More People Withdrawing Cash from Pensions

Data from HM Revenue & Customs reveals that between April and June this year, a whopping £4bn was taken out from retirement savings, the FT reports. This figure comes from 567,000 individuals.

Comparing this to the previous quarter, which saw £3.4bn in withdrawals from 519,000 individuals, the increase becomes even more alarming. In simple terms, the average amount pulled out from pensions during the April to June period was £7,100. That’s a jump of 17% compared to the same time in 2022.

Alice Guy, a notable figure in the investment realm, voiced her concerns: “Pension savings take years of dedication and hard work to build. It’s disheartening to see so many drawing from their savings, possibly at rates they can’t keep up in the long term.”

The Inflation Factor

One of the primary reasons believed to be driving this trend is the ongoing cost of living crisis. With the cost of energy and food skyrocketing, many pensioners are struggling to keep up with their monthly expenses. Essentially, the money that was meant to support them in their later years is now being used to cover today’s rising bills.

Jon Greer, a retirement policy expert, emphasised the reality of the situation. He pointed out that while the state pension is set to increase with wage growth, it simply won’t be enough for many. The pressure to cover the gap has led to an increased reliance on private pension savings.

Tax Implications and Policy Changes

It’s not just the withdrawals that have seen a shift. An important piece of the puzzle is the annual savings allowance — the maximum amount you can save in your pension without attracting extra taxes.

The data paints a stark picture here too. The annual allowance was previously set at £40,000. If savers contributed more than this to their pensions, they’d face taxes on the excess. For the 2021-22 tax year, 53,330 savers went over this limit. This number marked a 21.5% increase from the previous year, with excess contributions totalling £1.2bn.

Moreover, the number of lifetime allowance charges reported by pension schemes also saw a considerable rise. There were 11,660 such charges in the 2021-22 period, a noticeable increase from the 8,820 reported the year before.

However, in a move to potentially address these challenges, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt increased the annual savings allowance to £60,000 in his spring Budget and did away with the lifetime allowance.

Henrietta Grimston, an expert in financial planning, believes these changes were necessary. She commented on the increasing numbers of savers who were crossing the threshold limits, suggesting that a lack of financial advice in these complex areas might be a contributing factor.

The Road Ahead

While the recent policy changes may offer some relief to pension savers, it’s crucial to stay informed and prepared. The political climate is always in flux, and what’s beneficial today might not remain the same tomorrow. Grimston aptly summed it up, hinting that the future of pension taxation, given the unpredictable nature of politics, remains uncertain.

In conclusion, while pensions have always been a cornerstone of financial security, the current economic challenges, coupled with policy nuances, mean that UK citizens must remain vigilant. Staying informed, seeking advice, and understanding the broader financial landscape will be key in navigating these turbulent waters.