Almost one quarter of UK adults has lost track of at least one of their pension schemes, according to research published today by Age UK.
In total, 23% of respondents to the charity's survey on people's attitudes to and plans for retirements said they had no idea what had happened to at least one of their workplace pension pots. The problem was particularly prevalent among younger savers, with 37% of 18-44 year olds having lost track of at least one scheme, compared to 27% of 45-54 year olds, 15% of 55-64 year olds and just 9% of over-65s.
Age UK linked the prevalence in missing pension pots among younger workers to the increasing likelihood of people moving between several jobs over their working life. While the average person over 65 years old has worked for 5.6 employers in total, 23% of people aged 25-34 have already worked for a similar number.
Lucy Harmer, head of services at Age UK, said the figures showed the importance of people setting aside time to administer their personal finances and keep details of 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 access,' she said.
'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.'
Nearly half (47%) of the people with a missing pension pot said it was 'lost in the mists of time', while one in five (20%) said they had lost their pension paperwork.
One in ten (10%) blamed the fact that they had moved jobs too many times to keep track of their pensions.
Harmer noted that, while the government was introducing measures to make it easier to account for the smaller pension pots likely to be created under auto-enrolment, the problem of tracking pots largely related to existing savings.
'This makes it more important than ever that we keep on top of what we have already accumulated,' she said.
Last July, the government decided to implement a 'pot follows member' system to keep track of the estimated 4.7 million additional small pension pots it expects to be created under auto-enrolment. This involves workplace pension savings following workers as they change jobs.
Barnett Waddingham consultant Malcolm McLean said he was not surprised by the results of the survey. Speaking on BBC Radio this morning, he noted: 'Where once upon a time it would have been unusual for a worker to have more than one or possibly two jobs over the whole of their working lives that is now no longer the case. Regular changes of jobs means that individuals frequently accumulate a number of small pension pots which at some point they need to account for in preparation for retirement.
Savers should use the government's Pension Tracing Service to help track down their pot and then consider bringing all their pensions together into a single annuity which would generally give a better income than buying separate annuities with each small pot, he added.