What are the Main Benefits of a Personal Pension?
Most people would hope to have a higher income than the State Pension provides, and at £9,110.40 a year, or just £175.20 a week (for the year 2020-21) it’s no wonder many decide to use a personal pension to build up a bigger pot to retire on.
Even if you are eligible for the full State Pension, it’s a good idea to make additional provision.
Which is why we’ve written this handy guide, where we answer the following questions:
What are the main benefits of a personal pension?
The advantages of a personal pension include…
Think of a personal pension as a long-term savings plan which comes with the added benefit of tax relief. Whatever money you save into your pension will get tax relief so any contribution you make to your pension means more money in your pocket and less going to the government.
There are also tax benefits when you retire.
When you reach retirement age, 55 at the earliest, you can take 25% of your pension fund as a tax-free lump sum.
The remaining funds will be paid to you as income and taxed at normal levels, depending on how much income you have in any one year.
Anyone can contribute
If you are employed, your employer can make payments into your personal pension scheme.
If you have a spouse who doesn’t work, you may decide to help them make provisions for their retirement by contributing to a pension they own.
The same is true of a child, should you wish to help them get a head start in planning their long-term financial future.
The majority of personal pensions are flexible and portable so if your circumstances change, you start a new job or you stop working you can continue contributing to the same plan.
Guaranteed retirement income
On retirement you can take 25% of your pension pot as a tax-free lump sum and draw the remaining funds as income directly from your pension pot. Drawing an income this way means that you may still be able to benefit from returns on the investment your pension is in.
Another option is to use your pension funds to buy an annuity and provide a guaranteed income for your retirement years.
Earn compound interest
The earlier you start contributing to a pension, the more you can benefit from the compound interest you can earn. Whenever you make a payment into a pension you benefit from the tax relief and you also start making returns on the investment.
In year one you’ll benefit from interest returns on your initial contribution. In the second year, you’ll earn interest on the initial contribution and the first-year return.
By the third year you’ll be earning interest on your original contribution and two years of returns you’ve already accrued – these gains continue to multiply as you keep making your regular tax-free contributions.
Which should, ultimately, add up to a healthy retirement pot.
With the benefits of compound interest in mind, it’s also worth noting the benefits of being able to choose how your pension fund is invested.
While different funds have varying risk profiles, it can be hugely profitable to pay some attention to how your pension is invested.
Speak to a pensions expert to help you decide the best way to invest your pension and get an understanding of the contributions you should be making in order to provide your desired income in retirement.
Are there any disadvantages?
The potential drawbacks of a personal pension include…
Lack of access
The one fundamental drawback of a personal pension plan is that you can’t access it without incurring potentially damaging costs and fees before the age of 55. Plus, some plans don’t have access to Pension Freedom features and will need to be transferred if you want to do this when you reach this age.
Read more about the difficulties of accessing your pension prior to the age of 55.
Your pension fund will be invested in bonds and other investments, or stocks and shares, if you have a higher appetite for risk.
While you can mitigate the risks associated by seeking advice and making astute investment decisions, it’s impossible to guarantee that the investment your pension is in will perform as required and you could lose money if the investment fails to perform.
Most financial investments come with the risk that the share price can fall as well as rise and this is something you have little control of once your investment is in place.
However, since a pension is a long-term investment and even if you suffer losses, in the short term the long-term gains may outweigh any losses you incur.
Pensions are a complicated topic and because they are a highly regulated financial product, they come with all kinds of rules and regulations.
This can make it difficult for people to understand what they can and can’t do which can be off-putting, especially when pensions are designed as such a long term investment.
When you’re in your twenties, retirement is still a long way off, making it easy to put off thinking about how you’ll provide an income when you stop working.
Is a private pension worth having?
For many people, the answer is yes. While pensions can be a complicated topic, there’s no denying the fact that most of us would like more income than the State Pension will provide in our retirement years. The tax benefits you get from both your contributions and the 25% tax-free lump sum on retirement are great reasons for some people to set up a personal pension, but keep in mind that this doesn’t apply to everyone.
In order to establish whether a private pension is the right option for you, you’d need to speak to an expert about your needs and circumstances and discuss every possible alternative. Read on for more information about how to decide whether a personal pension is right for you, and what alternatives might be viable…
Ask yourself whether you really need one
It’s in no way obligatory to have a personal pension plan and if you have a pension through your employer, you may feel your retirement income needs are already covered.
However, it’s always advisable to make sure you’re right in your assumption that your pension arrangements will deliver income at the rate desired rate in retirement.
We work with expert pension advisors who offer a free pension review to customers. They will look at the pensions you have in place and let you know if you are on track for providing the income you need to retire on.
Conversely, they will inform you if underperforming pensions mean you’ll find yourself with a shortfall.
Make an enquiry and let us help you make sure your money is working as hard as you are.
If you’re not convinced you want to get a personal pension you could consider alternate ways to provide income in your retirement.
Invest in ISAs
Since April 2017, it is possible to save as much as £20,000 per year into a cash or investment ISA. ISAs allow you to save money tax free and when you’re ready to make withdrawals from your fund, the money you take is also free of tax.
ISAs also come with the added benefit of allowing far more control over how your money is invested, as well as how and when you withdraw your funds.
This has some potential drawbacks.
Once you withdraw and spend the funds, there is no more cash to fall back on. You may need to plan your spending with care to ensure the available funds will last as long as you need in retirement.
If you die, any funds you still have money invested in ISAs will automatically form part of your estate and go to your beneficiaries. If you buy an annuity with your pension fund, rather than choosing drawdown like most people do, the annuity benefits die with you, even if you have only been retired for a year.
Invest in property
There are a couple of ways you can secure an income for your retirement by investing in property during your working life.
Work your way up the property ladder and downsize when you retire and use the lump sum from the sale as income in the years to come.
The potential downside of this is that property prices can fall as well as rise and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the price you need when it comes to needing to sell up.
The other option is to invest in a portfolio of buy-to-let properties. In retirement, you can choose to live off the rental income you are getting, if it’s reliable enough, or sell the properties and take an income from the profit you make on the sale of the portfolio.
If investing in property is of interest, you could consider a SIPP arrangement and wrap your property portfolio in a SIPP wrapper, meaning you’ll gain all the tax advantages of a pension and the potential investment gains of property.
Is it worth it if I have a company pension?
If you have a pension through your employer you may consider that your retirement needs are taken care of.
However, pension investments and performance can vary between providers and there’s no guarantee that the pension offered by your employer will give you the income you need to retire comfortably.
If you would like to talk to an expert about any aspects of your retirement planning, get in touch for a free, no obligation chat and we’ll connect you with one of the independent pension experts we work with.
They will be able to assess the pension – or pensions – you hold and help you understand whether your expectations align with how your pension funds are actually performing.
Are there any other problems or risks I should know about?
The main risk associated with having a personal pension is an underperforming fund.
It’s important to review your pension arrangements regularly to ensure your investments are performing well and that the fees you’re paying aren’t eating into your pension pot and eroding the pension income you hope to receive in retirement.
If you have multiple pensions from different providers, it may be worth consolidating them into one.
By doing this you could benefit from:
- Being able to track and manage your pension investments more easily
- Potentially lower costs if you can transfer from a high-cost plan to a pension scheme with lower costs and fees
- Being able to choose from a wider investment choice if you consolidate all your pensions into one flexible scheme
- Adding Pension Freedom features to plans that don’t have them
Speak to an expert
Retirement planning can feel overwhelming and you may find it useful to get advice from an expert, like those we work with.
There are many rules and regulations surrounding what you can and can’t do when it comes to your pension arrangements so it can help to talk to someone who deals with pensions every day.
Call 0808 189 0463 or make an enquiry for a free, no obligation chat and we’ll match you with one of the pension experts we work with.
All the experts are independent financial advisors with access to all the pension providers in the UK