How far would you go to find the lost money?
James Howells from South Wales is ready to spend £11million digging a burial site to find his missing fortune. The computer engineer threw away a hard drive ten years ago containing 8,000 Bitcoins. The treasure is now worth around £150m, so it’s understandable that he’s willing to spend millions to find the key to his cyber treasure.
The good news for the rest of us is that finding lost assets – forgotten pensions, old bank accounts and investments – is much easier than digging through a decade-old dump. Although you didn’t lose £150 million, chances are you forgot a few thousand pounds.
Hidden treasure: Around £50billion lies in forgotten UK accounts
An estimated £50 billion is in forgotten accounts in the UK. The majority – around £37billion – is locked away in pensions. The rest is split between investments, savings, bank accounts, insurance policies and premium bonds.
“With the cost of living crisis, it’s more important than ever to get that dormant, lost and unclaimed money back into the hands of the consumer,” says Duncan Stevens, Managing Director of Gretel, a new website designed to help you. . find your money.
Rediscovering lost assets is a simple process, but you must act quickly if you want to use the simpler approach as the Unclaimed Asset Registry will close later this month. Credit reference company Experian, which has operated it for 20 years, says it is no longer a key part of its business.
The shutdown is a blow to people looking for a unique way to find assets. In particular, it hits hard on executors who often have to struggle to find all the accounts and assets of a deceased person in order to pass them on to beneficiaries. For £25 you can use the register to browse 4.5 million records from around 80 financial providers.
However, the registry has limitations. It only searches for companies related to Experian, so it’s not an exhaustive hunt. If you want to be sure that you haven’t lost any assets, you need to do some legwork. Luckily, you don’t have to pay anything to search for forgotten accounts.
Here’s how to find all your different assets without spending a penny.
Find income for retirement
Your most likely lost asset is a pension. On average, the value of an unclaimed pension fund is around £23,000.
Helen Morrissey, senior analyst at wealth manager Hargreaves Lansdown, says it’s no surprise that repos are often misplaced. She says: ‘People are likely to change jobs several times during their career and have a pension with every employer they have worked for.’
She adds: “Over time, it is easy to lose track of these pensions. Someone can move and forget to update their contact information. This means they could risk losing valuable retirement income which could amount to thousands of pounds.
Finding a lost pension is simple. The government provides a free pension finder service at gov.uk/findpension-contact-details.
This uses your work history or the name of your original pension provider to give you up-to-date contact details for the companies that now oversee them. You then need to contact the companies to find out if they have a pension in your name.
Morrissey says: “Make sure you update your contact details with your various pensions each time you move, it will help you stay on top of things. Having a complete picture of your retirement wealth means you can plan ahead with more confidence and make more informed retirement decisions.
Find old savings and investment accounts
To find forgotten savings, you can use the My Lost Account service. Run by UK Finance, the Building Societies Association and NS&I, this service searches most banks and building societies to check if they have accounts in your name. All you need to do is provide your name – and all previous names – and all previous home addresses.
If the search reveals any forgotten premium bonds, head to the NS&I website to check for any unclaimed prizes. There is around £74m of unclaimed premium bond prizes. You could have between £25 and £100,000 waiting for you.
If you are looking for lost investments, you can use the Investment Association’s Unclaimed Assets portal, while the Association of Investment Companies can help you find lost money held in investment trusts. Also, if you think you own stock in a sole proprietorship, contact the company directly.
Finding an old life insurance policy is more difficult. You cannot type your details anywhere to see if there is a policy in your name. Instead, one option is the Policy Detective website which has the latest contact details for the company you believe your policy is in force with. Then you should contact the company directly to see if your policy is still in effect.
With the Unclaimed Assets Registry closed, consider mining your full name and address history in Gretel, a free service that aims to replicate what the Registry was doing. It will search its database for matches.
This is a new platform and keeps adding financial providers, so even if you don’t find anything the first time, check back in the future when new accounts are added.
DON’T FORGET YOUR CHILDREN’S ACCOUNTS
While you’re on the hunt for your own lost financial assets, don’t forget the money your children may be entitled to. More than five million children’s trust funds have been overlooked, each containing an average of £1,500.
These funds were part of a government program designed to encourage savings and were available from September 2002 to January 2, 2011. Accounts could be opened by parents or automatically by Revenue & Customs. The government then deposited between £50 and £1,000 into the account depending on when the child was born and what their parents were earning at the time.
The money was not accessible until the child turned 18, with the first accounts maturing in 2020. As an account may have been set up for your child without your knowledge, it does not It’s no surprise that so many of these accounts have gone unclaimed.
In fact, government data shows that 85% of them received no deposits in the tax year ending April 5, 2020, suggesting they were overlooked.
Paul Bridgwater, chief investment officer at children’s trust fund provider OneFamily, says: “If you don’t know where your child’s trust funds are held, don’t worry, your money is still there.”
Even if your child’s fund has already expired, you can still claim it. The supplier will hold the money until someone shows up to claim it.
If you know where your child’s funds were held, you can contact the provider directly. Alternatively, complete an online form at gov.uk/child-trust-funds and it will tell you which company your child’s funds are held with. Also, while you’re looking for your child’s assets, don’t forget to search for savings accounts in their name through My Lost Account.
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