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22 Dec 2019

6 simple ways to boost your pensions this Christmas

Which? shows you how to keep your retirement savings on track

Don't depend on Santa for your retirement - take a few minutes to improve your pension during the holidays.

Looking at your pensions isn't an obviously festive undertaking and is unlikely to be top of your to-do list.

However, there are a few straightforward checks and tasks that you can carry out without giving yourself a massive Christmas headache. A little time now could mean more winter holidays in the sun once you retire.

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Why is saving important?

The earlier you start saving into a pension, the better. You have to wait longer to get the state pension these days and more of the responsibility falls on you to provide adequate funds to live on in later life.

Our detailed Which? research looking at spending in retirement has shown the annual income a two-person household would need for retirement.

Is your nest egg big enough?

To produce those totals as a couple you'd need overall private pension funds (plus the state pension) of £70,000, £215,000 and £503,000 respectively invested via income drawdown.

Here are some simple ways you can start working towards these challenging targets:

1. Request a pension statement

Carrying out a bit of easy admin can help you to ensure that your pension affairs are in order.

You might find that it's been a while since you actually received a pension statement from one of your providers. If it has been some time, pick up the phone and ask for an update.

Some pension companies allow you to check your scheme information online, but you may not have logged on for a while.

Take five minutes to try to find all of your information and to plug any gaps, even if you aren't ready to carry out a comprehensive review right now.

2. Double check your details

If you're speaking to your pension company or using an online portal, it's worth checking that all your details are up to date.

The provider may not have your current address, with pension statements still going to an old address, which obviously isn't a good idea.

Don't forget old schemes which you may have left when you switched jobs - ensure it's clear you've left the scheme (not always recorded) and that they have your current contact address.

It may be that you've completely lost track of a pension or two. The pension tracing service can re-unite you with lost pensions.

3. Nominate a beneficiary

Should you pass away, your pension will normally become part of your estate.

However, most pension schemes allow anyone to inherit your pension - they don't have to be your spouse or civil partner. There's no limit to the number of people you can nominate.

Pension statements normally contain a beneficiary nomination form at the end of the pack. Online systems will also allow you to manage and change beneficiaries.

Make sure your pension providers have up-to-date information on who you'd like to inherit your retirement savings.

4. See if you can pay in more

There are no doubt many demands on your money in your younger years, but if you can manage to increase your monthly contributions, securing a comfortable retirement can be within your grasp.

The current pension auto-enrolment contributions levels - 5% for an employee and 3% for employers - are a minimum. Both you and your company (if you're lucky) can put in more.

Which? believes a new higher overall combined default contribution rate of 12% should be introduced, but that this should not apply for those on low incomes.

If you've opted out of a workplace pension, think again. You are giving up contributions from your employer and a top-up from the government in the form of pension tax relief.

5. Wake up to retirement

More information will be sent by providers to retirement savers under a new initiative.

The so called 'wake-up' packs will include a single page summary with key information such as name, company, total pension contributions and value of the pot.

The rules from the regulator require the packs to be sent to members when they reach the age of 50 and then every five years after that.

If you're over 50 and receive one of these packs, have a good read. It's always tempting to put the information in a draw to read 'later', but that's not a sensible approach as the countdown to retirement begins.

6. Book a Pension Wise appointment

There's one more thing to remember if are aged over 50 and have at least one defined contribution pension. You can call the government's Pension Wise service to arrange a discussion about your retirement options.

You should call 0800 138 3944 to book a free appointment. The sessions can either be face-to-face (at a local Citizens Advice office) or conducted over the phone. There may be a bit of a wait before you can have a discussion.