7 things to review when looking at your pension

14th October 2019

Research suggests thousands could be missing out on investment returns in their pension because they haven’t updated their retirement age. Remaining engaged with your pension can help you create a retirement income that meets expectations. So, what should you review when looking at your pension?

1. What fund are you invested in?

Typically, a Defined Contribution pension will offer several different fund options for you to choose from. When you first join the scheme, you’ll automatically be enrolled into one and this will remain so unless you change it.

There are a few reasons why you may want to change which fund your pension is invested in. Often, they will have varying levels of risk, allowing you to choose one that suits your attitude and goals. In addition, many pension providers also offer an ‘ethical’ fund if you want your pension to be invested in a way that reflects your values.

It’s usually easy to change which fund your pension is invested in, either by updating it through an online portal or contacting the pension provider.

2. What does it assume your age of retirement is?

Pensions are usually invested. Traditionally, the level of risk these investments take decreases as you approach retirement age automatically. However, if the assumed retirement age doesn’t align with your plans, you could miss out on returns.

According to analysis from Aviva, an average earner in an automatic enrolment scheme could miss out on more than £4,000 in their person by sticking with a default retirement age of 65, when they intend to retire at 68. If the default retirement age is set at 60, this rises to almost £10,000. With retirements becoming more flexible, this could be a growing issue.

It’s also worth noting that, depending on your assets and retirement plans, de-risking investments as retirement approaches may not be the best option.

3. Are you receiving the correct level of tax relief?

Tax relief is one of the aspects that makes saving into a pension valuable. It’s a helpful way to boost your contributions. The amount of tax relief you receive on pension contributions is linked to the highest rate of Income Tax you pay.

The basic-rate of 20% tax relief is automatically applied. However, if you’re a higher or additional-rate taxpayer, you will need to claim the additional tax relief through tax returns. It can seem like a chore, but it’s one that’s well worth doing. To increase your pension by £100, you’d need to add £80 if you’re a basic-rate taxpayer. However, this falls to just £60 and £55 for higher and additional-rate taxpayers respectively.

4. How much are you contributing?

If you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to look at how much you’re paying into your pension each month. Under auto-enrolment, this will be a minimum of 5% of pensionable earnings. However, you can increase this. Even a small increase can have a big impact over the long term, particularly when you factor in tax relief and investment returns.

5. What is your employer contributing?

Your employer will also be making contributions to your pension. As a minimum, this will be 3% of pensionable earnings. However, some employers do pay in more or will increase their contributions if you do. It’s worth checking what your company policy is on this as employer contributions are essentially ‘free money’ that could boost your future income.

6. What returns are investments delivering?

As stated above, pensions are usually invested. The returns these investments deliver can help your contributions grow over your working life. As a result, taking a look at how investments are performing at part of a regular review can help you see whether the investments are right for your goals.

It’s important to look at the bigger picture here. Investments are often volatile when looking at just a snapshot of figures. Instead, you should look at how your investments have performed over the long term to gain a more accurate understanding.

In addition to returns, take some time to look at the fees you’re paying, as these will eat into the returns.

7. What is the projected value at retirement?

Finally, how much will your pension be worth when you want to access it? Your pension provider should give you an estimate of this figure, although it’s important to keep in mind that this can’t be guaranteed.

Understanding what your pension is projected to be worth gives you an opportunity to see if expectations align with reality. If there’s a shortfall, the earlier you spot it, the better the position you’re in to make necessary changes. Alternatively, you may find you’re in a position to retire earlier than expected if you want to.

If you have any questions about your pension or other assets that will be used to fund retirement, please get in touch. Our goal is to help you get the most out of your finances and have confidence in your financial future.

Please note: A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits. Levels, bases of and reliefs from taxation may be subject to change in the future.