Change in Personal Pension Retirement Age – Act NOW!

I wrote in a previous article about the change in pension retirement age for personal pension plans from age 50 to 55.

When does the change come into effect?

This change comes into effect on 6th April 2010. You may need to take action before that date if you’re aged between 50 and 55 and wish to take pension benefits BEFORE you reach age 55.

Failure to act could mean that you are prevented from taking your pension benefits from your personal pension until you reach 55 – which could have a serious impact on any change in lifestyle you are planning on making in the next 5 years.

Newspaper article highlights opportunity to move t Income Drawdown

This article in the Daily Mail talks about this change in legislation maybe affecting up to 3 million people.

The article highlights the case of a gentleman who will be 50 on 5th April – the day before the change in retirement age comes into effect!

It mentions the option of moving to an “income drawdown” arrangement.

With an “income drawdown” arrangement your existing pension fund is moved into a new contract, tax-free cash (now known as “pension commencement lump sum”) of 25% of the fund value may be taken and the remaining pension fund remains invested and an income may be drawn from it.

This income is limited by the Government Actuaries Department and depends on a number of variables – a financial adviser can provide guidance on this should you decide to take your benefits through this route.

You don’t have to take income immediately from the income drawdown plan and most pension providers have flexible contracts.

You also have the opportunity to move from an income drawdown arrangement to an annuity at any time after commencement (known as vesting – see my article on maximising pension income in year one)

The one downside is that once you move into “income drawdown” the remaining pot will be subject to tax on death, whereas in the “prevested” personal pension plan, the fund might be held outside your Estate through a trust arrangement – you need to check with your specific pension provider to see if your personal pension with them benefits from this kind of trust arrangement.

Alternative Options

You could consider taking your pension benefits by purchasing an annuity. An annuity is an income for life – in exchange for your pension pot (after you have taken your tax-free cash – why wouldn’t you?!) the life company will provide you with an income for life.

This route offers lower risk – once the annuity commences the life office is carrying the risk that you die before the money runs out.

However, annuities are generally inflexible but do suit many people.

It is important to take advice before making any decision.

Alternatively, like most people, you could simply do nothing – many people are not in the fortunate position to be able to benefit from taking their pensions before age 55 – but that’s a topic for another day!

Action needed

If you will be aged 50 or over before the end of this tax year on 5th April 2009 AND you wish to take your pension benefits BEFORE age 55 that you contact an Independent Financial Adviser to ensure that you don’t miss out.

Act quickly as well – don’t leave it until the last minute – with postal strikes, increasing amounts of work in respect of ISA’s etc before tax year end and the generally slow speed at which pension funds move between companies you need to ensure that your IFA has a suitable time in which to understand your position, advise on the most appropriate course of action and to actually physically move the money into the new arrangement!

The whole process can take a few months – even longer depending on the pension provider.

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