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Savers avoid raiding pension pots ahead of Brexit

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More savers are withdrawing cash from their private pensions, but average withdrawals have fallen suggesting retirees aren’t raiding their retirement savings ahead of Brexit.

In the first three months of 2019, 284,000 people withdrew £2.06bn from their pensions, according to HMRC data.

This means £25.6bn has been withdrawn altogether since pension freedom rules were introduced in April 2015, giving anybody aged 55 and over access to their pension money rather than having to buy an annuity or keeping it invested and taking a regular income.

However, individual withdrawals have decreased over the past four years. The average withdrawal per person was £7,254 in the three-month period between January and March 2019, a slight decrease from £7,644 a year ago, but a significant decrease from £11,081 during the same period in 2016.

Nathan Long, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Retirees shrugged off any Brexit concerns in the first three months of the year, avoiding the temptation to raid their pensions.

“Withdrawals per person and per payment continue to fall year-on-year, showing that the initial dash to cash is firmly behind us.”

Tom Selby, senior analyst at pensions firm AJ Bell, added: “All the available evidence suggests that, in the main, savers continue to use the pension freedoms sensibly and are managing withdrawals with sustainability right at the front of their minds.”

Stock market performance since 2015

For savers who left their pension invested and have taken a regular income (known as drawdown), since pension freedoms were introduced, the stock market has produced solid returns.

“Most of the first four years of the new rules has also been something of a golden period for investors, with the FTSE on a flyer for the vast majority of that period, with the notable exception of the back end of 2018,” said Selby.

“Furthermore, the most popular funds and trusts selected by AJ Bell drawdown investors since April 2015 have performed admirably, with the top choice – Terry Smith’s Fundsmith Equity – almost doubling your money on a total return basis.”

However, he warned those entering drawdown today should be realistic about the returns they might receive from the stock market.

“It would be optimistic to say the least to expect the stellar performance enjoyed in the first three years of the freedoms to be repeated. Investing in the stockmarket remains a get rich slow scheme and patience is required to reap the rewards of long-term growth.”

Long added: “Taking income from your pension whilst remaining invested is a higher risk strategy and it’s important to make sure your approach is sustainable.

“Make sure you’ve got sufficient secure income from an annuity, state pension or final salary pension to pay the bills and then consider drawdown for the retirement nice-to-haves. If you opt for drawdown, taking only the income from your pension investments should ensure your pension lasts as long as you do.”

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