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Home Finance Constant tinkering with rules is top worry for pension savers

Constant tinkering with rules is top worry for pension savers

by Staff GBAF Publications Ltd
  • When asked their biggest concern about pensions, 30% of people said constant tinkering with rules made them nervous.
  • Investment volatility was an issue for a quarter of people.
  • Potential lifetime allowance breaches were a concern for 12% of people, while a further 12% worried they weren’t contributing enough.
  • Concerns differed depending on how old people were. Not contributing enough was the key concern of the 30-54 age group while constant tinkering with rules was the main concern of the older age groups.

HL survey of 250 clients carried out in January 2022

Helen Morrissey, senior pensions and retirement analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown:

“Tinkering with rules has been a hallmark of the pension industry in recent years with lifetime and annual allowance thresholds being slashed and then frozen. The introduction of tapered and money purchase annual allowances have also thrown a spanner in the works for those on high salaries or who have accessed a pension, as they prevent them from making significant further contributions. It’s no surprise that this constant tinkering has got people worried.

Pensions are a long-term game and many of these changes have been introduced at short notice and in a piecemeal fashion rather than as part of an overarching strategy. It’s understandable that people are wary of what might be around the corner, and this affects their retirement planning. Any further changes to pension tax relief needs to be done as part of a wholesale considered review rather than tinkering around the edges and the unintended consequences it brings.

Investment volatility is also a key concern for people. Sharp market drops such as we saw in the early days of the pandemic and more recently with the Russia-Ukraine conflict can be worrying, but it’s worth saying that what goes down does come back up again and as markets recover so can your pension fund.”

Top tips to take the worry out of pension planning

  1. Annual allowances have been reduced and then frozen in recent years. Keep an eye on your contribution levels to make sure you aren’t falling foul of the rules. Most people have an annual allowance of £40,000 per year to contribute to their pension. However, if you are a high earner then this amount will be cut back and you might find your annual allowance is as low as £4,000. Similarly, if you have already accessed a pension you will have triggered the money purchase annual allowance which restricts you to contributions of no more than £4,000 per year.
  2. Similarly, the lifetime allowance has been reduced and then frozen at £1,073,100. If you feel like you may have a lifetime allowance issue in the future, it’s worth chatting through your options with an adviser. You can get protection though this may mean you need to stop contributing. You can continue to contribute and pay the charge – while it may seem counter intuitive to breach the lifetime allowance in some cases it could be the right decision.
  3. Anyone who has invested in a pension long-term will have gone through various bouts of investment volatility which will have affected their fund value. Recent examples include the pandemic, Brexit and the Global Financial Crisis. It is worrying to see your fund value drop but it’s worth remembering that markets recover, and this will enable your pension to recover too.
  4. It is good to keep an eye on how much you are contributing to your pension and increasing it wherever possible – for instance when you get a pay increase or move jobs. Even small increases can really add up over time. Many employers only contribute the minimum allowed under auto-enrolment but there are others who are willing to contribute more if you also increase your contribution. It is worth checking if you employer offers this.