1 Our guide to buying an annuity
2 2 Our guide to buying an annuity Contents Introduction 3 Pension reforms Thinking about retirement 3 Money and budgeting How can we help? Your retirement timeline Key questions to consider A typical year prior to retirement Pension savings 5 Help finding your pension details State pensions Personal pensions Occupational pensions scheme Understanding your pension Guaranteed annuity rates Other savings Pension income choices What happens after you apply? Learn about annuities 9 What is an annuity? Other retirement options 12 Investment linked annuity Purchased life annuity Drawdown pension Variable or third way annuities Choosing annuity options 15 Tax-free cash and taxable lump sums When will income be paid? Protecting against inflation Some important points to consider Providing for others Dependant s pension Guarantee period Overlap Value protection What is value protection? How does it work? Shopping around 22 We can help you shop around What is the process? Types of retirement income products Conventional annuity How is my annuity income calculated? Enhanced annuities How do I qualify for an enhanced annuity? Impaired annuities What qualifies for an impaired annuity?
3 3 Our guide to buying an annuity Our guide to buying an annuity Introduction Pension reforms The pension reforms introduced in April 2015 represent the biggest change in a generation, and allow access to your pension funds like never before. The new flexibilities include total fund withdrawal, the introduction of flexi-access drawdown, access to taxable lump sums, as well as changes to some options on annuities. In addition, the taxation on death benefits has been overhauled, along with the introduction of the government s new guidance service Pension Wise. Visit for more information. With so much changing, greater choice brings with it increased responsibility to make sure you make the right decisions, and choose an appropriate product (or combination) that will suit your individual circumstances in retirement. An annuity is the only product that can provide a guaranteed income for the whole of your life. You can choose options that allow you to protect against inflation and leave a legacy for your loved ones. We hope that this guide will help provide some clarity. Thinking about retirement Here we will help you consider the financial choices that can lead to your money going that bit further in retirement. We help you plan for your retirement, understand your savings and explain the options you have to provide an income in retirement. Many people describe retirement as a period of mixed emotions when new found time opens up opportunities. The transition from working to retirement can be a time of considerable change, particularly if you intend to stop full time work for good. If you have yet to retire, we encourage you to take some time to look ahead to your retirement and consider the financial and practical aspects of retirement. Money and budgeting Getting to grips with your income and expenditure in retirement will help give you a much better idea of how your retirement will be from a financial perspective. All too often people reach retirement possibly regretting that they did not think enough about their finances during their working life. We recommend that you set some time aside to work out how much money you have as you approach your retirement and what income you will need to enjoy the retirement that you have always looked forward to.
4 4 Our guide to buying an annuity How can we help? We provide a wealth of information that helps you understand your options and how you can plan your finances now for your retirement. On a practical level, our Online Annuity Planner will produce a quotation for the retirement income that you could achieve with an annuity based on the information you provide. Your retirement timeline Researching your options and making plans are important steps to ensure you make the right decisions for your retirement. We try to make this easier for you. By looking at our retirement timeline you can see the key times to consider as you approach retirement, so you are able to plan well ahead. Key questions to consider in the year before you retire include: Are you ready to retire completely or do you intend to carry on working in some capacity? How can you maximise your pension in the final year before you retire? What income will you need to live on in retirement? What action can you take when you have an estimate of your final pension fund values? A typical year prior to retirement, for your pension, can look like this: Countdown to retirement 1 year 6 months 6 3 months 3 1 months Research your options and plan your retirement Check for any GARS*, plus any restrictions or changes that may apply depending on when you take your pension pot Compare your options Additional letter from your provider outlining their retirement income offer to you Shop around, enquire and apply For free guidance visit Recieve your pension benefits *Guaranteed annuity rates see page 7 for more information.
5 5 Our guide to buying an annuity Pension savings You may have saved into a variety of pensions through your employer, your own business or set up a personal pension. Understanding what you have saved and where is a critical first step towards ensuring that you know as much as possible about what you have built up during your working life. We will help you understand more about what you have and what your entitlement to a better retirement income could be through our Online Annuity Planner. Help finding your pension details If you need help finding all the details of your pension scheme(s) we have provided some information to help: Most pension providers send letters and statements, at least once a year. These should provide you with the information you need. You can contact your pension provider(s) to request the most up to date details on your pension. If you are unsure of the provider s name you could contact the employer you were with at the time you paid into your pension they may well have a record of your pension and the provider. Don t worry if you think that you have lost track of some of your pension savings from previous employment or self employment. Try contacting your employer in the first instance. If they can t help then try the Pension Tracing Service (tel: or go to which could help you track your pension. State pensions The government currently provides state pensions to those at state pension age. The amount you are entitled to is determined by the National Insurance contributions made through your working life. To find out more about your entitlements, please visit the website which can provide you with: An estimate of how many qualifying years you may have to date Details of how much basic state pension those qualifying years may give you The earliest date you may get your state pension Information on how you can fill any gaps in your National Insurance contributions record Confirmation of whether you will qualify for any additional state pension (under the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme (SERPS) and/or State Second Pension (S2P)
6 6 Our guide to buying an annuity Personal pensions Within a personal pension, you build up a pension fund by investing your and/or your employer s pension contributions with an insurance company. Your contributions build up to provide you with an individual pot of money with which to secure a pension income, this could be in the form of an annuity. It is important that in converting funds into an annuity, you make an active choice, consider your options and shop around for a good deal we can help you shop around and compare a variety of leading annuity providers. Occupational pension scheme There are two general types of occupational pension scheme: 1. Defined benefit scheme (also known as a final salary or average salary scheme) This type of pension pays you a set income based on your service and your salary from a set retirement age. You may be able to retire at a different time by contacting the scheme administrator. If you have this type of pension then the best way to learn about how it works and what you might receive as an income in retirement is to contact the employer that the scheme is with. They should be able to explain in more detail. This type of pension scheme is not catered for through this service. 2. Defined contribution scheme (also known as a Money Purchase scheme ) Members of these schemes build up a pension fund by investing personal and/or employer contributions during their period of membership. These build up to provide the member with an individual pot of money with which to secure a pension income, usually in the form of an annuity. It is important that in converting funds into an annuity, members make an active choice, consider their options and shop around for a good deal. Some employers offer a mixture of both these types of pension and if you have this kind of pension then you may still be able to shop around for a better deal. Understanding your pension When considering retirement it will help you to know the key information about all your pensions. Some of the questions you should seek to answer include: Which pension providers are your pensions with? When does each pension provider expect you to retire? What type of pension(s) do you have? What is the current value of all your pension plans? What is the estimated value of your pension plans at retirement? What income will your pensions pay you when you retire and what are the features and benefits attached to that income? Does the pension have a guaranteed annuity rate?
7 7 Our guide to buying an annuity Guaranteed annuity rates Guaranteed annuity rates (also known as GARS) are special annuity rates that pension providers may have guaranteed when you took out your pension. If your pension has one it may mean your pension is linked to a far better annuity rate than is currently available from other providers, which could give you a greater retirement income. The downside with a guaranteed annuity rate is that it may only apply if you select certain options and may also restrict you as to when the annuity has to be taken out. It is therefore worth checking your pension policy documentation and asking your pension provider if the policy contains a guaranteed annuity rate, before shopping around. Should you decide to go ahead and switch away from your provider you may lose these guarantees. If you are thinking of withdrawing your pension funds following the pension reforms, then it is worth speaking with a financial adviser to understand the value of the guaranteed rate you could be giving up. Other savings You may have saved money using a variety of financial products and these need to be considered when you are thinking about your income in retirement. Having other savings may mean that you aren t necessarily totally reliant on your pension and the income it generates when you retire. You need to consider a range of savings when thinking about any options you choose for a retirement income. Apart from pensions, your savings could include: Cash, such as bank or building society deposit accounts Shares Bonds ISAs Property Variety of other savings or investment plans All these forms of saving for your retirement need to be considered and can be used to help provide additional funds for your retirement.
8 8 Our guide to buying an annuity Pension income choices There are different ways for you to obtain an income in retirement from your pension. The main ways are: An annuity - which you buy with the money in your pension fund. An annuity will pay you a regular, guaranteed income for the rest of your life. A drawdown pension which can provide you with an income whilst not committing your pension fund into an annuity straight away. It also allows you to draw taxable lump sums from your pension savings. You could take your pension pot as cash, either as a single lump sum, or a series of lumps sums. 25% will be tax free however you should bear in mind that the remaining 75% is treated as earned income, and subject to tax at your marginal rate. Not every provider offers this. This guide provides information on purchasing an annuity only. If you are interested in any of your other pension income choices, please speak to your financial adviser. If you don t currently have a financial intermediary, you can find one online at or Please be aware that advisers may charge for providing advice and should confirm any cost to you beforehand. What happens after you apply? Once you apply for an annuity, the process to set it up depends on the speed at which your annuity and pension providers work to transfer funds and set up your income. We help make this as short a time as possible by ensuring all parties have everything they need. The diagram below outlines how this will work: What happens after you request an application pack Request an application pack Digest the information Complete and return the application form Receive weekly updates Notification of Tax free cash transfer Receive your policy documents Receive your income It is worth noting that if your pension is held in investment funds, the value of your pension fund may fluctuate due to stock market volatility or, in the case of certain products, be entitled to a terminal bonus or subject to a reduction by way of a market value adjustment. When the annuity purchase completes, the final annuity payable may therefore differ from that originally quoted to you.
9 9 Our guide to buying an annuity Learn about annuities There are several different types of annuity that you can choose from we help you understand which could be right for you. What is an annuity? During your working life you will probably have saved money into one or more pensions. As you approach your retirement you have a range of options to use your pension funds to generate an income. An annuity is a financial product usually bought with your pension which converts your pension fund into a regular, guaranteed income for the rest of your life. Types of retirement income products Conventional annuity A conventional annuity provides a predictable, secure retirement income guaranteed to be paid for the rest of your life, regardless of the performance of financial markets. How is my annuity income calculated? The amount you receive from the annuity provider will depend on a combination of the following: The amount you have saved into your pension Your age Whether you choose to take any tax free cash (pension commencement lump sum) and how much this is Whether you choose to take an initial taxable lump sum (over and above the 25% tax-free cash). Not all providers offer this The features you choose, such as linking the income to inflation or providing an income for your partner should you die Other factors such as where you live The table below outlines the pros and cons of this kind of product. Conventional annuities Pros Provides a guaranteed regular amount paid for life. Options can be added to provide protection against inflation and provide an income for someone when you die. Cons Whilst the government has proposed the idea of selling an existing annuity for a lump sum, you are not able to make changes to it once it has been purchased. You therefore need to be sure about the choices you make before you commit. Doesn t take in to account individual health and lifestyle conditions, which could increase income. We can help you choose a conventional annuity, then tailor that annuity to suit your individual needs. We then compare rates for that annuity from a variety of leading providers, to help improve your retirement income.
10 10 Our guide to buying an annuity Enhanced annuities Enhanced annuities provide an income guaranteed to be paid for the rest of your life and come with the same range of options to protect and guarantee your income as a conventional annuity. The only difference is that they take your health and lifestyle into account when determining the income you will receive. Unlike other times in your life, poor health and lifestyle could result in a higher income so it is always worth getting an enhanced annuity quotation. How do I qualify for an enhanced annuity? A broad range of lifestyle and medical conditions can qualify for an enhanced annuity; from fairly common factors such as: smoking having high cholesterol, or being overweight up to more serious or life-threatening conditions such as: cancers, and heart disease. Some providers also consider your postcode and occupation so even if you re healthy you could get a higher income. Enhanced annuities Pros You could receive more income, compared to a conventional annuity, depending on your health. The income is still guaranteed for life and can be customised as per a conventional annuity. If you happen to qualify and go on to live for many years you continue to receive your increased income. Many retirees could qualify for an enhancement. Cons Not everyone will qualify for an enhanced annuity. Whilst the government has proposed the idea of selling an existing annuity for a lump sum, you are not able to make changes to it once it has been purchased. You therefore need to be sure about the choices you make before you commit.
11 11 Our guide to buying an annuity Impaired annuities More serious health conditions can qualify for a form of enhanced annuity that is sometimes called an impaired annuity. When this is the case, you could receive additional income as very often you may have limited life expectancy. What qualifies for an impaired annuity? It is difficult to generalise about which conditions qualify for an impaired annuity but they can include serious forms of: Cancer Diabetes Heart attack Kidney failure Multiple sclerosis Stroke As for both conventional and enhanced annuities, the income you receive will still be guaranteed for your lifetime and you can choose from the same range of options such as protection against inflation and guaranteeing an income or legacy for your spouse, civil partner or dependants.
12 12 Our guide to buying an annuity Other retirement options There are several other financial products that can help you secure an income in retirement. Each is different and provides their own features and options. These products aren t available through our online comparison service as they all involve a level of investment risk. If you already use a financial intermediary then we suggest you speak to them about these types of product, but if you don t currently have a financial intermediary then we could help you find one. Investment linked annuity This type of annuity takes your pension fund and converts it into an income. Unlike a conventional annuity, the amount paid can vary as there is potential to receive more or less income, depending on how investment funds perform (though there is usually a minimum income that it can t fall below). Where is the money invested? The investment is typically made into a with profits fund which pools its customers pension funds together and, in times of growth, sets aside some of the fund to offset times where the fund may otherwise decrease. When considering this type of annuity you should ensure you have made provision in case the investment and your income were to fall and be able to budget for such a situation, potentially over a long period of time. The table below explains the pros and cons of this type of annuity. Investment linked annuities Pros If the value of your selected provider s fund increases, so will your annuity income in retirement. By setting the anticipated rate of return on the investment, you are able to tailor your initial income to suit your circumstances. Choosing a lower income initially may give you potential for an increased income in the future, depending on investment performance. Cons If the value of your selected provider s fund falls, then so will your income, so you will need to ensure that you can live on a lower income for a prolonged period of time. Your income is not guaranteed and may be subject to administration charges. We don t compare investment linked annuities. If you already use a financial intermediary then we suggest you speak to them about this type of product, but if you don t currently have a financial intermediary then we could help you find one.
13 13 Our guide to buying an annuity Purchased life annuity This type of annuity will either pay you a guaranteed income for life or for a fixed period of time. Purchased life annuities are often bought from savings, with money gained from an inheritance or by using the tax-free cash taken from a pension fund at retirement. Purchased life annuity Pros Provides an income guaranteed to be paid for a set period of time or for the rest of your life, dependent on what you choose. You can customise your annuity to match your individual circumstances, including providing protection against future inflation and providing an income for someone when you die. Cons Whilst the government has proposed the idea of selling an existing annuity for a lump sum, you are not able to make changes to it once it has been purchased, so you need to be sure about the choices you make. A purchased life annuity is subject to different tax treatment than a pension annuity. We don t compare purchased life annuities. If you already use a financial intermediary then we suggest you speak to them about this type of product. If you don t currently have a financial intermediary then we could help you find one.
14 14 Our guide to buying an annuity Drawdown pension This is a way of generating an income whilst not committing your pension into an annuity straight away. A drawdown pension allows you to draw down an income from your pension fund, whilst the fund remains invested. Care must be taken in deciding whether this product is suitable to your circumstances as there are elements of risk that could affect the income available to you. Drawdown pension Pros Flexibility about when and how much income can be taken, so you can wait to see if annuity rates improve, allowing time for your pension funds to potentially grow. You can delay the commitment to buying an annuity. Any future annuity purchase can be tailored to reflect your circumstances at that time. Flexibility around how death benefits can be paid to beneficiaries. From April 2015, new flexi-access drawdown plans have removed any limits to the amount of income you can withdraw. Cons If you take too much income or too many lump sums and/or the value of your investments falls, your pension savings may run out during your lifetime. It is therefore important that you keep track of the value of your plan, either by monitoring it yourself or through your financial intermediary. Because of the investment risks and charges involved, it is generally considered that a fund of 100,000 is required to make drawdown viable. This amount could be out of many peoples reach. Generally, smaller fund sizes may not survive a prolonged fall in investment performance. Fees will usually be charged for administration and investment management and the costs associated with these arrangements can be high. If you decide to delay taking out an annuity there is an element of risk annuity rates may fall which could mean a significant decrease in future income. If you already use a financial intermediary then we suggest you speak to them about this type of product, but if you don t currently have a financial intermediary then we could help you find one.
15 15 Our guide to buying an annuity Variable or third way annuities These are relatively new products to the UK and they offer an income while keeping your funds invested. Variable annuities usually have some in-built guarantee which protects your pension savings from falls in value whilst allowing some investment growth potential. If you choose a variable annuity, your pension is invested into your chosen provider s funds and you draw income in a similar way to a drawdown pension. The main difference to a drawdown pension is that the funds in which you invest your pension are protected by a guarantee, so if your investments fall, your income will not drop below a guaranteed minimum. Variable or third way annuities Pros If your investments rise, your income will rise as well (depending on the terms of the particular type of product you have chosen). If your investments fall then your income may fall but not below a guaranteed minimum. If your circumstances change you can tailor any future annuity purchase to reflect your current circumstances. Cons The guarantees come at a high cost which may make this product uneconomical for many people. There is no guarantee that your future income will be as high as that offered by a conventional annuity purchased today. These products vary significantly and are therefore difficult to compare. Variable annuities are not available through our Online Annuity Planner as customers considering such products require expert financial advice. If you already use a financial intermediary then we suggest you speak to them about this type of product, but if you don t currently have a financial intermediary then we could help you find one. Choosing annuity options There are several ways that you can ensure an annuity is tailored specifically to your needs. The following are the main options you can choose to add to your annuity: Tax-free cash and taxable lump sums Being able to withdraw a lump sum as tax-free cash (also known as a pension commencement lump sum or commutation ) before committing to an annuity is a crucial benefit that everyone should consider. Some of the key points to bear in mind are: You can usually take up to 25% of your pension fund at the start of your policy for anything you like as tax-free cash. The tax treatment will depend on your individual circumstance and may be subject to change. The remainder of your pension fund(s) is then used to buy an annuity that provides your retirement income. You don t have to take the 25%, you can take less or none it purely depends on your personal circumstances, but the more you take as tax-free cash the less of your pension fund there will be to generate an income for you. You can also take an initial taxable lump sum (above the 25% tax-free cash lump sum) at outset when you set your annuity up, if the annuity provider is able to offer the facility. However, this will further reduce the amount you have to purchase your income with, and as the name suggests, will be subject to tax at your marginal rate. Not every provider offers this. Our Online Annuity Planner will let you see the potential impact of the amount you choose on your retirement income to help you decide.
16 16 Our guide to buying an annuity When will income be paid? Annuities can be tailored to pay retirement income at a frequency of your choice. Some points to consider include: Payments can be made monthly, quarterly, every six months or even annually. The regular payment can be made either upfront (in advance) or at the end of your chosen payment frequency (in arrears). Choosing the frequency of payment will depend on your own circumstances and how you are able to budget between payments, as well as the impact it has on your retirement income. Your payments will stop when you die unless you have chosen to add options to your annuity to transfer elements of your annuity to others, see the section Providing for others. The new pension freedoms enable annuity income to decrease. This might enable you to be able to vary your income, for example take a higher initial income payment and potential reduce it at a later date. Not every provider offers this. The diagram below shows you how different payment options and timing works (assumes policy is taken out in January).
17 17 Our guide to buying an annuity Protecting against inflation When setting up your annuity it is worth considering how inflation may affect your regular income over time, as it could mean that the real value of your income is gradually reduced. Many retirees find one of the biggest financial challenges of retirement is budgeting to live on a fixed income. The graph below shows how the level income option may compare to an income linked to an inflation. The inflation linked options will reduce your income initially but increase each year, level income will be higher initially but won t increase each year. It may take you a number of years to recoup the income if you choose an inflation linked option. Explaining inflation-proofing options Regular income Level 3% 5% RPI Years Some important points to consider Most annuities offer options to automatically increase your annuity income each year by a set percentage or by linking to a measure of inflation such as the Retail Prices Index. Adding in any one of these options will reduce your initial income as your income will increase in the future. It is important to think carefully about the pros and cons of protecting your annuity against inflation. In times of deflation, some index linked annuities can decrease, while others have built in floors meaning your income will never fall below a set amount. Our Online Annuity Planner will let you quote for different levels of inflation protection and you will be able to see the potential impact on your income of choosing different options. Not all annuity options are compared on our online service please call us to ask about other inflation linked options.
18 18 Our guide to buying an annuity Providing for others A lifetime annuity pays you a regular income for the rest of your life but once you die your payments will ordinarily stop. You can choose to add options to ensure a loved one continues to benefit from an income from your annuity after you have passed away. The various options are: Dependant s pension (also known as joint-life annuity) When you die your annuity income can continue to your dependant/beneficiary and pay them an income, for the rest of their life. To be considered for an enhanced or impaired annuity, you will need to provide the medical details of the recipient so the annuity providers can factor this in. Including a benefit for a dependant or beneficiary will reduce the amount of income you receive use our Online Annuity Planner to see how different scenarios could affect your income in retirement. It is worth considering any provisions you/your dependant or any beneficiary may have already, such as pension or life assurance policies, and choosing the options that suit your situation. The diagram below shows you how this option works. Explaining joint-life annuity options At outset you can choose for a proportion of your pension to be paid to a spouse, civil partner or another person who is financially dependent on you after your death. You can choose different proportions of your income. The higher the dependant s pension you choose, the lower your annuity income will be. Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 No joint-life annuity pension annuity being paid No further payments 50% joint-life annuity pension annuity being paid 100% joint-life annuity pension annuity being paid DATE OF DEATH Spouse/partner continue being paid as 50% of your pension annuity until their death Spouse/partner continue being paid as 100% of your pension annuity until their death Policy terms continue until death DATE OF DEATH Our Online Annuity Planner will let you quote for 0%, 50% or 100% dependant s pension and you will be able to see the potential impact on your income of choosing different options. Not all annuity options are compared on our online service please call us to ask about other percentages of dependant s pension.
19 19 Our guide to buying an annuity Guarantee period An annuity income is payable for as long as the annuitant the person receiving the annuity lives. If they die soon after purchasing an annuity, it could be argued that they won t have had the best value. They can therefore choose a guarantee period (typically 5 or 10 years), which means that, if they die within that guarantee period, the annuity will continue to be paid for the remainder of that period. Annuitants can nominate anyone to receive the income from their guarantee period, either directly to the annuity provider or through their will. Including this option will reduce the amount of income you receive use our Online Annuity Planner to see how it could affect your income in retirement. The diagram below shows you how this option works. Explaining guarantee periods At the outset you can choose to include a guarantee period. If you were to die before the end of the guarantee, payments would continue to be made for the remainder of the guarantee period, to your nominated beneficiary. Yr1 Yr2 Yr3 Yr4 Yr5 Yr6 Yr7 Yr8 Yr9 Yr10 Yr11 Yr12 Yr13 NO GUARANTEE Pension stops on death 5 YEAR GUARANTEE DATE OF DEATH Your beneficiaries continue to receive your income for the remainder of the 5 year guarantee period 10 YEAR GUARANTEE Your beneficiaries continue to recieve your income for the remainder of the 10 year guarantee period 10 YEAR GUARANTEE DATE OF DEATH Pension stops on death Our Online Annuity Planner will let you quote for 0, 5 or 30 year guarantee periods* and you will be able to see the potential impact on your income of choosing different options. Not all annuity options are compared on our online service please call us to ask about other lengths of guarantee period required. *Not all providers will offer guarantee periods up to 30 years.
20 20 Our guide to buying an annuity Overlap This is an option that is only relevant if you have chosen both a dependant s pension and a guarantee period in the same policy. In the event of your death, it is possible for the person nominated to receive both of these benefits at the same time this is known as with overlap. The alternative is to choose to have the benefits run consecutively so any remaining guarantee period is paid first, before the dependant s annuity payments start without overlap. You may want to think about whether your dependant needs two incomes should you die early into the policy. Explaining WITH and WITHOUT overlap If you select both a guarantee period and a dependant s pension there is the possibility that both options could be activated at the same time. Should this occur you can choose whether they overlap and provide your beneficiaries with two incomes or run consecutively see the diagram below. Yr1 Yr2 Yr3 Yr4 Yr5 Yr6 With overlap GUARANTEE PERIOD CHOSEN FOR 5 YEARS DATE OF DEATH Your beneficiaries continue to receive your income for the remainder of the guarantee period Dependant s pension with overlap in addition to the guarantee payments from your pension your dependants start to receive the dependant s income until their death DEPENDANT S DEATH Without overlap GUARANTEE PERIOD CHOSEN FOR 5 YEARS DATE OF DEATH Your beneficiaries continue to receive your income for the remainder of the guarantee period No income Your dependant s start to receive their annuity income until their death DEPENDANT S DEATH