Auto-enrolment into work pensions takes some pressure off remembering to save for retirement, however, Britons could be missing a trick or two by not looking any further.

As the cost of living crisis continues, those planning for the future may wish to explore what their pensions can do for them before they opt to stop paying in.

Pensions are an important employee benefit, and employer contributions can make a huge difference to how much one ends up with.

Many experts argue that living off the state pension is not sustainable as prices continue to rise.

Prioritising and taking full advantage of one’s a workplace pension means employees can get extra income from the contributions they and their employer pay into your company pension scheme.

Steven Cameron, public affairs director at Aegon, stresses how little effort people need to make to enjoy the benefits of work pensions: “Your employer is responsible for arranging a workplace pension scheme for all employees and automatically enrolling you into it.

“This avoids you having to do anything – you effectively are made a member of a pension scheme automatically. You can “opt out” but this is effectively giving away free money.”

How to make the most out of the work place pension:

Employer and Government cash: The money put into one’s pot is topped up by their employer and the Government. Under auto enrolment, employers are required to put a minimum of three percent, tax relief from the Government provides another one percent and emplyees must put in at least four percent. If they opt out all the above is lost.

Emma Byron, managing director of Legal & General Retirement Solutions said: “Your contribution is doubled with no additional cost to you. It’s a cheap and easy way to super-boost your pension savings.”

Matched contributions: Some employers stick to auto-enrolment minimum contributions (three of any qualifying earnings), but others are willing to do more and if individuals are able to put five or six percent in their pension, then so will they. This is known as employer matching.

Once people find out how much they’re paying in, they can also take a look at if they can afford to pay in more. Just adding an extra one percent could make a big difference over time. Especially if their employer will match it.

Personal contributions: Even after someone has maxed out their employer’s matched contributions, they will carry on benefiting from free Government top-ups.

Britons can pay the equivalent of their annual salary, up to a maximum of £60,000.

Salary sacrifice: This scheme is essentially a legal way to dodge National Insurance payments. Employers allow staff to take a supposed ‘pay cut’, but the money gets ploughed into their pension or put towards some other benefit like childcare or an electric vehicle instead, and both sides pay less NI as a result.

Child benefit: The amount of child benefit one can recieve is lowered once a parent is earning over £50,000 a year, however putting extra into one’s pension could push them back below the threshold for claiming child benefit.

Mr Cameron said: “Paying a personal contribution into your workplace pension reduces your net income and you could regain some or potentially all of your child benefit entitlement.”

Financial advice: Britons have the option to take tax-free payments out of their pension to cover the cost of advice.

Becky O’Connor, head of pensions and savings at Interactive Investor said: “The option is there through something called the pension advice allowance.

“The tax-free amount is up to £500 a session, it’s available at any age and you can use it three times in your lifetime but only once per tax year. The £500 will not be taxed on withdrawal from the pension pot, regardless of your income.”

Other advantages of a work place pension:

  • Capped charges: If people keep their pension in their employer’s ‘default’ or standard investment fund, the charge is capped at 0.75 percent.
  • Not earning or now self employed: Non-earners can put up to £2,880 a year into their retirement pot, to gain a maximum £720 or 20 per cent in tax relief from the Government.
  • Free help, seminars and mid life MOTs: It is worth browsing one’s employer’s pension site for offers of help like this
  • Default funds and the alternatives: Default funds are usually trackers which passively match the performance of one or a selection of the world’s stock markets, and are cheap to own. It is the safer option for the employer.
  • Tools and calculators: Mr Cameron said “many modern workplace pensions give you the ability to access your pension online, to check on things like how much you’re contributing, how much your fund is currently worth, where you are invested and how much you might have by the time you reach your selected retirement age.”
  • Merging old pensions
  • Bankruptcy protection
  • Death benefits

For more information on workplace pensions, Britons are advised to seek help from a financial advisor or check the Government website.

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