Workplace pension reforms have helped get the nation saving for retirement – but new figures on how much people are actually putting into pension savings suggest many could be in for a bit of a shock when it comes to funding their lifestyle in later life.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures have revealed average contributions into pension pots are falling, which has prompted concerns that savers aren’t putting in enough.

But there are things you can do to help take control of your pension savings and avoid sleepwalking into low retirement savings.

Here, Alistair McQueen, head of savings and retirement at Aviva, offers 10 simple steps for taking control of your pension pot and retirement savings…

Pension savings – the Don’ts

Don’t fear pensions

You may fear pensions are too complicated. You are not alone. Recent research found that most of us feel the same. The truth, however, is that a pension is just a fancy bank account that is locked until at least the age of 55, but which benefits from a special boost from the taxman.

Don’t forget to ask about pension savings options

There is lots of free help available. For example, the Money Advice Service offers a huge range of general guidance about all things financial; the Pensions Advisory Service is great at translating the complex into the simple; PensionWise helps you understand your options at retirement. Go ask!

Don’t follow just do what your parents did

Aviva research finds that we typically ask our mum and dad for pensions help. This is understandable, but could be misguided. Your generation is very different from the one that went before. For example, you are likely to live longer and the age at which you’ll get your state pension will likely be higher. Your parents’ best intentions could lead you in the wrong direction.

Pension savings – the Do’s

Do remember your state pension

We pay national insurance when we’re working to secure a state pension when we retire. This is most people’s biggest source of income in later life. It’s currently worth about £164 every week. The age at which you’ll receive this money is currently around 65 but is set to rise to at least 68 from 2039. The best way to know how much you’ll get, and when, is to request a free state pension forecast at gov.uk/check-state-pension.

Do take advantage of a workplace pension

Take advantage of workplace pensions if you’re eligible. Your employer has chosen a pension for you, and they must contribute too. You could call it ‘free money’!

Do calculate your date of death

This may sound morbid, but we all die eventually. The good news is that most of us underestimate how long we may live. Understanding your probable life expectancy will help you understand how much money you might need in retirement. There are free online tools to help. Search for ‘life expectancy calculators’.

Do keep fit

As we live longer there are two levers most of us can pull to support our longer retirements. We can save more and/or we can work longer. Today, there are more workers over the age of 50 than ever before: 10 million. Keeping fit will help us work longer. For every year that we delay our retirement, beyond state pension age, the state will give us approximately an extra £500.

Pension savings – three golden rules

The 40-year rule

The sooner you start pension savings going, the easier it will be. As a simple example, to amass £100,000 by the time you reach your state pension age, from age 20 you’d need to save about £20 of your own money every month in a basic workplace pension. Wait until 40 and it’s nearer £120! Aviva recommends trying to begin at least 40 years before you want to retire. But don’t worry, it’s never too late.

The 12% rule

A common question is: ‘How much should I save?’ The frustrating truth is that the answer is different for different people. But, as a broad rule, Aviva recommends saving the equivalent of at least 12% of your income every month. And this can include money from yourself, from your employer, and from the taxman.

The 10-times rule

The more we save, the more we can spend in retirement. But how much do we need to maintain our standard of living? Again, there is no universal answer, but Aviva recommends trying to build up a pension pot valued at 10 times your annual salary by the time you retire.

Pension management – how to manage your pension for a happy retirement

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