More than R42 billion in retirement money remains unclaimed. This, according to the Financial Services Board (FSB), accounts for 1.8% of all retirement money.
Over the past few years, administrators of retirement funds and the FSB have tried to trace individuals and family members who are owed retirement benefits. In the past five years, R18 billion was paid to 680 000 members, with an average of R26 787 per member.
However, it appears that the easy work has been done and it is becoming more challenging to trace beneficiaries due to a lack of documentation. The FSB told City Press that, in cases where members or their beneficiaries have documentation such as pay slips or member statements, these claims had usually already been paid. Tracing agents hired by the fund administrators have managed to find the members, or the members have already approached the retirement fund or FSB due to the high level of awareness about unclaimed benefits. Nevertheless, a problem remains in rural areas, where the lack of formal addresses has made it difficult to find members.
The challenge arises for members or beneficiaries where documentation is not available, or where it is difficult to identify the member.
This is especially true for migrant workers, who make up a large percentage of the workforce. If they were employed either as illegal immigrants, or did not provide their actual names and ID numbers, the fund would not have their correct details, making it difficult to trace them or their beneficiaries. This also makes it difficult for beneficiaries to prove their claim.
The FSB raised a concern that this practice of not having sufficient member details continues in the mines, motor, metal and engineering industries.
Apart from poor record keeping by fund administrators, the FSB says members are not providing the fund with updated contact details about themselves and their beneficiaries. There is a trend for members not to inform their dependants that, if they die in service, there may be benefits payable, or to inform the dependants which institution to contact.
If you believe you are entitled to an unclaimed benefit, before you get too excited, be aware that more than 1 million members (26.46%) have an unclaimed benefit of less than R250. In these cases, the member most likely already claimed their funds, but some interest or a late payment accrued to their account after the withdrawal.
How to investigate a claim
Do not pay someone to trace the money for you as this is a free service the FSB offers. The FSB says “various unscrupulous operators persuade members of the public to pay them an amount [for example, R1 200] to trace their money. These are often empty promises, and there is absolutely no guarantee that the person paying that amount is due any money.”
Your first query should be with the retirement fund or the human resources department at your former employer. You should only contact the FSB if you do not know to which fund you or your family member belonged.
The FSB has launched a search engine on its website for members of the public to ascertain if they have unclaimed benefits due to them. This facility can be accessed either through the FSB website or by sending an email or fax. An SMS line will be launched by the end of this month.
Members can still send a letter, contact the toll-free call centre or visit the FSB office to get help. Should any possible benefits be identified during the enquiry, you will be provided with the relevant contact details of the fund or administrator to lodge a formal enquiry.
Email enquiry with an ID number to: Pensions.UBmemberID@FSB.co.za
Email enquiry for general queries to: Pensions.UBQuery@FSB.co.za
Toll-free numbers: 080 011 0443 or 080 020 2087
Fax number: 086 578 1183