Jenny Holt, Managing Director for Customer Savings and Investments at Standard Life said: “Most people are feeling the pressure on their finances at the moment due to the backdrop of rising inflation and the cost of living soaring. In these circumstances, it can be difficult to think about your long-term finances or even contemplate saving for the future. However, even in the current climate there are ways to maximise the value of any pension savings you do have. By sidestepping seven common mistakes, you could take your pension planning to another level and reduce the risk of falling short of money later.
Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group, shares the following pension mistakes to avoid when you’re aiming to build your pot:
1. DON’T turn down money from your employer – “When offered the opportunity to join a workplace pension, it’s nearly always a good idea to do so. For most people, your employer must automatically enrol you in a workplace pension scheme, and you may even be offered a pension plan if you don’t meet the criteria. Workplace pension schemes are made up of your own payments (5% or more of earnings) which are deducted from your salary, often before you pay tax, making it easier to save, and your employer’s contribution, which at the very least, must be equivalent to 3% of your earnings. Many employers offer more than this or match any extra payments you make so it’s worth checking if you’re getting the most out of this valuable benefit?
2. DON’T say ‘No’ to extra money from the government – “Anyone who decides against investing in a workplace or personal pension also turns down help from the government. That’s because in order to encourage people to save for retirement, the government provides a top-up called tax relief to pension payments. The nuts and bolts of how you receive this tax relief depend on the type of plan you have and the rate of income tax you pay. But as an example, if you’re a basic-rate taxpayer saving into a personal pension in the current tax year, you get 20% tax relief on your payments. So, if you pay £200 a month into your pension plan, the £40 of tax relief you receive on that payment means it will only cost you £160. Higher-rate or additional-rate taxpayers could claim back even more.
“Some workplace pension schemes offer tax relief in a different way, such as through salary sacrifice or exchange schemes, so check with your employer if you’re not sure how this works for you. And in Scotland, the tax relief details differ slightly. But in all these cases, the general point is the same: each time you defer paying into a pension plan, you miss out on an extra boost.”
3. DON’T expect the State Pension to cover everything – “Another common mistake is to assume that the State Pension will meet your retirement needs. However, it’s important to know that the State Pension won’t be available until your late 60s, and may not cover all of your outgoings. Currently, the new flat-rate State Pension is £185.15 a week, or just over £9,600 a year. At the same time, the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) calculates that a single person needs £10,900 a year for just a ‘minimum’ standard of living in retirement. This rises to £20,800 a year for a ‘moderate’ lifestyle, which includes a car and some help with maintenance and decorating each year.
4. DON’T lose track of your pension plans – “There are over £19 billion worth of pension savings lying around unclaimed in the UK, with an average of almost £13,000 in each pot. If you have moved jobs or home a few times, and not informed your pension provider, then one of these ‘lost’ pension pots could be yours. It’s worth spending time tracking down any potential missing pots to help boost your future finances.”
5. DON’T assume that the minimum is enough – “Auto-enrolment has boosted the pension savings of millions of people but the 8% minimum payment may not get you the retirement lifestyle you want. It’s important to therefore have a retirement lifestyle in mind- the PLSA calculations can be helpful here as they can give you a real figure to aim for, and you can then work out what’s feasible and put the necessary steps in place to help you achieve your goals.”
6. DON’T leave your pension pot unloved or neglected – “You might not want to talk about your pension plan every day, but dismissing pensions as boring is a mistake, and one that becomes increasingly serious over time. While this might be difficult at the moment, steps such as topping up your payments, especially in your 20s, 30s or early 40s, can make a large difference, thanks to the snowball effect of compounding. Giving your pension plan some love – knowing whether it’s workplace or private, wising up on how to get more ‘free’ payments from your employer or the government, or using it to pay less tax (such as through bonus sacrifice) – could make a major difference to your long-term finances.”
7. DON’T suppose that one pension plan is the same as another – “A related mistake is not knowing where your pension pot is invested, whether that matches your life-stage and priorities or how to choose the right investment options. For example, if your retirement is still some years ahead, you could potentially afford to take a little more risk. Conversely, you may want to dial down the risk as you get nearer to retirement.”
About Standard Life
- Standard Life is a brand that has been trusted to look after peoples’ life savings for nearly 200 years
- Today it proudly serves millions of customers who come to Standard Life directly, through advisers and through their employers’ pension scheme.
- Standard Life is part of Phoenix Group, the largest long-term savings and retirement business in the UK. We’re proud to be building on nearly 200 years of Standard Life heritage together
- Our products include a variety of Pensions, Bonds and Retirement options to suit people’s needs, helping our customers to invest and save for their future. We’re proud to offer a leading range of sustainable and responsible investment options.
- We support our customers on their journey to and through retirement with comprehensive, easy-to-understand guidance so they can invest in the right way for their needs, and plan a future they feel confident about.
- The value of investments can go down as well as up, and may be worth less than originally invested.