Dealing With Pension Transfers: Expert Advice
Pension transfer advice can be a complicated process for anyone to follow.
The UK has strict rules which govern how you can transfer pensions out of the country and into other pension schemes.
You must find an expert who understands these rules before starting your transfer.
Pensions can be a minefield of information, and it’s good to have an advisor that you can rely on. You need advice from a professional who understands the complexities of pension transfers, especially if you are considering transferring your money overseas.
This post will discuss steps you should expect when taking pension transfer advice. Also, it will answer some of the frequently asked questions people ask.
What is Pension Transfer?
A pension transfer is when you decide to move your defined contribution pension, where you have built up your money, to another pension provider.
There can be many reasons for you transferring your pension. It can include:
You are changing your job and moving to a new employer’s scheme.
Your current scheme is getting closed.
You want to consolidate your money into one pot.
You want to take a proactive role in investing your pension by transferring it into a SIPP.
You want to move to a persian provider who charges less.
You are looking to move from defined benefit pension into a defined contribution scheme.
However, there are risks and restrictions involved while transferring your pension and thus, it is important to seek advice first.
Also, you need to get advice from a regulated financial adviser to transfer the amount if the value of your defined benefit scheme is over £30,000.
In fact, it is a good idea to take pension transfer guidance even if the value of your scheme is £30,000 or less.
Hence, here is a detailed guidance which will help you make an informed decision on whether a pension transfer is appropriate for you.
Steps to Take When Taking Pension Transfer Advice
1- Find a Pension Transfer Advisor
Pension transfer advice is available from experienced financial advisors or lawyers. When choosing a planner to take pension transfer advice from, you should be careful. Not all planners are qualified and knowledgeable about the UK’s strict rules surrounding pensions transfers.
An advisor can help you decide if transferring your money overseas is the right option for you. They can also help you navigate through all of your options, including the most suitable country for you to transfer your money to.
2- Set Up An Initial Meeting
Your advisor will meet with you and discuss your pension transfer or pension consolidation goals. They will ask important questions to understand what you are trying to achieve.
The meeting is also an opportunity to ask the planner any questions about transferring your money overseas. Advisors should be happy to answer any questions you have.
The meeting will help the planner understand your situation and determine how they can advise you on your pension transfer options. They may also ask to see copies of all relevant paperwork, such as statements from previous pension schemes or financial documents which show investment performance.
3- Review Your Options
The planner should then review your options and discuss each one with you. If you are not sure what is the best option, they can help you decide by explaining all benefits of the possibilities.
Options may include:
Keeping money in a UK pension scheme.
Transferring to an overseas pension scheme.
Moving your money into an investment plan.
Your advisor will also advise you on the risks associated with each option. They should also be able to provide an estimate of how much money you could lose or gain from transferring your pension overseas.
4- Prepare For The Transfer
If you decide to transfer your money, the advisor will help you with the paperwork and guide you through the process. They will also help you choose the right country to transfer your money into.
Not all countries have the same rules governing pension transfers, so selecting a country that meets your needs is essential.
Your advisor can also recommend a reputable company to handle the transfer for you. The company should be familiar with the specific rules in the country you are transferring to.
How to transfer defined benefit pension?
First let’s understand what you can and cannot transfer. If you are in an unfunded public sector pension scheme, such as Teachers’ Pension Scheme and the NHS Pension Scheme, then you will only be able to transfer your pension to another defined benefit scheme.
However, you will be able to transfer your defined benefit pension to any type of scheme if you are in a:
Private sector defined benefit pension scheme
Funded public sector pension scheme. For example, the Local Government Pension Scheme.
Now, let’s see the step you must follow to transfer your defined benefit pension:
1- Calculate Your Cash Equivalent Transfer Value (CETV)
Find out your CETV, which is the cash value that your current scheme offers you for transferring out your defined benefit pension.
It is calculated by finding out the lump sum required to provide an equivalent pension to the scheme pension at your retirement age. This lump sum is then discounted based on how far you are from your retirement.
Your CETV value depends on factors, such as:
Your and your employer contribution
Your age and your scheme retirement age
Cost of living
Your relationship status
Pension transfer value index
You can ask your pension provider to find your CETV for which they may ask you to fill a form. You can request for your CETV once every 12 months at most.
You are eligible for CETV if you are in a funded defined benefit pension scheme. Also, you must be an active member and have your scheme and no longer be for this to apply. If you’re still an active member, the guaranteed transfer value won’t apply. Once you qualify for a CETV, you will get to know the value within three months.
Your scheme administrator will give a written document called Statement of Entitlement, which includes the following details:
Your pension at date of leaving the scheme
Benefit details that you are eligible for under the scheme
Information for your new scheme if you decide to transfer your pension
You can also use CETV calculators to estimate CETV you may be offered based on your deferred benefit pension, such as Tideway.
2- Take Regulated Financial Advice
As mentioned earlier, if the value of your defined benefits is over £30,000 when you have decided to transfer to a new scheme, then you need to provide evidence to your pension provider that you have taken regulated financial advice.
It is always better to reach a regulated financial adviser before you start the process of getting a transfer value.
However, ensure that the financial adviser has the following:
National Qualification and Credit Framework of level 4 or above
The adviser has signed up to a code of ethics which is the Statement of Professional Standing. SPS certificates must be renewed every year.
Completed at least 35 hours of professional training each year.
Registered with the FCA.
Here are the organisations that can help you find a financial adviser:
3- Complete the Transfer Process Within Three-Month Period
Once you have submitted all the paperwork, your pension provider pays your benefits to the new scheme within six months from the start of the transfer process.
However, you may have to request for another CETV in case you do not complete the transfer process within the three-month time period.
Requesting for another CETV involves cost and also delays the transfer. In addition, your CETV can be higher or lower than the previous amount. It implies that you may again need the help of a regulated financial adviser to reassess your transfer.
4- Check Transfer Options Offered by Your Pension Provider
Ask your current pension provider whether they offer an option that lets you transfer only a part of your benefits. Your provider can also offer to transfer your benefits to an overseas pension arrangement.
Usually, you can transfer a defined benefit pension to a new pension scheme at any time up to one year before the date when you are expected to start taking your pension. Once you start taking your pension amount, you cannot move your pension elsewhere.
How to remain safe from pension scams?
There has been an increase in the number of pension scams in the UK. In 2017, a total of 253 victims reported that they lost more than £23 million to pension scammers.
According to FCA, pension scam victims lose an average of £91,000.
Scammers try to convince pension savers to transfer their entire pension amount or to release funds by making attractive promises. They make false claims, such as claiming they are authorised by the FCA.
Then, your pension is usually stolen outright or invested in high risk investments, such as:
overseas property and hotels
renewable energy bonds
Invested in more conventional products. However, it is invested within an unnecessarily complex structure which hides multiple fees and high charges
Here are some warning signs to detect pension scams:
Unsolicited approaches by text messages, call, or email.
Offer free pension review, pension liberation, loan, savings advance, or cashback.
Promise higher returns and guarantee better returns on your pension savings.
Guarantee to release cash from your pension even when you are below 55. It is possible in case of very poor health,
Put pressure by offering time-limited offers and force you to make quick decisions.
Provide only their mobile phone numbers or PO box address in the name of their contact details.
Promise extra tax savings.
Offer unusual investments that are unregulated and high-risk.
Offer long-term pension investment deals.
Ask you to download software or apps to access your device.
In such cases, it is important to take certain steps and follow rules to protect yourself from scams. Here are those rules:
1- Reject Unsolicited Offers
Reject any unexpected phone calls, text messages, emails, or visitors to your door. It is highly likely that it is a scam.
If you get a cold call to enquire about your pension, then it is better to hang up the call as cold calling has been made illegal since 2019. Report such cold calls to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Moreover, be aware of pension review scams. These scammers contact pensioners unexpectedly, offering free pension reviews. Usually, the companies that offer a free pension review are not registered under FCA. Also, professional advice on pension is not free. Thus, a free offer out of nowhere is usually a scam.
2- Check with FCA to Know Who You Are Dealing with
There are scammers who claim to be acting on behalf of the FCA or MoneyHelper, which is the Government’s guidance service.
Therefore, before you transfer your pension, ensure that the person or firm you are dealing with is regulated by the FCA and are authorised to provide pension advice.
The FCA also regulates those who operate SIPPs and personal and contract-based stakeholder pension schemes.
Check FCA’s Financial Services Register to see if the person or firm offering you financial services or advice is FCA authorised. You can also call on FCA’s consumer helpline, which is 08001116768 or contact email@example.com.
You can also check if the directors’ or the firm are registered or not with Companies House.
In case you are dealing with an unauthorised firm, you will not be able to access the Financial Ombudsman Service or Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).
These schemes protect pensioners who receive poor advice from a financial adviser who is authorised by the FCA and pay up to £85,000 per claim.
3- Don’t be Pressurised
Scammers put pensioners in a pressurised situation by providing lucrative time-bound offers. This is done to pressurise you to make quick decisions and accept their offers.
Therefore, it is important that you take your time to ensure that it is not a scam even if you have to turn down an amazing deal.
Be aware and wary of promises that sound too good to be true and do not rush into making a decision.
4- Report a Scam
When you report a scam, it allows authorities to investigate and prosecute scammers. It also helps law and policy makers to get a clearer picture of the effect that scams have on pensions.
There are various ways to report a scam. Here are a few ways:
In England, Northern Ireland and Wales you can report fraud and cybercrime that has already happened to Action Fraud. You can contact them online or you can call them on 0300 123 2040.
In Scotland, you can call Police Scotland on 101 or Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000.
In case you have already agreed to transfer your pension but suspect that it is a scammer, you must reach out to your pension provider.
You can also report scams to FCA by contacting their consumer helpline on 0800 111 6768 (freephone), 0300 500 8082 from the UK, and +44 207 066 1000 from abroad.
You can also report to FCA by using their reporting form.
If you are not sure what to do, then contact MoneyHelper for help. They support people who want to rebuild their savings, review their State Pension, forecast if your pension can be improved, or trace any other old pensions that the pensioner might have lost touch with. You can book an appointment via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
5- Consider Seeking Financial Guidance or Advice
It is better to seek help and financial guidance before changing your pension arrangements.
You can take help of MoneyHelper, which provides free independent and impartial information and guidance.
In case you are over 50 years and have a defined contribution pension, MoneyHelper's Pension Wise offers you to pre-book your appointments to talk through your retirement options.
It is also beneficial to use a financial adviser who can help you make the best decision for your own personal circumstances. If you want to take help from an adviser, make sure they are regulated by the FCA.
You can find regulated financial advisors in MoneyHelper’s Retirement Advisor Directory.
Is it a good idea to transfer my pension?
The answer to this question is not that simple. However, understanding the whole procedure of defined benefit transfer is something that will be very beneficial in arriving at any decision.
There are also several factors that you need to consider while deciding whether to transfer your pension or not. Factors such as:
1- Your CETV and Benefits You Will Give Up
How much will be your Cash Equivalent Transfer Value is an important factor in deciding whether you really want to transfer your pension. Your CETV will be based on your scheme membership, your age, how long it is until you retire and the cost of living.
Another factor that is important to understand before you transfer is the benefits that you will lose. In return for the transfer amount, you will give up a guaranteed inflation-linked pension for life, and half or two-third of your pension for your spouse.
2- Other Pension Arrangements and Financial Assets
Take into consideration your other financial arrangements, such as pension from other employments, personal pension plans, or State Pension, as part of the decision-making.
Also, take into account any other pension arrangements of your civil partner. In addition to your other pension arrangements, it is worth considering other financial assets that you may have.
These options can provide you financial flexibility and help you decide if pension transfer is really needed or not.
3- Impact by the Lifetime Allowance
The lifetime allowance is the total amount you can build up in all your pension schemes without paying tax charges. The current LTA is £1,073,100.
If the value of your pension benefits exceeds the LTA limit, then the amount over and above LTA will be taxable.
In case, you have long membership and high earning pension schemes, then you may be at risk of the tax charges at your retirement.
Therefore, consider LTA when you decide to transfer your pension. To protect your savings, you can apply for Individual Protection 2016 and Fixed Protection 2016.
4- Investment Risks
Transfer of your defined benefit pension to any other scheme, such as Personal Pension or Flexi-Access Drawdown, involves high investment risks. The transferred amount is invested in funds and the final amount is largely dependent on the increase or decrease in value of these funds.
Unlike your defined benefit pension scheme, here your pension will be directly affected by stock market value variations.
Therefore, if you are a risk-averse investor, staying in your defined pension scheme with guaranteed income is a good option.
5- Your Health State
Your health also plays an important role in determining whether to transfer your pension or not. In case of poor health, you may not be able to work for as long as you would planned. It also increases the chances of you taking out income from your pension fund sooner. Thus, it is better not to transfer your pension scheme.
Moreover, poor health implies restricted life expectancy. In such cases, a defined benefit pension scheme allows you to take your pension benefits early and receive a higher income than originally estimated.
6- Impact of Inflation
The guaranteed income provided by defined benefit pension usually increases each year based on inflation rate and the cost of living.
Thus, when you plan to transfer your pension to other schemes, consider how your income will be affected by inflation after retirement.
In addition to the above factors, you also need to consider advantages and disadvantages of transfer. The benefits of transferring the pension are vast but there are various drawbacks as well.
A few disadvantages of transferring a defined benefit pension schemes are:
Giving up a guaranteed income from your pension pot
Increased vulnerability to stock market falls
Increased responsibility for managing your pension once you transfer it
Once transfer decision is taken, it cannot be reversed
Apart from drawbacks, there are also several benefits of pension transfer which will help you answer the question better.
What are the benefits of pension transfer?
Here are the benefits of transferring your defined pension scheme:
1- Manage Your Income in Line with Your Needs
Defined benefit pension offers you guaranteed income for life. However, the amount is fixed. It means that you cannot take out less or more in case your circumstances demand so.
However, a defined contribution pension gives you flexibility to use your pension. Here are the options:
Buy a guaranteed income
Set up a flexible retirement income
Take lump sums
Use a mix of the above options
2- Better Cash Value in case of Health Issues
Defined benefit pension schemes offer you lifetime income. However, those whose life expectancy is below average will not get much out of the pension scheme as compared to those who live longer.
Defined benefit pension schemes work by pooling risk. Those who live longer are subsidised by those who live for a shorter period of time.
Therefore, if you are aware that your life expectancy is below average, then it is better to take out a transfer. The value of the transfer will reflect average life expectancy.
3- Pass on Money to Your Closed Ones
In case of a defined benefit pension scheme, your income will stop once you and any dependent pass away. It means that the remaining amount cannot be passed onto others.
However, other pension schemes, such as defined contribution schemes, have made it more attractive by allowing you to pass the funds to whoever you wish.
4- Bigger Tax-Free Cash Lump Sum
Defined benefit pension scheme allows you to take a 25% tax-free cash lump sum in exchange for getting lower income. Moreover, the rate at which pension is converted to cash is dependent on the scheme’s rules.
However, in a defined contribution pension, you can take a tax-free cash lump sum up to 25% of the value of your pension pot. It is more than what you get with your defined benefit scheme.
5- Get Transfer Incentives
Your employer may offer you a financial incentive to transfer your defined benefit pension scheme.
These incentives can be:
Cash payment in addition to transfer value
Increase in calculated transfer value of your benefits in the scheme
Pension increase exchange. In this, you give up annual pension increases above the statutory minimum after you retire in return for a higher flat rate pension within the scheme.
Can I transfer my old pension to a new pension?
If you have a defined contribution pension, then it will be very convenient for you to move your old pension to a new one.
But there’s a condition that you must have not taken any money out from it. Although this criteria is not applied in all conditions. There are some cases where you may be allowed to go for pension transfer even after taking money from it.
Apart from that it is always advisable to contact your provider (both the parties) in advance.
When should I take the help of a financial advisor to transfer my pension?
There are certain conditions when it becomes legally mandatory for you to appoint a financial advisor to transfer your pension. Below are the situations when you are required by law to seek help from financial advisor:
1- When You Plan for Cashing Your Pension
If you have a defined benefit pension and you plan to cash in, then it is required by law to have a financial advisor irrespective of how much money you have in your pension plan.
In case, your pension pot has over £30,000 and you are planning to cash in your defined contribution pension, then also you are legally required to have a financial advisor.
However, if the amount is less than £30,000, then there is no such legal requirement to appoint a financial advisor. But, it is advisable to consult a financial advisor regardless of the amount to avoid any tax implications.
2- When You Plan to Transfer Your Pension
When you have £30,000 or more in your defined benefit pension scheme, then you are legally required to consult a financial advisor to transfer your pension.
The FCA devised this rule as a safeguard to prevent you from making poor decisions around what is a complex and risky area.
However, when planning to transfer a defined benefit scheme with less than £30,000, then there is no legal requirement to appoint an advisor.
Transferring my money to a UK pension scheme
Yes, you can conveniently transfer your UK pension pot to another UK registered pension scheme.
You can even use it in buying a deferred annuity contract. Deferred annuity contract is an agreement which is treated as a guarantee for future income.
But before you make a transfer, it is advisable for you to contact the provider you are looking to transfer to as well as your current pension provider. It will help you to check whether your existing pension scheme allows you to transfer some or all of your pension pot. It will also help you to understand whether the scheme that you wish to transfer into will accept the transfer or not.
When you transfer your pension, you need to:
Make payments to the new scheme you are transferring your pension to
Pay a fee to make the transfer
Lose any right to take your pension at a certain age
Lose any enhanced protection
Lose right to take a tax free lump sum of more than 25%
If you plan to transfer your pension anywhere else or take it as an unauthorised lump sum, then it will be an unauthorised payment and you have to pay tax on the transfer as well.
Transferring my money to an overseas pension scheme
You do not have to transfer your UK pension if you are planning to leave the UK. You can leave your pension as it and take an income from it in the UK in the later stage.
However, if you decide to move a UK pension overseas, it is advisable to take help from a regulated financial advisor.
To transfer your pension scheme, you need to check form APSS 263, which presents information that you need to provide before making a transfer.
There are also certain rules and restrictions that you must comply with. Here are those:
1- Transfer to a QROPS
You must transfer your pension only to a ‘Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme’ (QROPS). A QROPS is an overseas pension scheme that meets HMRC rules to receive transfers from registered pension schemes in the UK.
You can check the list of the recognised overseas pension schemes.
In case you do not transfer to a QROPS, then your UK pension scheme can refuse to make a transfer or charge 40% tax on the transfer.
2- Tax When Your Transfer to a QROPS
In some cases you are required to pay 25% tax on the transfer and in other cases you can transfer without paying tax.
You will be able to transfer without paying tax, if:
QROPS you are transferring to is provided by your sponsoring employer
live in the country your OROPS is based in
residing in a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) and the QROPS you are transferring to is based in another EEA country or Gibraltar
You will have to tax, if:
you transfer to a QROPS in the EEA or Gibraltar but you live outside the UK, EEA or Gibraltar.
you transfer to a QROPS outside the EEA or Gibraltar but you are not resident in the country the QROPS is based in.
However, you can get your tax refunded if you move to the UK, EEA or Gibraltar within five years of the transfer. To claim the amount, you can fill form APSS 241.
How much does it cost to transfer from one pension scheme to another?
The pension transfer charges may bring a huge difference to the size of pension savings and investments that you have. Therefore, it’s necessary that these decisions are considered carefully.
Exit fees can be one of the big expenses which is involved in the transfer of pension charges, apart from the actual advice cost.
Exit fee is the amount that you are charged by your current pension provider to move your money from your pension to another pension scheme. This amount is deducted from the pension funds to meet the money of the fee.
It may also happen that these exit charges will be a fixed fee. You may also discover that other pension providers of yours charge you a percentage fee of the pension. It implies that if you hold a large amount of pension, you will be asked to spend some more money on the transfer charges.
10% is the highest percentage fee that you may be asked to fulfil. You can also consult your pension administrator to get more information regarding their pension transfer rules and charges.
How long does the pension transfer process take?
As per the Financial Conduct Authority, the timescales may vary depending on several factors, such as:
whether the transfer is made between pension schemes in the UK
whether you have combined your pensions into one pot
transfer to an overseas pension scheme
However, the average timescale taken to complete a pension transfer is 16 days. However, some can take around three months or longer, depending on your provider.
In addition, different types of transfers, the paperwork formalities, and fees and exit formalities impact differently on how long it takes to fulfil a pension transfer.
Can I consolidate my pensions?
Yes, you can consolidate your pension. Combining all the pensions earned into one pot is called pension consolidation.
Over the years, you may have worked for several employers and earned pensions separately from all. You may also have a personal pension if you are self-employed. Thus, consolidating them into one pot makes it easier for you to manage and keep track of your savings.
Base your decision to combine your pensions on the following parameters:
When transferring all your pensions into one, check how much charges you are paying. Generally, older pensions have steeper charges.
Hence, you can save money by transferring your pensions to a cheaper plan. If the charges are higher than 1%, then you are certainly paying more than you should.
2- Pension performance
It is important to analyse the performance of your pension schemes. If one or more of your pension plans has underperformed and produced relatively less returns, then it is better to transfer your pensions to a different pension scheme.
Sometimes, pension schemes automatically invest your savings in their default funds, which are riskier investments. Therefore, check the investment options available on the plan and choose the one that is more appropriate for you.
3- Exit penalties
There are some pension plans that charge an exit penalty when you plan to move your savings elsewhere.
Therefore, check if it is worth transferring your pension into one plan or if the cost outweighs the benefits.
Transferring your defined benefit pension scheme has its own advantages and disadvantages. However, once you have decided to transfer your pension, it is important to check the value of your scheme. Also, it is also necessary for you to stay safe from pension scams.
Transferring is a great option for people but to blindly go for it can never be a wise decision. Therefore, it is always better to do your research before going for it and take help from a financial adviser.
Pension Transfer Advice FAQs
Why do you need pension transfer advisors?
Pension transfer experts can guide you through transferring your money into another investment plan or overseas pension scheme. They provide trustworthy guidance and reassurance that transfers will be processed correctly, complying with the UK regulations.
What does good pension transfer advice look like?
Ideally, your advisor should provide you with a range of options that meet your pension transfer goals. They should also explain all pros and cons of each option. They should answer any questions about transferring money overseas and help set out a timetable for completing the task.
What are the risks associated with transferring your pension?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Your advisor should be able to provide an estimate of how much money you could lose or gain from transferring your pension overseas. It is important to remember that risks are always involved in any investment decision.
Can you transfer your pension to any country?
No - not all countries have the same rules governing pension transfers. Your advisor should help you select a country that meets your needs. They should also be familiar with the specific regulations in the country you are transferring to.
Can you transfer your entire pension?
In most cases, you can transfer your entire pension. There are some exceptions to the rule - so it is crucial to speak with an advisor who understands your specific situation and goals before transferring any money.
What fees should you look out for?
Fees vary depending on where you decide to move your pension such as opening a new investment plan or investing in an overseas pension scheme. Your advisor should provide an estimate of the total fees you can expect to pay.
How long will the transfer process take?
It varies depending on the country you are transferring to and the company handling the transfer. Your advisor should give you a timeframe for completing the process.
Who is an FSA-regulated advisor?
FSA stands for Financial Services Authority – it is the UK government agency that regulates financial services companies. An advisor who is FSA regulated has met the strict requirements set by the regulator and can be trusted to provide sound advice.
Your pension transfer advisor should be able to help you with the following:
Explaining the process of transferring your money into another investment plan or overseas pension scheme.
Providing a range of options that meet your pension transfer goals.
Answering any questions you have about moving money overseas.
Helping set out a timetable for completing the task.
Providing an estimate of how much money you could lose or gain from moving your pension overseas.
Being familiar with the specific rules in the country you are moving to.
Being FSA regulated and trusted by the UK government agency regulating financial services companies.
There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding to transfer your pension overseas. An experienced advisor understands all of your options and can help you choose the one that best fits with your financial goals, providing reassurance along the way.
If you need help with Defined Benefit (DB) or Defined Contribution (DC) pension schemes, then don’t hesitate to contact Piccadilly Wealth Management Limited.