Why North East workers can make 2020 the year they finally get to grips with their pension
As 2020 gets into its stride and New Year’s resolutions already begin to crack, Paul Gilsenan, Managing Director of PSG Wealth Management is urging north east workers to make this the year they take steps to improve their retirement prospects.
Here are six suggestions to make the most of your pension pot.
1. Track down any lost pensions
If you have moved jobs frequently, or your address has changed, you may have pensions that you have lost track of. Research suggests there are around 1.6 million unclaimed pots worth £19.4 billion – the equivalent of nearly £13,000 per pot.
Tracking down a lost pension can be as simple as making sure any old pension providers have a current address for you. If you have recently moved house, you should write to the pension company, tell them your new address and ask for a statement.
If you’re trying to track down a lost workplace pension, you could try contacting the company you used to work for. However, you may find that your old employer doesn’t exist anymore, or you’re trying to trace an old personal pension and you don’t have any contact details. In this case, you can get help from the government-backed Pension Tracing Service which operates across the UK.
2. Consider consolidating
If you have several pension pots, it may be a good idea to combine them into one pot. This could not only help you to avoid dealing with multiple providers but make it easier to keep track of your overall savings and estimated income at retirement. Such actions could also open up a greater choice of investments and make it easier to diversify and switch your investments.
It is important to bear in mind that some pensions have high exit fees, or include guaranteed annuity rates which may be lost, so it’s important to understand the risks of transferring out of your scheme before proceeding. This is where professional financial advice can prove particularly useful.
3. Check your State Pension
It’s very hard to plan your retirement without a full view of your State Pension. It’s therefore a good idea to check how much State Pension you could get and when you could get it. You can do this online where you will also be able to see your National Insurance record, and whether you can improve it. You might be able to fill gaps by claiming National Insurance credits, or making voluntary National Insurance contributions.
4. See if you can pay in more
Pension policy is an area that has been neglected since the Brexit referendum result, so it’s possible the government will announce a review of pension taxation in the Budget on 11 March. Therefore, if you’ve still got a few years to go before retirement, think about boosting your personal pension now, so that you can benefit from current rates of tax relief and potentially enjoy a higher income when you stop work.
If you have surplus cash that is not earmarked for other purposes and you haven’t used all your 2019/20 pension allowances, making a one-off pension contribution can be a smart way to get nearer that retirement goal.
5. Check your investments
Ensuring that your retirement fund is appropriately invested and sufficiently diversified is crucial. Therefore, asset allocation should be reviewed regularly to ensure it still reflects your attitude to risk.
Portfolios have a tendency to deviate from the initial weightings over time. For example, more volatile assets can perform better over the longer term and therefore make up an increasing proportion of the overall portfolio. This can make your portfolio unbalanced and riskier than initially intended.
A financial adviser can rebalance your investment portfolio and get your target asset allocation back on track. They can also help to ensure your financial plan remains appropriate and is on course to achieve its goals.
6. Nominate beneficiaries
Most pension schemes allow anyone to inherit your pension savings – they don’t have to be your spouse or civil partner. There’s no limit to the number of people you can nominate.
Passing on pensions is done through completion of an ‘expression of wish’ form. This tells the trustees of the pension scheme to whom they should pay death benefits.
It’s important to keep this updated, ideally at least annually, but also when either your own circumstances or those of your proposed beneficiaries change.
While retirement may be some way off yet, by taking these steps early people across the North East can enjoy the retirement they have worked hard to earn.