Should you cash in your final salary pension?
By Chris Burke
This article is published on: 14th December 2016
Potentially millions of people with defined benefit or Final Salary pensions have seen their transfer values shoot up in the last year.
A transfer value, also known as a CETV (cash equivalent transfer value) can be exchanged for giving up the future projected benefits for your pension. In effect, the company buys back the pension.
Over the last 18 months in particular these values have soared.
In many instances people are being offered tens of thousands of pounds more than a year ago with some even being incentivised by their Pension scheme to leave, with a bonus given for doing so. The main reason for this is that the pension company no longer wants the responsibility of having to pay the pension when you retire. Life expectancy in Europe now is 84/85 and in effect people are living longer, meaning the pension scheme has to pay you longer.
For someone with an annual pension income worth £20,000, it is not uncommon to be offered 30 times that amount – in other words, £600,000 in cash.
However this is not the right thing to do for everybody, and there can be significant disadvantages.
Many people have seen their pension transfer values doubled since two years ago, now making it very worthwhile to re-visit these and see what the best advice would be, given this growth in values.
What is a defined benefit pension and the difference between these and a Defined Contribution pension scheme?
Workers with defined benefit pensions know exactly how much they will receive in retirement. Such schemes are either based on a worker’s final salary, or on their career average earnings. Workers with defined contribution (DC) schemes save into a pension pot, which they then use to buy a retirement income. The size of the pot depends on stock market performance. The reason for the increase in transfer values is continuing low interest rates, and particularly low Gilt Rates. Gilts are bonds issued by the Government to raise money, and the rate/interest of these is a major factor used to help calculate a transfer value for a DB pension scheme.
Pension schemes depend heavily on bond yields for their income, and with yields at record lows, many are struggling to meet their commitments to pay future pensions. So they have been offering larger and larger sums to people who are prepared to give up their pension rights.
Transferring your DB/Final Salary pensions can offer a more flexible retirement income, the possibility of extra tax-free cash and upon death the remainder of the pension can be paid out to any beneficiary’s rather than paying a reduced income only to a spouse/dependent partner and then ending.
However, keeping a DB/Final Salary pension can also offer you certainties such as an income for life with Inflation protection, Risk-free income, which does not depend on the ups and downs of the stock market.
There are currently major uncertainties surrounding Brexit and the UK leaving the EU, particularly for those people living outside of the UK. With the almost constant review and changes of UK pensions laws/taxes and the fact that 90% of UK DB/Final Salary schemes are underfunded, it’s important you review your options and the right decision with your pension.
In all circumstances, you should talk to a professional and have your own pension/situation evaluated and see what the best advice there is for you.