Thousands of Old Pensions Are Going Unclaimed. How to Find Out If One of Them Is Yours
Brian J. O'Connor
Once upon a time, retirement in America was referred to as ''a three-legged stool. '' The first leg was your expected Social Security benefits, the second leg was your own personal savings and the third was something old-timers called a pension.
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A pension - also called a '' defined benefit plan '' - is a payment from a former employer that was (and sometimes still is) offered as a benefit with no contribution from you. The payment amount is based on years of service with that company. Once you've worked long enough to become ''vested,'' your benefit is guaranteed at a certain age and doesn't end until you die. In many cases, a surviving spouse can receive a reduced benefit.
In 1975, there were 103,346 pension plans in the United States, a number that started to decline in the early 1990s and dwindled to just 46,577 plans by 2020. In many cases, the companies that promised those pensions have been sold, merged or gone out of business. However, many workers who are still entitled to receive those benefits lack any details about their pensions, including how to go about collecting them.
Resources For Locating an Unclaimed Pension
If you're looking for a missing pension - or want to find out if you qualify to
receive one, try these resources:
Previous employers. Keep your contact information updated with the benefits administrator at the companies where you worked or their successors.
Legal assistance. The Pension Rights Center is an information resource that also runs Pension Counseling and Information Programs in 31 states. These programs provide free legal assistance for help with pensions, profit-sharing and retirement savings plans.
In states without counseling and information programs, the Pension Rights Center's Pension Help America offers assistance in finding counseling projects, government agencies and legal service providers.
Meanwhile, the National Pension Lawyer's Network, an affiliate of the Pension Rights Center, is a free service that can refer you to lawyers who take pension cases, sometimes pro bono.
Employee Benefits Security Administration. The EBSA is part of the U.S. Department of Labor and has free counselors who can answer pension questions. The E-Fast feature on the agency's website can find pension plan annual reports going back to 2010, which explain how to file a pension claim.
By The Associated Press, Copyright 2023
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