Which retirement road to take?

Posted on: 28 February 2012 by Matt Higham

Given recent government rulings about pensions, retiring in your mid-fifties might seem like a far-fetched dream. But can it still be possible to have a pension scheme flexible enough to allow you to retire at the age of 55?

Want pennies from heaven when you're 55? perhaps a SIPP is the answer you're looking forOne of our readers wondered if a Self Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) would be the best way to achieve that, but he was concerned that it might mean his money would be 'locked' into his SIPP fund.

So, if you do choose to take the SIPP road to retirement, what can you expect?

What we're aiming to give you here is a brief overview of SIPPs. The idea of SIPPs is that they are personal pensions, and so not 'one-size-fits-all'. For a more detailed consultation about whether they would suit you and your investment aims and objectives, we'd recommend you talk things through with an independent financial adviser.

If you want tax efficiency, taking the SIPP route is probably going to suit you very well.  Depending on your earnings and your previous pension planning you should be able to put funds into a SIPP and receive tax relief on the premiums. Your adviser should be able to assist you with this and ensure you're not losing out on any tax relief available to you.

Another potential advantage of SIPPs is that they allow you a wide range of investment options, depending on your attitude to investment risk. The following are just a few examples of what can be invested within a SIPP:

• Cash deposits

• Equities

• Gilts and Bonds

• Investment Trusts, Unit Trusts & Exchange Traded Funds.

Again, your adviser will be able to help you decide which of these investments might be most suitable for you, as well as helping you decide how 'active' you want to be with managing your investments.

However, SIPPS have both the advantage as well as disadvantage of locking in funds. This means you won't be able to access them until you reach 55. Another restriction is that while you will be able to draw 25% as a tax free lump sum when you are eligible to at 55, the rest of your fund will have to be used to provide you with income benefits. 

Bear in mind, too, that if you retire at 55, annuity rates are likely to be very unattractive, because it's expected that you will (hopefully) have a considerable number of years of retirement ahead of you. Recent pension rulings also mean that the amount of income you can take under the rules of pension drawdown has been reduced. So if you want to draw a significant income at 55, you are going to need a sizeable amount in your fund.

At current rates, a single life annuity would provide around £49 per £1,000 of capital (with a level annuity that stays the same), or £24 per £1,000 (with a Retail Prices Index linked annuity that rises by a percentage each year).

For an alternative approach to saving for your retirement, you could consider using a tax-efficient 'wrapper' for your investments, such as investing in an Individual Savings Account (ISA). By doing this, you will reduce the amount of tax paid on your investments and you can draw on the capital and / or the income when you choose to retire. You can use your ISA allowances each year (currently £10,680 for the 2011/2012 tax year which ends on the 5th April) or you might want to consider onshore or offshore bonds if they are more appropriate for you.

Overall, your best route will depend on the flexibility you might need, what level of income you would like at 55 and what your attitude to investment risk is.

For a free and confidential discussion about your pension options, call Matt Higham on 0845 230 9876, e-mail info@wwfp.net or take a look at our website www.wwfp.net.

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