Advice: Pension Wise offers impartial guidance

Pat Hutchinson MBE.

Pat Hutchinson MBE.

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By Pat Hutchinson, District Manager, Newtownabbey CAB

Q: I am 55 and have a personal pension which I am thinking of accessing. What are my options and is there anything I need to be aware of?

A: New pension rules came into effect on April 6, 2015. You now have more freedom over how you take money from your pension pot. More people will be able to draw money from their pension funds instead of buying an annuity and for those already doing so, or planning to do so, to draw money more flexibly and with less of a tax charge.

The feature that most people seem to be celebrating is the abolition of the so-called “death tax”, the current 55% tax charge on unspent savings belonging to anyone drawing their pension who dies over the age of 75.

The changes only affect you if:

• You are 55 or over,

• You have a pension based on how much has been paid into your pot (a defined contribution pension – this could be an occupational pension or a personal pension)

As part of the new legislation the government has introduced a new service called Pension Wise offering free, impartial guidance for those thinking of accessing their pensions. Face-to-face appointments with a trained pension guidance specialist are available through Newtownabbey CAB.

These appointments will cover:

• The different ways you can take money from your pot

• What each option means for your circumstances – in particular, how taking money from your pension may affect tax you pay, benefits you receive and debts that you owe.

• Next steps you can take and where to go for further information.

Things to be aware of:

Putting more flexibility into the system, and allowing people to leave unspent funds to their loved ones is bound to make pension saving more attractive.

The most important thing to be aware of is that these pension reforms apply only to people who qualify to take their pension - in other words, those who are over the age of 55.

• For further information or to book a Pension Wise appointment call 028 9085 2069. For non-Pension Wise queries you can get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest CAB – go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/nireland or visit Newtownabbey Citizens Advice Bureau, Dunanney Centre, Rathmullan Drive, Rathcoole, Newtownabbey, BT37 9DQ.

Telephone advice is available 9am – 4pm each day on 028 9085 2271 (Lunch: 1 - 1:30pm). Email advice is available by contacting enewtownabbey@citizensadvice.co.uk