Dear About: It’s not unusual for a worker to lose track of a pension benefit. Perhaps you left an employer long ago and forgot that you left behind a pension. Or maybe you worked for a company that changed owners or went belly up many years ago, and you figured the pension went with it.
Today, millions of dollars in benefits are sitting in pension plans across the United States or with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., a federal government agency, waiting to be claimed by their rightful owners. The average unclaimed benefit with the agency is about $6,500.
To help you look for a pension, here are some steps to take and some free resources that can help you search if your previous employer has gone out of business, relocated, changed owners or merged with another firm.
Your old income tax returns and W-2 forms from the years you worked at the company will help you here. If you haven’t saved your old tax returns from these years, you can get a copy of your earnings record from the Social Security Administration, which will show how much you were paid each calendar year by each employer.
Call 800-772-1213, and ask for Form SSA-7050, “Request for Social Security Earnings Information,” or you can download it at ssa.gov/online/ssa-7050.pdf. The SSA charges a $136 for this information.
Some other old forms that can help you prove pension eligibility are summary plan descriptions that you should have received from your employer when you worked there, and any individual benefit statements that you received during your employment.
If you, your company or your pension plan happens to be outside the 30-state area served by the projects, or if you’re trying to locate a federal or military pension, use Pension Help America at pensionhelp.org. This resource can connect you with government agencies and private organizations that provide free information and assistance to help your search.
For more pension searching tips, see the PBGC’s free online publication called “Finding a Lost Pension” at pbgc.gov/documents/ finding-a-lost-pension.pdf.