South Africa is sitting with billions in unclaimed retirement benefits – here’s how to check if you qualify

Millions of South Africans may not be aware of money owed to them as a result of retirement savings they have not claimed.

This is money that they saved through contributions to their retirement funds during their working years, says retirement fund Liberty.

“Retirement fund administrators are currently hard at work trying to trace these former members of retirement funds or their beneficiaries to ensure they receive the money due to them,” the group said.

It said that for more than a decade, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) and retirement fund administrators have tried to solve the issue of unclaimed benefits.

An unclaimed benefit is any benefit that was due to a member from a retirement fund in terms of the rules of the fund, that is not claimed by the member or beneficiary within a period of 24-month from the date the benefit became legally due and payable to a member.

Unclaimed benefits include the following:

  • Withdrawal benefit – as a result of the termination of employment, retrenchment, or resignation;
  • Death benefit – where the beneficiary was identified but does not claim their benefit;
  • Surplus benefit – a benefit that became payable as a result of a distribution of surplus in the fund to active and former members of the fund;
  • Retirement benefit – as a result of retirement from the fund.

The retirement fund industry has estimated that at least 4.8 million people in South Africa have not claimed money owed to them, which collectively amounts to at least R42 billion.

Significant strides have, however, been made by the regulator, Liberty said.

It introduced a search engine where the public can check if they have any unclaimed benefits due.

Since the implementation of the unclaimed benefits search engine, approximately R1.2 billion in asset value has been paid to over 14,000 members after valid claims were submitted to the relevant funds, said unclaimed benefits project lead at Liberty, Kabelo van der Merwe.

Who qualifies for unclaimed benefits?

Employees of companies who contributed as members of retirement funds during their employment and did not claim or receive their benefit upon terminating employment, qualify for unclaimed benefits.

This also applies to beneficiaries of former members who have not claimed or received their money for various reasons.

“A sizeable portion of Liberty’s former fund members live in remote rural areas, so finding them can be difficult,” said van der Merwe.

“Many others were registered with their respective pension funds using incorrect or incomplete details, such as a date of birth instead of the full ID number or passport number, making them even harder to find.”

Liberty said that while the agents on the tracing team are managing to track down these people, there are ways that the public can help to speed up the process.

“We are asking the public to take a few minutes to check if they, or their relatives, have benefits owed to them, so that we can start the process of paying them,” said van der Merwe.

How do I check if I have an unclaimed benefit?

There are various ways to find out if you have an unclaimed benefit due:

  1. Visit the FSCA website, which has a built-in search engine to check if you are owed any benefits.
  2. Visit the Liberty website and add your or your relative’s details for a quick and easy check.
  3. You can call the Liberty contact centre by dialling 011 558 2999 or visit any of our Liberty offices or satellite branches located nationwide.

Read: Government taking steps towards basic income grant for South Africa: minister

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South Africa is sitting with billions in unclaimed retirement benefits – here’s how to check if you qualify