Need to speak to someone about your personal pension but don’t know where to start? Chances are, you’re not alone.
Our pensions are often the most important savings that we’ll make in our lifetime. However, their complex nature typically puts people off dealing with them – it’s a classic case of when something feels difficult, we ignore it, and inertia rules….
However, given that we rely on our pensions to support us throughout retirement, it’s a good idea to check on them every few years. This way, you can make sure that your finances are on track for the type of lifestyle that you want, and expect later on.
But many of our members tell us that – when it comes to organising their pension(s) – they don’t know where to start. With that in mind, we’ve pulled together a few starting points to hopefully make those initial steps just that little bit easier.
When it comes to keeping track of your pension(s), the first step is to dig out information from your various pension providers. You may only have one pension provider if you’ve been with the same employer for 20 or more years, or you may have a number of pension pots split across different providers if you’ve changed employers every few years.
By law, each pension provider is required to give you regular updates on the performance of your pension. It helps if you can find and gather the last statements that you received for each pension pot, so that you have a complete list of all your pensions and the various amounts in each. If you can’t find the information – but know who your pension is with, then you should be able to call the provider and give them your National Insurance number and other personal information to allow them to identify you and get the details sent out. It’s also worth checking and updating the address they have on file for you at the same time if you’ve moved house since you last provided your details.
If you’re still struggling to find the details, then the Government has recently launched a service that allows you to find the contact details of various providers to trace long lost pensions. It may be time consuming, but it’s worth taking the time to track down, as you don’t want to potentially lose out on thousands of pounds sat in a long lost pension somewhere!
When you have your various pension details to hand – a good next step is the Pension Wise website. It was set up by the Government to offer free and impartial guidance to people who have a personal pension scheme.
If you are aged 50 or over and have a defined contribution pension, you can book a free telephone or face to face appointment with them, to help you make sense of your options. This is almost always worth doing as a free starting point to help you on your way.
The downside to using a Financial Advisor is that there are usually fees involved, but these are often outweighed by the benefits of getting good personalised advice. Different firms can charge in different ways, so it’s important to get an idea of the costs upfront. Thankfully, since 2011 the Financial Regulator (the FCA) has made it a requirement for Financial Advisors to clearly state what the fees are at the first meeting – this way, there’s unlikely to be any nasty surprises further down the line.
Pension rules have changed recently – and now you can withdraw £500 (tax-free) from your pension to pay for professional pension advice. Many advisors also offer an initial free consultation, which gives you a chance to try out their service and ensure you are happy to have a continuing relationship before paying for anything. With many Financial Advisors offering this free consultation, it can make sense to meet more than one – so you can make a comparison and see who you have the best rapport with – to ultimately help you decide who you trust to give you the best advice for your circumstances.
Word of mouth is always helpful and many advisors focus on building their reputation locally, so in the first instance it’s worth asking trusted friends and family who they have chosen to advise them on their money and if they would recommend using them.
You can also use an independent rating service such as VouchedFor or Unbiased, who allow customers to independently rate the service they have received from their advisor. They have customer reviews on thousands of regulated Financial Advisors all over the country.
For more information on things to consider when choosing a Financial Advisor, you can read our guide on ‘How to find the right Financial Advisor for you’.
Alternatively, if you want to learn more in your own time first so you feel better prepared, then there are plenty of useful, impartial resources out there. The two well known Government supported websites are:
- The Money Advice Service – Pensions and Retirement Section
- The Pensions Advisory Service – Pensions Advisory Service Homepage
Did you find this information useful? Do you have any tips or suggestions from your own experience? We’re always happy to hear from you at [email protected].