What’s it all about?
Pension funds are investments that give you an income when you are looking for a change in lifestyle when you are older.
Why should you care?
Pension planning now can allow you to have a comfortable future.
The state pension you get from the government is currently set at just £9,000 a year. So planning for your retirement and investing in a pension is crucial if you think you’ll need more than that to live on.
What will you learn?
In this pack, you’ll learn about the different types of pension, how they work, and what to consider if you want to get in on the action.
What are pensions?
A pension is an investment that gives you an income when you retire. You need to pay into a pension scheme throughout your working life to get the income when you retire.
The key types of pension are:
Like ISAs, pensions are a ‘tax wrapper’. For pensions, you do not pay tax on pension contributions. The allowance for the tax year 2020/21 is £40,000.
Most UK taxpayers get tax relief on their pension contributions, which means that the government effectively adds money to your pension pot. Basic rate taxpayers get a 25% tax top-up; HMRC adds £25 for every £100 you pay into your pension. For higher tax ratepayers – for every £100 they pay the government adds £66.67.
How do pensions work?
If you are a UK resident and have made National Insurance contributions throughout your life, you should qualify for a state pension. Currently, this is about £9,000 per year for those over 65. State pension age is currently set to rise to 68 for those born after 6th April 1978.
When you invest in a personal pension, a SIPP or if an employer sets up a workplace pension for you, your money goes into a fund. As with other types of an investment fund, this is a pool of money invested in stocks, bonds and other assets. The financial goal for pensions is to grow the fund before you retire.
When you retire, the size of your pension pot will depend on:
If you’re employed, aged 22 or over, and earn at least £10,000 a year, you’ll be automatically enrolled into a workplace pension. Your employer must contribute. Typically, workplace pensions do not offer much flexibility for employees to choose the pension provider or portfolio asset allocations.
Personal pensions are a pension you set up yourself. You can choose the pension provider and portfolio you want. You can set up a personal pension in addition to your employer’s pension, and employers can make contributions to it.
Self-invested personal pensions (SIPPs)
SIPPs give you the most freedom to choose and manage your own investments. You can think of it as a ‘do it yourself’ pension scheme. They are ideal for more experienced investors who want to manage their fund and switch their investments when they want. The downside is that SIPPs can have higher charges than other personal pensions. You can seek advice and support from an Independent Financial Advisor (IFA). We have friendly clued up IFAs that you can chat to.
What to consider when choosing your pension
How much you need to save for your pension will depend on you and your lifestyle choices.
The basic advice with pensions is to put in as much as possible, as early as possible. The longer and more you contribute towards your pension fund, the larger the value of the pot when you retire. The value will be made up of your (and where relevant your employer’s) contributions, and the returns generated as your investment grows.
There is a very rough rule of thumb for what to contribute for a comfortable retirement: take your age at the time you start your pension and divide it by two, then put a % sign after the number. Contribute that percentage of your pre-tax salary to your pension every year until you retire.
For example, if you started contributing to your pension at 35, this works out at putting away 17.5% of your salary for the rest of your working life. If you’re employed, take into account your employer’s contribution to this figure and then make up the rest yourself.
If you are employed, you can opt out of employer’s pensions, but if you give this up, you may be giving up your employer’s contributions too.
Depending on how much control you want over your pension fund, you might want to ask your employer to contribute to your personal pension scheme.
With investment strategies for your personal pensions and self-invested personal pensions (SIPP), you can pick funds with varying risk levels. Historical data shows that stock and property are the only two asset classes that have grown faster than the rate of inflation. If you have a long time before you retire, you might consider picking pension funds that have portfolios with a high allocation of these assets – especially stocks. But remember, with higher potential returns comes higher risks. The advantage of having time on your hands is that the longer your pension fund is in the market, the more opportunity it has to ride the ups and downs. People closer to retiring may want to reallocate their asset mix to less risky investments such as bonds.
Earlier, we discussed that you do not pay tax on your pension contributions. The flip-side of this is that you will be liable to tax on your pension income when you receive it. With ISAs, it’s the other way round. You pay tax upfront on your income before making your investment contributions, but you won’t pay tax at the other end.
You generally won’t be able to access your pension until you reach a certain age, whereas most ISAs are available if you need them for an emergency.
If you are self-employed, your pension provider should claim tax relief at the basic rate of tax on your behalf and add it to your pension savings. This is the same for employed people as well. It’s only higher rate taxpayers that need to claim the extra tax relief back.
As with other investment funds, there are socially responsible pension funds popping up. The bad news is that often they come with higher fees. The good news, from a pension perspective, is that evidence is building up that these types of funds are performing better than other funds in the long term.
Where to get them
You automatically qualify for the state pension when you pay National Insurance.
If you’re employed, your employer will set up your employer pension for you.
For personal pensions and SIPPs, you have a variety of options including supermarkets, brokers, platforms and traditional institutions like banks and building societies.
You can also get advice from an independent financial advisor (IFA) or pension advisor.
That’s a wrap. Here are the key takeaways from this pack.
Remember, as with all investing, your capital is at risk.