How a pay rise could boost your pension pot

Pensions and retirement
Views & insights

From valuable tax relief to avoiding ‘lifestyle inflation’, discover why putting your pay rise in a pension makes sense


10 February 2023 | 5 minute read

When you get a pay rise, you might be tempted to splurge your extra cash on upgrading your lifestyle. But you could treat yourself in another way by diverting additional income to your pension. Admittedly, this sounds like the more boring option, but it could make a huge difference to your plans for the future.


Download: A guide to saving for retirement

Jam-packed with essential information on how to enjoy a more comfortable life after work.

Download now


There’s a common misconception that if you’re a member of a workplace pension scheme, your pension contributions will automatically increase in line with your pay rise. But this isn’t always the case. To ensure your extra income goes towards boosting your long-term savings – and not on shoes, expensive takeaways and lunch out – you might need to take a more proactive approach.

Workplace pension contributions 101

First, a quick explanation of the way workplace pension contributions actually work. Some employers base contributions on a percentage of your total salary, which means the amount you pay into your pension increases as your salary rises.

If you’re in an auto-enrolment pension scheme, however, contributions are based on a percentage of your ‘qualifying earnings’, which are £6,240 to £50,270 in the 2022/23 tax year. This means that once your salary exceeds £50,270, your pension contributions remain static. It’s really important to check which type of workplace pension you’re paying in to.

Let’s imagine you’re on a salary of £55,000, are a member of an auto-enrolment scheme, and pay 5% of your qualifying earnings into your pension. Each month, you would make a £183.46 pension contribution and receive an estimated take-home pay of £3,302.381. If your salary increased to £60,000, your pension contribution would remain at £183.46, whereas your estimated take-home pay would increase to £3,544.04 – that’s an extra £241.66 in your pocket every month.

It might be tempting to keep this cash for little luxuries, but putting it in a pension could increase its value by a huge 20-45% because of the tax relief you’ll receive. This could make a big difference to your future.

Here are three reasons why you could consider putting your pay rise in a pension.

1. Pensions offer valuable tax relief

The reason why pensions are so powerful for longer-term savings is that personal contributions benefit from tax relief. When you pay into a pension, the government tops up your contribution by 20%, meaning a £100 contribution only costs you £80. If you’re a higher or additional rate taxpayer, that £100 contribution would only cost you £60 or £55, respectively.

Pensions are a highly tax-efficient way of growing your investments. This ensures more of your money goes towards your goals, boosting your chances of a secure financial future.

2. It helps you avoid ‘lifestyle inflation’

You might think a substantial pay rise will set you up for life, but earning more money doesn’t necessarily equate to greater long-term wealth.

This is because of something called ‘lifestyle inflation’. When people earn more money, the temptation is to buy more expensive things rather than save the extra cash. So-called ‘lifestyle upgrades’ could include eating out more often, switching to more expensive branded products, or buying a new car. Over time, it can translate into stagnant savings and difficulty reaching financial goals.

Although eating out might make you feel happy at the time, at the end of the month you’ll have saved no more money than you had previously. In fact, the only thing that might have increased is your waist band! It’s understandable to want to enjoy your pay rise, but paying extra income into your pension could have a much more lasting impact on your overall happiness and financial wellbeing.

3. Excess cash could lose value

If you don’t invest your extra income, it could end up sitting in your bank account. The interest rates on cash tend to be below the inflation rate. Inflation erodes the purchasing power of your money, meaning it could lose its real value over time.

So, while you might not actually be spending your money, after ten years you could find that it is worth less than at the start. And you may wish you’d got those extra takeaways after all.

So long as you have built up emergency cash savings, investing your extra income in the stock market will give it the chance to increase in value over time. Although the stock market goes up and down, history shows it tends to perform better than cash and rise above inflation over long periods.

You can’t access money in a personal pension until you reach age 55 (57 from 2028). Yet many people choose to leave their pension money untouched for much longer than this – at least until they retire. This will give your investments the opportunity to grow over many decades into what could be a very large pot of money.

Next steps

Taking control of your finances can feel daunting and, let’s face it, not hugely interesting. But the impact it can have on your long-term financial wellbeing makes it well worth doing, and it’s not something you want to get wrong. Taking some really good financial advice could make a real difference to you and your plans for the future. So why not speak to one of our financial advisers today?

The value of investments, and any income from them, can fall and you may get back less than you invested. This does not constitute tax or legal advice. Tax treatment depends on the individual circumstances of each client and may be subject to change in the future. Information is provided only as an example and is not a recommendation to pursue a particular strategy. Information contained in this document is believed to be reliable and accurate, but without further investigation cannot be warranted as to accuracy or completeness.


Get financial planning tips straight to your inbox

Sign up to our newsletter for expert insights on investing for the future, saving for retirement, passing on assets to the next generation, and much more.



Take control of your finances


We’ll help you prepare for the future and meet your goals with a solid financial plan that’s tailored to you.

Financial advice

More on this topic

You may be interested in

How to use the state pension in retirement

Pensions and retirement 3 min read
How to use the state pension in retirement

Earn over £100k? Beware the ‘60% tax trap’

Pensions and retirement 3 min read
Earn over £100k? Beware the ‘60% tax trap’

Four steps to tax-efficient retirement income

Pensions and retirement 3 min read
Four steps to tax-efficient retirement income