Defined Benefit Transfers and Pensions in the UK
To hear about defined benefit transfers and pensions in the UK, Finance Monthly connected with Chartered Financial Planner and Chartered Wealth Manager Pierre Coussey. With over 30 years of experience in financial services both within the largest providers in the UK and at the coal face within private practice, Pierre is also the current Chairman […]
To hear about defined benefit transfers and pensions in the UK, Finance Monthly connected with Chartered Financial Planner and Chartered Wealth Manager Pierre Coussey. With over 30 years of experience in financial services both within the largest providers in the UK and at the coal face within private practice, Pierre is also the current Chairman of the Personal Finance Society (Kent region) and is a past Examination panel member of the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment (CISI).
What are the typical challenges that clients approach you and Bond Wealth with in relation to transferring their defined benefit pension?
Pension freedoms, which came into effect in the UK back in 2015, introduced the ability for those with defined contribution pension arrangements to access their pensions without the need to buy annuities and also pass their pension funds onto family. The biggest headline was probably giving them a choice to buy a Lamborghini if they choose to do so. This did not cater for the 5.1 million people in the UK who held old benefits in an ex-employer or closed defined benefit scheme (pensions that promised an income for life). One of the things we have seen is a massive demand for pension transfer advice and this is partly being driven by some of these factors, together with historically very high transfer values in terms of multiples of deferred pension promise (with 30 to 40 times being quite common).
The complexities of what is best for a client are amongst the most challenging and are often not fully understood by potential clients. Our general view is that for the majority of people, sticking with the defined benefits will be correct unless they can fully take into account wider factors and understand them. Thus, a starting question would be “why would they want to give up a guaranteed pension for life?”.
What would you change about defined pension schemes, if you could?
As a pension pot needs to meet a number of needs, it is frustrating that in the main partial transfers from the existing defined benefit schemes are not facilitated. If I could have a panacea, this would be available to all, so that a mixed approach could be customised specific to a client’s actual needs rather that the current all-or-nothing transfer choice. Unfortunately, I do not see this changing as existing schemes have no appetite to spend on this flexibility for past members and are inundated with transfer value requests.
What is your overall piece of advice for Finance Monthly’s readers in regards to defined benefit schemes?
My overall piece of advice regarding defined benefit schemes is to start with the assumption that your existing pension arrangement will be best in providing for you and your family and then write down your three main reasons for considering or wishing to transfer and the three main drivers in your retirement planning. The bigger the lifestyle cost this needs to support, the bigger the value and risk transference you are putting into your own lifestyle bucket.
Additionally, talk to an experienced regulated adviser who can initially help you explore your real lifestyle needs. This should be followed by further working with them to explore your actual retirement needs that will fit with your lifestyle in the future. Ultimately, if they can save you from potential mistakes at either of these stages, the cost of good advice will be small compared to what would be at risk of getting it wrong. If you transfer out of a defined benefit scheme, you cannot reverse that decision and transfer back.
Ultimately, your chosen regulated adviser can take you through these initial steps at a relatively low cost. It is essential to bear in mind the merits or drawbacks that may appear with the transfer, but might not become clear until several years down the line. One example of this is that a client is probably not going to run out of money in the first year. The risk of this however could increase in the following 10-15 years, if they, for example, decide to spend all of their money on the aforementioned Lamborghini.
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