Help! I know nothing about pensions

You are not alone! Many people delay thinking about pensions because it all seems too difficult or complicated. Retirement can seem a long way off, and it's easy to think that pensions can be put off until tomorrow. Many more workers are now in a workplace pension scheme because of "auto-enrolment", but it still matters how much money is being saved, and not everyone is automatically enrolled.

But while the detail of pensions can get complicated, the basics are not that hard. And the most basic and simple pensions fact is that the earlier you start planning the better.

Ensuring a decent pension is never going to be cheap, but the longer you leave it the more expensive it will become. You may also be missing out on potential help with a pension from your employer or tax rebates.

So it makes sense to give yourself a pensions check-up.

You will need to think about the three ways that you are likely to get a pension when you retire:

  • state pensions and benefits;
  • an workplace pension set up by your employer; and/or
  • a personal pension (a savings plan you join as an individual).

A workplace pension can be an occupational pension that the employer runs (managed by trustees) or a personal pension promoted to you by your employer which is run by another company. If you are eligible, your employer can automatically enrol you into either type of pension scheme.

You can find out a great deal about pensions from looking at the questions and answers on workSMART. You will also find lots of links to other helpful websites. In particular, you might want to look at these:

The GOV.UK website provides all the information you're likely to need about state pensions, but it also provides information about workplace and personal pensions too.

The Money Advice Service provides more detailed information about workplace and personal pensions, as well as other forms of saving.

You could also look at Pension Wise – especially if you are age 50 or over, and getting closer to the point when you want to draw your pension.

Unfortunately, there are lots of scams that try to take advantage of people and their pension savings so it is important that you only use trustworthy web sites like the ones mentioned above. The Pensions Regulator has more information about this problem.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.