Pensions freedoms denied despite new reforms

Pension nest egg

Savers are struggling to get their hands on their pensions, despite April's pension reforms, according to Hargreaves Lansdown.

The new rules allow all savers over the age of 55 to access their pension, however Hargreaves Lansdown says reports are emerging that many insurance companies are simply not ready to offer this service.

This follows last week's U-turn from Friends Life after it wrote to 1,300 policyholders who had requested partial pension withdrawals. The recipients were told that it would not be able to offer this service, even though such transactions are now permitted under the new rules.

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Not ready in time

Tom McPhail, head of pensions research at Hargreaves Lansdown, said that although some providers have been offering customers ready access to their cash since day one, the speed of the reforms meant it was inevitable that some providers would not be in the same position.

"Given the speed with which the reforms were introduced, it was always likely that some companies would struggle to be ready in time. Investors with these companies should be given the freedom to transfer their money elsewhere without having unnecessary barriers put in their way."
He added: "Insisting that investors pay hefty exit penalties, use a financial adviser that some may not need, or jump through bureaucratic hoops is simply not reasonable or fair."

As result of the problems, Hargreaves Lansdown is urging savers who want to access their cash to plan ahead, warning there may be plenty of paperwork and potential delays. Should you find yourself unable to get the service you need, it said to consider transferring your pension to a provider that can.

Although the reforms allow insurance companies to offer savers access to their cash, they are not forced to by law. As such, if partial withdrawals are not available, savers will either have to cash in their policy (and face a potentially hefty tax bill), buy an annuity or transfer to another pension such as a Sipp.

A spokesperson for Friends Life said: "We apologise to those Friends Life customers who wish to partially withdraw their savings through the new pension freedoms, as we are not offering this service at the moment. We have seen a high number of pension freedom enquiries from Friends Life customers, the vast majority requesting full encashment and this continues to be our focus. We are planning to offer partial withdrawals in due course."

Find out everything you need to know about the new pension freedoms and how to plan ahead for the retirement you deserve with the new issue of How to Retire in Style. The magazine is available to buy now from all leading newsagents, priced at £4.99. It can also be ordered online here for £6 including postage and packing.

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