Personal pensions are purchased from a provider such as an insurance company, High Street bank, building society or most typically, a pension company. If you are looking for a personal pension it is very important that you speak to a financial advisor. Personal pensions are extremely complicated investment schemes and it is important that you are fully briefed by an expert before you invest your money. Personal pensions are "money purchase arrangements", meaning you regularly contribute to the policy and the money you save is put into investments for you such as bonds or stocks and shares. When you invest in your personal pension, there are no guarantees of returns and the value of your investments can fall as well as rise. Make sure that you receive expert advice before investing in a personal pension.

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Seek financial advice

Before you even consider investing in a pension scheme it is important to realise that this is a very serious investment and it really is worth seeking expert financial advice before you invest your money.

How to pay into a pension scheme

You can either make monthly or lump sum payments to a pension provider. They will send you annual statements, telling you how much your fund is worth. The amount you get when you retire depends on how much you paid in, how well the fundís investments have done and how you decide for your retirement income to be paid. You can take up to 25% of the fund as a tax-free lump sum if you want to.

When your pension is paid

When youíre close to retirement you have to decide how you want your pension to be paid. This will depend on the arrangements you have with your pension provider but usually youíll have the option to get 25% of the money from your pension fund as a tax free lump sum and the rest as regular payments. These can be monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or annually.

How much your pension is worth

If all your pension funds total £18,000 or less, you can usually take the whole amount as a lump sum. You have to be at least 60 to do this. If your personal or stakeholder pension is less than £2,000 you can usually take it as a cash payment, no matter how much you get from other pensions. In some cases, when youíre under 75 and are expected to live less than a year, you can take your whole fund as a lump sum. You wonít have to pay tax on it unless your pension funds are worth more than the lifetime allowance.

How to compare personal pensions?

Taking the time to research the various personal pension plans on the market is imperative when you are thinking which plan you should take out. Before you do this, you should decide how much control you would like with your pension plan. SIPP (self invested personal pension plans) allow you a large amount of control and are usually less expensive than standard pension funds. You must however have experience and feel confident about where to invest you money if you choose this option. If you are not confident then you would be better to choose a managed personal pension plan. If you are in any doubt then you should seek independent financial advice.

As with any financial product, the costs of pension plans can vary significantly from scheme to scheme. When you know which type of pension is suitable for you, you should compare the fees associated with the pensions so you know you are getting the best deal available.


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