Pension and retirement planning

Pension and retirement planning

A pension is a long-term investment that helps you build up a pot of money to use for retirement.

Pensions are a tax-efficient way to invest because HMRC adds basic rate (currently 20%) tax relief to your payments.

For example, if you are a basic rate taxpayer and you contribute £160, the taxman will add £40 so the total invested is £200.

If you pay higher or additional rates of income tax, you can claim even more tax relief when you complete your annual self-assessment tax return, but this relief is not paid into your plan.

You are limited to the amount you are able to pay into a pension each year. For most people the annual contribution allowance is £40,000. You are also limited to how much the overall value of your pension funds can be, known as the lifetime allowance and is currently £1m.

We are able to assist with maximising contributions and protecting against breaching the lifetime allowance.

Would you like help planning your pension?

Types of pension

Most pensions are defined contribution schemes, which means that the amount you get back from the plan depends on how much the plan is worth.

The final value of the plan is dependent on a number of factors, including:

  • how much you have paid in
  • provider charges
  • fund performance

In simple terms, the more you pay in, the more you are likely to get back.

Some people, mainly public sector employees, have defined benefit pensions. The benefits are based on a proportion of your final salary rather than the size of the fund you have built up.

Retirement options

There are a number of different ways you can draw benefits from pensions when you reach retirement.  

Lifetime annuity

An annuity is an insurer's promise to pay an income for life for a set price.

There are a number of choices available but the more options you include, the lower the income becomes. This is illustrated in the graph below:

Pension and retirement planning

Enhanced annuity

Enhanced annuities are lifetime annuities that are available to people who have suffered health problems that are likely to have an impact on their lifespan. Generally, an enhanced annuity gives a higher income than a standard annuity.

Investment-linked annuity

The income form this type of annuity depends on the performance of investments. If the funds chosen not perform well, then the income will reduce, and over time, there is a danger of the fund being exhausted.

Fixed-term annuity

A fixed-term annuity provides a guaranteed level of income for a set period of time. At the end of the term you will get a set amount of money called a Guaranteed Maturity Amount which you can use to buy another pension product.

Flexi-access drawdown

Flexi-access drawdown allows you to take the maximum amount of tax-free cash when you start the plan and keep the rest invested. You can draw an income from the plan and also decide to buy an annuity using the remaining value of the fund at a later date. 

Although these plans offer the most flexibility, withdrawing lots of money could mean that the fund runs out during your lifetime. 

The remaining fund can be paid as a tax-free lump sum to your dependants or as a tax-free income if you die before 75. After 75, the fund is taxable at 40% and income is taxed at the recipient’s highest marginal rate. 

Auto enrolment

All UK employers have to provide their employees with a workplace pension and make contributions. Workplace pensions are heavily regulated by the Pensions Regulator and the penalties for non-compliance can be expensive. Ongoing compliance with the rules can also be a major stumbling point for employers. 

The Ellacotts payroll team can help you maintain continuing compliance.

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