Pension freedom reforms are now giving more than half a million over-55s the opportunity to take control of their own retirement savings and spend, save or invest them as they wish.
The huge overhaul allows older savers unrestricted access to their whole pension pots, and removes the need to buy an annuity to provide guaranteed income for life.
But pension experts warn the freedom reforms bring big and serious risks, like fraudsters stealing people's life savings, baffled retirees paying far too much tax, and the possibility of some treating their savings like a cash windfall and blowing them too fast.
The Government has axed of a 55 per cent 'death tax' on pension pots left invested, making the option even more attractive.
Savers also won't be limited to one chance to take a single tax-free lump sum worth 25 per cent of their pension pots, with the rest taxed as income afterwards.
Instead, Chancellor George Osborne has announced that people will be able to dip in and make as many withdrawals as they want, each time getting 25 per cent tax-free and the rest taxed like income.
The changes apply to people with 'defined contribution' or 'money purchase' pension schemes, which take contributions from both employer and employee and invest them to provide a pot of money at retirement.
They don't apply to those with more generous gold-plated 'final salary' pensions which provide a guaranteed income after retirement.
The shopping list of items newly flush pensioners might spend money on is long and varied: new cars, home improvements, cruise holidays, paying off debts including mortgages, investing in buy-to-let properties, buying homes or providing other financial help to children and grandchildren, and paying care costs for elderly relatives.
But experts say that for many people, the best option will be to resist making an immediate dash for their cash. They urged people to take time to carefully weigh up their options.
Why you should see an Independent Financial Adviser and our tips on preparing for an appointment.
Step 1. What's your pension pot worth?
You can find out the value of your pension by looking at an annual statement or in some cases going on to your pension provider's website.
Your provider should send you a Pension pack four to six months before your selected retirement age. If you do not have any information at all about your pension, visit www.gov.uk/find-lost-pension.
Step 2. Are there any terms and conditions attached to your pension?
Some pensions will have special conditions attached, such as penalties for drawing your pension earlier than planned. Check your original paperwork or contact your pension provider for information.
Step 3. How much state pension will you receive?
State pensions vary, depending on factors such as how many years you have been in employment. You can calculate your state pension by visiting www.gov.uk/calculate-state-pension.
Step 4. Think about your circumstances.
Some people are looking forward to a carefree retirement, while others may still be paying off debts or supporting their children financially. You may also have other income to consider, such as benefits. Also consider possible future needs, such as care costs.
Step 5. How do you want to spend your retirement?
Many people look forward to a change in lifestyle at retirement. Consider the costs of any essentials, such as housing, energy and food, along with leisure time and home improvements. This should help you come up with a realistic sense of what income you need.
Step 6. Bring just the relevant information with you
Darwin Wealth Management will look at your needs and analyse the best options for you and help you avoid the pitfalls. DO NOT engage with any company that phone you up who are not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority you could lose your hard earned money. For further information call Darwin Wealth Management ltd 01743 453934 for a free initial chat.
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I am one of the directors of Darwin Wealth Management. We help individuals and business owners with their savings and investments, and tailor make financial plans according to their specific goals. If...
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