Q. My wife worked at a Pantry Pride supermarkets for a few years while in high school and after. She recalls contributing to a pension and wondered if/how to find out if she can check if she can claim it after all these years.
— Hopeful

A. Pensions can be a very valuable part of your cash flow in retirement.

We can understand why you and your wife want to track this one down.

For most people, the first step in finding information about pension benefits at a former job would be to contact the human resources department at the former employer, said Jodi Cirignano, a certified financial planner with Lassus Wherley in New Providence.

But your case is not as clear cut because Pantry Pride went through several ownership changes and has been out of business for almost three decades, Cirignano said.

The next best step would be to contact the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), she said.

“The PBGC is an agency of the U.S. government that protects employees participating in private-sector defined benefit plans,” she said. “In the event that an employer-sponsored plan becomes insolvent, the PBGC guarantees a basic level of pension benefits to participants.”

You may need to do some research first to find out who the last owner of the company was after the mergers and ownership changes happened, said Brian Power, a certified financial planner with Gateway Advisory, LLC in Westfield.

Then you can go to the PBGC website and search its database of unclaimed pensions, he said. You can do that here.

Email your questions to ask@njmoneyhelp.com.

Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for The Star-Ledger and she’s the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Click here to sign up for the NJMoneyHelp.com weekly e-newsletter. Like NJMoneyHelp.com on Facebook and follow it on Twitter

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