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Ten top tips to make the most of pension freedoms

Written by: Julie Hutchison, personal finance expert at Standard Life
From passing on your pension to loved ones, to making the most of tax relief, Standard Life outlines ten tips for people planning for retirement in the new world of pensions freedoms, which came into force on 6 April 2015.


  1. Get a clear picture of what pensions you have – many people lose track of old pensions from previous jobs, especially after moving house. Use the free Government service to track down your money:
  2. If you have various pensions from former jobs, think about whether you want to ‘tidy-up’ your pensions – there could be benefits in bringing them together in one pot so it’s easier to keep an eye on what they’re worth and how they’re invested. This might not be suitable for everyone.
  3. Check if you are making the most of your workplace pension – your employer might match some of what you pay in.  See if you could afford a bit extra each month, to give yourself a better opportunity to build a large pension pot.  Remember that for every £80 you pay in, normally it gets topped up with £20 in tax relief.
  4. Make sure your Beneficiary Nomination is up to date – the new changes mean it’s easier to pass on your pensions to loved ones.  Your pension company will look at your Beneficiary Nomination when deciding who to pay your savings to, and your will usually isn’t relevant.  Keep your Beneficiary Nomination up to date by requesting a form from your pension company, or you might be able to do this online.
  5. Talk to your family – with the new flexible rules about inheritance to bear in mind, you may want to work through these decisions together.
  6. Check how your pension savings are invested.  You might have selected the funds years ago, and they may no longer reflect your wishes today.  Or perhaps you are in a ‘default’ fund, one which was automatically selected for you at the beginning.  Either way, have a look and see if the funds suit you.  If you’re not sure, speak to an expert.
  7. If you’re approaching retirement and have ISA or other savings, you may want to review these and consider moving your savings into your pension in order to make the most of tax relief – this won’t suit everyone, but is worth considering.
  8. Be aware of scams – the new flexibilities also give more opportunities for scammers. So remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  9. If you already have a financial adviser, consider reviewing your retirement plans with them in light of the new rules. If you don’t, you may want to consider whether you would benefit from advice.
  10. Think ahead about how you might want to access your savings in retirement – you’ll have a choice of accessing cash, keeping your savings invested, drawing a flexible income, buying a fixed income or some combination of these – you’ll feel more confident making your final decision if you’ve spent time thinking about what’s right for you in advance.  There’s lots of information available online which can help, including the Government’s Pension Wise website.

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