Making the most of your pension pot

Five top tips to maximise your pension

2 minutes

Retirement still years away? It's never too early to start planning.

Pensions can be confusing, but staying on top of yours can make life easier when you do stop working. 

It's never too early to start planning for retirement

  • Consider combining old pensions with new ones
  • Stay on top of potential charges
  • Could annuities be part of your financial strategy?

Starting to think about funding your lifestyle in later life? It's something a lot of us fail to plan for effectively, and many experts believe there's a problem on the horizon for people who don't maximise their existing and future pensions arrangements.

Whatever your age and ambitions, creating a detailed plan of action will help you work out a target retirement income – and keep everything on track.  

To help you think of more useful ways to plan for your ultimate pension pot, here are five top tips to consider.

1. Create a spreadsheet

Being able to see how your pension pot is performing is the first step to building a bigger fund. One former Pensions Minister says the UK is lagging behind on offering a digital way to do this. For now, a spreadsheet is the best option.

Try creating columns for your State Pension, amounts coming from private pensions and annuities, cash savings goals, money due from property and other inheritances and lump sums.

Set this against a prediction of how much you'll need for each year of your retirement.


2. Consider combining your pensions when you leave a job

There's no right or wrong answer to whether combining your pensions from two or more jobs is the right move. It's a personal choice based on expert financial advice.

It seems to make sense to have all of your funds in one place, as this allows you to manage everything more easily, but spreading the risk of your investments could also be a good idea in a bid to generate a larger overall pot.

Pension Wise from MoneyHelper offers a wealth of information on this to help you make an informed decision.


3. Be sure of the cost of withdrawing your pension early

In the Queen's Speech for the 2016/17 session of Parliament, the Government announced a new Pensions Bill to help those facing charges for withdrawing money early from their pension pot. 

As many as 700,000 people could have to pay these hefty early exit fees, according to a report by the BBC [1].


4. Try and understand all the charges

A study by the Transparency Task Force (TFF) claims there are now more than 100 different and sometimes hidden charges being levied on pensions. The report suggests these charges could be reducing the total value of a fund by more than a third.

It's important to stay on top of any accrued charges and fees - these could have an effect on the long-term financial status of your pension pot. If any gains are being eaten up by fees, you'll ultimately be unable to maximise the amount. 


5. Think about annuities as part of a wider strategy

Converting money from your pension pot into guaranteed income for life through an annuity may appeal to you – having certainty about the amount you will receive is an attractive proposition.

However, even though there are many different types of annuity, you have to commit to whichever one you choose, which reduces flexibility and means you need to be sure the outcome is right for you.

A report in City A.M. claims annuities are making a comeback, despite the pension changes offering over-55s more freedom to make other investments. 

However you choose to maximise your pension pot, it's important to start now. Whether you have one, five or 15 years left before you might retire; planning and securing your future should always be top of your list of life issues to fully understand and continually react to for the best outcome.

A detailed retirement plan and pension calculator can offer valuable insights into your potential income. However, it’s important to remember that estimates are never set in stone, and things like your health and the strength of the economy can quickly change.

Take a look at the bigger picture with help from our retirement advice service.



[1] Brian Milligan, 2016. The Queen's Speech: Pension savers to be better protected, BBC