Final Salary Pension changes: The Budget 2014
By Chris Burke
This article is published on: 5th July 2014
Further to the UK budget announcement earlier this year regarding UK Final Salary pensions, many are asking what their options are and how best to manage their final salary UK pension. The key concerns people have regarding final salary pensions are as follows:
Security of Final Salary Pensions
90% of UK company pension schemes are underfunded; that is to say the scheme no longer has sufficient funds to pay the full pension entitlement in retirement to all of its members. Due to improved healthcare and quality of life, people are living longer; this creates a greater burden on final salary pension schemes. The retirement age has risen over the years from 55 to 65; life expectancy in Europe has also risen from 67 to 84. Companies used to provide on average 12 years of pension income, now it is more likely to be 19 years.The figures no longer add up and so the ‘pension gap’ continues to widen. For these reasons final salary pension schemes are now mainly closed to new entrants. With no new scheme members, and thus no more contributions, there is no new capital covering the retired member’s incomes. There is a rising concern for how will this deficit be covered in future.
Should I leave my Finals Salary pension in the UK or transfer it out?
If you have a final salary pension in the UK you have three options. You can start receiving your pension before the normal retirement date, usually with a penalty, wait until the normal retirement age and receive an income, which usually rises with inflation, or you can obtain a Cash Equivalent Transfer Value (CETV). In the latter scenario you can exchange the promise of a retirement income for a pot of money you can manage and invest yourself, without the liability of the company scheme’s increasing deficit. Before considering this process, your CETV needs to be carefully evaluated against the benefits of a ‘guaranteed’ income (guaranteed so long as the company and pension scheme remains solvent). This evaluation depends on the return you could expect to obtain from your transferred pot against the currently ‘promised’ income from your current final salary scheme. It is very important to evaluate your options with a qualified financial pension planner to work out the risk, reward and suitability of a pension transfer for your individual scenario. Every personal pension situation needs to take into account your age, company scheme, your family, location and many other factors which are different for everyone.
How do the changes affecting the UK budget this year affect my Final Salary pension?
Perhaps the biggest change in the UK pension budget is that, from the age of 55, you can ‘cash in’ your UK pension while paying the marginal tax rate i.e. the income tax band that applies to you, based on your earnings in addition to the amount of your pension you are withdrawing as a lump sum. (This change is still going through consultation and we will know at the end of July if and when this new rule will be allowed to commence). However, this change applies only to defined contribution pension schemes, so how does this effect final salary pension schemes? Further to the increasing final salary funding gap, the UK government intend to prevent members transferring their final salary pensions into a personal pension cash pot. The main reason is that as scheme members leave, there is less capital and more strain on the scheme to recuperate the deficit for its remaining member’s retirement income. It could decimate the company pension scheme industry if members left at an alarming rate; many jobs would be lost. Therefore, if you want the option of transferring your final salary pension into a personal cash pot pension (defined contribution) your time to do this could be increasingly limited. Some analysts and institutions are forecasting that from late July 2014 transfers will be either blocked or have significant restrictions on who can transfer and where to.
What does all this mean?
If you want the choice of cashing in or transferring your final salary pension after a qualified evaluation of the benefits and drawbacks, you may have limited time to do so. Exiting from a final salary scheme could have a significant impact on your retirement income for better or for worse. The advice given must be founded on a close analysis of your financial needs and residential situation – therefore if you would like to know your options before they may be taken away, we recommend an evaluation as soon as possible.
A final salary pension, so long as the scheme is solvent, adheres to the rules of the administrator that created it i.e. an income for life linked to inflation, can be a good scheme. However, a final salary pension transferred into a cash equivalent value could allow much greater flexible benefits, which include, no early retirement penalty, no more currency risk, larger Pension Commencement Lump Sum, higher initial income and security your pension is now fully under your control. Of course, none of this even takes into account the fact that moving your pension outside of the UK means any money left after your death would go to who you choose as dependants, rather than currently a spouse and then predominantly the other company pension scheme members of which you were in.