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Wanted: 31,313 missing pensioners

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Posted: 5 pm ET

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., or PBGC, says its News Year's resolution is to account for the 31,313 missing people on its books. In all, these pensioners could be owed a grand total of $280 million.

The PBGC insures the pensions of about 40 million workers who have been promised a defined-benefit pension plan from one of more than 26,000 companies.

A PBGC spokesman explains that when the PBGC takes over a pension, it gets a list of names and how much the company says each person is owed. What it often doesn't get is accurate contact information. If all its efforts to contact someone come back "addressee unknown," then the potential claimant is added to the missing persons' list.

The PBGC knows that people go missing for three main reasons:

Death. They died before they had a chance to claim.

Forgetfulness or ill health. Some people just don't remember that they once earned a pension or they are in no shape to track it down.

The employer dropped the ball. The now-defunct employer kept bad records or otherwise failed to provide accurate information even if the former employee asked about his or her pension.

The amount owed individuals ranges from a few cents to nearly $1 million -- a real retirement planning windfall. The states with the most missing pensioners, the number of people owed money and the total amount owed are:

  • New York (6,678/$40.33 million)
  • Illinois (4,344/$85.36 million)
  • California (2,966/$7.64 million)
  • Texas (2,278/$10.68 million)
  • New Jersey (2,114/$11.7 million)
  • Ohio (1,908/$12.82 million)

If you think that you or a family member might be among the missing, the PBGC urges you to go to its website at pbgc.gov and click on "Find an unclaimed pension." You can search by company, last name or state.

If you think you've found your name on the list, send an email to missing@pbgc.gov and be prepared to prove your identity. If you think you found a deceased family member on the list, use the same address to notify the PBGC. In some cases, close family members also can claim. In any case, it will help the PBGC to cross a name off the list and that's good retirement karma.

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92 Comments
Richard Gross
March 25, 2014 at 2:20 pm

I WORKED FOR TENNESSEE LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, OWNED BY TENNECO, INC. IN HOUSTON, TEXAS, OVER 40 YEARS AGO. THEY CONTRIBUTED TO MY RETIREMENT/PENSION FUND FOR 5 YEARS, AND I WAS TOLD THAT I WAS FULLY VESTED, WHEN I LEFT. HOW DO I LOCATE THESE FUNDS?

I HAVE CONTACTED WHAT IS LEFT OF TENNECO INC., IN RACINE WISCONSIN, BUT THEY HAD NO INFORMATION ON WHO WAS HANDLING THOSE DISTRIBUTIONS.

KATHY LAFRENIERE
January 11, 2014 at 12:04 pm

I WORKED FOR DAMES & MOORE BASED IN CALIFORNIA OVER 35 YEARS AGO. THEY TOOK OUT RETIREMENT/PENSON (?) AND WHEN I LEFT SAID I WAS NOT ENTITLED UNTIL I RETIRED. HOW CAN I REACH THEM? I HAVE TRIED BUT HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO GET TO THE RIGHT DEPT.

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