An imposed workplace scheme is not the only option for retirement, as more low-cost Sipps come on to the market.
The financial pages have been full of advice on pensions with the launch of auto-enrollment last week. It has thrown a desperately needed spotlight on how and why we should be saving for later life.
But not everyone is happy that the state is stepping in. If you want to take control for your own retirement saving, a self-invested personal pension or Sipp, could prove a compelling alternative.
Sipps are essentially do-it-yourself pensions, offer more flexibility and a wider range of investment choices than most personal pensions. As well as cash, government bonds and funds, you can choose to invest your money in more complicated investments such as individual shares, open-ended investment companies (Oeics), commercial property and commodities.
They still benefit from all the features of a more traditional pension, including up to 50 per cent tax relief on pension contributions, but instead of trusting the provider to pick funds, you decide how to invest your contributions typically with a much wider range of funds to choose from and the opportunity to invest in direct equities by buying and selling shares.
It's true that when they first emerged, Sipps were targeted at experienced investors with substantial pension pots, but as costs have come down they have proven to be an increasingly popular choice among the general population.
"The Sipp market has been revolutionised in recent years with the emergence of low-cost plans, which have made them accessible to the mass market. Sipps are now becoming ISA-like in their appeal," says Jason Hollands of independent financial adviser (IFA) Bestinvest.
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MILLIONS of new pensioners were warned this week that they face a retirement of poverty after weeks of slashed annual payouts.
Pension companies have cut rates offered on their guaranteed annuity incomes 24 times since the start of summer.
Standard Life is the latest to do so, lopping five per cent off the rate offered to the newly-retired and those approaching retirement.
And male pensioners will suffer an extra blow later this year with the introduction of the EU’s new “gender directive” which will further force down annuities for men.
Craig Palfrey, founding partner of independent financial advisers Penguin Wealth, said: “Annuities are in meltdown. We’re way beyond red alert. They have been coming down relentlessly and Standard Life’s decision to take a sword to rates is just the latest example.
Twenty years ago a £100,000 pension fund would have guaranteed an income of £15,640 a year for life for a 65-year-old man. Now it is just £5,140 a year.
And the crisis decimating pensions is set to continue for months, perhaps even years, piling on the agony for the newly-retired.
Experts warn that the situation is likely to worsen as annuity providers struggle with volatility in the stock market and the Bank of England’s quantitative easing (QE) strategy to tackle the recession.
The money-printing policy has been attacked for triggering “a death spiral” in pensions, which some experts say has led to the worst retirement payouts in history.
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Annuity rates have plummeted by almost four per cent in the past three months, tearing a huge hole in future pensioners’ incomes. It is the biggest fall since September 2010 and means that average annuity rates are down by almost one tenth since June 2009. Turmoil in the Eurozone has played a part by causing the returns earned on British Government bonds, known as gilts – on which annuities depend – to fall sharply.
A man aged 65 with a £50,000 pension pot would have been able to purchase a conventional lifetime annual level income of £3,224 in 2009. But today that has dropped to only £2,902.
Enhanced annuities, which pay an increased rate based on the reduced
life expectancy of the annuitant due to medical conditions, have slumped by an
average of 2.45 per cent since last September.
A £50,000 pension fund would now buy an enhanced level lifetime annual
annuity income of £3,583 for a 65-year-old man compared with £3,913 in 2009.
Figures provided by Andrew Tully, technical director at MGM Advantage,
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