First, let’s first, spare a thought for those whose livelihoods are linked to pension dashboards
The DWP’s announcement last week that the pensions dashboards’ delivery will be delayed without definite timescale , will have implications for many people whose livelihood is bound up with the project.
My immediate thoughts go out to those working at the Pension Dashboards project and particularly to Chris Curry who must be feeling deflated at this time. Chris only works as Principal part time but he has become the public face of dashboard delivery and he must be feeling he is carrying a poisoned chalice. Chin up Chris, you are known for what you are, an honest and dedicated upholder of best practice.
Around the periphery of the PDP are a number of independent consultants who have been helping. They include Richard Smith, who is so dedicated to the cause that he has given up his summer holiday to travel by train to meet all the European dashboard teams to understand where they have been going right. You can read about this forthcoming adventure on Richard’s blog which is the wiki for dashboards.
Richard has yet to comment on last week’s announcement but someone who has is another expert – Ian Mcintyre. Ian – who blogs at Laverockfc.com , has produced the most plausible explanation I have read for why the delay has occurred. You can read it here.
For people like Ian and Richard whose careers are linked to the success of the dashboard, these incessant delays in delivery are painful, you can read the pain either in their absence of comment or in what they right.
But there is wider pain, from all those who want people to find their pensions from Martin Lewis to the millions of people who watch his show. It’s the pain of not knowing where your pension money is, of not being able to marshal pots together and the pain of feeling let down by a pension system that seems to work for others but not for the people who pay the money in.
They have a right to feel let down as – by waiting for the dashboard, they may have neglected to put their affairs in order.
So what can we do in the meantime? Here’s what!
Creating your own dashboard.
For a quarter of a century Government has promised us single view statements that allow us to see our private and state pension rights in one place. In 1999 it ran a pilot of the Pension Forecast, in 2016 it announced that a digital dashboard would be with us by 2019 and since then it has made varying promises including a promise last week that it would get there eventually.
But many people cannot afford to wait. They need to work out what to do now.
The most straightforward way to put your affairs in order is to get yourself a pensions CV. A CV tells you and others the jobs you have done and a pensions CV tells you the pensions you have from the jobs you have done.
Many of us have taken out pension policies independently of work, what the FCA calls a “non-workplace pension”, this could have been anything from a simple retirement savings plan to a sophisticated Self Invested Personal Pension. Your pension CV should have a list of any such plans you have taken out.
The most obscure pension you have ever taken out, may have been a contracting out personal pension, which you would have been advised to take out just to get national insurance rebates. I suspect that much of the £26bn that the Pension Policy Institute reckon is currently “lost” is in these personal pensions and the reason people forget about them is that they never paid anything into them. They just kept collecting money from the DSS/DWP without your bank account or pay-packet being troubled.
You need to rummage in the pension drawer to find any references to an insurance company you have a pension policy with and then you need to track down that policy. The insurance company may have been taken over by someone else but you can see who owns who by going to
which lists 142 organisations who may have had your money (and how to contact whoever owns them now).
Creating a pension CV is not a flawless way to getting a dashboard, but once you’ve got it together , you can fill in gaps – later. The key thing is to get started.
Finding your lost pensions
There are three reasons people generally lose touch with their pensions.
The first is that they move house and don’t do a mail redirect to the next one. This means that all the pension statements end up on someone else’s doormats. I have recently thought of the risk that this brings of people trying to claim your pension, surprisingly little theft of other people’s pension pots goes on , something that should inform on the thinking of pension dashboard people who are obsessed with data security.
The second is that you move job, meaning that your old workplace pension is “frozen” and has no more money paid into it (though it does still growing). Moving job may also mean that you have to stop paying into AVCs or FSAVCs. Taking out a new job may have meant that you had to stop paying into a personal pension or its predecessor. For a long time you couldn’t be a member of both a personal and a company pension at the same time.
The third is that you just gave up saving into a plan you started but you didn’t finish. Many people had to do this for reasons above but many more simply found paying into a pension got in the way of doing other things, like meeting debt payments or funding a special project.
Whether you lost touch with your pension when you moved house, job or simply gave up on it, the money in the pot is likely to be still there and is part of the £26bn that’s currently lost.
The DWP has a pension finder service to put you in touch with your employer’s pension . You can use this service which is currently managed by Money Helper via this link.
Going private- to trace pensions.
All of the above is free and most people can create their Pension CV, find their lost pensions and create their own dashboard themselves. It would be good to have this done by a digital finder which did it for us , but that’ll have to wait.
You can choose to put your affairs in the hands of a private organisation and ask them to find your pensions for you. There are a number of digital pension tracing services out there
Two I’ve looked at that are well worth exploring are
Zippen went through the FCA’s sandbox with us and is run by some great people
Gretel is another interesting service; though not authorised by the FCA is worth a look.
Beware lead generators
Many such as frozenpension.com are simply “trading styles” of lead generators who feed advisers but are not regulated themselves.
I have withdrawn AgeWage.com from finding lost pensions as I feel this area of the market is best served by you doing it yourself rather than relying on a tracing agency. However, I know that many master trusts and SIPPs will give you help in finding your pensions for free, so long as you accept that you will be directed towards them to consolidate your pensions. The general rule of thumb here is “go with who you know“.
Going private to combine your pensions
I am a lot more relaxed about pension consolidators such as Pension Bee and AJ Bell than many others. They offer help with their own product but can’t give you an independent view of the market , in the way an IFA can.
If you have an IFA, you can ask him to create you a pension dashboard and he/she’ll be happy to help – though you need to understand the terms on which this work will be done.
If you want to really know what’s going on with your pension , there is no substitute for finding independent advice. Many people will meet an IFA or a restricted adviser (say with SJP) for the first time , when they try to make sense of all their different pension pots.
If you have a reasonable amount of wealth or are prepare to pay a negotiated fee, you can get such advice and you are protected by the FCA and ultimately FSCS for poor advice, for which you will get the promise of compensation.
Try it for yourself if you can’t afford private fees.
But that’s two or three steps down the line. For most people, creating a pension cv, finding lost pensions and creating your own pension dashboard whether on a spreadsheet or on a piece of paper is the first step you can take.
There is likely to be a minimum of two years before the pension dashboard is available to the consumer and maybe another two years before it is fully up to speed. Most of us can’t afford to wait and the message for now is that you have to DIY your dashboard.
Martin Lewis runs a super blog on this theme – which will take you further down the DIY line and you can find it here.
Follow the steps outlined in this blog and you won’t go far wrong. Fill in the gaps with Martin and Steve Lodge and you could end up with this – which may not be perfect, but is probably what you need right now.
This is fine as far as it goes, but it implicitly assumes that people have only built up pensions in the UK and continue to live in the UK. That is far from true for many people. Tracking down state and other pension entitlements across multiple countries is much more of a challenge.
I doubt we will ever see a truly global pension dashboard!