7th September 2021

Ask not what your pension can do for you, ask what you can do for your pension.

A play on words from John F Kennedy’s inaugural address from January 1961, as many of you will have recognised. As a professional that is on a quest to educate, guide and advise on everything pension, retirement planning and much more, I think pensions are certainly an area that many ‘leaders of the free world’ have sadly missed and overlooked for far too many years. For a start, do not be put off by the word ‘pension’ and please continue reading to garner some useful information whether you are an employee, business owner, director, self-employed or are already retired.

‘…ask what you can do for your pension'

By this I mean, you taking control of your pension plan so that you really understand it and can use it to your maximum advantage. As Independent Financial Advisers, we are here to help you, guide you and advise you through the maze of financial jargon and the twists and turns that life likes to surprise us with. Demystifying the complexities, debunking the myths and pitfalls along the way, but using simple terms and language that makes sense.

Let’s start with the State Pension

There are many questions often triggered on this topic; when will this be paid and how much will it be? The truth is, when it will be paid keeps moving as the retirement age changes, but you can request a State Pension Forecast directly via the Pension Service.

Will it be enough, and are there any missing National Insurance Contribution payments? For many clients it is unlikely that the State Pension would fund their retirement in its entirety, but you can pay for any missing contributions to your National Insurance payments, of which you will need 35 years of National Insurance Contributions. As you may have read, for women, there is currently a State Pension correction exercise to review and contact those who have been missing out on their true State Pension entitlement by many thousands of pounds in some circumstances.

Existing pension plans – Where is my money invested?

I know, from experience, many individuals do not know where their money is invested. It is always pertinent to ask yourself whether this fund is suitable for you and if any risk is being rewarded accordingly.

Are you comfortable with the volatility of the investment? Your investment will regularly increase and fall in value. Does it reflect your beliefs and values? There are now many options available in the market for sustainable investments and ethical or religious requirements, should these be applicable to your personal circumstances.

What has the actual performance and growth been on these investments and are they meeting your objective of what good looks like for you? This is an incredibly important point which should not be overlooked when reviewing where your money is being invested.

How much am I paying?

What is the impact of how much you are paying and what does it really mean in relation to your retirement plan? Many clients often ask me, should they pay more to help bridge any shortfall, or in fact be paying less? For some high earners and those already in retirement or taking benefits, it is worth noting your available annual allowance and if it includes any reduction. For those who are a higher rate taxpayer, it is worth checking that you have claimed your additional tax relief entitlement. This can be done annually via your self-assessment tax return and has led to people missing out on thousands of pounds.

One question I often get asked by clients is ‘Can I help pay pension contributions on behalf of my children, grandchildren or other family members?’ Yes, you can, you may still receive the benefit of tax relief, and if applicable, your children may be able to claim higher rate tax relief too.

Consider merging your pension plans:

We build up many of these over the years and there are often benefits to merging them in to one big pension pot such as making them easier to manage and control, paying lower charges, and maintaining investment funds aligned to your beliefs and understanding. By getting your pension plans ready to take retirement benefits, you can increase the flexibility of when and how you take them, as Pension Freedom currently allows you to access your pension pot from age 55.

As a word of warning, before merging your pension pots you need to understand the different type of pension plans you have. Some may have different rules and valuable benefits and options to keep open to you.

Whilst considering the management of your pension plan, it is important to plan for what happens and where your benefits get paid to in the event of your death.

Understanding your Workplace Pension Scheme:

It is important to dispel some common myths surrounding Workplace Pension Schemes. You do not have to be 22 to join the Pension Scheme, you can join earlier. In the same way, you do not have to wait three months to join, you can also do this earlier. Depending on your employer, it is important to note whether you are taking maximum advantage of their pension contributions – some employers may pay more if you pay more.

Lastly, it is important to consider what other options are open to you to help towards saving, both now and for the longer term. For example, you may have heard of the Lifetime ISA (LISA). Available to open for those between the ages of 18 and 40. You need to consider whether this is a suitable alternative, depending on when you want to access the funds, such as buying your first home and how you much you want to pay. The more you know, the easier it is to make informed decisions. You would not plan a journey without knowing where you are heading first, therefore, if you or a family member do want some help dispelling the myths surrounding pensions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with an Integrity365 adviser today on 0117 450 1300.