How to build a £1m pension pot

Pensions and retirement
Views & insights

Do you dream of becoming a pension millionaire? Discover five ways to increase your chances of retiring with a £1m pension


7 September 2023 | 3 minute read

When you’re building your pension, it’s often useful to have a target in mind. For many people, the target is to have a pension worth £1m by the time they retire. It’s not only a nice, round number, but as this article shows, it should provide a reasonably generous annual income in retirement.

Becoming a pension millionaire is by no means easy, but it could be achievable if you arm yourself with the right knowledge, plan ahead, and get some good financial advice.

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Here are five ways to give yourself the best chance of building a £1m pension.

1. Start early

When it comes to building your pension, the earlier you start, the better. You’ll not only have longer to save, but you’ll also benefit from the full power of compounding. This is when you get returns on your returns as well as on your initial capital, and it can be especially powerful over long periods.

Our analysis shows that if someone started saving £390 a month into a pension at age 18, they could reasonably expect to retire with a £1m pot at age 681, assuming annualised returns of 5% after fees. In total, that individual would have made gross pension contributions of £234,000, with the rest generated by investment returns.

In contrast, if someone started pension contributions 20 years later at age 38, they would need to put aside a significantly higher sum of £1,230 a month – that’s £442,800 in total – to give themselves the chance of retiring with a £1m pot.

2. Work out how much you need to save

Understanding how much you need to save to build a £1m pension will depend on several factors that are personal to you, including how much you’ve saved so far and your target retirement age.

As an example, a 48-year-old with a £300,000 pension fund would need to save around £550 a month in order to grow their pot to £1m by age 68, based on the same investment projections as above. However, if the same individual wanted to retire earlier at age 58, they’d need to save a huge £3,400 a month.

How much you actually need to save for retirement is a complex calculation, but we can help you get it right. By taking into account your current financial situation, your plans for the future and external factors like investment growth and inflation, we can give you a more accurate and personalised target to work towards.

3. Make the most of tax relief

These may seem like huge sums of money to put aside each month, but the advantage of saving into a pension is that your own contributions benefit from income tax relief. A £100 personal pension contribution costs just £80 if you’re a basic-rate taxpayer, £60 if you’re a higher-rate taxpayer, or £55 if you’re an additional rate taxpayer.

You can save up to £60,000 or 100% of your UK relevant earnings (whichever is lower) into pensions each year and benefit from tax relief. Your annual allowance might be lower if you earn a very high income or have already flexibly accessed your pension. If you’ve already maxed out your annual allowance, it might be possible to ‘carry forward’ unused annual allowances from previous tax years. This can be complicated, so make sure you speak to a financial adviser.

If you’re employed, you’ll also receive employer pension contributions. These can really help to supercharge your savings and get you closer to your target.

4. Check where your pension is invested

The size of your pension fund at retirement will depend not only on how much you save, but also on where you save it.

When you start a new job, your pension savings will usually be invested in your employer’s default fund. This might not suit your individual needs and risk profile. For example, it may be the case that you’d be better off choosing a fund with more exposure to equities, giving your money the opportunity for greater long-term growth.

If you have a private pension, it’s also important to ensure it suits your needs and goals. We can help you understand how much investment risk you should be taking on and the right mix of asset classes for your individual circumstances.

5. Get financial advice

Working out how much you need to save for retirement isn’t straightforward because there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. While £1m might be right for one person, it won’t necessarily be right for you.

At RBC Brewin Dolphin, we’ll take the time to understand you, your needs, and your ambitions for the future. We’ll explain how much your retirement is likely to cost each year, how much you need to save in order to generate that amount, and how to make up a shortfall in your savings. We understand that life doesn’t always turn out as expected, so we’ll also consider the impact of ‘what if’ scenarios on your plans.

By offering advice that’s tailored to you and your needs, we can help you look to the future with confidence.

The state pension age is currently 66 but is due to rise to 67 between 2026 and 2028 and to 68 between 2044 and 2046.

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The value of investments, and any income from them, can fall and you may get back less than you invested. Neither simulated nor actual past performance are reliable indicators of future performance. 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.

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