Category: Pension

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What questions should you be asking before you access your pension?

According to HMRC, record numbers of people have been taking money out of their pensions since the beginning of the year. 348,000 people made a withdrawal between January and March, a 23% increase from 284,000 in the same quarter in 2019. The value of the payments was £2.46bn, the highest amount recorded for that period since pension freedoms began in 2015. 

Given these uncertain times, you too may be considering accessing your pension to increase your disposable income and ease any financial pressures. The rules allow you to take out as much as you want from your pot, once you reach the age of 55. The first 25% withdrawal is tax-free while the remaining 75% is subject to your marginal rate of income tax.  

However, just because the freedoms are there doesn’t mean taking them is the right course of action. Here are some key considerations: 

Are there any other savings you can use before you tap into your pension?    

Accessing your pension is a major step. Make sure you’ve explored all your other options first. Have you accessed any government grants that you may be eligible for first? Have you got any other cash savings that could tide you over?   

Remember that if you have a defined contribution pension, a significant proportion of it will probably have been invested in stocks and shares, which will have taken a hit in recent months. So if you access cash from your pension during the current downfall, that money won’t have the opportunity to regain its value once the stock markets recover.     

How much do you really need? 

The purpose of a pension is to give you enough money to live off throughout your retirement. Whatever you take out now will influence what you have to live off in later life. That’s why it’s a good idea to try and leave as much as you can in your pension so that it has the opportunity to benefit from future market rises.  

Most people take the whole of their 25% tax-free lump sum when they first access their pension. But you can take out money from your pension in stages, in line with what you actually need. This way you have a smaller tax-free lump sum at the outset but further tax-free entitlements throughout your retirement. It’s important to seek advice as to what is best for your personal circumstances.     

How much tax will you pay?

It’s worth being aware that by taking a large amount of your pension in a particular tax year     you could be tipping yourself into a higher tax bracket, meaning you will pay more tax than you would have done if you’d taken smaller amounts over a longer time.  

Another consideration is that HMRC will ask your pension provider to deduct income tax when you take an income from your pension pot for the first time (not counting your tax-free lump sum). They will assume that what you take the first month is what you will take every month, which could again push you into the higher bracket. If you haven’t been taking that every month and are a basic rate taxpayer, you can claim the extra tax back.        

Want to continue to pay into your pension in the future?

You may just be focused on accessing some funds for your current circumstances. It’s important to realise, however, that if what you take now is above the tax-free limit, you could be restricting how much you and your employer will be able to contribute to your pension fund in the future. According to the Money Purchase Annual Allowance, your joint contributions cannot exceed £4,000 a year without incurring penalties.           

If you’re considering accessing your pension, do get in touch with us to discuss the implications.    

Sources
https://www.yourmoney.com/retirement/aged-55-or-over-questions-you-should-ask-before-accessing-your-pension/
https://yourmoney.com/saving-banking/savings-market-awash-with-pension-freedoms-cash/

What is a Self-Invested Personal pension?

Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs) are designed to give you greater control over your retirement savings. With a SIPP you can choose from a wide range of high quality investments, manage them for yourself and consolidate your existing pensions in one place.

A SIPP is different to other pension saving forms and can give you more control over your pension through a provider with a wide range of funds and the flexibility to manage your own investments.

SIPPs are not suitable for everyone. If you don’t want to invest across different asset classes or don’t think you will make use of the investment choices that SIPPs give you then a SIPP might not be right for you. Self-directed investors should regularly review their SIPP portfolio, or seek professional advice from an independent financial adviser, to ensure that the underlying investments remain in line with their pension objectives. Prevailing tax rates and the availability of tax reliefs are dependent on your individual circumstances and are subject to change.

While SIPPs are definitely suited to investors keen to look after their own money, you don’t have to be confident with or interested in investing. You can still benefit from financial planning and investment management services, so you can usually have as much or as little involvement as you like with your SIPP.

Self-Invested Personal Pensions are described by providers as right for people who want the freedom to choose and manage their own retirement investments. SIPPs are often thought of as pensions specifically for people with a lot of money or investing experience and whilst this might have been true in the past, competition between SIPP providers means costs have generally decreased and some SIPPs are now promoted by providers to be amongst the best value pensions around. You should investigate costs carefully before choosing, however, and always seek independent financial advice if you are unsure.

Sources

www.bestinvest.co.uk

What has survived from the original Pension Schemes Bill?

 You may have read various headlines about the Pensions Bill which was first announced in the Queen’s Speech in October. Its progress was subsequently halted with the calling of the General Election but it has now been confirmed by the Queen and is on its way to becoming law. 

Given all the to-ing and fro-ing, you could be forgiven for being unclear as to what it actually includes. It has, in fact, remained largely unchanged and has met with widespread cross-party support.  

The main initiatives include:

  • The introduction of the framework for pensions dashboards
  • Legislation to establish collective defined contribution (CDC) schemes
  • Greater powers for The Pensions Regulator 

The government said the purpose of the bill was to “support pension saving in the 21st century, putting the protection of people’s pensions at its heart.”

Pensions dashboards 

The long-awaited pensions dashboards are designed to allow savers to view all their lifetime savings in one place through a digital interface. Data will be retrieved directly from pension providers and updated in real time. The Pensions Bill has introduced new rules that will provide a framework so that providers will be compelled to provide accurate information. State pension data should also be visible.       

Experts warn, however, that primary legislation will take most of 2020 to reach the statute book and it could be several years before much of the older data from company and private pensions is accessible. Research has shown that 65.8% of respondents would like to use a dashboard to see how much their pension is worth and what type of income that would translate to in retirement. 54% of those surveyed, though, said they would be unlikely to use the system if it only contained partial information.

It’s clear that dashboards have the potential to revolutionise retirement planning but the industry wants to ensure early users are not put off by incomplete versions.The Bill is really only the beginning.          

Collective Defined Contribution schemes 

The Bill also announced its commitment to the creation of a ‘framework for the establishment, operation and regulation of Collective Defined Contribution (CDC) schemes.’ Currently, employers can offer either a Defined Benefit (DB) scheme or a Defined Contribution (DC) scheme but both have their disadvantages. DB schemes can present significant risks to the employer while DC schemes may give a less predictable income for scheme members. As a result, the Government has decided to offer this new type of scheme, the CDC, also known as a Collective Money Purchase scheme. 

As the name suggests, both the employer and the employee would contribute to a collective fund from which the retirement funds would be drawn. The scheme does not produce individual pension pots and the funding risk would be shared collectively by the individual investors.       

Unlike DB schemes, CDC schemes do not guarantee a certain amount in retirement. Instead, they have a target amount they will pay out, based on a long-term mixed risk investment plan. 

Greater powers for The Pensions Regulator  

The other key part of the proposed Bill is that The Pensions Regulator (TPR) will be given stronger powers to obtain the correct information about a pension scheme and its sponsoring employer in a timely manner. This will ensure it can gain redress for members when something goes wrong. Any company boss found to have committed ‘wilful or grossly reckless behaviour’ in relation to a pension scheme will be guilty of a criminal offence, which will carry a prison sentence of up to seven years.

Sources
https://www.pensionsage.com/pa/Pension-Schemes-Bill-reintroduced-in-Queens-Speech.php

https://www.pensionsage.com/pa/Over-half-of-savers-unlikely-to-use-incomplete-dashboard.php

https://www.ftadviser.com/pensions/2020/01/08/govt-s-revolutionary-pensions-bill-re-enters-parliament/

https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8674

Can I afford to retire?

Retirement has often been described as “the longest holiday of your life.” But attractive as that sounds, can you afford to pay for the holiday?

Research by one leading insurance company shows that 69% of people over the age of 50 are concerned about their income in retirement.

Many people underestimate how much income they will need when they retire. If you’ve been used to having two cars, going on foreign holidays and eating out then it is unlikely that you’ll want to give those up simply because you’ve stopped work. In fact, many people find that their need for income actually increases when they retire. After all, if you’re behind a desk all day, the only money you’ll spend will probably be on a sandwich at lunchtime. Contrast this with how much you spend on a day off.

As worries about income in retirement increase, so do people opting to keep working after their normal retirement date.

Many people who have their own business argue that “my business is my pension.” Again, that works well in theory – but it assumes that you can sell the business for the price you want at exactly the time you want. With technology changing ever more quickly and more and more businesses losing market share to the internet, relying on your business to fund your retirement can be a high risk strategy.

More than any other aspect of financial planning, your retirement demands careful consideration. From checking on your likely state pension to tracking down any previous pensions you might have to making sure you’re contributing sufficient to your current pension – retirement planning needs to be done thoroughly and reviewed regularly.

How the gender gap even affects children’s pensions

We’re familiar with the gender gap in pensions for adults but there is evidence that this actually starts much earlier on. According to data from HMRC, parents and grandparents are more likely to save into a boy’s pension than a girl’s.

A Freedom of Information request by Hargreaves Lansdown revealed that 13,000 girls aged 15 or under had money paid into a pension for them in 2016/17 compared with 20,000 boys. The disparity means the pension gap can actually start from birth onwards.

This only exacerbates the situation as women are likely to have less in their pension due to the gender pay gap. Nest found men are twice as likely to be in the highest income bracket and women are three times as likely to be earning less than £10,000 per year, which is the auto enrolment threshold for a single job.

Women are also more likely to take career breaks or work part-time to bring up a family. Added to which, they are more likely to live longer and spend longer in retirement so, in reality, will need more in their pension pot than men.

Research in 2017/18 by the union Prospect found that the pensions gender gap equated to 39.9 per cent or a £7,000 gap in retirement income between women and men.

Hargreaves Lansdown has calculated that paying £100 per month into a child’s pension until the child reaches 18 can increase their savings by as much as £130,000 by retirement. Yet the cost is only £21,600 plus tax relief of £5,400. Forward planning pays off!

Someone without any earnings can pay up to £2,880 each year into a pension and receive 20 per cent tax relief (up to £720) so it’s possible for parents and grandparents to make a significant difference to a young person’s financial future by starting a plan early. An added advantage is that once the money is in a pension, it can grow without attracting capital gains tax.

It’s unclear why the anomaly between paying into boys’ and girls’ pensions has existed in the past. Some feel it may be because gifting has traditionally come from the baby boomer’s generation where men were more likely to have had the greater share of pension in retirement.

Whatever the reason historically, the current message is to use children’s pensions to give the younger generation a helping hand but to do it equally.

Sources
https://www.ftadviser.com/pensions/2019/10/04/gender-pension-gap-seen-among-kids/

https://citywire.co.uk/new-model-adviser/news/gender-pensions-gap-begins-at-birth/a1277113

4 steps to keeping track of your pension

A recent study has revealed the worrying statistic that over a fifth of all people with multiple pensions have lost track of at least one, with some admitting to have forgotten the details of all of them. With around two thirds of UK residents having more than one pension, this amounts to approximately 6.6 million people with no idea how much they’ve put away for their retirement. Double the amount of people admit to not knowing how much their pensions are worth.

It’s an undesirable side effect of the modern working world. Whereas in previous generations someone might stay at a single employer for their entire working life, the typical worker today will hold eleven different jobs throughout their career, which could potentially mean opting into the same number of pensions through as many different providers. The new legal requirement for all employers to offer a pension scheme through auto-enrolment is likely to add further complexities.

As a result, the Pensions Dashboard is set to launch in 2019 in the hope that it will make it easier for savers to keep track of their pensions in one place. Until then, however, there are four relatively simple steps to help you track down information on any pensions you’ve forgotten about:

  1. Find your pension using the DWP Pensions tracing service at www.gov.uk/find-pension-contact-details. Start by entering the name of your former employer to discover the current contact address for them. You’ll then need to write to them providing your name (plus any previous names), your current and previous addresses and your National Insurance number.
  2. In the case of a pension scheme which hasn’t been updated for a while, you’ll be required to fill out an online form to receive contact details. You’ll be required to give your name, email address and any relevant information to help track down your pension details. This could include your National Insurance number and the dates you worked for the company.
  3. You can also receive a forecast of your State pension either online or in paper format by going to www.gov.uk/check-state-pension. After entering a few details to confirm your identity, you’ll be told the date you can access your State pension and how much you’ll receive.
  4. Finally, and most importantly, once you’ve managed to track down all of your pension information, get some advice. Consolidating your pensions might be tempting to make managing your savings easier, but you also want to make sure you don’t lose out on any benefits by doing so. Before you make any decisions regarding your pensions, seek professional independent advice on what to do next.

Sources
http://www.independent.co.uk/money/modern-careers-risk-billions-in-lost-retirement-savings-a7545091.html

The generation gap in savings might be wider than you think…….

A new report by Scottish Widows (SW) has found that savings habits among younger people are rather lacking when compared with older generations. 

14% of people aged 20-29 are not saving any money, whereas 20% are saving between 0-6% of their wages and 26% are saving between 6-12%. That leaves only 40% of people between the ages of 20 and 29 making what SW deems to be ‘adequate’ savings (12% and upwards). 

The figures differ for those over 30 where 59% of savers are saving adequately. 

Scottish Widows outlines that the central problem with savings in the UK is that people simply aren’t saving enough. This could be attributed to the decline in defined benefit pension schemes and wider economic challenges. Though progress has been made, with record highs in the adequate savings category, according to SW, this is still not enough. 

The lower level of savings among younger people is likely to be a reflection of differences in priorities. SW’s study found that 45% of younger savers (under 30s), the highest of any age group, are saving towards medium-term goals such as buying a house. 27% were found to be saving for the long term and 28% were saving for rainy days. 

SW notes that the savings gap for young people “is perhaps unsurprising but nonetheless worrying.” Those under 30 are at a time where long-term saving can be hardest, yet investment growth can be advantageous. SW outlines how younger people are missing out on “the power of compound growth.“ 

They later go on to present four interlocking issues that have led to this general lack of savings made by younger generations:

  • Most people remain disengaged with long-term savings – 38% of people are not aware how much they are saving 
  • Financial pressures – 28% of individuals earning between £10,000 – £20,000 say they’re not saving at all
  • Self-employed individuals are being left behind – 41% of the self-employed aren’t saving at all
  • Home ownership is a struggle for young people – 56% of 20-29 year olds say they have not saved for a deposit

Scottish Widows then set out a number of reforms that would benefit savers: 

  1. Raise pension contribution rates – a new level of 15% to give people a chance to maintain their quality of life during retirement
  2. More flexibility between pensions and property – including the ability to use some retirement savings to help with the purchase of their first property
  3. Create better education and guidance – which includes information on the role of property and pensions in retirement
  4. Provide a hardship facility – allowing some savings to be used to avoid problem debt
  5. Ensure the self-employed have access to similar benefits as those in employment

Though there are marked improvements from last year’s report, it seems there is still a long way to go in terms of saving habits in younger individuals. As suggested above, there may even be a requirement for governmental reform in order to achieve the goals that Scottish Widows have set out.

Sources
https://adviser.scottishwidows.co.uk/assets/literature/docs/56868.pdf?utm_source=1034930&utm_medium=paid+social&utm_campaign=22953005&utm_content=250845013&utm_creative=118592721

Five Million pension savers at risk of falling prey to scammers

A joint warning from The Pensions Regulator (TPR) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) says that five million pension savers could be risking their retirement pots due to scammers. Which has left people feeling, as you can imagine, a little bit worried. 

The regulators’ warning came after research revealed that 42% of pension savers could be at risk of falling for common tactics used by scammers. The survey questioned more than 2,000 adults aged 45 to 65 and came up with some rather astonishing results. 

The research suggested that cold calls, exotic investments and early access to cash are among the most effective tactics utilised by scammers. It later found that 60% of those who are actively looking for ways to boost their retirement income are likely to be hooked by a scam. 

Further to this, the survey found that 23% of those enrolled in pension schemes would pursue high risk, exotic opportunities if offered to them, while 17% said they would be interested in early access. Of all respondents, 23% said that they’d actually discuss their pension plans with a cold caller. 

Pensions and financial inclusion minister, Guy Opperman, said that scammers were, “nothing short of despicable.

“We know we can beat these callous crooks, because the message out there does work. Last year’s pension scams awareness campaign prevented hundreds of people from losing as much as £34m, and I’m backing this year’s efforts to be bigger and better.” 

Mark Steward, Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA, said: “It doesn’t matter the size of your pension pot – scammers are after your savings. Get to know the warning signs, and before making any decision about your pension, be ScamSmart and check you are dealing with an FCA authorised firm.“

The warning comes after the FCA revealed more than £197m was lost to scams in 2018. Two victims even lost more than £1m each! 

You can check out information on how to stop scammers on the FCA’s ScamSmart website

If you have any concerns about a phone call you’ve received or any other communications from an unfamiliar source, get in contact and we’ll make sure to steer you away from any scams. 

Drawdown tax and flexible retirement income. What does it all mean?

Once you reach 55, a whole spread of opportunities will open themselves up to you. One such bonus is the fact that you can finally access that hard-saved pension fund. Up to 25% of your savings can be taken tax-free, with the remaining 75% being subject to income tax. The payable amount depends on your total income for the year and your tax rate. This is known as drawdown tax. 

You’ll only have to pay tax if you decide to draw over the 25% threshold. In this case, any income you take will be added to the rest of your taxable income for that year, and will be taxed at 20% after you pass the personal threshold. Therefore, if you were to take out a large withdrawal pushing you into the £40,000 to £150,000 bracket, you could be taxed at 40%. 

Your pension provider is required to deduct any tax before a withdrawal is paid and it’s likely that when you take a taxable payment for the first time, you’ll be taxed using an emergency tax code (it may be worth speaking to your pension provider about how you will be taxed). 

How do you manage your pot? 

If you choose to stay within the 25% lump sum, more often than not you’ll move the rest into one or more funds that allow you to take a taxable income at times to suit you. It’s wise to choose funds that match your income objectives and your attitude to risk, as the income you receive might be adjusted periodically depending on how well your investments are doing. 

You can also move your pension pot gradually into income drawdown. The 25% bracket still applies to each amount you move across, so you can take a quarter of the amount tax-free and place the rest into drawdown. 

A way to make your retirement income more flexible is to invest in an annuity or another type of income product, such as a gilt or corporate bond, which usually offer guarantees about growth and income. 

However, it’s paramount that you carefully plan how much income you can afford to take under pension drawdown as you don’t want to run out of money. Factors such as living longer than expected, taking too much out too early and poor investment performance can potentially hinder your drawdown plans. 

That’s why it’s important to regularly review your investments.

Sources
https://www.pensionbee.com/pensions-explained/pension-withdrawal/how-does-pension-drawdown-tax-work
https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/flexi-access-drawdown
https://blog.standardlife.co.uk/combiningyourpensions-2/

Defined Contribution vs Defined Benefit – what’s the difference and what’s the trend?

As defined contribution pension plans overtake defined benefit (in terms of money paid into schemes) for the first time ever, more and more people are taking an interest in how the two differ and the relationship between them. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has reported that in 2018, employee contributions for defined contribution pension pots reached £4.1bn, compared to the £3.2bn that employees contributed to DB schemes.

With April 2019’s increase to minimum contributions for DC schemes seeing employer contribution hitting 3% and employees contributing 5% towards their pension, the trend of DC contribution increases in relation to DB isn’t set to slow any time soon.

So before DB Pensions become a distant memory, let’s take a look at exactly what they are. A defined benefit pension, which is sometimes referred to as a final salary pension scheme, promises to pay a guaranteed income to the scheme holder, for life, once they reach the age of retirement set by the scheme. Generally, the payout is based on an accrual rate; a fraction of the member’s terminal earnings (or final salary), which is then multiplied by the number of years the employee has been a scheme member.

A DB scheme is different from a DC scheme in that your payout is calculated by the contributions made to it by both yourself and your employer, and is dependent on how those contributions perform as an investment and the decisions you make upon retirement. The fund, made of contributions that the scheme member and their employer make, is usually invested in stocks and shares while the scheme member works. There is a level of risk, as with any investments, but the goal is to see the fund grow.

Upon retirement, the scheme member has a decision to make with how they access their pension. They can take their whole pension as a lump sum, with 25% being free from tax. They can take lump sums from their pension as and when they wish. They can take 25% of their pension tax free, receiving the remainder as regular taxable income for as long as it lasts, or they can take the 25% and convert the rest into an annuity.

One of the reasons for DB schemes becoming more scarce is that higher life expectancies mean employers face higher unpredictability and thus riskier, more expensive pensions. This is a trend that looks likely to continue. If you’re unsure of how to make the most of your pension plan, it’s recommended to consult with a professional.

Sources
https://businessnewswales.com/defined-contribution-pensions-overtake-defined-benefit-for-the-first-time-ever/ https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/defined-contribution-pension-schemes https://www.pensionsauthority.ie/en/LifeCycle/Private_pensions/Final_salary_defined_benefit_schemes/
https://www.moneywise.co.uk/pensions/managing-your-pension/your-guide-to-final-salary-pensions