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Your pension: how small changes now can make a huge difference for your future

We can all agree that having a savings plan for retirement is a good thing. But with so much going on, it can be hard to find time to properly think about pensions. If you're struggling to find the motivation to get started – you're not alone.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Sep 2, 2021

Woman with a calculator

We spoke to Michelle Gribbin, Chief Investment Officer for Profile Pensions, a qualified financial adviser and mum of three, about why it's important for parents to carve out time to look at their savings. Read on to find out more.

In this article you'll find the following information:

  • Why is a pension pot important?
  • What does a good pension pot look like?
  • Finding your old pensions
  • Pension advice from Mumsnet and Gransnet users

Your pension pot – why it’s important that all parents act now

“As a mum of three, believe me when I tell you that I understand that saving more money into a pension isn’t the easiest thing to do when you’re raising a family. It’s easy to neglect your pension pot and focus on the ‘here and now,’ but this can be a costly mistake. Your pension is the most important savings vehicle you’ll ever have," Michelle says.

“Obviously saving more is important, however you can take some simple steps to improve what you’ve got and have peace of mind that your pensions are on the right path.”

“Acting early is the key to pension success”

“The state pension is something that we all must learn to be less reliant on,” Michelle advises. “Unfortunately, this means that your personal and workplace pensions must pick up the slack if you want to enjoy a decent standard of living in retirement.”

Women in the UK face an average pension gap of £16,000 across the UK(2), which means that most are starting from a disadvantage right from the get-go.

“The earlier you take action, the quicker you’ll close that gap and even surpass it.”

What does a good pension pot look like?

When you take time to look at the numbers, it’s quite shocking. On average, it’s estimated that single people need an income of £17,818 a year to live comfortably in retirement. That requires a personal pension pot of at least £237,000 at retirement(3).

With the average pension pot in the UK currently worth around £62,000(4) after a lifetime of saving, it’s safe to say that the vast majority of us are headed for a less than comfortable retirement lifestyle.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, there’s a lot you can do to make yourself better off in retirement and it doesn’t take long either.

The most important thing, Michelle reminds us, is that you act early. “This will give your pension the best chance of growing more for you. Research shows that those who take financial advice increase their pension wealth by £30,991(5).”

If you’re over 50, there’s free guidance available on the options available to you from the Government’s Pension Wise service.

1. Find all your old pensions

There’s an estimated £19.4 billion in unclaimed pension savings(6). So if you think you’ve lost track of a pension or two, then you’re not alone.

“Over the years, you’ll have almost certainly changed jobs, moved house or opted out of a State Earnings-Related Pension Scheme (SERPS). I’ve done all three. These events make it easy for us to lose pensions and make it not so easy to find them. Trust me, it’s a nightmare," Michelle says.

“Tracking them down yourself is possible, but far from simple. That’s why getting experts like Profile Pensions to help you find your pensions can pay off. On average, we find £23,000 per policy located(1).”

2. Improve your pension growth potential

If you’ve picked up workplace pensions or private pensions over the years, there’s a good chance one of your pots isn’t in a suitable investment. This could cost you thousands of pounds.

Many older-style pensions also have high annual charges, compared to rates you can get today. Moving your pension to something more modern with lower charges and a higher quality investment can have a significant impact on your pension value over time.

Pension advice from Mumsnet and Gransnet users

I definitely began to prepare too late. I think there should be a public information film, or maybe even a pension information event in schools. Just something to let us know that we should look after our finances for our future financial health. Simple information for schoolchildren. It's common sense.

You could get a state pension forecast to check whether you've got a full NIC record and will qualify for the full state pension. If there is a shortfall, you may want to look at making up any gaps.

When I was 40, I joined a big company with a good pension scheme, up to then I had no pension. It was my first 'proper' career job after a break bringing up children. Right from the start, I immediately paid most of my extra salary into AVCs (Additional Voluntary Contributions) to the pension scheme. Having never received the extra pay, I didn't miss it and I did that every time there were wage increases. Because I paid maximum AVCs for those 12 years, my occupational pension with my state pension means that I now have a comfortable pension income.

Well-communicated information is important. I am grateful to my union for providing clear guidance at a time when it would have been easy to make choices that would have made my retirement income much less.

I'm already retired, although DH is still working. We're paying the absolute maximum into his company pension, which is matched by his employer, and I wish we'd done the same with mine. I know it's tempting to do the minimum, but if you can spare a little extra, you'll never regret it. I doubt anyone's ever regretted paying too much into their pension.

Capital at risk. This article does not constitute personal advice.

Sources

1. Based on over 6,500 policies located by Profile Pensions since January 2017; 2. Analysis based on Profile Pensions proprietary data from 20,107 customers age 22-66 from April 2018 to March 2020; 3. Profile Pensions pension calculator | www.profilepensions.co.uk/pension-calculator; 4. https://www.fca.org.uk/data/retirement-income-market-data ; 5. The Value of Financial Advice https://ilcuk.org.uk/what-its-worth/ ; 6. Source: Association of British Insurers, May 2020 | abi.org.uk

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