According to a recent article in the AARP Magazine, there are an estimated 36,000 Americans who are owed money from pension programs. The government is waiting for the rightful owners to claim more than $197 million in benefits.

To see if you are entitled to benefits, go to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s website. Once there, you can search by your name, state or the name of your former employer.

Your Private Pension May Be Protected

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation is a federal agency that protects private pensions, much like the FDIC protects bank deposits. The PBGC insures more than 29,000 pension plans in the event that the employer files for bankruptcy or terminates the plan. The PBGC handles “defined benefit” pension plans in privately owned companies. “Defined benefit” pension plans are traditional pension plans which promise to pay a specific monthly amount to participants when they retire. (Profit-sharing or 401(k) plans are not considered defined benefit plans and are not protected by the PBGC.)

PBGC Can Help in Cases of Corporate Bankruptcy

If one of your former employers went bankrupt or ended its pension plan, please check with PBGC to see if you may still be entitled to pension benefits. If you had already started to receive benefits, PBGC will continue to pay your monthly benefits while it reviews your case. If you have not yet started to receive pension benefits, you should plan to apply with PBGC about 4 months before you would be eligible for your first pension check.

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