What a derelict German shipwreck can teach you about the benefits of finding valuable lost pensions

Pension pots are likely to provide the backbone of your retirement plans. They could be key in making the difference between falling short and reaching your long-term goals, as well as unlocking your desired lifestyle.

Their benefits shouldn’t be underestimated, and their value will likely only grow with time.

A recent US venture sought to recover an unlikely treasure that had been lying dormant in the Pacific Ocean for decades — 230,000 gallons of oil contained in the tanks of a sunken American-claimed former Nazi cruiser.

Read on to discover what you can learn from this shipwreck’s black gold about the benefits of finding your own treasure — long lost pensions.

A former German Navy vessel sank with 230,000 gallons of oil in its tanks and remained untouched for decades

In 1946, the American armed forces presided over Operation Crossroads, a series of atomic bomb tests around the Pacific Ocean’s Bikini Atoll. As part of these experiments, the Americans sought to understand the effects of atomic blasts on the survivability of warships by setting off two atomic bombs within the vicinity of a fleet of unmanned vessels.

One of these ships, the Prinz Eugen, was a former German heavy cruiser that had been claimed by the Americans after victory in the second world war.

After being loaded with cargo and filled with oil, it was subjected to two atomic bomb tests, the second of which damaged the vessel beyond repair and caused it to sink to the bottom of the ocean.

It would remain there largely untouched for over 70 years, until a US oil salvage project headed up by Stephanie Bocek of the US Navy Salvage and Diving Department (SUPSALV) decided to attempt to recover the almost 230,000 gallons of oil that lay dormant across the ship’s 173 tanks.

After two years of planning and research, the team set about a complex mission of dragging the sunken vessel out to deeper waters so that it could be safely hooked up to an oil tanker for extraction. They then pierced each of the vessel’s tanks, draining all the retrievable oil, before sealing them back up to avoid any environmental contamination.

The oil recovery produced several benefits such as:

  • Removing a potential environmental disaster from the region as the ship’s structure was deteriorating
  • Gaining valuable experience for future oil salvage operations that could prevent major incidents like the Deepwater Horizon and Exxon Valdez oil spills
  • The financial benefit of recovering a significant quantity of oil.

The Prinz Eugen extraction smashed the record for the amount of oil retrieved from a sunken wreck and has posed questions about what other potential treasures could be resting in known shipwrecks safely tucked away at the bottom of the ocean.

The Department for Work and Pensions predicts that there could be 50 million dormant and lost UK pensions by 2050

Future retirees facing the possibility of a retirement shortfall might have a treasure of their own lying safely stored away for years or even decades — a lost pension pot.

According to the Telegraph, figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) forecasts that there could be up to 50 million lost and dormant UK pension pots by 2050.

This comes as a report in PensionsAge this year found that 1.6 million UK savers have a combined £37 billion in lost or dormant pots, which works out as an average of £23,215 for each individual.

The figure could be higher for individuals who’ve made substantial pension contributions in the past and may unearth significant lost funds that could benefit their long-term retirement plans.

A survey reported by MoneyAge shows that 28% of Britons have saved funds in potentially three or more pension pots across their careers. Life is full of distractions, and it can be easy to forget to update a previous workplace pension provider of your new details, especially when you’re managing multiple pots.

Over the course of years and decades, there is a decent possibility that you may have unknowingly misplaced a pot at some point, which could have seen significant growth over the years its lay dormant – as any returns over the years are reinvested, increasing the overall value of the pot.

The Prinz Eugen lay at the bottom of the Pacific for seven decades, largely unthought of, until someone realised the potential value of what resided beneath the waves and the benefits to recovering it over the long term.

Tracking lost pensions is a simple and free process with the potential for considerable gains

Research from Canada Life found that 1 in 6 Britons have tried to locate lost pensions. Among those that were successful, they found on average at least £6,351 — and 8% of discoveries consisted of pots in excess of £20,000.

Unlike a Navy salvage operation, tracing a lost pension is relatively straight-forward.

After you’ve established where you think you may have misplaced a pension pot, you should reach out to former employers and known pension providers to see if they can provide assistance.

If that doesn’t return any results, you can use the government’s free to use Pension Tracing Service to discover if you have any untapped pots out there.

It is important to source as much information as possible before starting the process. This might include:

  • The name of any previous pension provider or employer
  • Key employer details such as their relevant industry, business address, and trading name
  • Dates you think you belonged to their pension scheme
  • Your personal information including National Insurance number.

You might not find a tanker full of black gold on your search, but if you do stumble upon a lost pot or two, it could have significant benefits to your long-term goals.

Get in touch

If you have concerns about your retirement plans and would like to know more about how tracing lost pensions, consolidating pots, or increasing your contributions could help, you should contact us by email at helpme@aspirellp.co.uk or call 0117 9303510.

Please note

This article is no substitute for financial advice and should not be treated as such. To determine the best course of action for your individual circumstances, please contact us.

A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits.

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