Do you fancy the idea of living on £155 per week
when you retire?*
That's pretty much the prospect unless you make additional pension arrangements either by setting up a personal pension or by being part of a company scheme.
Before seeking advice on pension provision it's worth getting the basics straight first.
Company pensions are set up by employers, for their staff. They can be “final salary” or “defined benefit” schemes. These are schemes where a Trust is set up for the members. Money is paid in from the company, the members or both. The money is then invested.
Members get benefits in accordance with their contractual terms (typically a proportion of the final salary for each year that they have worked there). These are expressed as a pension value, but normally members can opt to reduce their pension by taking some of the money as a cash lump sum on retirement.
The fund is monitored by Actuaries, whose job is to determine whether or not there will be sufficient assets to meet the pension payments. If the fund is doing well, the company, and in theory even the employees, might be able to reduce or stop their payments. If the scheme does badly (e.g. its investments fall in value) then the COMPANY is expected to make up any shortfall.
Alternatively, an employer may set up a "defined contribution" or "money purchase" scheme. In this case the monthly contributions are put into a fund earmarked for that particular employee who, when he or she retires, is able to take a tax free lump sum and, with the balance, buy an "annuity."
Annuities are sold by pensions providers and insurance companies and guarantee the policyholder an income throughout his or her retirement.
Many employees prefer to set up personal, "portable" pensions of their own. Those who are self-employed also do so, of course.
In this case, as with defined contribution schemes, contributions are set aside in the pension plan and used to purchase an annuity before age 75.
One of the great attractions of pension schemes as a method of saving for retirement is that there is tax relief on contributions up to government set contribution limits. There is no other investment you can make which will give you 20% or 40% tax relief, depending on the highest rate of tax you pay.
Which sounds most appealing, paying tax to the government or saving it for your old age?
If you haven't set up a pension yet, then armed with these basics it is now time to ask us to obtain some quotations from pension providers. There is no time like the present. Once you have a range of options to consider you can then compare and contrast what's on offer.
No one will suggest that a pension should be the be all and end all of your personal finance arrangements. But putting one in place is an important long-term investment decision. Even if retirement seems a long way off right now, just think of what life would be like if a state pension of the equivalent of £155 a week* was all you had to live on…
* Based on the 2016/17 maximum State Pension - figures will vary from individual to individual.