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Time to go private?

Personal pensions can either be set up privately by yourself or through your employer.

  • If it’s through your employer, this is known as a stakeholder or group personal pension

  • Personal pensions typically give you more control over how you invest the money

  • Personal pensions are a form of defined contribution schemes, whereby the amount you pay into your pension determines how much you receive when you retire.

  • You get tax relief on the money you pay into a pension (otherwise known as contributions), up to certain limits

  • You have an annual allowance, which is currently £40,000, and a lifetime allowance, currently £1.03m. Any contributions above these limits may attract tax.

Personal Pensions

Personal pensions are similar to a workplace pensions we discussed in the previous article in our pension series. They are available if:

  • You are working but are not eligible for automatic enrolment into your company’s pension scheme e.g. if you below the age of 22 or not earning at least £10,000 a year*.

  • You’re self-employed or not working.

  • You are working and have a workplace pension, which is a good option if you want to save more or start paying into a workplace pension later in working life.

You pay money in regularly (known as contributions), as you would with a workplace pension.

*If you earn less than £10,000, you are not auto-enrolled, but still have the right to opt into your workplace pension, but your employed is not necessarily obligated to contribute to the scheme also.


Personal Pensions: Key Facts

1. You receive tax relief. This is the government’s way of encouraging you to save for your retirement, by telling you that they won’t tax you on the amounts you save up to a certain limit. This depends on the amount you save into your pension, be it from your salary or other sources of income.

2. You receive a tax free allowance every year if you are under the age of 75 and a UK tax payer, an annual allowance of £40,000 (i.e. this is the total allowance you receive, whether you one pension or multiple pensions.). So that means if you save up to this amount, it’s tax-free. Anything above may be taxed at 40% or more.

3. If you’re not earning a salary, but you have some money you’d like to save towards your pension (may be some inheritance money from mum & dad, grandma etc.), then any amount you save up to £3,600 is tax free.

4. If you’re a higher rate tax payer (earning a salary between £34,501 - £150,000), and therefore pay 40% income tax, you can claim the extra 20% tax (40% - 20% of basic rate tax) as relief on your pension contribution.

5. If you’re an additional rate tax payer (earning over £150,000), and therefore pay 25% (45% - 20% of basic rate tax) as relief on your pension contribution. The £40,000 annual allowance is however reduced if you have an income over this level.

The government is essentially trying to ensure sure you’re not taxed too much.

N.B. If you have a workplace pension and a personal pension, remember to add up the amount you’ve saved in each one together to know if you’ve reach the annual allowance of £40,000, as once you reach this figure, you may start getting taxed. You also have to do the same for the lifetime allowance of £1.03m.

If you contribute more than £40,000 a year to your pension pot, you will be taxed at the highest rate of tax.

However, you can can carry forward any unused allowances in the previous 3 years to offset any tax you might incur for contributing more than £40,000, as long as you were a member of a scheme in those years.


Pension income

You receive an income from this pension when you retire, as you would with a workplace pension. You can start to take this income from the age of 55. You can also decide how you take this income (there are a number of options available, which we will cover later in the series). This income can be paid to someone else instead if you choose, like a spouse/partner or a dependent. They can receive a lump-sum if you die before retirement.

Managing your personal pension

You have absolute control over this pension, and so have to decide which company to invest your pension with; which investments to choose etc.

Your choices wi