32,000 People Are Owed Pensions in the US: Are YOU One of Them?

A total of $133 million in retirement benefits haven’t been claimed, the federal agency that insures private pension plans reported on April 3rd.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp (www.pbgc.gov). said 32,000 people are owed money. Individual benefits range from $1 up to $611,028. The average unclaimed benefit is about $4,950.

Vince Snowbarger — the agency’s interim director, said in a prepared statement, “…Although the vast majority of workers receive their full pension, sometimes people lose track of benefits earned with former employers. The agency urged people who may have lost track of a pension earned during their career and think they may be owed retirement benefits to conduct a search using PBGC’s online directory:

http://www.pbgc.gov/search.

People can search by their last name, company name or state where the company was headquartered, the PBGC said.

The states with the most missing pension participants and unclaimed pension money are:

-New York: 6,885 people, accounting for $37.49 million in unclaimed benefits.

-California: 3,081 people, $7.38 million

-New Jersey: 2,209 people, $12.05 million

-Texas: 1,987 people, $6.86 million

-Pennsylvania: 1,944 people, $9.56 million

-Illinois: 1,629 people, $8.75 million

-Florida: 1,629 people, $7.14 million.

The PBGC insures pensions for 44 million workers and retirees. According to the PBGC website, over the past twelve years more than 22,000 people have found $137 million in missing pension benefits through PBGC’s Pension Search program. The states with the most found participants and pension money claimed are: New York, California, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

The PBGC encourages those who may be owed money from a defined benefit pension plan that ended to conduct Internet pension searches and not write off the money as lost forever. The online service is free and available 24 hours a day. For those without access to the Internet at home, many local public libraries, community colleges and senior centers make computers available to the public that can be used for searching the Pension Search directory. Searchers can also e-mail [email protected] or [email protected] if they believe they are entitled to a benefit.

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Once the PBGC is contacted by people who find their names in the directory, the agency asks them to provide more details including proof of age and other vital statistics. The identification process generally takes 4-6 weeks. After the PBGC receives a completed application, people currently eligible for a benefit should receive their checks within two months. Those entitled to future benefits will receive their benefits when they reach retirement age.

The Pension Search directory is regularly updated with the names of more missing people. The current list identifies some 6,600 companies, primarily in the airline, steel, transportation, machinery, retail trade, apparel and financial services industries that closed pension plans in which some former workers could not be found.

The PBGC does not endorse firms that offer to find missing pension benefits for a fee because the information is available free from many sources including the Pension Search directory. The PBGC’s booklet “Finding A Lost Pension” also provides tips, suggests potential allies, and details numerous free information sources. It is particularly helpful for those trying to find pensions earned from former employers whose identity may have changed over the years because of changes in company ownership. The booklet is available on the PBGC’s web site (http://www.pbgc.gov/docs/Finding_A_Lost_Pension.pdf) or by writing the PBGC Communications and Public Affairs Department, 1200 K St., NW, Washington, DC 20005-4026.

The PBGC is a federal corporation created under Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. It currently guarantees payment of basic pension benefits earned by 44 million American workers and retirees participating in over 30,000 private-sector defined benefit pension plans. The agency receives no funds from general tax revenues. Operations are financed largely by insurance premiums paid by companies that sponsor pension plans and investment returns.

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