updated 4/4/2007 12:48:59 PM ET 2007-04-04T16:48:59

Having trouble making ends meet living on your retirement nest egg? You might be owed some pension money.

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A total of $133 million in retirement benefits haven’t been claimed, the federal agency that insures private pension plans reported Tuesday.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. said 32,000 people are owed money. Individual benefits range from $1 up to $611,028. The average unclaimed benefit is about $4,950.

“Although the vast majority of workers receive their full pension, sometimes people lose track of benefits earned with former employers,” said Vince Snowbarger, the agency’s interim director.

The agency urged people who may have lost track of a pension earned during their career and think they may be owed retirement benefits to conduct a search using PBGC’s online directory at www.pbgc.gov. People can search by their last name, company name or state where the company was headquartered, the PBGC said.

Heavy traffic to the site brought on by news reports of the unclaimed benefits caused delays for some people trying to reach the site. A PBGC spokesman said that the agency was working to correct the problem and recommended that vistors to the site who experienced delays try again later. There is no time limit on claiming benefits, according to the spokesman.

The states with the most missing pension participants and unclaimed pension money are:

The PBGC insures pensions for 44 million workers and retirees.

It was created in 1974 as a government insurance program for traditional, defined benefit pension plans. Those plans give retirees a fixed monthly amount based on salary and years of employment. Companies that sponsor these traditional pension plans pay insurance premiums to the agency. If a company cannot support its pension obligations, the agency takes over the plan and pays promised benefits up to certain limits.

To avoid missing out on your pension benefit, the PBGC advises workers to tell their employers when they move or change names. They also should hold on to any pension information they receive from their employer.

The agency’s search tool identifies some 6,600 companies, many in the airline, steel, transportation, machinery, retail and financial services industries that closed pension plans in which some former workers could not be found, the agency said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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