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'I panicked': Ontario man fears the worst when pension goes missing

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An Ontario man feared the worst after he was told there was no record of his 20-year pension when he went to collect it.

"I was panicking. There is a fear when someone tells you - you don't exist," said Ihor Weryha of Mississauga.

Weryha worked at a company for 20 years that had a defined benefit pension plan. When he was 45 years old, Weryha switched jobs and told the company's pension division he only wanted to collect his pension when he turned 65.

Last year, he retired. Weryha said he can still recall his frustration as he tried to collect his pension and was told there was no record of it.

"They said, 'We don't have you on our records; we don't have you on our books,'" said Weryha.

After five frustrating months trying to collect it on his own, Weryha reached out to the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA), which works on behalf of pension beneficiaries, and they helped him track down his retirement funds.

"Just getting this resolved was a major relief, to say the least," said Weryha.

When it comes to lost or missing pension benefits, the FSRA estimates that 200,000 Ontarians are owed funds equal to $3 billion. It may be because someone changed jobs, a company closed down, or a person didn't update their contact information.

"It happens when it's a job that you held 30 years ago in your twenties, and you forgot that it had a pension plan," said Andrew Fung, the acting Pension Executive Vice President with FSRA.

Thursday, Feb. 15, is Pension Awareness Day, which the FSRA says is a time to think about planning for the future for when it's time to retire.

Employees are being urged on Pension Awareness Day to find out if your workplace offers a pension plan or if it has a retirement savings plan. Workers should learn about employer matching, decide what they can comfortably save and make a pension plan part of their job search criteria.

Saving for retirement is important now more than ever, the FSRA said.

"Saving for retirement has always been very difficult, especially in trying times like this when inflation is so high," said Fung.

The FSRA said you should also keep track of your pension documents and paperwork – which is how Weryha was able to recover his funds.

"You worked all these years to save it, you want to get it back when it's time to have it," said Weryha. "Pay attention to that pension."

A poll taken for the FSRA found 81 per cent of people are more concerned about paying for day to day expenses than saving for retirement. Twenty per cent said they think they will never be able to retire.

If you think you're owed pension funds or have questions about retirement plans, you can check FSRA's website.

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