Can you afford to retire before State Pension age?

When do you want to retire? Are you dreaming of giving up work before you start collecting your State Pension? With news that the State Pension age is rising and suggestions the government needs to raise it quicker, it’s a question more workers may be thinking about.

With 15th September marking Pension Awareness Day, now is the perfect time to consider whether your pension contributions are aligned with your plans. The sooner you start planning retirement, the more likely you’ll be able to make dreams a reality.

Changes to the State Pension age

Recently, the State Pension age for men and women equalised at the age of 65. However, further rises are planned and the State Pension age remains under review. By 2028, the State Pension age will be 67 and it’s likely to rise beyond this. It’s important to understand when you’ll receive the State Pension and to keep track of how legislative change will have an impact. You can check your State Pension here.

Whilst there are already steps in place to increase the State Pension, you may have seen recent news suggesting that it needs to increase at a much faster pace.

According to think tank the Centre for Social Justice the State Pension age should reach 70 by 2028 and 75 by 2035. The organisation argues getting more people in their 50s and 60s to continue working could boost the economy by £182 billion. It also notes the cost of providing the State Pension, which accounted for 42% of all welfare spending last year, a bill that is rising. Over the last 30 years, the cost of the State Pension has increased by over £75 billion, reaching £92 billion.

If you’d hoped to retire sooner, the State Pension age increasing could derail plans. The Centre for Social Justice paper is simply a suggestion, but you may not want to work up to the point the State Pension age is currently set.

3 steps to calculating if you can retire before receiving the State Pension

So, how can you retire before State Pension age? It’s a goal that requires careful financial planning. Fortunately, if this is your target, Pension Freedoms mean than you’re likely to have more options that you would in the past. Most people are now able to access their pensions from the age of 55, well before they can expect to start receiving an income from the State Pension.

However, simply being able to access pensions earlier in life doesn’t mean you can afford to retire sooner. Your pension provisions are likely to need to provide an income for the rest of your life. Making withdrawals sooner could leave you in a financially vulnerable position in your latter years.

You’ll need to take three essential steps to begin understanding if it’s possible to retire on your current provisions before you’ll receive the State Pension and how to make up a potential shortfall.

1. Set out your goals

Calculating if you can afford to retire before the State Pension age means you first need to set out what you hope to achieve. There are two key questions here; when do you want to retire? What will your lifestyle and spending look like in retirement? Understanding how much income you’ll need annually and your life expectancy are crucial to assessing how your savings stack up.

2. Understand your current pension savings

With an idea of how much you’ll need to retire sooner, you’ll need to look at how much you already have in your pensions. Remember to assess all the pensions you hold and factor in likely investment returns between now and your intended retirement date. With these figures, you’ll be able to see the level of income your pension will provide if you retire at different points.

3. Assess how other assets may be used

Pensions are often the key to creating an income in retirement, but they’re not the only option. You may have other assets that can be used to fund retirement, such as savings, investments or property. How could these be used to supplement pensions? Knowing you have other assets to fall back on can give you the confidence needed to move ahead with plans. You also need to ask whether you’d be comfortable using other assets for retirement income. Perhaps you’d hoped to leave property as an inheritance or savings to pay for potential care costs.

Identifying a shortfall

As you assess your pension savings, you may find that you’re in a better position than you thought. However, you could also find a gap between your ambitions and savings. If this is the case, identifying the shortfall is the first step to creating a financial plan that combines your aspirations and financial situation. This is where financial planning can help you understand what steps may help.

  • Could you work longer than initially planned and still retire before receiving the State Pension?
  • Would a phased approach to retirement appeal to you?
  • Could you reduce your monthly outgoings or cut back on big-ticket spending?

If you hope to retire before reaching State Pension age and would like to understand the impact this will have on your financial security, please get in touch.

Please note: A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits. The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation which are subject to change in the future.

What to do if you think you’ll never retire

More people are paying into a pension than ever before. Yet, millions are still worried they’ll never be able to retire. If you have concerns about the retirement lifestyle you will be able to afford, there are often steps you can take to improve this.

First, the good news: the number of people saving enough for retirement has hit its highest ever level, according to Scottish Widows. Almost three in five Brits are deemed to be putting enough aside for retirement, calculated at 12% of an individual’s income. However, a worrying number expect they’ll never be able to afford to give up work. Around a fifth of people believe they won’t be financially secure enough to retire, equating to eight million individuals.

With fewer Defined Benefit (DB) schemes available, which offer a guaranteed income for life, individuals need to take more responsibility for their retirement finances. But the research indicates a large portion of the population don’t have confidence in the steps they’re taking.

Peter Glancy, Head of Policy at Scottish Widows, said: “While the past 15 years alone have proved that things have been changed for the better, auto-enrolment alone won’t avert a pension crisis in the UK. Government and industry need to take the next step together and also stop pretending the long-term savings challenge can be solved in isolation.”

6 things to do if you’re worried about pension savings

In recent years, the responsibility for creating a retirement income has shifted to individuals. The number of Defined Benefit (DB) pensions schemes has been falling. Also, Pension Freedoms mean retirees are now often responsible for how and when they access pension savings. As a result, it’s natural to have some concerns about how your retirement provisions will provide for you.

If you’re worried you won’t be able to afford retirement or are unsure of the lifestyle you’ll be able to enjoy, these six steps may help.

1. Assess your current savings

Whilst the Sottish Widows research highlights millions are worried about retirement, it doesn’t state how much these people have put away. It may be that some are in a better position than they believe, particularly when looking at the long term.

The first thing to do is look at the amount you have already saved. The majority of workers will have several pensions due to switching jobs; getting a current value for them all is important. This will give you a figure to assess whether or not you’re on track. Remember, most pensions are invested, and the value will hopefully grow between now and when you hope to retire. Providers will give you a projected value at traditional retirement age, however, this cannot be guaranteed.

2. Check contributions

Next, how much are you contributing to your pension? If you’ve been auto-enrolled into a pension by your employer, the minimum you contribute is currently 5% of qualifying earnings. However, you can choose to increase this. The end goal for pension savings can seem daunting, but it’s worth remembering your employer will also be contributing at least 3% and you’ll benefit from tax relief. These two incentives can significantly boost the amount you’re putting away.

With a baseline for how much you’re already putting away, you may want to consider increasing contributions. Even a small rise in how much you put away each month can have a big impact. When saving for life after work, a pension is often the most efficient way to save. Some employers will also increase their contributions in line with yours.

3. Don’t forget the State Pension

It’s not just your Personal and Workplace Pensions that will provide an income in retirement. For many, the State Pension will be the foundation. Once you’ve factored in how much you can expect to receive from the State Pension, the amount you need to take responsibility for can seem far less challenging.

The State Pension alone won’t usually provide you with enough to secure the retirement lifestyle you want. But it does provide a level of security and maybe enough to cover essential outgoings. How much you’ll receive will depend on your National Insurance record. To qualify for the full amount, paying out £8,767.20 annually in 2019/20, you’d need to have 35 qualifying years on your National Insurance record. You can check how much your State Pension is likely to be here.

4. Calculate other sources of income

Whilst pensions are the most common way to create an income in retirement, they’re not the only option. Other assets you’ve built up throughout your working life can also be used and may be important to your personal financial plan. Yet, when initially looking at how affordable retirement is, you may have missed these out.

Among the assets to consider are savings, investments and property. How these assets can be used in retirement will depend on your situation and goals, but it’s important they’re not overlooked. Even if you don’t intend to use them in retirement, knowing you have assets to fall back on if necessary, can give you the confidence needed to approach this important milestone.

5. Consider the costs of retirement

If you think you can’t afford to retire, what are you basing this on? If you’re looking at your current expenditure, you may be overestimating how much you need. Most people find their necessary income falls in retirement as some significant costs decrease. You may, for instance, no longer have a mortgage to pay or save each month on travel costs once you’re not commuting.

The cost of retirement is individual and is linked to your plans. Taking some time to figure out how much you need can help you identify if there is a shortfall or where adjustments can be made if needed. According to Which? research, the average retired household spends around £27,000 a year. This is made up of basic areas of expenditure (£17,800 annually) and some luxuries.

6. Speak to a financial adviser

We often find that people are in a better position than they think when they consider the above five factors. We’re here to help you pull together the different sources of income that can be used in retirement and understand how they’ll provide for you. Using cashflow modelling, we’ll be able to demonstrate how your current provisions will last throughout retirement and how changes to your saving habits will have an effect in the short, medium and long term. If you’re worried about financial security in retirement, please get in touch.

Please note: A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits. The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulations which are subject to change in the future.

Equity Release will reduce the value of your estate and can affect your eligibility for means-tested benefits.

Why you should link lifestyle goals to a financial plan

When you think about the goals you hope to achieve, do you have a clear plan in place for the cost of doing so? Without a blueprint to follow, it can become all too easy for goals and opportunities to pass by whilst focussing on the day-to-day.

You might have a range of goals that you’re working towards, but it’s likely that at least a significant portion of these depend on your finances too. Whether you hope to support children through university or want to start retirement by travelling to exotic destinations, it’s money that will help you tick off these lifestyle aspirations.

Linking lifestyle goals with your financial plan has numerous benefits, including:

1. Motivation

We’ve all set out a goal with the best intentions, only for the steps needed to reach it to slowly fall down our list of priorities. Whether you hope to make regular contributions to savings accounts, overpay the mortgage or boost your pension, without linking it to a goal it’s easy for it to be forgotten about.

Linking it to a lifestyle goal can provide you with the motivation needed. Making a sacrifice now, knowing it’s going to fund your dream to give up work can spur you on. Knowing that retiring early means keeping on top of finances can encourage you to engage with pensions and other assets more frequently.

2. Assessing how realistic they are

You might have a grand plan, but is it realistic? Working towards a goal that isn’t going to be achievable can lead to disappointment. When you’re setting out goals, taking a look at your financial situation can help you see how realistic they are. You might find you need to scale back or alter plans in some way, but, on the other hand, you may find you’re in a better position than you thought, and you can start dreaming bigger.

3. Put them into context

On top of understanding how realistic your goals are, the process can also help you put them into context. Whilst you might be hoping to pay off your mortgage ten years early, how will this positively influence your retirement plans, for instance? The answers can provide you with financial motivation to continue working towards the bigger picture. Alternatively, if you knew spending your savings on travelling for an extended period of time now would have an impact on your long-term income, would you still do it? Putting goals into context can help you set out a blueprint that brings together multiple aspirations covering the short, medium and long term.

4. Confidence

Being able to track your progress and refer back to your initial goals, with an idea of how financial steps will help fund them, can boost your confidence. Sometimes, the effort you’re taking towards goals can seem abstract and there may still be concerns about how likely you are to reach them. But knowing you have a financial plan in place to support them can give you peace of mind when it’s needed.

5. Prepare for the unexpected

No matter how carefully we plan, obstacles and challenges will come our way. Linking your goals to your overall financial situation can help you reduce the impact of these. Building up a financial buffer can help absorb unexpected costs, while other steps, such as diversifying investments, can keep you on track even when things outside of your control happen. It’s not possible to predict what will happen in the future, but considering possibilities can help you create a robust plan.

Financial planning puts your goals and priorities at the centre of a financial plan. It’s an approach that can help you improve financial security and build the lifestyles you want, to discuss your aspirations, please get in touch.

The effect the media has on your financial decisions

In the digital age, it’s impossible to escape the media. But you might not realise the influence it’s having on your financial decisions. Often, it’s subconscious, but being aware of the impact it could be having mean you’re in a position to better understand the decisions you’re making and ensure they’re right for you.

The news and media aim to sell. And, as a result, it often sensationalises headlines and content to catch your attention and draw you in. When reading the financial section of a newspaper, how many times have you seen the words ‘dive’, ‘crash’ or ‘plummet’ to describe a fall in share price that is relatively short-lived? It’s the same story for shares that have performed well.

It’s not just the financial sections of media that may have an impact on how you view financial decisions either. Headlines on the state of the economy, which industries are fast growing, or challenges on the high street, for example, could affect your decisions. Whether you read the news in the paper or use social media to keep up to date, it can be challenging to filter out the sensational news and understand what matters to you.

Does it really have an impact? You might feel as though you’re rarely influenced by the media when making decisions, but it has probably happened at various points throughout your life, for instance:

  • After seeing multiple sources citing that the economy was suffering, you decided to slow down investment deposits and instead hold savings in cash. If a slowdown did come, you might have felt satisfied that you’d minimised the impact. However, typically, investments outperform cash over the long term and media influence may have actually meant you lost money.
  • Alternatively, after seeing several news stories looking at funds that have outperformed or individuals that have made their fortune through investing, you may be tempted to take on more risk. Seeing regular media sources claiming how others have secured above average returns can make you feel it’s more likely to have than the reality.
The solution: Financial planning

So, what can you do about the media influence on your financial decisions? Financial planning can offer a solution for five key reasons.

  1. Bring the focus back to you: Often in the media, stories will be conflicting. Differing opinions and outlooks mean that people will have very different views on the best financial steps to take. This is because which route is best for you will depend on a whole range of personal circumstances. Financial planning helps bring financial decisions back to you and what you want to achieve.
  2. Ensuring regular reviews: Aspirations, opportunities and risks all change over time, and this should be reflected in your plans and decisions. Engaging with a financial planner on an ongoing basis means you can take advantage of regular reviews to ensure you remain on track and bring up concerns. So, if you’re worried about how the economy is performing and the impact on investments, for example, a review can either ease your concerns or lead to adjustments where necessary.
  3. Visualise the long-term impact of decisions: When making a financial decision, it can be difficult to comprehend the impact beyond the immediate. For example, reducing the amount you put into your pension may free up some extra cash now, but what impact will it have had in 30- or 40-years’ time? Through using cashflow planning tools, financial planning can give you a visual representation and put decisions into context with long-term aspirations.
  4. Offering an outside perspective: Media influences can be hard to recognise in ourselves. You may make a subconscious decision, believing it’s right for you, when an alternative would be better suited. Working with a professional financial planner means someone else takes a look at your plans. Another pair of eyes and a different perspective can be hugely valuable when weighing up what you should do.
  5. Confidence: It’s important to have confidence in your overall financial plan and the decisions you make. This is what financial planning should aim to achieve. With a plan that’s tailored to your short, medium and long-term aspirations, it can help block out some of the noise and influence from the media, which may not be right for you.

If you’d like to discuss your financial plan or concerns you may have with a professional, please get in touch.

Please note: The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

Trusts: What are they and what are they used for?

A trust may be one of those financial tools you’ve heard of but know little about. In some circumstances, they can be an excellent way to help manage assets and reduce tax liabilities. However, it’s important to understand what they are and where setting up a trust can be useful before proceeding.

What is a trust?

Even the basics of a trust can seem complicated due to the legal jargon used. But the principle is relatively simple.

A trust is simply a legal arrangement for handling assets to one or more people or a company (trustees) to control on behalf of one or more people, known as beneficiaries. Whilst the trustees have control of the assets, they must act according to rules set out by the person that set up the trust (the settlor) and with the interests of the beneficiaries in mind.

Say, for example, you want to ensure a child in your family would be taken care of should something happen. A child won’t be able to take control of an inheritance, but you may not want to hand over money intended for the child to another adult without being able to stipulate how it can be used. A trust allows you to set out some rules and have peace of mind that the trustee must act in the interests of the child.

Many different assets can be placed in a trust, including money, investments or property.

There are many different types of trust, which may have different advantages depending on your needs. Among the most common types of trusts are:

Bare trusts: As the name suggests, these are the simplest types of trust. The beneficiary has the absolute right to the assets within the trusts, as well as any income they may generate. Whilst, the trustee will take responsibility for managing the trust’s assets, they have no say in how or when the assets or capital is distributed.

Discretionary trusts: This is where you give the trustees the power to decide how to use the income assets which the trust generates. How much power they have is stipulated by the settlor in a letter of wishes. They may, for example, have the power to decide the portion of income that is paid out, which beneficiaries beneficiates will receive income and how frequently disbursements are made.

Interest-in-possession trusts: In this case, a beneficiary has the right to receive an income generated by the trust’s assets or the right to use assets it holds. This can be for life or for a defined period of time. For instance, a beneficiary may have the right to live in a property that is held in trust until they die.

Settlor-interested trusts: If you or your spouse or civil partner will benefit from the trust, this is known as a settlor-interested trust.

Mixed trust: This is an option that blends multiple types of trusts. So, a portion of the assets held in trust can be set aside as an interest-in-possession trust, whilst the remainder can be treated as a discretionary trust, giving trustees greater control over a portion of the assets.

The above are examples of just a few of the types of trusts available. There are other options, which may be more suitable for your circumstances if you’re thinking of using a trust.

When can using a trust be useful?

There are many instances where a trust can be a useful way to hold assets, including:

  • Providing certain conditions are satisfied, assets held in trust aren’t considered part of your estate. This means they will not count towards a potential Inheritance Tax bill when you die.
  • Having greater control over how and when assets are distributed after you die.
  • Preserving the assets rather than splitting them up between beneficiaries. This may mean the wealth you’ve accumulated is able to grow further and still benefit loved ones.
  • Holding and managing assets for people that are not ready or are unable to do so themselves. This may include children or vulnerable people.
Setting up a trust

If you think that setting up a trust is right for you, it needs to be a carefully considered decision, from both a financial and legal perspective.

Once a trust has been set up it may be impossible or very difficult to reverse the decision. As a result, it’s vital that you ensure it’s the right choice for you financially before you take any further steps. Ensure you look at the medium and long term when assessing how appropriate a trust is for your financial situation. It’s also important to note that beneficiaries may pay tax on distributions they receive, this may play a key role in understanding if it’s a good idea for you.

From a legal perspective, a trust needs to be precisely worded. For this reason, you should use a solicitor to help you set it up. You can expect solicitor fees to be around £1,000 or more, though this will depend on your personal situation and the complexity of the trust. It’s a fee that could save you from making costly mistakes.

If you’d like to discuss the financial merits and drawbacks of a trust with your situation in mind, please contact us.

Please note: The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate wills, trusts, tax or estate planning.