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Pension changes 2015: 'Don't book a cruise yet'

Cruise ship in Sydney Image copyright EPA
Image caption Research suggests a quarter of people plan to take at least half of the pension in cash

People planning to cash in their pension savings under new rules taking effect in April have been warned "not to book the cruise now".

It will take time and paperwork to withdraw pension savings as cash, warns Michelle Cracknell, chief executive of the Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS).

New regulations that make it easier to access a pension pot take effect on 6 April.

But this does not mean savers will be offered instant cash withdrawals.

The new rules mark the biggest overhaul of pension regulations for many years.

Running out of cash

The changes allow people aged 55 and over to cash in all or part of their defined contribution pension if they wish, rather than buy an annuity that guarantees an income for life.

Some 24% of those asked in a survey by TPAS and TD Direct Investing said that they intended to cash in at least half of their pension pot. Such a move was likely to increase an individual's tax bill.

It also suggested that more men (44%) than women (34%) intended to do so.

Mrs Cracknell warned that it might appear "attractive" to cash in a pension pot, but there were "implications for later life" if the money ran out and individuals only had the state pension to fall back on.

The survey also suggested that 38% of those asked did not have any kind of pension savings.


Image copyright Thinkstock

Pension Calculators

State pension calculator DWP

Combined state, workplace and DC calculator, from Standard Life

Should I delay buying an annuity? Hargreaves Lansdown

How much can I earn from a DC pot? Money Advice Service


Scams

TPAS has reported an increase in the number of calls it has received on its helpline in the run-up to the rule changes. It typically received 354 calls a day last April, but this had risen to an average of 404 a day in January.

A growing number said that they had received unsolicited calls from people who they thought were peddling a scam.

Staff from TPAS will be involved in providing the government's Pension Wise service, which will offer guidance - but not investment advice - to those approaching retirement.

Those who use this service will book an appointment slot and receive a call at that time. Any unsolicited calls will not come from this official service.

The new rules will not be available to those who have already retired and bought an annuity with their pension savings.

Chancellor George Osborne is now under pressure to extend the system so insurance companies can offer cash to buy back an annuity. Such a move would require legislation in the next Parliament.


Pension changes 2015

Image copyright Thinkstock
  • People aged 55 and over can withdraw any amount from a Defined Contribution (DC) scheme, subject to income tax
  • Tax changes make it easier to pass pension savings on to descendants
  • Many people with Defined Benefits (DB) schemes will be allowed to transfer to DC plans
  • All retirees will have access to free guidance from the government's Pension Wise service
  • Existing annuity holders unaffected for the time being

Are you retiring soon or have you recently retired? Have you taken out an annuity? Are you planning to cash in your pension? If so what are you planning to spend it on? You can email haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk with your experience. Please include a telephone number if you are willing to be contacted by a BBC journalist.

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