The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) reported this week hat it is holding $133 million in unclaimed pension benefits for 32,000 people owed money from terminated defined benefit pension plans.
"Although the vast majority of workers receive their full pension, sometimes people lost track of benefits earned with former employers," says Vince Snowbarger, interim director of the PBGC. "The Pension Search directory helps workers find retirement money they are entitled to but cannot locate."
Since 1996, PBGC has offered the Pension Search directory (www.pbgc.gov/search) as tool for people who may have lost track of a pension earned during their career. People can search by their last name, company name, or state where the company was based.
For the 32,000 people still missing, individual benefits range from $1 up to $611,028 and average about $4,950. The states with the most missing pension participants and money to be claimed are: New York (6,885/$37.49 million), California (3,081/$7.38 million), New Jersey (2,209/$12.05 million) Texas (1,987/$6.86 million), Pennsylvania (1,944/$9.56 million), Illinois (1,629/$8.75 million), and Florida (1,629/$7.14 million).
Over the past twelve years more than 22,000 people have found $137 million in missing pension benefits through PBGC's Pension Search program, according to the agency. The states with the most found participants and pension money claimed are: New York (4,405/$26.31 million), California (2,621/$8.33 million), Florida (2,058/$15.27 million), Texas (2,047/$11.23 million), New Jersey (1,601/$9.99 million), Pennsylvania (1,594/$6.54 million), and Michigan (1,266/$6.54 million).
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.
Many of the names in the Pension Search directory are workers with pensions whose former employers closed pension plans and distributed benefits. Others are workers or retirees missing from underfunded pension plans taken over by the PBGC because the plans did not have enough money to pay benefits.
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.