Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here you can find the answers to frequently asked questions about retirement and the options available to you at retirement. We may add to these from time-to-time, so it is worth checking back. If your question is not answered, you might wish to contact the Plan administrator, Willis Towers Watson on 01707 607616 or by email: howdenjoinerypensions@willistowerswatson.com for more information.

General retirement-related questions

Can I access my pension savings now even if I am still working or haven’t retired yet?

Yes, you can access your pension savings from age 55, regardless of whether or not you are still working.

However, you should be aware that once you have received any taxable cash from Drawdown or a taxable cash lump sum (other than from a small pot – see Small pensions section for details), this will restrict the amount of future pension savings that you or your employer can make on your behalf into a defined contribution pension without incurring a tax charge. This is known as the Money Purchase Annual Allowance (MPAA). You can learn more about the MPAA on this Government website: www.moneyhelper.org.uk/en/pensions-and-retirement/tax-and-pensions/money-purchase-annual-allowance-mpaa.

How is my pension income taxed?

You can usually take up to 25% of your pension savings, currently tax-free. However, any pension income above this (whether from the Plan, an annuity, drawdown or taxable cash) is taxed in the same way as earnings. However, unlike earnings you do not make National Insurance contributions on your pension income. You will pay tax at your marginal tax rate, which will depend on the amount of income you receive from all sources. Please note if you are currently employed and receiving a salary, taking your pension could potentially mean that you move up to a higher tax band. In addition, if you decide to take all of your Plan pension savings as a cash lump sum in one go, this could mean that you end up paying more tax, as you may move up to a higher tax band.

What is the Annual Allowance?

The Annual Allowance applies to all savings you make into a registered pension arrangement, which restricts the amount that you (and your employer) can save each tax year without incurring a tax charge. The standard Annual Allowance for the current tax year can be found here (please note this reduces if you have a ‘high’ income).

A separate Money Purchase Annual Allowance will apply to you, irrespective of your income, if you access your pension savings flexibly and take a taxable income. This includes taking taxable income from a Drawdown fund, as well as the taxable part of a cash lump sum. It doesn’t apply if you buy an annuity. Once the Money Purchase Annual Allowance is triggered, this restricts the amount that you (and your employer) can save into a money purchase (defined contribution) pension arrangement each tax year without incurring a tax charge. The Money Purchase Annual Allowance for the current tax year can be found here

Therefore, if you are planning to continue working and/or saving into a pension arrangement after taking your pension savings, you should take the Money Purchase Annual Allowance into account when deciding which option to take.

My Plan pension savings are small, what can I do with them?

If your Plan pension savings have a value of less than £10,000 you may be able to take this as a ‘small pot’ lump sum. This means that you can take your entire Plan pension savings as cash. Up to 25% of the lump sum would be currently tax-free, with tax paid on the remainder. Taking a cash lump sum in this way would not trigger the Money Purchase Annual Allowance (see Tax and Allowances section for details); you would need to let the Plan administrators know that you wish to take a ‘small pot’ lump sum.

If your total pension savings in all your pension arrangements (excluding any state pension) are worth less than £30,000, you may also be able to take all of your pension savings as a one-off lump sum. Please see your retirement statement or contact the Plan’s administrators if you believe this could be the case for you.

What State benefits will I receive in addition to my Plan pension savings?

In addition to any pension savings you have built up in the Plan, you may also receive a State Pension payable from your State Pension Age. See the State Pension section for further details.

Your State Pension Age will depend on when you were born. Use the Government’s State Pension Checker to find out how much State Pension you can get, and from what age.

What if I live overseas or move overseas?

You can still take your pension from the Plan if you live overseas. Your pension will normally be paid by bank transfer and can be paid to a non-UK bank if you wish.

The pension will be calculated in Sterling, so if you wish your pension to be paid in local currency, there may be a cost to do this from the bank. If you are resident for tax purposes in a country outside the UK, you will need to consider any local tax issues which may arise due to your new income.

You may also be able to transfer your benefits to an overseas approved pension arrangement provided that you have taken advice from a UK registered financial adviser if your transfer value is more than £30,000 where required. Please note that Wren Sterling can only provide advice on transfer options if you are resident in the UK for tax purposes.

Who regulates UK pension plans?

The Pensions Regulator is the UK supervisory body for occupational pension plans. The Regulator is responsible for monitoring the running of occupational pension plans to ensure the protection of member benefits. You can contact the Regulator on 0845 600 0707 or go to thepensionsregulator.gov.uk

What if something goes wrong or I have a complaint?

We hope that the retirement process runs smoothly for you. However, if you do have an issue or complaint, please contact the Plan’s administrators, Willis Towers Watson, and they will let you know how to take the matter further.

If you are unable to resolve your issue through the Plan’s administrators, having followed the Trustee’s dispute resolution procedure where relevant, you can refer it to the Pensions Ombudsman. The Pensions Ombudsman is an impartial organisation set up to investigate complaints about how a pension plan is run. If you wish to contact the Pensions Ombudsman:

The Pensions Ombudsman can be contacted at:

10 South Colonnade,
Canary Wharf,
London,
E14 4PU

You can also submit a complaint form online:
www.pensions-ombudsman.org.uk/submit-complaint

If I were to transfer, do I need to be careful where I transfer to?

You should be aware that individuals are being approached by ‘unregulated’ providers suggesting that they transfer their pension benefits in exchange for seemingly tempting investment opportunities and/or cash. The Government has banned cold calling so if anyone calls you out of the blue about yours, just hang up – it could be a scam. You could lose most or all of your pension savings as a result of a scam. To check the firm you are dealing with is regulated and see if what you are being offered is a scam, visit the ScamSmart website - fca.org.uk/scamsmart The Pensions Regulator, the UK supervisory body for occupational pension schemes, has produced a booklet to help members protect themselves from scams. This can be accessed here: thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/docs/pension-scams-booklet-members.pdf

If you believe you have been approached with such an offer, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, actionfraud.police.uk/reporting-fraud-and-cyber-crime

Retirement Options tool related questions

How do I use the Retirement Options tool?

Please visit the Explore page for information and a video on how to use the tool.

Is my data secure?

We appreciate members’ concerns around providing detailed personal data. The information you provide is not stored anywhere on our systems once you close the Retirement Options tool. We ask you to input the information in the Retirement Options tool and we only request relevant information. For more information please see the Data and Privacy Policy.

How can I use the information provided by the Retirement Options tool?

The tool is for information only – it provides an overview of your retirement options based on the information you input and is not financial advice. You should not take action on the basis of the information provided from this tool alone.

For analysis of your personal circumstances, advice on the options available, the risks associated with these options and a recommendation of how to proceed, please contact a FCA regulated financial adviser.

The calculations are based on the information that you input and the following:

  • You’re ready to retire now
  • You’re in good health
  • It does not take into account the impact of any tax, in particular, income tax and the Lifetime Allowance
  • It does not take into account the impact of increases in the cost of living (inflation)
  • The tool does not show how you might take your AVC account at retirement. For more information about the AVC account, please refer to your Retirement Quote
  • The annual increases on your Plan pension, shown in the graph view, are based on the Rules of the Plan and in some cases, assumptions have been made where these increases are linked to inflation. The actual annual increases you receive each year are set in accordance with the Plan Trust Deed and Rules

The Retirement Options tool is not financial advice. You should discuss your specific circumstances with an FCA-Registered Financial Adviser before making a decision.

How up to date are these figures?

Please see your Retirement Quote for the date of your pension figures and your transfer value. For the illustration of a regular income, an assumption has been made regarding the annuity rates available to purchase in the open market. The rate used is is based upon annuity rates as provided by HUB Financial Solutions.

Financial advice related questions

Who are Wren Sterling?

The Trustee has arranged a discounted rate for you to speak to an impartial financial adviser called Wren Sterling to help you understand the options in more detail and to provide you with financial advice. You will be able to speak to a fully qualified adviser through their helpline. If you’d like advice from Wren Sterling, you can contact them to setup an appointment by calling 0808 175 0010 or emailing howdens@wrensterling.com.

We have negotiated a competitive rate for Wren Sterling’s advice for our members, which is significantly cheaper than the cost if you went to find your own financial adviser.

A detailed selection process was completed before appointing Wren Sterling. They understand the Plan and what your options are and are regulated and authorised to provide pension transfer advice by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

You can choose your own FCA-registered financial adviser, but you’ll need to meet the full cost of their advice.

Do I have to take financial advice?

If you want to consider transferring out of the Plan to a DC arrangement and your transfer value is £30,000 or higher, you must take advice before you can proceed with a transfer.

If you’re considering taking your pension from the Plan or transfering out and your transfer value is less than £30,000 you do not need to take advice, but it is still recommended that you do so.

What does the adviser need to know?

To tailor their advice to you, you’ll need to provide your adviser with information on:

  • Your finances (for example, debts, income, outgoings, savings, other retirement income)
  • Your health and lifestyle
  • Your plans for retirement
  • Your dependants.

You can find suggested questions to ask your adviser on the FCA’s website: fca.org.uk/consumers/what-ask-adviser

What happens on the call with the financial adviser?

If you decide to speak to a financial adviser, you will need to call and make an appointment at a convenient time to have a discussion with an adviser. The process will differ depending on the financial adviser but they will ask you questions and discuss your options. The adviser will then issue you with a report which summarises your discussion and provides a recommendation. They will also advise you of the next steps. You do not have to follow the adviser’s recommendation if you do not want to.

Who regulates the provision of financial advice?

Financial advisers must be officially authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to provide pension transfer advice. The FCA is independent and not attached to the Government. The FCA have published information to help members considering transferring – this is available at: fca.org.uk/consumers/pension-transfer-defined-benefit