Good intentions are one thing – like eating five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, or filing our bank statements – but in practice, it’s not always easy to stick to them. Keeping track of your pension is another piece of wisdom that is universally considered a good idea. Yet it’s difficult to know how to do it, and may require pension advice from pension experts.
July 2015 research by Skipton found that 29% of people* have never reviewed their pension, and a further 22% haven’t checked theirs for at least two years.
It’s simple really: if you don’t know how much your pension is worth, or how it is performing, you are living in the unknown. Your future could be glorious, or it could prove a real struggle. Heads or tails?
Your retirement is too important to bury your head in the sand like this: so let’s take a look at what you need to do to address this.
1. Gather up all of your pensions
If you’re currently employed, you are likely to be paying into a workplace pension. However, you may also have older pension pots from previous employers, which can form a key part of your plans. Then there is the basic state pension, paid to you by the government.
If you are struggling to find an old pension, the government operates a pension tracing service – visit www.gov.uk/find-the-lost-pension or call 0845 6002 537.
2. Review these plans
Your pension provider(s) will send you an annual statement, providing basic details of how much your pension is currently worth, and its projected value for when you retire.
This is a useful starting point; however, for a more detailed assessment on the strength of your plans for retirement, it’s strongly recommended you obtain financial advice.
3. Consider your investment approach
It’s an often overlooked fact, but what you pay into a pension is invested on your behalf, with the aim of growing its value for when you retire. The performance of your investment could make a huge difference to your future standard of living.
You need to make sure it is exposed to a level of risk you are comfortable with, and continue to monitor its performance – potentially by asking a pension expert to do it for you. As you get closer to retiring, you might want to change your investment approach too.
4. Keep an eye on the charges you are paying
If you have an older pension contract (pre-2000) this is an especially important consideration. You may be paying more in fund management charges than you strictly need to, which could impact on your fund’s value.
One way to potentially reduce your charges is to switch to a cheaper plan. However, financial advice is essential before you do it. This is because some pensions carry valuable guarantees that you might lose by transferring out of them – an expert will check this for you.
5. Continue tracking, and reviewing, your pension
In the run up to retirement especially, you should be looking to review your pension plans on a regular basis.
You don’t need to review your pension nearly as often as you are supposed to be eating fruit and vegetables, but don’t leave it too long to re-check your plans.
* Survey based on the views of 2,000 employed people aged 40-65.