Does part of the £50bn lying forgotten in dormant accounts belong to you?

Around £50bn of our money is just sitting in dormant bank, savings and pension accounts. Make sure none of it's yours, says Ruth Jackson Kirby.

Once you’ve tucked money away into a savings account or a pension, you would naturally assume that it is yours forever. But if you forget about your accounts, the government can borrow the money. There is £50bn in lost accounts, according to asset-tracing firm Gretel. “Almost £40bn of this sum is in lost pensions… and millions more [pensions] are expected to become dormant over the years as people move from job to job and are automatically enrolled in multiple schemes,” says Harry Brennan in The Sunday Telegraph.

A savings or pension account is classed as dormant when it hasn’t been touched for 15 years. At that stage, if the bank or pension firm can’t reunite the balance with the rightful owner it can be transferred into the UK Dormant Assets Scheme. The government now plans to use that money to fund charities. You can get your money back, but only £93m has been reclaimed since the fund was established in 2008 – “7% of the £1.35bn collected over the same period and lower than the £147m transferred in 2019 alone”, notes Mary McDougall in Investors’ Chronicle.

Where to start looking 

There are around 1.6 million dormant pensions in the UK, according to the Pensions Policy Institute which valued them at £20bn in 2018 – an average of £12,500 each – and this figure would have jumped in the past two years. That could make a real difference to your eventual retirement income, so track down and claim your lost assets before the government does. If you have any paperwork then use the information it provides to get in touch with the bank, building society or pension provider who holds your account. Try to give them as much detail as possible. At the very least you should provide your name, address and National Insurance number. On top of that, give old addresses, previous names and, if possible, plan or account numbers.

Your previous employer can help reunite you with a workplace pension if you can’t remember who administered the plan. Get in touch and include dates of when you worked for them, or better still when you were enrolled in the pension scheme, and they can tell you which provider was in charge at that time. Even with no information you can do a free search. The Pension Tracing Service can check if you are registered with any schemes and give you their contact details. 

For forgotten bank accounts you can use My Lost Account (mylostaccount.org.uk) to search for accounts held with members of the British Bankers’ Association, the Building Societies Association and National Savings & Investments. Check the interest rate on rediscovered savings accounts. It is likely to be abysmal, so move the money to a more rewarding account. Then ensure you keep your bank and pension provider updated with your current contact details.

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