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Do you have questions about your pensions? Ask PensionBee’s finance and investment expert Becky O’Connor - £200 voucher to be won

190 replies

CeriMumsnet · 01/02/2023 15:28

Pensions are invaluable for our future financial stability and wellbeing, however it can be hard to feel on top of them or know how best to manage them. To help you out, PensionBee has invited their expert to answer your questions around pensions and saving for the future.

  • Everyone who shares a question on the thread below will be entered into a prize draw.
  • One lucky Mumsnet user will win a £200 voucher
  • Becky will be back online in a few weeks to answer a selection of your questions.


About the expert
Becky O’Connor joined PensionBee in January 2023 as Director of Public Affairs. She’s a Personal Finance and Investment Expert and award-winning Journalist with two decades of experience in journalism and communications. Prior to joining PensionBee, Becky was Head of Pensions at Interactive Investor, and previously acted as a spokesperson for Royal London, the mutual insurer. Becky’s also the Co-Founder of the ethical personal finance website, Good With Money; the Author of a book on sustainable investment, The ESG Investing Handbook, Chair of the Ethical Advisory Committee for Castlefield Investment Management and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Here’s what PensionBee has to say
We are a leading online pension provider with a mission to make pensions simple, so that everyone can look forward to a happy retirement. We’ve helped thousands of savers feel pension confident by enabling them to combine, contribute and withdraw from their pension, all in one place.’

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Do you have questions about your pensions? Ask PensionBee’s finance and investment expert Becky O’Connor - £200 voucher to be won
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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:38

thinkponk48 · 01/02/2023 18:08

What's the best pension for a stay at home parent

Hi @thinkponk48. A personal pension you can set up and monitor yourself. As a non-worker, you can still get basic rate tax relief on pension contributions up to £3,600 a year. Tax relief is effectively free money from the government and provides a significant boost to your own contributions so worth adding into the mix alongside any savings or ISAs you might have.

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:41

LuciferRising · 01/02/2023 18:11

I have a DC pension (~£130k pot) from previous employer that I no longer pay into. Monthly management fees are taken from it.

I now have an Alpha civil service pension. Only 3 years old.

Should I combine them? I think I missed the window. How about as AVCs? Not sure what that is tbh.

Should I be doing something with my DC one?

I'm 45.

@LuciferRising It's probably worth comparing the fees you are paying with what else is available - you might be paying over the odds for a similar investment plan elsewhere. Equally, it might be good value. As a guide, anything over 1% in total fees is on the high side. In terms of what else you 'should' be doing with your DC one, you might also want to check how it is being invested. If you are still 20 years or so from retiring/ needing to access that pension, then a higher risk (which just means higher proportion of equities (company shares) as opposed to income-focused investments) may still be appropriate. If you are in a low risk fund, you are probably unnecessarily harming your chances of growth with that pension pot over the long term, so check whether your risk profile is right according to when you plan to retire. You could potentially make additional contributions to your civil service pension if you want to boost your retirement income as much as possible, as you've been in the scheme for more than 12 months. This information page has an added pension calculator that will show you by how much your extra contributions could boost your retirement income www.civilservicepensionscheme.org.uk/your-pension/managing-your-pension/increase-your-pension/added-pension/.

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:42

Littlebluedinosaur · 01/02/2023 19:51

I worked in the public sector until recently so my pension up to now was in one of the defined benefit schemes. I’ve just started a new job and they’ve said I’ll be auto-enrolled into a company pension with Nest. I’ll put in 5% and my employer will put in 5% also. This 5% is a lot less than my previous job contribution rate which was over 10% but I think the two schemes differ greatly anyway. I am happy to be enrolled. I think. But should I put more in than 5%? Can I choose to do that? I also have a LISA but I only pay £20 a month into that.

Hi @Littlebluedinosaur. Yes, you can absolutely put more in, even if your employer isn't matching it. While your new scheme is less generous than your former workplace, it is quite typical. The extra you put in will still benefit from tax relief so still gets a significant boost. You can put in up to your annual earnings or £40,000, whichever is lower, every year. Should you have any in excess of this you want to contribute, you could use up unused allowance from the previous three tax years, too.

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:43

Notwavingbutsignalling · 01/02/2023 19:51

Hi Becky,

I am UK based, now paying in to a work pension. I worked for several years in Ireland and would like to secure my pension contributions there aswell as here. Am I allowed to work part time for an Irish based company whilst I live in the U.K. and continue with my full time job here.

I have about six months of contributions to make into the Irish system to guarantee some pension from there ( you need minimum 5 years working contributions). I am unlikely to be back there working now but think that I can make additional contributions from here for the balance once I have the full 5 years working contributions paid in. My plan is to try and find some work there that I can do from here ( the IK) to make up those last six months.

Hope that makes sense!
Many thanks

Hi @Notwavingbutsignalling. Without more knowledge of the pensions system in Ireland it's hard for me to answer this question fully, but there is a social security agreement between the UK and Ireland, more here www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/common-travel-area-and-social-security-benefits. You should contact the Future Pension Centre in the UK www.gov.uk/future-pension-centre to find out if your Irish contributions would count towards a UK State Pension and if the NI contributions you are currently making through your UK pension are effectively topping up your Irish pension for you anyway, which might be the case and would save you having to work two jobs to get the Irish pension.

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:44

Saltysnack2003 · 01/02/2023 19:53

I have five different pensions with five different pension providers. Is it best to consolidate them all into one? If so, how do I decide which pension provider is the best? How do I go about consolidating them?

Hi @Saltysnack2003. Consolidating makes the admin of pensions much easier - five is a lot to keep track of, so from the point of view of having your financial affairs organised, yes, it could be beneficial to consolidate. Depending on what you are paying your current providers and the cost of the plan you choose, you might also save money, although it can be difficult to compare charges directly. To consolidate, choose the provider you want to move to, which can be a new one or one of your existing ones, and let them know you'd like to transfer in. It may not be possible to transfer all of your pensions - it will depend on the type of pension and whether there are any associated benefits. But the provider you choose can help you. If you have all the key details of your old pensions, the process of consolidating shouldn't take long.

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:45

Stanssmallestfan · 01/02/2023 19:56

I have an aviva pension I pay for 16 years approx £36 pm
i also have a workplace pension which started when compulsory which then stopped when I moved to another company and a new workplace pension started approximately 1 year ago. I also work a part time job in nhs and I’ve been in the pension for about 1 year.
many years ago I joined serps, I had no idea what it was and still don’t.
I don’t have a clue about anything and would love some advice

Hi @Stanssmallestfan. If you are over 50, it would be a great first step for you to contact Pension Wise, the free government-run guidance service. It will be able to take a look at the type and terms of your pensions and help you work out what to do with each and when. But it looks like you have one personal pension (the Aviva one) that you have continued to pay into; two former workplace ones and an NHS one. Serps are the old additional top-ups that people used to pay to get extra State Pension - the scheme is no longer running but you can perform a SERPS pension check by writing to HMRC with your National Insurance number and a few other personal details, including your full name, previous name (if applicable), address and date of birth to find out what happened to yours.

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:47

Margrethe · 01/02/2023 20:11

How do we create different pots to crystallise? How do we keep these pots separate so we can take some pension now and keep saving into the pension that isn’t crystallised?

Hi @Margrethe. When you reach the age you can start to access your pension, you can choose to take some or all of your tax-free cash (or none at all til later) and you can choose whether or not you want to start taking an income from the rest. This might involve moving some of your pot into 'drawdown'. How this arrangement works depends on your provider - not all offer drawdown, so you might need to switch to a new provider if you want to do this. The amount accessed and moved into drawdown is 'crystallised', the rest is uncrystallised. Depending on your provider, both pots can remain invested in exactly the same way. Some providers allow you to invest the drawdown pot differently to the pot that is uncrystallised.

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Chewbecca · 08/03/2023 10:48

BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:36

Hi @Chewbecca. You don't generally incur admin fees for moving a pension to another provider unless there are exit fees associated with your particular pension. It's best to check. From the way you have phrased your description of your pension though (as an amount of income per year), it sounds like the pension is defined benefit, so this income could be guaranteed and the pension might also come with other benefits. This means even if it is just a few hundred pounds a year, it might be best to leave it where it is. In fact it might not be possible to move it without advice, anyway.

I think you have posted the answer to a different question here.

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:48

Toooldtoworry · 01/02/2023 20:23

What's the best calculator to use to ascertain how much we should pay into our pensions?

Previously used Retireready one which makes no sense to me.

Hi @Toooldtoworry. PensionBee has a great calculator here www.pensionbee.com/pension-calculator. You need to know what your target retirement income is first. For that, you might try using the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association retirement living standards guidance, which can be found here.retirementlivingstandards.org.uk. How much you need (and therefore how much you contribute) will depend on what kind of lifestyle you want or need when you retire and also whether you are in a couple. It will also depend on whether you are on track for the full State Pension so check this too, here www.gov.uk/check-state-pension

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:49

FictionalCharacter · 01/02/2023 21:15

I would like to pay extra into my DC scheme to save income tax. How do I work out the best amount to save, and how do I calculate the tax saving?

Hi @FictionalCharacter. Firstly this is a great idea. The tax saving is basically the amount of tax you would have paid if you had taken the money as income rather than put it into a pension. However if your workplace pension is made on a salary sacrifice basis, you could also save on National Insurance contributions too if you increase your contributions. If you get a pay rise that pushes you into the next tax bracket or if you earn just above an income tax threshold, then putting more into your pension via salary sacrifice can keep you in the lower tax bracket, as your salary for tax purposes would be the after pension amount.

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:50

BrokenWing · 02/02/2023 10:18

I have 18 years in an older (better) final salary DB pension and 3 DC pensions. Can I take my 25% tax free lump sum from my DC pensions so I do not impact what I get annually from my DB pension? Are there disadvantages to be aware of doing this?

Hi @BrokenWing. The rules allow you to take the 25% tax-free from any one or more of your pensions. When deciding which to take from, maybe look at how each has performed and what the charges are as well as whether there are any penalties for withdrawal. There are no particular disadvantages to doing it this way. The only thing to be aware of is tax efficiency when you do start to use your pension for income. Arrange a call with Pension Wise, the free Government guidance service, who can talk you through the tax implications of each option, based on how much you have in your pots.

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:50

Ppq · 02/02/2023 10:53

When will we be able to see all our pensions from different providers on a SINGLE DASHBOARD?

thank you

Hi @Ppq. The Pensions Dashboard project has stalled yet again - the date for switch on for providers was meant to be August this year and it was going to be available to the public towards the end of next year, however due to technological difficulties, this deadline has been scrapped and a new one not yet announced. In terms of your own planning needs, it might be best to plough on and set up your own dashboard - either in spreadsheet form or by consolidating to one provider - as the Government's timeline is now back to being as long as a piece of string.

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:51

ohdannyboy · 02/02/2023 11:50

I have 3 pensions from different companies - how easy is it to combine them to my current workplace pension. ?

Hi @ohdannyboy. If they are all defined contribution pensions, it should be relatively easy to combine them. You'd need to choose the pension you want to consolidate them all to and then give this provider the details of the other schemes on a transfer-in form. If you have a defined benefit scheme in the mix, this can be harder, depending on the guarantees associated with it and the amount in it. The ease can also depend on whether you are transferring by cashing in the pension then re-investing it or if you are transferring 'in specie' meaning directly between the same investments on one platform to the same ones on another. The latter isn't always possible, depending on what investments are available with each provider. Provided there are no complications, the transfer process can actually be quite quick

  • just a couple of weeks.
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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:52

DanBenandBud · 02/02/2023 11:51

Can you take a pension break - then make up the shortfall later in life ?

Hi @DanBenandBud Yes, absolutely, you would need to put more in to make up for the gap though, but it might not be a lot more depending on how much you have missed and the generosity of your employer's scheme. Be aware of the annual limits on contributions if you are really going for it - £40,000 a year or up to your annual earnings, whichever is lower. Try the PensionBee calculator to get an idea of how much you need to contribute for different retirement outcomes. www.pensionbee.com/pension-calculator

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:52

jacqui5366 · 02/02/2023 11:56

I did not start work until I was 25 due to health reasons, and even then worked part time - I pay into a pension scheme, and now at 35 I am beginning to fear I will have such a small pension, and will have to wait until approaching 70 for my state pension - what is you best advice (DH will have a good pension but I cannot rely on that) I have looked and applied for a full time position - so far unsuccessfully.

Hi @jacqui5366. Aside from working more hours to boost your income, you can consider paying more into your pension than the auto-enrolment minimum, if you can afford to set aside a bit extra at the moment. You could also look at what your current pension is invested in. A cautious fund is unlikely to grow as much as one that is invested primarily in equities (a higher proportion of equities means a higher chance of volatility, but overall, over the long run, gains should be higher). So it might be possible for you to switch to a higher growth fund, too, to boost the returns on your existing pot. You are only 35 so plenty of time to work on your pension. Well done for thinking about it now.

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:53

Montydoo · 02/02/2023 12:01

What is the best method of locating and transferring an overseas pension fund ? I worked in Bermuda for 11 years as a teacher, and now want to locate and transfer the pension pot I accumulated whilst there - I have contacted the provider several time but they are very unresponsive. TY

Hi @Montydoo. If you have a UK pension provider, you could give them the details of the overseas pension provider and your pension and they can liaise with the overseas provider about moving your funds to the UK. There may be charges for transferring it and there may also be currency risk. Tax rules also vary between countries and you may face higher tax charges by transferring. Your transfer case could be complex, so it is probably best to speak to an IFA in this case.

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:53

lovemyflipflops · 02/02/2023 12:04

Can I transfer part of my husband's pension pot into mine - I was a SAHM for 10 years. whilst he worked - he is agreeable to this.
I am paying into small pension as I now work term time in a school.

Hi @lovemyflipflops. Unfortunately this isn't possible - it's only possible to transfer a pension to someone else when you die or divorce. When your husband starts to draw from his pension, there's nothing to stop you both using the income from it.

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:54

HobNobAddict · 02/02/2023 12:07

Hello, can you help ? I have a Local Government pension pot, and have nominated DS1 and 2 to be beneficiaries - does this also need putting in writing in a will incase my DH contests my decision if anything happens to me.

Hi @HobNobAddict. The Expression of Wishes or Nomination of Beneficiaries form is important to fill out - many people don't - so well done on doing so. You can also make a note of this in your will. Wills are legally binding, whereas the Expression of Wishes form is not legally binding. However pensions arent legally part of your estate and so not technically covered by your will. Nevertheless, if all of your documents agree on who should receive what, this can make it much easier for the executors of your estate and the trustees of your pension to know what to do in the event of your death.

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:54

2023forme · 02/02/2023 12:08

I’m confused about tax free lump sums. My forecast refers to a “an automatic tax free lump sum of £xx” but later says the amount that can be taken tax free is 25% of the pension value. I have both a defined benefit part and a defined contribution part in my pension pot (USS). Hope you chose this question!!

Hi @2023forme. Without seeing the document and knowing a bit more about you and your plan, it's hard to know (sorry), but it sounds like the pounds and pence valuation would be based on either the amount currently in your pot or 25% of the forecast amount when you reach the Normal Minimum Pension Age. Or, it could be that the pounds and pence amount is 25% of the defined benefit pension pot, which is why USS is able to quote a specific amount on this element of your pension. The information on the USS pension website is helpful but quite generic. USS does offer guidance webinars which would be worth signing up to. If you haven't already logged in to My USS, it's worth doing, because there is a lot more information within this portal than they can fit in the annual statements.

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:55

Chenford · 02/02/2023 12:22

I pay into a pension via work, ie it’s on my payslip, and my employer contributes.

I read somewhere that I might be able to claim some tax back due to being a 40% tax payer. Is that right and if so, is it HMRC I need to speak to? Would I have to do a tax return?

Hi @Chenford. It's possible your employer is already claiming higher rate tax relief on your behalf. Whether it does or not depends on whether your pension payments are taken on a 'net pay' or 'relief at source' basis. If your pension is relief at source, you get basic rate relief on your contributions but would have to claim higher rate relief via a self-assessment tax return. Which involves registering for tax returns, if you don't already fill one out. But if it is net pay or salary sacrifice, then your employer adds higher rate relief for you. You can ask your HR department which type it operates and fingers crossed it's net pay and you don't have to worry about doing tax returns!

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:56

littlecottonbud · 02/02/2023 13:49

Is there any way I can be in control of my contributions, some months pay more and others less - to a pre-agreed minimum - I know I am going to struggle financially at some point but would like to contribute the minimum on some months.

Hi @littlecottonbud. You raise a valid concern that applies to many people during the cost of living crisis. Most providers do not offer this level of flexibility because it is quite difficult to administer through payroll. Some offer three-monthly opportunities to change your contribution levels. There is more flexibility with personal pension providers and contributions you are making yourself, for example, if you are self-employed, rather than through an employer. But generally speaking workplace scheme contributions are trickier to flex at short notice. It might be best for you to just pay the minimum for now, if you are struggling. Then if you manage to build up some extra savings throughout the year, add them into your pension as a one-off contribution. But check with HR first on exactly how flexible your workplace scheme is.

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:56

LittleDeeAndME · 02/02/2023 13:52

What is the best pension calculator to use to predict on saving ££?? each month - what my approximate pension would be and at what age - I have paid into a company pension scheme and get an annual statement - but would love to have a goal retirement age of 55 (I am 35 now)

Hi @LittleDeeAndME. There's an excellent one on the PensionBee website, would you believe! Here www.pensionbee.com/pension-calculator. If this calculator doesn't do quite what you want it to, let us know.

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BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:58

ButterOllocks · 02/02/2023 13:56

My mum has retired and has a pension, however her friends who have spent spent spent and rented all their life get as much (more in the winter) from pension credit, winter fuel and cold weather benefits - so what's the point of saving for the old age - when the state gives pensioners so much to make up a state pension ?? (I have a pension but wonder how much it will be worth due to inflation - and wonder if the triple lock and pensioner benefits will be there when I reach that age). thoughts ........?

Hi @ButterOllocks. I can well understand the frustration here. It sounds like your Mum is just above the threshold for a lot of benefits and many of those targeted at energy costs have brought up the level available. Does your Mum get the full State Pension? Is it possible she is also entitled to some of the benefits you mention here but doesn't realise? It might be worth checking as as you probably know, Pension Credit is means-tested. In terms of your wider point, I sympathise that it can feel pointless saving for old age if others don't and get the same income anyway. However if you want more than a basic living standard in retirement, there is really no option but to save as much as possible and a pension remains the best way of doing so. This is particularly true if protections around the State Pension and other pensioner benefits decline over time, as you rightly suggest, this is a risk. So I would say even more reason to save privately.

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Dizzywizz · 08/03/2023 14:24

Can you transfer an old work pension to your new work pension, even if you’re no longer paying into the old one?

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Chenford · 08/03/2023 17:29

BeckyPensionBee · 08/03/2023 10:55

Hi @Chenford. It's possible your employer is already claiming higher rate tax relief on your behalf. Whether it does or not depends on whether your pension payments are taken on a 'net pay' or 'relief at source' basis. If your pension is relief at source, you get basic rate relief on your contributions but would have to claim higher rate relief via a self-assessment tax return. Which involves registering for tax returns, if you don't already fill one out. But if it is net pay or salary sacrifice, then your employer adds higher rate relief for you. You can ask your HR department which type it operates and fingers crossed it's net pay and you don't have to worry about doing tax returns!

That’s really helpful and clear - thank you!

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