The new basic state pension of a maximum of £125.95 a week is difficult to live on, so most people try to save for retirement themselves.
Thankfully, there are some helpful carrots to entice us to invest more for longer. The Government offers tax relief or does not charge tax on gains for some types of long-term savings, some of which are specifically designed to help you save for your retirement.
Private or workplace pensions are the first and most obvious choice for many people.
Unlike other types of investment that may be accessed sooner, funds deposited into a pension are locked away until you are at least 55.
From next year, everyone over the age of 22 in employment, under state pension age and earning over £10,000 must be auto-enrolled at work. If you are auto-enrolled, you are saving a percentage of your salary into a pension pot and so is your employer, although contributions can vary. It’s a bit different for the self-employed, who are not auto-enrolled and may therefore choose to save into a private pension instead.
Tax relief on any money saved into a pension – whether it’s a workplace scheme or a Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) gives a healthy boost to returns and this is why people use them instead of keeping their retirement savings in cash or savings accounts.
Tax relief on pensions means that:
In both cases, if that money had gone into your bank account instead of your pension pot, you would not benefit from tax relief the government has to offer. Pensions are designed like this to encourage people to save for their retirement.
However, when you reach retirement age and are eligible to start using your pension, you will have to pay income tax on the income you receive from your pension pot.
You don’t pay tax on the first 25p in the £1 taken from your pot (In other words, the first 25 per cent of your pension pot is tax free if taken as a lump-sum), but after that the income tax you will pay is determined, as normal, by your level of income and at the usual rates.
So with pensions, while the contributions receive tax relief, the income you take out of your pension pot at retirement age will have tax implications. When you retire, just like when you work, you still get your annual personal allowance of income that is tax-free, of £11,500. Anything over that will be subject to the usual tax rates.
Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs) are a type of DIY pension that allow you to choose what you invest in yourself, from a range of SIPP-eligible investment products. This can be a regular stocks and shares portfolio, traditional funds, exchange traded funds, investment trusts and bonds and gilts.
SIPPs usually involve paying a higher management fee than you would pay for a pre-designed private pension fund, because it costs more to administer the wider range of products that can be held within it. However, they do come with the same tax relief benefits as a standard pension; £20 for every £80 you pay in if you are a basic tax rate payer and £40 for every £100 if you are a higher tax rate payer.
While SIPPs mean you have to do the work yourself and pick your investments, they do offer more control over where your money is invested because you are effectively choosing to be your own pension fund manager.
Don’t let that put you off, though. If you are not yet familiar with the different types of investments, a Mutual Fund is an easy way to start investing into your SIPP as it means someone else does the hard work for you.
ISA savings are tax-free, which means that any income you earn from interest in cash ISAs or dividends in stocks and shares ISAs, or any capital gains you make from stocks and shares ISAs, is not taxed. You also won’t have to pay any tax if you withdraw your money from an ISA, which can be done at any time.
Each tax year, you are allowed to make a gain, or profit, on your capital of up to £11,300 before you will get taxed on those gains. If you kept your investments outside of a stocks and shares ISA, and in a dealing account, for example, any capital gains you made on those investments would be subject to capital gains tax (CGT) once those gains had exceeded the annual tax-free allowance of £11,300.
But if your investments are held within a stocks and shares ISA, your gains will not be subject to CGT, nor income tax on any dividend payments.
The benefit of holding ISAs as part of your retirement savings portfolio is that you can keep them going after you retire, allowing you to continue investing tax efficiently. There is no upper age limit on ISAs, unlike pensions, which do not receive tax relief after the age of 75.
When choosing how much to split between SIPPs or conventional private pensions and ISAs, considering the following should give you a good steer: