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How to avoid slashing £7k off your pension in one year

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith
Posted:
Updated:
13/05/2019

Taking a break from paying into your pension is an easy way to boost your income, but it could cost you thousands in retirement.

In fact, stopping for just one year could slash more than £7,000 off the total pension of someone in their early 20s, according to analysis.

Last month, the minimum pension contribution under auto-enrolment rules increased from 5% to 8% (which equates to 4% from you, 3% from your employer, and a 1% government top-up).

This rise could tempt workers to take a break from paying into their pension, but if they do, they are sacrificing ‘free money’, said Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon.

“Competing demands for money short-term may mean saving for retirement decades into the future is pushed to the bottom of their financial concerns.

“However, opting out of your workplace pension should be avoided wherever possible,” he said.

While taking a break from pension contributions could increase your take home pay, it could mean that the employee loses out on a valuable employer pension contributions and government ‘tax relief’ top-up, so the employee ends up sacrificing ‘free money’.

How much could a break cost you?

Research by Aegon found that if a 22-year-old who joined a workplace pension scheme on an average graduate starting salary of £20,000 took a year off from contributing to their pension, they would save £622 but ultimately lose £7,300 from their total pot by the time they reach state pension age.

A five-year break would cost the same worker £42,100, while a ten-year break from making contributions would could cost them £91,600.

Source: Aegon Analysis, April 2019. The total fund value without a break in contributions is calculated at £398,900 at state pension age

Can you take a break?

If you really need to stop paying into your pension, you have the right to opt out of your company’s auto-enrolment scheme. However, you may not be able to re-join when you want to afterwards.

Your employer must automatically re-enrol you into the scheme over the following three years if you’re eligible