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Pension Limits Explained (And What to Do When You Reach Them)

Annie 15th Dec 2019 2 Comments

Reading Time: 4 minutes

You pay into your pension every month – but did you know there’s a maximum amount each year you can put away? Or that there’s a lifetime limit?
Here’s how pension limits work – and why paying into your pension as early as possible helps you build a large retirement fund.

The pension limits

You can invest up to £60,000 per year into a pension and get tax relief from the Government on it (or up to 100% of your annual earnings, whichever is less). This means the Government pay in the tax you WOULD have paid if you’d received the cash through your salary – so it’s like extra free money into your pension.

The lifetime annual allowance is how much money you can have in all of your pension pots added together. In 2024, the lifetime allowance is £1,073,100.

You could pay more than these amounts into your pension – but you won’t get the tax relief. So, if you’ve managed to max out your limits (excellent work, by the way!), it could be worth looking at other investments such as equities ISAs for the rest of your retirement finances.

Why it’s important to put money away

Since the introduction of auto-enrolment, more people than ever have workplace pensions. Which is great! But if you don’t qualify for one, it’s essential to set up your own private pension plan.

When times are hard and we’re living hand-to-mouth, it’s hard to envision our future – let alone save for it. However, pensions are the most tax-efficient way to save for your retirement – which means you’ll get the most return on your savings if you start as early as possible.

Even if you’re paying just £25 a month into a pension at the age of 25, you can’t access that money until you’re at least 55. That’s 30 years of compound interest at work! Your small payments quickly add up over time – and interest means the pot quickly grows.

A report by Wesleyan found that, for a comfortable retirement, you would need to save £31,300 per retirement year. That means that you would need over £600,00 for a 20-year retirement! Most people don’t have nearly that amount – so the earlier you can save, the better.

It’s never too late though: if retirement is only a few years away, don’t panic. You can increase your pension contributions as much as possible to save a bigger pot.

You’ll find more information in these great FREE financial guides:

How to use your workplace pension to boost your retirement pot

If you’re eligible for a workplace pension, we always recommend you join the scheme. It might feel like a hard blow to contribute 5% of your pre-tax pay each month to the scheme – but wait!

Your employer has to contribute 3%, too – and the Government tops up (usually 1% for basic-rate tax payers) . So, you’re not losing 5% really – you’re GAINING 4% on your savings.

Workplace pensions also tend to be low-cost schemes, too. They’re supposed to be low-risk investments for steady (if slow) fund growth. This means the management fees are much lower than costly private pensions – saving you potentially thousands of pounds in fees over your lifetime.

What should you do?

Even if you’re not convinced a pension is the best way to save your money, it’s worth putting at least some of your investment money into a pension product because:

1. You get tax relief on the money you put in. You pay income tax at a lower rate on when you take out your pension. That offers huge savings for higher-rate taxpayers.
2. Your employer has to put 3% into your workplace pension. That’s extra free money you wouldn’t get with a private pension.
3. The money is taken out of your hands until you’re at least 55. If you’re the sort of person who could dip into your savings here and there it’s a very good way of saving yourself. You can’t get your mitts on it until you’re ready to retire.
4. Pension rules have been greatly improved: they’re much more flexible and, in some cases, more transparent. There are also very good products around such as stakeholder pensions and SIPPs which are generally worth having.

Find out more great ways to make money for over-60s

The tax relief you get on pensions means that if you are a basic rate taxpayer (20%) for every 80p you put in your pension the government adds in 20p and if you’re a higher rate taxpayer (40%) for every 60p you put in you get 40p added by the government. If you’re a really high earner and on the 50% tax band you get to share it 50/50 (you put in 50p and so does the government).

Also, while you’re at it, check your State Pension forecast. If you don’t qualify for the full pension, you still have time to make voluntary National Insurance contributions to boost it.

What are the pension alternatives?

We think it’s a great idea to spread your investments and the best way to do this, once you have started to put some cash into a pension, is to put money into an ISA-wrapped investment.

You can invest up to £20,000 in an ISA this tax year (April-April). This can be split between a cash ISA and an equities ISA.

ISAs are like reverse pensions really: you don’t get tax relief on the money you put in but then you don’t get taxed on the money you take out at the end. With pensions it’s the other way around.

Also, the money you put into ISAs is much more flexible. You can take it out whenever you like and do what you like with it.

So, it’s worth having some money in a pension and some in stocks and shares-based ISAs. We explain in this ISA article why stocks and shares ISAs are the best for long-term investments.

*This is not financial or investment advice. Remember to do your own research and speak to a professional advisor before parting with any money.

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4 years ago

Very useful article.

Angela McMahon
Angela McMahon
13 years ago

Thanks for including a mention of Landsdowne Hargreaves regarding company pensions.I,ve recently tracked my company pensions from which I should have first recieved annuities in 1992 as I had become unable to work before pension age.
But I,m only just recieving the monies now!
It,s really good to know that people won,t have the same delay’s in the future

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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