Is there a future for pensions?

If you're retiring in the coming months, you may well be wondering how you're going to make ends meet once you stop work. First, pension pots have been damaged by stockmarket volatility of recent years. Then there's the problem of record low yields on government bonds (known as gilts), which influence the amount of annuity (lifetime income) your pension will buy - so annuity rates continue to shrink.

And even if you have a large enough pension pot to consider income drawdown, which involves leaving your pension fund invested and taking an income directly from it, you've been hard hit: the amount you're allowed to take has shrunk anyway with falling gilt yields, and been further limited by recent government restrictions reducing the amount of drawdown that can be taken each year.

To cap it all, inflation is running at 4.2% (consumer prices index) - steadily eroding the value of retirement income - while any non-pension savings held in the bank are likely to be earning less than inflation and so also losing value in real terms.

Given the UK's ageing population as the baby-boomer bulge approaches retirement age, plus our improving health and life expectancy, some radical rethinking is clearly needed around the whole issue of how we're going to manage financially.

We need change now

Last month, we looked at how the government might encourage people to save more for retirement in the long term. But there are various factors that could help in the shorter term, including a truly ‘open market' for when it comes to arranging a retirement income; better education about pensions; people recognising the need to ‘take ownership' of their financial futures in a way that many don't now; and new, more flexible retirement income products.

But grassroots change, as ever, is painfully slow. Here, we take a look at the various options and strategies that could help ensure you're better off if you're retiring in the near future.


If retirement is upon you now or fast approaching, there is little hope of a miraculous turnaround in circumstances. With UK pension pots averaging just £25,000, annuities are the only option for most of us. But falling annuity rates mean a 65-year-old man with a pension fund of £100,000 will now receive an income of only £5,600 a year (and it's not inflation protected) – down from £6,500 in July this year.

So should you defer in hope of growth in your pension fund or a pick-up in annuity rates as and when gilt yields rise again? It's a big risk, says Jim Boyd, director of corporate affairs at specialist annuity provider Partnership. "The major risks of not locking into an annuity now, however rotten the rate may seem, are first that annuity rates may have got worse by the time you fi nally purchase one, and secondly that the value of your fund may fall."

Indeed, Bob Bullivant, chief executive of retirement planning specialist Annuity Direct, believes planned changes in regulations mean there's little likelihood of annuity rates improving in the foreseeable future.

"Rather than deferring, it's more important to buy the right kind of annuity, considering your health and circumstances, looking across the whole market," he says. Historically, however, many people coming up to retirement have been quite happy to flop straight into the mediocre annuity rate offered by their pension fund provider - all too often losing out on many thousands of pounds of lifetime income in the process.

There has been some industry effort to push people towards the open annuity market. For instance, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) no longer allows its members to include annuity application forms with the information packs they send to customers approaching retirement. But, says Bullivant: "I've yet to meet anyone who thinks the ABI has gone far enough."

Our three-point pensions manifesto

In light of the continuing pension gap and the increasing challenges facing people attempting to fund a comfortable retirement, Moneywise and its sister title Money Observer call for a more enlightened approach to pension income in the following respects:

1. The government and the Financial Services Authority should take action to ensure that all pension holders select their retirement income from the open market as a matter of course, and that they are able to access affordable, independent guidance as part of the process.
2. The pensions industry should further develop innovative retirement income solutions to suit pensions of all sizes, with the emphasis on both security and income flexibility.
3. Government and industry should work to establish a more flexible, user-friendly approach to retirement saving that takes into account both ISAs and pensions.


Ultimately, it's still up to the individual to take responsibility and shop around. But it's not just a matter of looking for the best rates, though these may beat the worst by as much as 20%.

You should look at getting the best form of annuity for your circumstances: single or joint? Paying a rising level of income over the years to help against inflation?

You should also look at ways of enhancing the income: do you have any health concerns or lifestyle issues that may affect your life expectancy? Enhanced annuities average about 20% more than ordinary annuities, according to annuity provider MGM Advantage. Around 40% of retirees could qualify – but many don't realise they are eligible.

It's worth looking also at the more flexible alternatives to traditional annuities that allow you to adjust your income to your changing needs. These take various forms.

Fixed-term annuities last five or 10 years; when the term ends, you can buy another fixed term or conventional annuity at what's likely to be a higher rate, reflecting your greater age and any changes in health or circumstances (maybe your spouse has died), as well as general annuity rates.

There is also a range of flexible investment-linked annuities. A minimum level of income is guaranteed, but investors have to be prepared to take an element of investment risk. Against that, ordinary lifetime annuities are by no means risk-free themselves, as they are likely to be eroded by inflation.


As the market becomes more complex, seeking professional advice becomes increasingly important. As such, the government must work out how to ensure everyone can access good quality advice, regardless of the size of their pension pot.

Those with larger pensions (typically above £100,000) have the option of leaving their fund invested and drawing an income stream from it. But here too trouble has struck: the maximum amount you can drawdown depends on the Government Actuarial Department (GAD) rate – which, like annuity rates, is linked to gilt yields. As gilt yields have bombed recently, the GAD rate has dropped to a new low.

Moreover, the government has changed the drawdown rules, cutting the maximum annual drawdown from 120% to 100% of a comparable annuity. As a result, Mary Stewart, director of self-invested personal pension provider Hornbuckle Mitchell, explains: "A 65-year-old man with a £100,000 pension fund can now only take a maximum of £5,600 a year from the fund. This compares to £8,400 in March 2011, when gilt rates were higher and before new restrictions were introduced – a fall of a third."

It's also important to take a broad view of your retirement income by combining pension income with that from other savings. ISAs provide the obvious choice of non-pension income for many people. They work well with pensions, because although you pay into ISAs out of taxed income (unlike pension contributions, which get tax relief), they are more flexible than pensions and offer easy access to your money. Better still, ISA income is tax-free, so it won't push you into a higher-tax bracket if you're teetering on the brink, or count towards your personal tax allowance.

Squeezing a decent retirement income out of your pension and savings may not be easy but you can at least make sure you're making the very most out of what you've got.

Tax tips you cannot afford to miss out on

These two simple strategies are often overlooked, but they could make a significant difference to your retirement finances.

  • If you're married, make full use of both partners' tax-free personal allowances (£9,490 each for over-65s in 2011/12): "I often see couples where one partner has an income that pushes them well into a higher tax band, while the other hasn't even enough income to use up their personal allowance. You can't transfer pension assets between spouses, but you can transfer other assets to minimise the amount of tax you pay as a couple," says Vince Smith- Hughes, head of business development at Prudential.
  • Make sure your national insurance is fully paid up to ensure a full state pension. You're allowed to pay voluntary contributions to top up any gaps left over the past six years. The Pensions Advisory Service has a useful online calculator,

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Your Comments

 A poll asked the question like this: “What is the minimum amount of savings you’ll need to live on comfortably in retirement ?”
27.2% responded "Under $250,000 for the next 20 years". 
Okay, we realize a quarter million dollars is nothing to sneeze at. 
But to retire comfortably? Really? How can you do that?
Let’s assume the average retirement is 20 years. That means these people think they can live comfortably on $12,500 per year, or $ 1,041 a month? Wow!
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 The real unemployment rate is for the United States is more than 15.0 %
What is the next step for Mr Bernanke?
The Federal Reserve will unleash $1.5 TRILLION dollars from the last QE2 into the economy and that will create more inflation. That means to double the entire money supply since 2008.
What would be the next step for Mr Bernanke if the economy becomes more stagnant?
The Fed will print more US dollars (QE3-Q4+) after new elections, and will print more during 2013-2014 creating the conditions to welcome the new great depression.
This situation will diminish the purchased power of debased dollar; dilute and wipe out all the pensions and long-term retirement plans. Why? Because they will be worth zero, “nada”
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 Not only the remaining 1.5 trillion (out of 2.65 trillion) from last QE2 will be placed in the next months –creating more inflation- but also new signs of upcoming QE3 are part of Mr Obama’s administration on or before Dec 2012.
 Please, we have to understand that the purpose of next QE3 -and maybe QEn - will be:
·         Push Up assets prices (10%)
·         Push “temporarily” Stock prices up (10%), and
·         Finance Budget Deficit (80%)
 Why does the USA Government do this? Because, they need money because due to the HUGE fiscal deficit; then; they asks The Fed “Could you please print fiat money for me because I have a lot of debt? Bernanke say “Yes Sir”. This is the way how debt is monetized.
 Then, what does the US Government do? They create “secure government bonds” (I own U paper to The Fed) and thay have to set up at lower yield or lower interest rates.
 For that reason, the USA banks interest rates rely on USA “Government Bonds yields” and they are now at the rock-bottom as a result of The Fed Reserve creates fiat money, by monetizing its debt.
Capish, Understand, entiende?
Now, regarding the money savers! Unfortunately, “savers” will lose their money, because most of them, holding the value SECURITY, invest “safely” for the long-term (5-10 to 15 years) through vehicles such bonds or mutual funds. Where are the mutual funds invested? At Stocks Markets; and how are these doing? Really bad and they will crash soon (2015-2017)
But “most of financial planners” will continue saying. “Invest for the long-term, it is safe. Why do they do that? They lack of financial education and “they need their commissions for living”
For that reason we have to Prepare and Get Ready Against More Inflation ..

EVERYBODY MUST improve their income either SALARY or PENSION. Between 2013 and 2014, the vast majority of products on the market price will rise more than 10% -15% of its current value. The reason "More dollars will be printed, which will generate more inflation."

The purpose of next QE3 -and upcoming QEn - will be:
•           Push Up assets prices (10%)
•           Push “temporarily” Stock prices up (10%), and
•           Finance Budget Deficit (80%)
The USA Government does this because; they have a HUGE fiscal deficit.
For that reason you Have To Learn How To Make More Money And Prepare Against

The real the purpose of next QE3 and whatever upcoming QEn is:
Finance Budget Deficit (80%)
Push Up assets prices (10%), and
Push “temporarily” Stock prices up (10%)
Finally, we need to be aware that more QE will come in the next three more years. As a result this situation will create more inflation causing increase of prices of products and more world social unrest. The USA government does this because is broke. 
So whoever the new USA president will be either Obama or Ronmey will no be able to solve this problem.
For that reason we have to Prepare and Get Ready Against This Inflation:  theelevationgroupreviews dot blogspot dot com


The US Federal Reserve officially announced the QE3, which is another de facto limitless printing of easy money, which means a “bond buying program”. One week after that, the Bank of Japan announced it was adding another 10 trillion yen ($128 billion) to its already massive bond buying program.
The real the purpose of next QE3 and whatever upcoming QEn is:
Finance Budget Deficit (80%)
Push Up assets prices (10%), and
Push “temporarily” Stock prices up (10%)
Then, the Stocks Markets will say the stocks are improving, and we will hear again the tradictional speech “Invest for the long term with mutual funds”; “It is a safe Investment”.
Finally, we need to be aware that more QE will come in the next three more years. As a result this situation will create more inflation causing increase of prices of products and more world social unrest. The USA government does this because is broke.
So whoever the new USA president will be either Obama or Ronmey will no be able to solve this problem.

For that reason we have to Prepare and Get Ready Against This Inflation