With many households dealing with salary cuts, and recent market volatility, some may be wondering if pension saving is worth it at all, as they focus on making ends meet in the here and now.
Although budgets are under strain at the moment, it’s important to remember you’re playing the long game with pension saving.
If you’re not approaching retirement, this means you’re building a nest egg for a time when, hopefully, the current disruption will have passed.
Recommended: Pension savings – 10 ways to avoid a retirement shock.
Coronavirus pension planning
Julian Mund, chief executive of the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA), says: “Market volatility and uncertainty over employment may prompt you to look at your short and long-term household finances.
“In the majority of cases, the best action is to stay the course with your workplace pension,” he adds. “Past experience suggests that share and other asset prices will recover over time.”
PLSA has produced a pensions guide which you can find online, along with this advice…
Defined benefit (DB) pensions (final salary schemes)
A DB pension scheme bases payouts on how many years you have worked for your employer, the salary you’ve earned and the age you retire. More than 28 million people in the UK have this type of pension. You may be particularly likely to have one if you have worked for a large employer or in the public sector.
The retirement benefits for people with this type of pension are not directly affected by stock market movements – whether the volatility is due to coronavirus or something else. Employers are responsible for making sure there’s enough money when you retire to pay your pension income.
The Pension Protection Fund has a duty to protect people with a DB pension in cases where an employer becomes insolvent.
Defined contribution (DC) workplace pensions
Meanwhile, around 17-and-a-half million people have a defined contribution (DC) workplace pension. With this type of pension, savings are built up through a combination of your own and your employer’s contributions, contributions and the returns on investments made by the scheme that manages your savings. The Government also contributes through tax relief.
You might be considering opting out of your workplace pension. But think very carefully about how this will impact your income in retirement. Opting out means you will no longer receive the benefit of contributions from your employer.
You may be worried about recent falls in the value of the stock market and wonder how it impacts your pot. But bear in mind too that financial markets have recovered from shocks in the past.
Recommended: Retire to Australia guide.
It’s worth noting that the contributions you and your employer make to your pension now may buy a greater number of shares at a cheaper price. And professional investors managing your workplace pension pot may have already acted to position your investments, so they’ll be ready to benefit from an eventual recovery.
Also, remember DC pension savings benefit from a range of protections if companies looking after them get into trouble.
Thirdly, there’s the state pension, which is paid by the Government. The amount of state pension you will receive is based on the number of years you work or undertake specific caring activities such as bringing up children.
A few more things…
Also remember that if you are considering giving up pension saving, your family could miss out on valuable death benefits which are tied to your scheme. With pensions, like with wills, it’s also worth checking that your nominated beneficiaries have been updated to reflect your family circumstances and your wishes.
On another note, for people in a defined contribution scheme who are close to retirement, it may be necessary to take stock of when you plan to retire and how much income you can expect to have. Consider getting free Government advice from the Pensions Advisory Service or Pension Wise.
Mund says: “Seek guidance or financial advice if you are unsure what to do.”
Finally, be wary of criminals who may try to scam you out of your pension. Be particularly careful of cold calls asking for your pension information or offering you unusually high investment returns or urging you to act by a short deadline. If you suspect something is a scam, report it to Action Fraud.