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Pumpkin Pensions

The story of Halloween goes back to around 1745. It is of Christian origin, originally being a contraction of “hallowed evening”. The Church began a tradition of observing Hallowe'en through the Vigil of All Hallows, in which it was believed the veil between the material world and the afterlife thinned. This is because hallowed evening precedes All Saints’ Day on 1st November, on which saints and martyrs, both known and unknown, are commemorated.

After the evening’s service, “suitable festivities and entertainments” followed, along with a visit to a graveyard or cemetery, where flowers and candles were placed in preparation for All Saints’ Day. Today Halloween is, of course, more widely known as an opportunity to scare the living than to honour the dead. If you’re running out of ideas as to how best scare your friends, recent research shows that waving some paperwork from your pension provider under their nose might just have the desired effect.

So scared are many people by the prospect of confronting their pensions, that a third of over-55s spend more time choosing a car than preparing for retirement. And perhaps even more frightening is the news that 62% of 45 to 54-year-olds don’t know how much they have saved for retirement.

Unfortunately, this fear of the unknown can have real financial consequences. The Financial Conduct Authority has scarily found that “Most consumers choose the 'path of least resistance', accepting drawdown from their current pension provider without shopping around”. With annual charges ranging from 0.4% to 1.6% between providers, this all adds up to a terrifying number of people paying over the odds, and in doing so seeing their pension pots drained of their growth, like the victims of Nosferatu himself.

Every day people contact us with their pension queries, and it’s our privilege to hear sentiments like “I feel much better informed now”, and “I am clear about what I need to do next.” Helping people who are new to pensions is what we’re here for. And we like to think they can be a bit like Halloween pumpkins: scary to behold at first, but when you take a closer look you realise there’s nothing to be afraid of.

And for the self-employed out there who may not have been fortunate enough to have an employer set a pension up for them, I’m afraid I’m all too willing to stretch this analogy to terrifyingly misjudged lengths.

Plant a pumpkin seed now and you can expect to have one ripe and ready for Halloween next year. Likewise, start a pension now and with tax relief boosting the size of your net contribution by 25%, you might just be surprised at how quickly it can grow too.

So if you are self-employed and wishing to talk through your pension situation (or lack thereof), please don’t hesitate to book a free one-to-one appointment with a trained specialist by emailing: virtual.appointments@pensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk

And, of course, whether you’re self-employed or not, everyone is equally welcome to call our free general helpline, open Monday to Friday, 9am - 5pm, on 0800 011 3797.

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