Everyone knows that the younger you are when you start paying into a pension, the more you’ll receive when it’s time to pay out on your retirement. Nevertheless, there are still many who delay making that start and a frightening number of people who believe that their entitlement to a basic State pension will be enough to see them comfortably through old age. While they might be right about the entitlement to a State pension, they are most unlikely to find that the State pension alone will ensure anything like a comfortable retirement. But if taking care of your own pension arrangements is to be an option, where do you go for the best pension advice? Check out how to make sure you’re getting a good pension plan.
Even a cursory look at the subject of pensions will tell you that it can become a pretty complicated topic, with a bewildering range of different products, to suit different ends and purposes. For example, you might be aware that your employer runs a pension scheme and, indeed, you believe that the employer contributes to your pension on your behalf. But is this an occupational pension scheme. If it is, do you know whether it is salary-related or whether it is a defined contribution or money purchase scheme?
Alternatively, is your employer offering a stakeholder pension scheme or running a group personal pension scheme? You have heard that it is possible to set up your own stakeholder pension. How would this differ from your having your own personal pension arrangement? Is one or the other – a stakeholder or a personal pension scheme – something you should be setting up for yourself?
These are all perfectly reasonable questions, but how on earth do you go about answering them? It’s very much a specialist subject and the ground rules seem to be changing all the time. You have might also have heard, for example, that the government is introducing changes requiring all employers to offer a pension in the future and to make contributions to the schemes set up. This can be the employer’s own scheme or the government’s new central scheme that is being established.
Yet further changes will affect the minimum age at which you can start drawing your pension benefits. Subject to the rules of your particular scheme, the minimum age is currently 50, but this will go up to age 55 by the year 2010 (though you will no longer need to stop working altogether to be able to draw the pension, provided continued employment is allowed by the rules of your particular scheme). To phase in the higher age level, pension fund managers have been given the period from April 2006 until April 2010 to raise the age limit. Clearly, you will need to know when it applies to you.
All in all, therefore, it is clear that questions about pensions can become quite complicated. They are further complicated by your need to know exactly how your own individual circumstances should affect your pension options and decisions. A pension is a long-term investment, which accumulates many thousands of pounds of your hard-earned cash – it’s important, therefore, that you are guided towards the right decisions.