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When you begin making a financial plan, you could be looking several decades ahead, and we all know the unexpected can derail even the best-laid plans. So, as you’re setting out goals, it’s not uncommon to wonder if you’d still be able to meet them if things outside of your control have an impact.

When you start putting together a financial plan one of the valuable tools that can put your mind at ease is cashflow planning.

What is cashflow planning?

Cashflow planning is a tool that helps forecast how your wealth will change over time. We can use this to show how your assets will change in value in a range of circumstances, such as average investment performance or income withdrawn from a pension. It’s a step that can help you have confidence in the lifestyle and financial decisions you make.

However, the variables can be changed to highlight the impact of what would happen if things don’t quite go according to plan. Whether it’s down to a decision you make or something out of your control, cashflow planning can highlight the short, medium and long-term consequences on your finances and goals. As a result, it can be a useful way of answering ‘what if’ questions that may be causing concern.

Answering ‘what if’ questions

If you’re asking ‘what if’ questions relating to your financial plan, they can be split into two categories: the ones you have control over and those that you don’t.

Those that you do have control over often stem from wanting to take a certain action but being unsure if your finances match your plans. These types of questions could include:

  • What if I retire 10 years early?
  • What if I provide a financial gift to children or grandchildren?
  • What if I take a lump sum from investments to fund a once in a lifetime experience?

Often with these questions, there’s something you want to do, or at least thinking about, but you’re hesitant to do so because you’re worried about the long-term impact. You may need to consider the effects decades from now, which can be challenging. Cashflow planning can help provide a visual representation of the impact a decision would have.

We often find that clients’ finances are in better shape than they believe, allowing them to move forward with plans with confidence.

The second type of ‘what if’ questions, those you don’t have control over, often stem from worries about the future. These could include:

  • What if investments returns are lower than expected?
  • What if I passed away, would my partner be financially secure?
  • What if I needed care in my later years?

Cashflow modelling can help you understand how these scenarios would have an impact on your short, medium and long-term goals. It can highlight that you already have the necessary measures in place, allowing you to focus on meeting goals.

Alternatively, you may find there’s a ‘gap’ in your financial plan. However, by identifying this, you’re in a position to take steps to put a safety net in place. If you’re worried about the financial security of loved ones if you were to pass away, for example, this could include purchasing a joint Annuity, providing a partner with a guaranteed income for life, or taking out a life insurance policy.

Confronting concerns about your future can be difficult, but it’s a step that can lead to a more robust financial plan that you have complete confidence in.

The limitations of cashflow planning

Whilst cashflow planning can be incredibly useful, there are limitations to weigh up too.

First of all, how useful the forecasts are will be dependent on the data that’s input. This is why it’s important to consider assets and goals when gathering information, as well as keeping the data up to date.

Second, cashflow planning will have to make certain assumptions. This may include your income over an extended period or investment performance, which can’t be guaranteed. This is combatted by modelling different scenarios and stress testing plans, helping to give you an idea of how your financial plan would perform under different conditions.

Cashflow modelling is just one of the tools that can support your financial plans and it can be an incredibly useful way of giving you a potential snapshot of the future and easing concerns. If you’d like to discuss your aspirations and the steps you could take to ensure you’re on the right track, please get in touch.

You may have seen recent headlines about the possibility of the pensions triple lock being scrapped in the near future. Whilst Boris Johnson has committed to honouring it, it’s still important to understand what it means and why it’s important for your retirement plans.

What is the pension triple lock?

The pension triple lock refers to the guarantee that the State Pension will increase each year. This was introduced in 2010 by the then Conservative-Liberal Democrat government.

Since the introduction, the State Pension has increased each year by whichever is highest out of the below three measures, hence the term ‘triple lock’:

  • Annual price inflation in September
  • Average earnings growth as of July
  • 2.5%

As a result, retirees over the last decade have experienced their State Pension increasing by a minimum of 2.5% each tax year. In fact, in many cases, the State Pension has increased by more than 2.5%. The below chart highlights which measures have been used each year since 2012.

Tax year Measure Increase
2012/13 Price inflation 5.2%
2013/14 Guaranteed minimum 2.5%
2014/15 Price inflation 2.7%
2015/16 Guaranteed minimum 2.5%
2016/17 Earnings growth 2.9%
2017/18 Guaranteed minimum 2.5%
2018/19 Price inflation 3%
2019/20 Earnings growth 2.6%
2020/21 Earnings growth 3.9%

The triple lock guarantee helps to preserve income in real terms. As the cost of living rises, a static State Pension would struggle to support the same lifestyle over the medium and long term. Annual increases help to maintain income in line with rising costs. A look at annual price inflation doesn’t seem like it would have a large impact. But look at this over a 30-year retirement and the effect can be significant.

Let’s say you retired 30 years ago in 1990, when the single person State Pension was £46.90 per week, adding up to £2,438.80 per annum. An average rate of inflation of 2.9% a year would mean you’d need more than double (£5,583.14) in 2019 to maintain the same lifestyle, according to the Bank of England’s inflation calculator.

As a result, the triple lock guarantee is important for pensioners when planning their retirement.

Why was scrapping the triple lock guarantee being considered?

Just a decade after being brought in, there were suggestions that the triple lock guarantee could be scrapped.

In March, the government unveiled a package of measures designed to support businesses and individuals through the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of these schemes have been extended through summer and autumn as the country still grapples with restrictions. These measures have been welcomed by many but have come at a cost. 

According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, the schemes to protect businesses have amounted to £103.6 billion of taxpayer support. This includes £39 billion for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, in which the government covered a portion of furloughed workers pay, and £16 billion in additional spending on public services.

Whilst the coronavirus crisis isn’t over, the government is having to look at ways to recoup the billions spent.

A Treasury document dated May 5 and seen by the Telegraph suggests that scrapping the triple lock guarantee was one of the options being explored. Another suggestion put forward by think tank the Social Market Foundation, called for a double lock instead, removing the minimum 2.5% increase, to spread the cost of coronavirus between generations.

Fortunately for retirees, Boris Johnson confirmed he would honour the manifesto commitments relating to the triple lock when quizzed by the Commons Liaison Committee.

Protecting your retirement plans

Whilst safe for now, it’s important to note that the pension triple lock isn’t guaranteed throughout your retirement. The suggestion of scrapping it highlights why it’s important to review retirement plans and ensure a sustainable income stream that considers inflation.

As you enter retirement, your State Pension may be a relatively small part of your income. However, it provides a foundation to build on, delivering a reliable income. But you do need to keep in mind that changes can happen, which could have a negative effect on your plans. This is why it’s important to look at retirement finances as a whole. Understanding which sources are reliable and the steps taken to protect income from inflation as much as possible can help provide you with confidence that your finances will be sustainable throughout retirement.

If you’re worried about your long-term retirement finances, please get in touch. Using a range of tools, we aim to show our clients how their income could change over retirement and what it would mean for their plans. It means you’re in a position to take steps to protect income where necessary.

In the past, the majority of people saved for retirement over their working life, gave up work on a set date and used their pension savings to purchase an Annuity. However, as retirement lifestyles have changed, so to have the options you’re faced with as you approach the milestone. If you’re nearing retirement, you may be wondering if an Annuity or Flexi-Access Drawdown is the right option for you.

Since 2015, retirees have had more choice in how they access a Defined Contribution pension. If you want your pension to deliver a regular income, there are two main options – an Annuity or Flexi-Access Drawdown – to weigh up. So, what are they?

Annuity: An Annuity is a product you purchase using your pension savings. In return for the lump sum, you’ll receive a regular income that is guaranteed for life. In some cases, this can be linked to inflation, helping to maintain your spending power throughout retirement. As the income is guaranteed, an Annuity provides a sense of financial security but doesn’t offer flexibility.

Flexi-Access Drawdown: With this option, your pension savings will usually remain invested and you’re able to take a flexible income, increasing, decreasing or pausing withdrawals as needed. Flexi-Access Drawdown provides the flexibility that many modern retirees want. However, as savings remain invested they can be exposed to short-term volatility and individuals have to take responsibility for ensuring savings last for the rest of their life.

There are pros and cons to both options, and there’s no solution that suits everyone when considering which option should be used. It’s essential to think about your situation and goals at retirement and beyond when deciding.

It’s worth noting, that pension holders can choose both an Annuity and Flexi-Access Drawdown when accessing their pension. For example, you may decide to purchase an Annuity to create a base income that covers essential outgoings, then using Flexi-Access Drawdown to supplement it when needed. It’s important to strike the right balance and other options could affect your decision too, such as the ability to take a 25% tax-free lump sum.

5 questions to ask before accessing your pension

1. What reliable income will you have in retirement?

Having some guaranteed income in retirement can provide peace of mind and ensure essential outgoings are covered. But this doesn’t have to come from an Annuity. Other options may include the State Pension or a Defined Benefit pension.

Calculating your guaranteed income can help you decide if you need to build a reliable income stream or are in a position to invest your Defined Contribution pension savings throughout retirement. If you decide Flexi-Access Drawdown is an appropriate option for you, it’s a calculation that can also inform your investment risk profile.

2. What lifestyle do you want in retirement?

When we think of retirement planning, it’s often pensions and savings that spring to mind. However, the lifestyle you hope to achieve is just as important. Do you hope to spend more time on hobbies, with grandchildren or exploring new destinations, for instance? Thinking about where your income will go, from the big-ticket items to the day-to-day costs, can help you understand what income level you need.

3. Do you expect income needs to change throughout retirement?

The second question should give you an idea of how your income will change throughout retirement. Traditionally, retirees see higher levels of spending during the first few years before outgoings settled, with spending rising in later years again if care or support was needed.

However, your retirement goals may mean your retirement outgoings don’t follow this route. If you decide to take a phased approach to retirement, gradually reducing working hours, you may find that a lower income from pensions is required initially. Considering income needs at different points of retirement can help you see where flexibility can be useful.

4. Are you comfortable with investing?

Flexi-Access Drawdown has become a popular way for retirees to access their savings. There are benefits to the option but you should keep in mind that savings are invested. As a result, they will be exposed to some level of investment risk and may experience short-term volatility. Before choosing Flexi-Access Drawdown, it’s important to understand and be comfortable with the basics of investing.

Investment performance should also play a role in your withdrawal rate. During a period of downturn, it may be wise to reduce withdrawals to preserve long-term sustainability, for instance. This is an area financial advice can help with.

5. Do you have other assets to use in retirement?

Whilst pensions are probably among the most important retirement asset you have, other assets can be used to create an income too. Reviewing these, from investments to property, and understanding if they could provide an income too can help you decide how to access your pension.

We know that retirement planning involves many decisions that can have a long-term impact. We’re here to offer you support throughout, including assessing your options when accessing a pension. If you have any questions, please get in touch.

Please note: A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits.

The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future.

The State Pension is an essential part of retirement planning and provides a foundation to build on. Whilst the basics are simple, it can be far more complex to understand what you’re entitled to and when than you’d think at first glance.

Our Complete Guide to the State Pension is designed to help you figure out how the State Pension will support your retirement goals alongside other income. From how the State Pension age is changing and when you’ll receive it to what the triple lock means for your future income, we look at the crucial things you need to know.

If your retirement date is approaching, taking some time to read our guide and understand the State Pension can help ensure your finances are in order. Click here to download your copy of the guide.

We are here to help answer your questions. Call one of the Galleon Wealth Management team on 01473 636688 or email ray.pettitt@galleonwealth.co.uk to start planning your retirement.


Restrictions on travel and concerns about the coronavirus pandemic may have affected your holiday plans for the summer months. There’s been a lot of contradictory information about what you’re entitled to and if you must cancel. So, we take a look at what your rights are and what your next steps should be if you’re affected.

Most people with travel plans in the next few months have had to abandon them. The Foreign Office currently advises against all non-essential travel, whether you’d been planning to visit a destination in the UK or abroad. On top of this, several countries have also, in effect, closed their borders and have stringent restrictions in place.

Even if the borders are open at your chosen destination, it’s likely restrictions and social distancing measures are still in place. It may mean that whilst you’d be able to get there, the activities you’d been looking forward to are no longer possible.

If you’ve yet to book a summer holiday but had hoped to, it’s strongly advised that you delay for a few months whilst the uncertainty remains.

So, if you already have a holiday booked, are you entitled to a refund? This will depend on how you’ve booked your holiday, where you’d planned to go and the travel insurance you’ve taken out.

Package holidays

If you booked a package holiday, you are entitled to a refund under current rules if it’s cancelled due to coronavirus. However, the Travel Association ABTA is calling on the government to make temporary changes as it argues the protection wasn’t designed to cope with current demands.

Whilst you should be issued a refund if your package holiday has been cancelled due to coronavirus, some consumers are finding they’re being refused. This is because, in the wake of thousands of holidaymakers asking for refunds, many companies are going to struggle. They may offer you a voucher or credit note instead. You don’t have to accept this; you’re legally entitled to a refund if you want it.

Keep in mind that some firms aren’t cancelling holidays far in advance. If your holiday isn’t for a few months, you’ll likely have to wait to see how the situation develops before a travel company will issue a refund. Some firms are cancelling holidays just three weeks in advance.

Flights

Flights are a little more complicated and will depend on the airline.

The good news is that all flights, on any airline from an EU country, as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the UK, and any flights on any EU carrier from any airport are liable for a refund. If this applies to you, contact the carrier directly, to start a claim. Some firms are dealing with this better than others, but delays in responses and getting through to a customer service team should be anticipated.

As with package holidays, some airlines that should be offering refunds under the EU rules are refusing to give them or insisting customers accept vouchers. Again, you are entitled to a refund by law.

Outside of the EU, refunds will likely depend on the individual airline and travel agent’s, so check their terms and conditions and get in touch.

Accommodation

If your hotel has closed and is unable to deliver the service promised, you’ll be entitled to a refund.

However, if you need to cancel accommodation due to not being able to reach the destination or for other reasons, a refund will be reliant on the goodwill of the hotel or website you have booked with. Many major hotel chains and booking platforms, such as Booking.com and Airbnb, have waivered their cancellation fees but there’s no obligation to do so.

Travel insurance

Finally, if you already had travel insurance in place before the coronavirus pandemic, you should be protected if you’re acting in line with advice given by the Foreign Office. Be sure to check what your individual policy covers and seek a refund from providers first. However, as a last port of call, travel insurance may cover the costs that can’t be refunded, this may also include the costs of transfers and excursions. If your travel operator tells you to claim on insurance, ask for this in writing.

If you don’t have travel insurance, it’s too late to get a policy that will cover you for coronavirus-related claims as providers have updated their terms and conditions.

Your next steps

If your holiday is being cancelled or you’d like to cancel it, your first step should be to get in touch with the providers. Many travel companies are offering the opportunity to postpone trips and are not taking bookings until later in the year or until 2021 in some cases. Speaking to them directly can help you understand what your options are.

However, this may be easier said than done. Unsurprisingly, customer service teams are dealing with large numbers of enquiries, whilst also managing with fewer staff due to social distancing measures. So, expect to be waiting a while for a response, whether you call or email. Many companies are working through the bookings in date order, so those with holidays in a few months may be forced to wait several weeks whilst the situation is assessed.

If you don’t have much luck with the provider, then contact your travel insurance company. Again, expect long delays before your query is resolved.

Chargeback also offers an alternative solution if you paid for parts of your holiday by credit card. Paying by credit card gives you added legal protection if the company you’re buying from doesn’t deliver what’s promised, in this case, a holiday. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act covers goods or a holiday costing over £100 and up to £30,000. You don’t need to pay the full price by credit card, paying the deposit is enough to get your legal protection.

To receive a chargeback, you should try to contact the travel company first. If they don’t respond or refuse a refund, write to your credit card company, stating what you bought, along with proof of purchase, and that you’d like to refund the purchase price into your credit card account.

For students planning to head to university, it’s already been an emotional time. With college suspended due to Covid-19 and exams cancelled, there has been some uncertainty around how grades will be awarded, which could affect where they head to study for the next few years.

As a parent or grandparent, you may be wondering if university is the right decision for them too. The good news is that research shows most students benefit financially from attending university. It’s a step that can pay off in the long run, but it’s still a significant financial undertaking for young adults.

According to research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, around 80% of students gain financially from attending university. Over their working lives, men that have attended university will be £130,000 better off on average after taxes, student loan repayments and foregone earnings are taken into account. For women, the figure is £100,000. For both men and women, these figures represent a gain in average net lifetime earnings of around 20%.

Whilst one in five students are estimated not to benefit financially, at the other end of the spectrum, 10% of those who graduated with the highest returns will, on average, gain more than half a million pounds. Unsurprisingly the subject studied is important for future earnings, with law, economics and medicine delivering the highest returns.

Of course, money isn’t the only reason to go to university, but future job prospects and long-term financial security should be a key consideration. However, the good news is that most students will benefit from studying throughout their career.

The cost of university

University tuition fees were introduced in 1998 and have steadily increased since then. The maximum tuition fee for the 2020/21 academic year is £9,250, which is charged by the majority of universities. With most courses lasting three years, students can expect to graduate with a student loan of over £27,000 to pay for tuition alone.

For many attending university, it’s a chance to live alone and become independent for the first time. Whilst an opportunity to find their feet, it means paying for rent, bills and other expenses whilst studying. Most students will be eligible to apply for a Maintenance Loan to cover these costs. How much will be received through a Maintenance Loan will depend on a variety of factors, including household income and where the student will be living when studying. The average Maintenance Loan is £6,480 a year.

Add three years of the average Maintenance Loan to the tuition fees and the average student can expect to graduate with debt nearing £50,000.

At first glance, the sum can seem alarming and you may be worried about whether further education is right for your child or grandchild with this figure in mind. However, how student loans are repaid differs from typical debt.

First, graduates won’t repay any student loan if they don’t earn above a certain threshold. In the current tax year, new graduates would need earnings of £26,575 before they start making repayments. When earnings exceed this, 9% goes towards repaying the student loan. So, if a graduate earned £27,000 in 2020/21, they’d pay back just £38.25. For those earning £35,000, annual repayments would total £758.25.

As these repayments are typically taken directly out of pay packets, they can be viewed more as a ‘graduate tax or contribution’ rather than a loan.

In addition to this, 30 years after graduation all remaining debt is wiped.

Providing financial support to children and grandchildren

The Maintenance Loan can help cover the basic cost of living. But many students find they need to take a part-time job or rely on financial support from loved ones too. As a result, it’s not uncommon for parents or grandparents to lend a hand.

Whilst parents and grandparents may be tempted to reduce the amount of debt graduates will have by offering to cover these areas, often additional money that students can use for study material and day-to-day costs can have a greater impact. This can allow students to focus on their grades and gaining work experience within their chosen field.

One of the biggest challenges some students face is getting to grips with a budget, sometimes for the first time. As well as providing financial support, now is a great time to pass on your knowledge and tips for managing money too.

In addition to the best way to offer support, you should also consider the impact on your lifestyle. Among the questions to consider are:

  • Would taking a lump sum or regular smaller sums out of your estate affect your long-term security?
  • If you decide to lend support, where should you take withdrawals from?
  • Could gifts to children or grandchildren be liable for Inheritance Tax?

We’re here to help you answer questions like these and address any concerns you may have. If you’d like to discuss how you can financially support loved ones through further education, please get in touch.


When it comes to investing, it’s often best to create a tailored financial plan and leave investments for the long term without tinkering. However, it can be tempting to make adjustments. Whilst this may be the right decision in some cases, it’s important to weigh up if it’s right for you.

Given the recent market volatility, you certainly wouldn’t be alone in wondering if you should withdraw or change investments. But it’s important to look at your motivations for doing so to understand if it’s right for you.

1. Why do you want to make changes now?

The first thing to think about is why you want to make changes. Is it due to current market conditions? It’s normal to be nervous when investment values fall, or markets experience a period of volatility.

However, you need to keep in mind that short-term volatility is normal, this is why you should only invest with long-term goals in mind. Looking at the bigger picture if you’ve been invested for several years, it’s likely that you’ve benefited from gains too. Keeping this in mind can help put the recent market activity into perspective.

When you first begin investing, the peaks and troughs that will likely be experienced in the short term should be considered. Your portfolio will be stress-tested with these in mind.

2. Have your long-term financial goals changed?

What you want to achieve when investing should be central to the decisions you make. When setting up an investment portfolio, you should have considered what your end goal was. Did you hope to supplement your pension by creating an additional income in retirement in 30 years? Or perhaps you wanted to build a nest egg for your children that they’ll have access to in 10 years?

If your goals have changed, it’s wise to review your investments and wider plans. There may be cases where adjustments are necessary to align investments with goals. But if your goals have remained the same, it’s likely that your portfolio, which was built with these in mind, remains appropriate for you.

3. What is your investment time frame?

Even seasoned investors can worry after experiencing volatility. Keeping your time frame in mind is important throughout the investment process.

As short-term volatility is normal, it’s usually not advised if you have a time frame of fewer than five years because there’s less opportunity to recover from periods of downturn. When you look at investment performance over the long term, you should see an overall increase with the peaks and troughs balancing out. Generally speaking, the longer the investment time frame, the more risk you can afford to take, although the time frame isn’t the only area to consider when building a risk profile.

4. Is your situation different now?

It’s not just goals that affect financial decisions but your situation too. When you made your financial plan areas such as income, savings and existing protection policies would have been considered. In addition to these financial areas, lifestyle ones are factored in too, such as whether you have any dependents.

Whilst it’s often advised to stick to a financial plan that’s set out, there needs to be some flexibility too. If your situation has changed, it’s wise to review the steps you’ve taken to see if they still suit you. This could be after welcoming children, receiving a promotion or receiving additional employee benefits, for example. Some of these areas may affect the investment proposition that is right for you.

5. Has your risk profile changed?

Numerous factors affect your risk profile, and some of these will change throughout the investment period. If this is the case, you may want to review your investments. However, this shouldn’t be done just because values have fallen. It’s important to keep in mind that all investments involve some level of risk, but by choosing an appropriate risk profile, you can match this to your circumstances and goals.

Before you consider changing your investments, please get in touch. We’ll be happy to review your current portfolio in line with your long-term goals to highlight where change may be necessary or advise you to stay the course with your current investment plan.

Please note: The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

Global stock markets have suffered due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and you may have heard suggestions that now is the ‘perfect time to buy’. After all, in an ideal world, you want to buy when stock prices are low and sell at a high. However, it’s not as straightforward as that and there’s no ‘perfect’ time that suits everyone.

No one knows what is around the corner. Even professional investors are unlikely to have considered the impact a pandemic would have when making decisions in 2019. So, it’s impossible to know what’s coming in the coming weeks and months. Whilst some commentators argue an economic crash is coming, others state the UK economy will begin to pick up once the lockdown measures are lifted.

Whilst it can be tempting to act on these comments when it comes to investing, market dips shouldn’t be at the centre of your decisions. The volatility and numerous factors that have an influence mean it can lead to decisions that may not be best for you.

So, when is the right time to invest? That depends on your personal circumstances and goals. These should always be at the centre of your investment plans and influence when to increase your portfolio.

5 factors influencing the ‘right’ time to invest for you

1. Investment goals

What do you hope to achieve when investing? We all want returns when we invest money but it’s important to think about what you intend to use those gains for. Your aspirations should be at the heart of all financial decisions, including investment ones. Investment goals will influence the risk profile and time frame of investments too.

2. Time frame

How long money will remain invested is crucial to set out investment plans. You may be certain that stock markets have hit a low and will rise over the coming months, but if your investment time frame is just a couple of years, you probably shouldn’t invest. This is because investment markets experience volatility and investing with a short-term perspective may not give you enough time for the peaks and troughs to smooth out. As a result, the time frame should dictate whether investing at all is right for your plans and how much risk to take if you do. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t invest with a time frame of fewer than five years in mind.

3. Existing assets

What other investment products and assets do you hold? If a large portion of your assets is already held in stocks and shares, it may not be prudent to invest further. An investment portfolio should be well-balanced and diversified across a wide range of products, this can help reduce short-term volatility experienced and manage risk. Your asset allocation needs to be carefully considered when asking if now is the right time to invest, pouring more money into the stock markets can significantly change your exposure to risk and volatility.

4. Risk profile

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to investing. One of the areas that should be tailored to you is the amount of risk you take. All investments involve some level of risk, but this varies significantly between investment options. There are numerous factors to consider when choosing a risk profile that matches you, from the investment time frame and overall financial situation to your attitude to risk. Investing in stocks simply because some sources claim it’s the ‘perfect’ time could mean making decisions that don’t consider your risk profile. 

5. Wider financial plans

Investing isn’t something that should be looked at alone either, your overall plans and aspirations need to be factored in too. Would it make more sense for you to pay off your mortgage or invest? Do you need to build up a financial safety net before increasing investments? Or would it make sense to contribute further to your pension if investment goals are tied to retirement? Looking at the bigger picture can help you create a financial plan that provides a blueprint for your aspirations.

Amid the market uncertainty, it’s natural to have questions about your investments. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like to discuss any aspect of your investment portfolio and plans.

Please note: The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

Are you planning to retire this year? If so, congratulations! Retirement is a milestone you may have been looking forward to for years, but it’s not one you should just dive into. There are steps you should take to ensure your retirement lives up to expectations.

1. Think about the retirement lifestyle you want

You might have spent a lot of time looking forward to retirement, but have you really thought about the lifestyle you want? Often, we focus on giving up work and getting more free time for ourselves. Yet, how we’ll fill that time can end up being forgotten about or we focus on the big events we have planned.

Thinking about the day-to-day lifestyle you hope to achieve not only gives you some direction, but is important for planning your finances too. Are you looking forward to pottering in the garden or do you hope to indulge in new hobbies? Are you planning to travel more or spend more time with loved ones? Without a blueprint, retirement can end up falling short of expectations.

2. Make a budget

With an idea of the lifestyle you want to achieve in mind, it’s time to start putting together a budget. This should cover two areas. The first should look at what your day-to-day outgoings need to be to meet your goals, from covering essential bills to disposable income to spend on luxuries. This can give you an idea of the regular income your pension needs to generate throughout retirement.

Second, you should list one-off expenses that you plan to make in retirement. Typically, retirement spending is at its highest during the first three years as we make big-ticket purchases. This could be renovating your home or travelling more. Remember to factor these in when assessing your pension and how to access it.

3. Assess how long your pension will need to last for

An annual budget isn’t much use if you don’t think about how long you’ll need to draw this income for. As a result, life expectancy is an important part of retirement planning.

Whilst retirement age is rising, we’re living far longer than previous generations. Those looking forward to retiring in 2020 may expect to live for several more decades. Therefore, your pension needs to stretch further too. Understanding how your wealth and pension will deplete over the next 30 years or more can provide confidence that you’ll remain financially secure throughout your lifetime.

At this point, you should also consider the impact of inflation. Inflation means the cost of living rises and whilst this makes relatively little difference year-to-year, over the long term the impact can be significant.

4. Find out what State Pension you’re entitled to

The State Pension can provide a base to build your retirement income on. It’s a reliable source of income that will last throughout retirement. How much you receive will depend on your National Insurance record. Those receiving the full State Pension in 2020/21 will receive £175.20 per week. If you haven’t already checked when you’ll receive the State Pension and how much you could receive, you should do so here.

5. Review your pension pots

Over your working life, you’ve been paying into a pension, but understanding how this translates into an income can be difficult. This is why reviewing your pension pots to create a plan that’s tailored to you is important.

If you have a Defined Benefit pension, also known as a Final Salary pension, this will provide a regular income for the rest of your life.

If you have a Defined Contribution pension, you will need to decide how and when to access your pension. The options include purchasing an Annuity, which will provide an income for life, and entering Drawdown, which allows you to take flexible payments whilst your savings usually remain invested.

Reviewing your pensions before retirement means you can see how they align with your lifestyle goals and help make the right choices for you.

6. Evaluate your other assets

Whilst pensions are often the focus of retirement planning, other assets play a role too. Even if you don’t intend to use other assets to fund retirement, it’s worth understanding what your options are. Other assets to consider include savings, investments and property.

7. Seek financial advice

Effective retirement planning involves pulling together numerous different strands to create the lifestyle you want. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to retirement so it can be difficult to know what is right for you. This is where financial planning and advice can be invaluable. We’ll combine your lifestyle goals with the financial means to help you create a retirement blueprint that provides confidence as you start the next chapter of your life.

Please note: A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits.

The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation which are subject to change in the future.


Being able to take a tax-free lump sum out of your pension when you reach pension age certainly sounds appealing. It can help you kick-start retirement plans and fully enjoy the milestone, but is it always the right decision to make?

Currently, you’re able to take a 25% lump sum from your private pension at retirement age without incurring Income Tax liability. This option is usually available once you’ve passed the age of 55 but is set to increase to 57 in 2028. Once you take your ‘pension commencement lump sum’, your scheme is ‘crystallised’, and you should decide what you want to do with the rest of the fund.

Whilst taking a lump sum is a popular option and right for some people, you don’t have to take it.

If you’re thinking about taking advantage of the tax-free lump sum, there are two questions to ask yourself first:

  • What do I intend to do with the lump sum?
  • How will it affect my long-term finances?

Setting out plans for the withdrawn lump sum

The first thing to consider is why you want to take a lump sum out of your pension. You should have a clear plan about what you want to achieve with the money before you proceed.

In some cases, taking a lump sum out of your pension can make the first years of retirement more enjoyable and improve financial security. Perhaps you’d like to use it to pay off your mortgage before giving up work full-time or maybe you have plans to celebrate retirement with a once in a lifetime experience. There are plenty of reasons why a lump sum may be appealing.

However, there are plans where taking out a lump sum may not make sense financially.

Recent research asked retirees taking taxed lump sums from their pension in the last year about their plans, revealing an insight into why people make withdrawals from their pension. The top two priorities were to add the money to a savings account or simply put it in the bank. It’s prudent to have an emergency fund you can fall back on if needed but having too much held in cash can be a bad thing too. Interest rates are low and it’s likely pension lump sums withdrawn to sit in the bank will be losing value in real terms.

One in ten people also took pension cash with the plan to reinvest the money back in stocks and shares. If you’ve chosen to access your pension flexibly, it will usually remain invested until withdrawn. As a result, it’s important to look at the balance of your investments and why you’re withdrawing pension investments, where returns aren’t taxed, to other products that could face Capital Gains Tax.

Before making any pension lump sum withdrawal decide how you’ll use the money and weigh up if it’s the best course of action with your goals in mind.

Understanding the long-term impact

It’s also important to look at the bigger picture. After all, you saved into a pension for decades in order to create an income that will last you the rest of your life. Taking a lump sum out of your pension during the early years of retirement can have a long-lasting impact.

Before you take action, assessing what a lump sum withdrawal means over the long term is important. With modern retirement spanning several decades, it can be difficult to know if using a lump sum at the start of retirement will have an impact 20 or 30 years’ down the line. This is where financial planning can help.

By understanding the lifestyle you want to achieve throughout retirement, we’ll be able to help you see if that’s achievable under different scenarios, including after you’ve taken a lump sum. The good news is that we often find retirees are in a position to meet their short and long-term retirement goals. Careful financial planning and considering the long term gives you the peace of mind to fully enjoy your retirement years both now and in the future.

At the point of retirement, there are numerous decisions to be made, from when and how you actually want to retire to how to access your retirement savings. We’re here to make your transition into retirement as smooth as possible, please contact us to discuss your aspirations for the future and how your saving can help you achieve them.

Please note: A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits.

The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation which are subject to change in the future.