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What happens to my pension when I change jobs?

Changing jobs is common when you’re hoping to develop your career.

But you may be curious about what happens to your pension when you move to a different company.

We reveal what happens if you leave your current employer or change your employment status. 

Before we jump into what happens to your pension when you change jobs, it’s a good idea to understand the various types of workplace pensions.  

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What are the different types of workplace pensions? 

There are two types of workplace pensions: defined contribution and defined benefit, the latter of which is also known as final salary pensions.  

Defined contribution pensions are the most common.

What you receive at retirement is based on how much money you pay into your pension and how well your investments have performed.

These are usually straightforward to transfer to if you want to. 

Defined benefit pensions are less common and tend to be offered to public sector workers or by very large companies. 

The value of your pension is based on the number of years you’ve been contributing and your salary.

These pensions pay out a secure income for life that increases annually in line with inflation, which makes them very valuable.  

But defined benefit pensions can be complicated to transfer, and regulators advise that you seek professional advice beforehand

Some defined benefit pensions allow you to claim your contributions back if you’ve only worked for an employer for a short time.

Schemes offered to NHS staff and teachers usually provide a refund option if you’ve worked for less than two years. 

What are your pension options if you change jobs? 

Changing jobs doesn’t mean losing the pension benefits you’ve built up. 

The pension fund belongs to you.

If you’ve been enrolled in a defined contribution pension, you can either leave the funds where they are and draw on them at retirement or transfer them to another personal or workplace pension if the rules allow this. 

It’s wise to check that you’re not going to lose any decent benefits or incur a penalty before making any transfer, and a financial adviser can help with this.  

Most workplace pensions will allow you to contribute even when you’ve left your employer. 

So, while it’s easy to move your pension, it may be worth keeping your other pensions, as charges may be lower, or the fund performance may be better.  

Above all, don’t lose track of your pension plans.

Make sure you keep updated records and that your wishes are clear if you die.  

Should you consolidate your pension pots?

As you move from job to job during your career, it’s easy to lose track of your pensions. 

That’s why it could make sense to bring them all together in one place. 

Here’s why consolidating your pensions might work for you: 

  • Easier to manage: By consolidating your pensions, you won’t have to waste time tracking them down separately in the future. 

  • Less admin: With all your pots in one place, you only need to contact one provider if your circumstances change. 

  • Easier to review: It’s simpler to see whether you’re on track for achieving the retirement you want by only reviewing one pension and the fund’s performance. 

  • Lower charges: By transferring all your pension pots into your latest plan, you could potentially benefit from lower charges, but it’s worth checking before doing this.  

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How do you find your pensions?

We’ve talked about how important it is to keep track of your pension pots, but what if you’re having problems tracing them all? 

The government has a Pension Tracing Service to help you find a lost pension

This service is free, but you will need the name of an employer or the pension provider to get started.

This might not be a quick and easy process as companies and pension providers can merge or change names over time.  

In a nutshell 

When you change jobs, you have plenty of options regarding your pension. 

You can usually keep contributing to the one you have or transfer your funds to a personal pension plan, or of course, you can join your new employer’s scheme 

You can also consolidate your pensions into the new scheme to simplify things and potentially minimise charges. 

It’s a good idea to know where your pension pots are and to keep clear records.

You should consult a financial adviser if you’re considering consolidating any pensions.

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About the author
Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing, retirement and pensions, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.