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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.