You changed jobs several times during a long career, perhaps a firm you worked for went out of business, and you are getting close to retirement without being sure of getting the pension payments you have earned.
There are millions of dollars in unclaimed pension accounts, either with corporate pension plans or at the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., a federal agency that protects pensions for millions of workers.
The PBGC says its average unclaimed benefit is $6,550.
The federal Administration on Aging (AoA) provides funding to the Pension Rights Center, which has established pension counseling programs in 29 states. These “Pension Counseling and Information Projects provide free, personalized pension counseling and assistance to individuals throughout their regional service area, regardless of age or income,” says the AoA. “Project counselors deal with the most complex issues across the full spectrum of private and government-sponsored pension and retirement savings plans.”
“The laws that govern them make it extremely difficult for individuals to navigate the system without assistance, and problems are not uncommon,” according to the AoA. “Benefits can be miscalculated, resulting in over- or under-payments and, in the worst of cases, denied altogether. The Pension Counseling and Information Projects provide much-needed assistance to thousands of individuals each year, helping them to understand and exercise their retirement income rights.”
Find your state and region’s pension counseling center:
Another way to search for a pension is to call your former employer’s human resources or personneldepartment and find out how to contact the pension administrator to find out the value of your pension and how to claim it.
The pension administrator may ask for proof you worked for the company. Your old tax returns are proof that you worked for a particular firm. If you didn’t keep the records, you can get copies of your earnings information from the Social Security Administration. Call 800 772-1213, and request the Form SSA-7050, Request for Social Security Earnings Information. Or you can download it here:
If the company went out of business or merged with another firm, you can search through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. Call 800 400-7242 or use the pension search directory. You can look for current or failed pension plans protected by the PBGC.
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