As Financial Planners servicing Kent & the South East, we have witnessed first-hand the steady rise in self-employed people looking for financial advice and tax planning. In fact, across the UK, the total number of self-employed has risen from 3 million to 5 million people since 2001. This is an exciting trend but it poses a lot of challenges when viewed through the lens of pensions.
Whilst employed people in the UK are now compelled to contribute towards a pension via Auto-Enrolment, no such obligation currently exists for self-employed people. The worrying result is that many of these people are failing to adequately prepare for their retirement, instead relying on the insufficient provisions of the State Pension.
Self-employed people face unique challenges when it comes to saving for a pension, as well as some great opportunities. On the one hand, irregular income can make saving for a pension quite difficult, and you have no employer contributions topping up your own contributions.
On the other hand, the fact that you are building a business gives access to a set of assets that could set you up for the future. Indeed, it is not out of the question that these assets, when handled correctly through careful financial planning, could pave the way for a comfortable early retirement.
Know the limits of the State Pension
Many of the self-employed people we speak to in and around Kent & the South East, have unrealistic expectations when it comes to the State Pension. Many people assume the Government will look after them in retirement but unfortunately the amount provided through the State Pension is simply not going to stretch far enough for many. Indeed, with rising life expectancies and a growing elderly population, means that the State Pension system is likely to come under more strain in the years ahead
This makes it even more crucial for self-employed people to work with a Financial Planner to ensure they are saving adequately for their retirement. Presently in 2018-2019, the new State Pension will give you up to £164.34 per week. Even if you assume you will have paid off your mortgage by the time you retire and other expenses reduce, this is still far too low for most people to live on each month. Current figures estimate that about 45% of self-employed people, aged between 35 and 55, do not have a private pension to supplement their State Pension.
Know your tax reliefs
Self-employed people are at a disadvantage when it comes to pensions, in the sense that they have no employer to top up their contributions. However, they can still benefit from an important tax relief when making contributions. So, for every £100 you put into a pension the Government will effectively top it up by £25. This assumes you are a Basic Rate taxpayer. If you are in the Higher Rate bracket in England, Wales or North Ireland, then you can claim back an additional £25 for every £100 you put in.
Know about the different pension types
As a self-employed person, you do not benefit from a Workplace Pension Scheme but you do have a range of options when it comes to Personal pensions. By arranging your own Personal pension, you will have greater control over the choice of provider and where your funds are invested. It is important to be aware that there are different types of Personal pensions, such as Stakeholder Pensions and Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs). The former tend to have lower charges with limited investment choice, whilst for the latter have a wider range of investment funds to choose which costs more.
It is sensible to explore your options in detail before commencing contributions, especially if you are unsure which type of pension arrangement is most suitable for your needs. Our Financial Planners will be able to provide you with impartial advice and help you plan for a comfortable retirement.
Be aware of the limits
When you are self-employed you have the advantage of being able to decide your own contribution levels. However, just like everyone else, there is a limit to how much you can contribute and also receive in terms of tax relief. There are two limits in particular that you need to be aware of. Firstly, the ‘Annual allowance’ which limits the amount you can contribute to your pension arrangement in any one year. For the tax year 2018-2019, the maximum you can contribute to a pension and receive tax relief is £40,000. Any contributions above this amount cannot receive tax relief.
Secondly, the ‘Lifetime Allowance’ is the total amount you are allowed to save in pensions whilst receiving tax relief. In the 2018-2019 tax year, you can have up to £1,030,000 in your pension savings; any amount above this will not be able to receive tax relief. If you are fortunate enough to have more than this in pension savings, it is important to be aware of the implications. For instance, any amount over the Lifetime Allowance (LA) that you withdraw as a lump sum will be taxed at 55%. If you decide to draw funds over your LA as a regular income, this will be taxed at 25%.
If you think your pension savings might one day exceed the then current Lifetime Allowance, we would encourage you to speak to one of Financial Planners to talk through your options. With clever planning, it may be possible to avoid paying unnecessary tax on your pension savings and ultimately bequeath more to your beneficiaries.