Pensions changes 2015: Guidance booking not available yet

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Hundreds of thousands of savers are still unable to book free guidance about forthcoming pensions changes, experts have warned.

The Government has promised impartial advice sessions on the reforms, which will be introduced on 6 April.

The phone line to book sessions to help over-55s decide whether to cash in their pensions savings or keep an annuity is not yet open.

The Treasury says the staged rollout of the services is "entirely on schedule".

A spokesman said: "We have been piloting sessions of the Pension Wise service and gathered feedback from users and guidance specialists in order to ensure it is as good as possible for when the pension changes come into force in April.

"People will be able to begin booking their telephone and face-to-face appointments in the next few days.

"People should remember, though, that 6 April is not a deadline; they have plenty of time to seek the right guidance and advice of these important decisions."

Under the changes people will be able to access the entirety of their pension pots. Up to now, most people retiring have bought an annuity, which gives an income for life - even though that has not been compulsory for several years.

Pension changes 2015

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  • 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, but there are plans for them to be able to sell their annuity

All of the advisers needed have not yet been recruited.

Citizens Advice, which is one of the three organisations that will be providing the Pensions Wise service, acknowledged "there is still a small amount of recruitment to do."


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Rob Young , Business Reporter

The radical pensions shake up is one of the coalition government's biggest reforms, allowing people who have saved for a pension to do what they want with their money.

The changes have been welcomed in principle but pensions experts have been concerned for some time about the practice.

Many pension companies have said they are not yet ready to allow people to cash in their pensions because it brings extra costs to schemes as well as risk.

Over half of occupational schemes are still undecided about whether to offer access to the new freedoms, and 15% say they definitely will not, according to pension consultants Xafinity.

Despite government assurances that they will be ready for "pensions freedom day" on 6 April, there are anxieties being voiced in the pensions industry.

One consumer group says that while it broadly welcomes the flexibility of the government's reforms, it also has concerns.

Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which? said: "People approaching retirement are not going to turn into financial experts overnight and so, with more options on the table, it is vital people take their time to make the new freedoms work for them."

Any lump sum of cash withdrawn from a pension will be treated as income and will have income tax implications.

Large amounts could push individuals into a higher income tax bracket, taking a big chunk out of their lump sum.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) cautioned against rushing into a decision.

Huw Evans, director general of the ABI said: "Don't be tempted to dash for the cash, but take time to consider carefully your options - especially as rising life expectancy means we can expect a longer retirement"

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