Government moves to calm fears of pensioners 'blowing' their savings

couple on holiday Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Will pensioners save their cash, or blow it on exotic travel?

The government is playing down fears that those aged 55 and over could end up spending all the money they have saved for a pension.

It follows changes in the budget, which will make it easier for people to withdraw money from their pension pots.

Some financial advisers have expressed concerns that people will be encouraged to spend the money on holidays or cars.

The Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, said the government was treating people as adults.

He said they should be left to make their own choices, but if they did decide to withdraw cash, they would be liable for substantial amounts of tax.

"I don't think it's the business of the government to try and interfere in what happens in families," he told the BBC.

"If people take their money out very quickly they will pay tax on it and potentially higher tax if they take it all out," he said.


The new plans, which are subject to consultation, will take effect from April 2015.

Anyone over the age of 55 will be able to withdraw all of the money from defined contribution scheme pension pots.

Although savers can take 25% of their fund as a tax-free lump sum, previously most people would have had to pay 55% tax if they wanted to withdraw the remainder.

From April 2015, people will only be subject to income tax on that sum: 20% for lower rate taxpayers, and 40% for higher rate taxpayers.

As a result some in the financial services industry have expressed concern that savers will be encouraged to "blow their savings".

"There is a swathe of people for whom this is dangerous," said David Braithewaite, an independent financial adviser.

"If allowed to get their hands on everything, their priority may not be income, but using it to spend on holidays, cars etc which ultimately could shoot themselves in the foot," he told the BBC.

"Also what happens when the money runs out? Who is liable?" he added.

Australian experience

Being able to withdraw large lump sums from a pension pot is already available to savers in Australia.

The experience there is that many people have spent the money responsibly, but a few have not.

A study by Challenger Retirement Income Research in 2012 found that just 4% of those withdrawing money spent it on an annuity.

48% invested the money elsewhere, such as in a bank account.

Many of the remainder used the money to clear debts, on houses or on cars.

However 14% of those in the survey spent the money on a holiday.

Some experts think a similar pattern is likely in the UK.

"These are people who have been used to managing on a budget, so they recognise the good sense of not blowing all their money in one go," said Tom McPhail, pensions expert at Hargreaves Lansdown.

"In any case, they will have to pay income tax on it," he told the BBC.

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