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If you’ve ever had a job where you paid into a retirement scheme of some sort, then left that job, there may be some money waiting for you.

The deal is that if  you leave a job that has a regulation 28 retirement scheme you could either cash out or transfer that money into a new scheme. Cashing it out is always a horrible idea as you get hit with a huge tax bill, though this is likely to change next year when the National Treasury introduces the two-pot system. That’s for another column. But even if the two-pot system is introduced, transferring it is always better.

However, sometimes you leave the job, but your money stays behind. The good news is that it is still your money, and this money never gets prescribed, so it doesn’t matter when you left — it is your money and it is still waiting for you.

At last count there was more than R40bn of unclaimed pension funds in SA belonging to a couple of million people, with more than R20bn already paid out to about half a million South Africans.

Checking if the money is yours is easy enough. Go to the FSCAmymoney.co.za website and scroll right down to the bottom of the page where, on the left, you’ll see a link for “Unclaimed Benefits”. Clicking on that takes you to a web page from the 1980s that asks for your information. You should get an immediate response.

Another route is to SMS your ID number to 30913 and if there is a match, you’ll get a reply with details on how to follow up.

The website is easier as you get all the information in one go and you can start tracking down any money owed to you.

The first port of call, assuming you do have unclaimed benefits, is to contact the provider listed on the website.

They will require all sorts of documentation from you and then you can transfer the monies into a new Reg28 product such as a preservation fund. Again, you could cash it out, but the tax is at least 18%. However, the first R25,000 drawn over a lifetime is tax-free. So you could take that and transfer the rest.

The transfer process is simple once you’ve selected the fund you want to transfer to. It will have to be a Reg28 fund and it needs to be transferred, not paid to you and then paid into the fund.

When seeking a new home for your money, performance is important but fees are way more important.  Just a few percent more charged every year will have a marked impact on your eventual pile of money in retirement.

If you’re over the retirement age of 55, you can cash out but there are limitations. If  you’ve already cashed out of a Reg28 fund the total amount of all funds is added up to determine how much cash you can take and what tax you’ll pay.

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