 600 2537.

Where can people find out more information about planning for retirement?
Age UK offers free, friendly, and impartial advice to people in later life, their friends, family and carers.

Visit the Age UK website at or call Age UK Advice free on 0800 169 6565 to find out more about retirement planning.

In addition, the Age UK Annuity Service†, provided by Just Retirement Solutions Limited, enables people to shop around and compare annuity rates from leading providers; for more information call 03332 209 471 or visit


For further information, case studies and spokespeople, please contact Emma Russell (tel: 0207 009 3145) or Laura Gordon (tel: 0207 009 3159) at 3 Monkeys Communications or email


Notes to editors


*A total of 2,312 UK adults were surveyed via an online poll.  The survey was carried out by Vision Critical in March 2013.

1 Age UK research shows the average person over 65 has worked for 5.6 employers, while those aged 35 – 44 have already worked for 5.5 organisations

2 Age UK research shows 37% of 18 – 44 year olds say they have lost track of their pension schemes, compared to 27% of 45 – 54s 15% of 55 – 64s and 9% of 65+

Age UK:
For media enquiries relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please contact the appropriate national office: Age Scotland on 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru on 029 2043 1562 and Age NI on 028 9024 5729.
About Age UK:

Age UK, the force dedicated to improving later life provides free information, advice and support to over 6 million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and wellbeing, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle. We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI (together the Age UK Family), our local Age UK partners in England and local Age Concerns. We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group (“we”).  Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity’s trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

† The Age UK Annuity Service is provided by Premier Retirement Services, a division of JLT Benefit Solutions Limited. Age UK Enterprises Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority to introduce potential annuity customers.


For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 169 2081