With the UK population living longer than ever, the ways in which you invest for retirement can have life-changing consequences.
Property has long been seen as a sound investment. But with house prices stagnating and an increasingly punitive buy-to-let landscape, can it still beat a pension for long-term growth?
Here, we explore the pros and cons of both pension and property investment to help you decide what's best for you.
Property values have skyrocketed in recent decades, prompting many investors to build expansive property portfolios now worth hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of pounds.
But is still a good bet? Headlines have recently warned that the bubble has burst in some regions - for example, the latest LSL Acadata house price index, released on Monday, showed a 2.5% year-on-year drop for London house prices.
Other areas, however, are continuing to see growth, with Wales experiencing annual house price growth of 4.8% in the year to May.
It's not uncommon for the market to experience blips as supply, demand and the mortgage-lending landscape adjust themselves. For this reason, it's important to see property as a long-term investment.
has dropped to 50% and will be cut to zero in 2020, with landlords instead given a 20% tax credit on their mortgage interest; mortgage-lending criteria are tightening; some councils have introduced mandatory landlord licensing; and buy-to-let properties now need a minimum EPC rating of E.
can also be time consuming. Even if you use a managing agent, you'll need to factor in the danger of problem tenants, periods when the property is empty, running costs, insurance and property maintenance.
Despite these challenges, property investment can be profitable in the right circumstances. In fact,predicted that someone investing in a buy-to-let property now stands to make an average £265,000 in capital gains and rental income over a 25-year period.
David Blake, principal adviser at Which? Mortgage Advisers, says:'Over the years, property has generally been a sound investment for most people.
'That said, we are now entering a period of economic uncertainty with no definitive timescale. Property should generally be treated of as a longer-term investment and, like any investment, there are no guarantees of a return.'
Some people choose not to put money into a pension, instead saying that 'their house is their pension'. But treating your own home as your retirement gravy train can be problematic - after all, you'll always need somewhere to live.
The most obvious course of action if you don't have a large pension but have built up significant equity in your home (or paid off your mortgage entirely) is to downsize upon retiring.
However, if you've lived in the same house for a long time it can be an emotional wrench to leave, and many people are surprised by how difficult they find it adjusting to life in a smaller property.
This is an expensive option, though, and will usually make a significant dent in your descendants' inheritance, so seek independent financial advice before releasing cash in this way.
The mean that pensioners now have much greater flexibility. Money can be accessed from the age of 55 and you can choose how you take it - all in one lump sum, buying an annuity, leaving it invested in the stock market and 'drawing down' income when you want it, or a combination of the three.
You still get tax relief on any contributions you make to your pension pot, meaning that a basic-rate taxpayer only puts in 80p for every £1 that goes into their pension, with the government contributing the difference. Higher-rate payers only have to cover 60p per £1, and for additional-rate payers it's 55p.
Last year, 95% of pension and drawdown funds saw positive growth, according to Moneyfacts.
The comparison site also says that the average pension fund has grown every year since auto-enrolment was introduced in 2012, with four of those six years seeing double-digit growth. This means that, currently, pensions are enjoying stronger growth than house prices.
However, only 20% of non-retired people believe a pension will deliver maximum returns, compared with 49% for property, according to the ONS.
The recent collapse of firms including construction giant Carilion and department chain BHS - and the resultant hit on their pension funds - has led many people to question whether their pension is as safe as they thought.
The question of how best to invest your money in order to secure a comfortable retirement is complex, and certainly one on which you should seek independent advice. Neither property nor pensions offer a guaranteed level of income, and both options carry risks as well as potential rewards.
No matter how much you're able to set aside, the uncertain economic outlook and current wobbly markets mean that the old adage 'don't put all your eggs in one basket' has never been more appropriate.
Owning property as part of a more diverse investment portfolio is likely to be a savvy move - and if you have control over the ways in which your pension is invested, you could also choose to invest in property this way. If that's not an option, you could explore property crowdfunding or.
But, as pensions are also performing well for growth at the moment and are so tax-efficient, it would be wise to spread your money and ensure you're investing in this way, too.