You have saved for decades towards a comfortable, financially secure retirement. You might also have specific plans for retirement, such as taking up a new hobby, spending more time with family, or relocating.
However, if the value of your pension isn’t what you’d hoped it would be, you might be wondering if your retirement aspirations will have to change.
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Here, we consider how to get your retirement plans back on track.
1. Understand your retirement savings
The first step is to ensure you have a complete picture of all your retirement savings. It’s possible that you’ve accumulated several pensions over your lifetime, some of which you may have forgotten about. You can use the free Pensions Tracing Service to find lost pension pots. This searches a database of more than 200,000 schemes to try to find the contact details you need to request a valuation.
Make sure you understand the nature of the pension schemes you are invested in. Do you have protected defined benefit accruals as well as defined contribution pots? If you are unsure about your retirement scheme benefits, an adviser can help you assess them.
Don’t forget about the state pension, which pays £203.85 per week for those who qualify for the full rate. Check your state pension record and consider filling in gaps in your National Insurance record to increase your eligibility.
Bear in mind that income in retirement doesn’t have to come from pensions. Cash savings accounts, shares, ISAs and property could all form part of your overall retirement savings pot.
2. Continue to boost your pension tax efficiently
Assess whether you can afford to boost your pension over the next few years. This could involve, for example, diverting work bonuses into your pension through salary sacrifice, or continuing to reinvest dividends for a while longer instead of turning on the income taps as soon as you reach age 55 (57 from April 2028). You can continue paying into your pension and benefit from tax relief until age 75 (subject to limitations).
ISAs could also be a tax-efficient way to save towards your retirement. Although ISAs don’t offer tax relief on contributions, withdrawals are completely tax free. With a pension, you get tax relief on contributions, but any income you draw above your 25% tax-free lump sum (capped at £268,275) is taxed at your marginal rate of income tax.
3. Consider phasing your retirement
Many people choose to phase their retirement by working a few days a week and using savings outside of a pensions wrapper to top up any income gaps. This not only eases the transition into retirement, but also means you can still invest in your personal pension and benefit from tax relief.
This is an important consideration because if you take an income from any of your personal pensions, you trigger the money purchase annual allowance. This reduces the amount you can still contribute tax efficiently into a pension to only £10,000 per tax year.
Reducing your work hours will come with a lower salary. Yet this could be an opportunity for you to reduce your outgoings ahead of retirement. Use an online budget planner to see where costs could be cut.
4. Look at downsizing to release funds
You might not have planned to move, but one of the most common ways to unlock capital for retirement is to sell a large family home and trade down to something smaller. Alternatively, you could move to a part of the country where the cost of living is lower.
Downsizing or moving to a less expensive area could free up a lump sum and cut maintenance and running costs over time, which eat into retirement income. And this way, you might still be able to achieve the retirement lifestyle you want.
5. Assess your likely expenses in retirement
It’s a useful exercise to separate essential expenses from non-essential ones to understand how much you really need in retirement.
An essential expenses pot would cover regular household bills, whereas a non-essential spending pot would cover holidays, hobbies, and meals out. It’s also important to have a cash fund to cover unexpected expenditure such as a new boiler or roof.
Understanding your spending needs can help your income choices in retirement. For example, essential spending could be covered by buying a small annuity and the state pension. The non-essential spending pot could remain invested in higher returning assets, which you would draw an income from to pay for holidays and hobbies.
A mixture of drawdown, annuities and the state pension can provide a level of security in retirement, but it is important to understand the pros and cons of each option.
6. Seek advice
Understanding the best way to get your retirement plans back on track isn’t always straightforward – and that’s where getting some smart advice can help.
A financial adviser can use cashflow modelling to give you a clear picture of how long your money is likely to last in retirement, and how the changes you make today could boost your long-term finances. They can also develop a solid plan for using your retirement savings and invest them appropriately to produce a sustainable income in retirement. The earlier you start preparing, the better your chances are of achieving your ambitions.
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.
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