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Millions of savers locked out of pensions freedoms

Millions of people may not have access to the new pensions freedoms coming into effect in April, according to analysis of the pensions market by pensions consultancy Xafinity.

Xafinity analysed more than 80 pension schemes, which collectively provide pensions benefits to over 250,000 UK employees.

It found over half (58%) of occupational pensions schemes are still undecided about whether they will enable their members to access the new freedoms, and 15% of schemes have decided they will offer no new flexibilities.

The reforms allow people aged over 55 to access money from their pension pots whenever they choose.

The research found only 5% were planning on enabling members to withdraw their pension as a cash lump sum, and only 2% were planning on offering the full range of flexibilities through drawdown.

One in five (20%) schemes said they are planning on providing their members with support in moving their benefits to an alternative scheme if they want to access the flexibilities.

Xafinity head of proposition development Paul Darlow said while many schemes aspired to offer some form of flexibility, in future most would not be able to do so by April.

“This leaves millions of people near to retirement with considerable uncertainty – they have the choice between delaying their retirement; retiring in their existing scheme and missing out on these new flexibilities; or moving their benefits into a new pension scheme in which there may be significant cost,” he said.

“Our advice is that members approaching retirement with a defined contribution pension should be contacting their pension schemes now to understand their options. We also urge pension schemes to communicate proactively regarding the new flexibilities.”