Buying an annuity is one of the biggest financial decisions you can make.
It is likely to cost many thousands of pounds and, although the government once planned to make it possible to trade in annuities from next year, these plans were scrapped in October 2016 (read more: Plans to allow annuity sales scrapped) so you must view your annuity purchase as an irreversible step.
With that in mind, here are five potential annuity pitfalls you should make every effort to avoid.
1. Accepting the first offer
When you reach your pension scheme’s retirement age, your pension provider will write to you to talk about your income options. The chances are, they will give you a quote for an annuity as well.
However, it would be foolish to accept this quote without working out whether the type of annuity they are offering is right for you, and without checking if you can get a better deal from a rival provider.
Always shop around for the best possible rate: doing so could mean thousands of pounds in extra income over the course of your retirement.
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2. Hiding medical problems
Unlike medical or travel insurance, for example, you could get a better annuity rate if you are in poor health.
Income levels are based on life expectancy: the longer an annuity provider expects to pay out for, the lower the monthly rate will be.
When you apply for an annuity, be sure to mention any health issues you face, such as whether you smoke or suffer from conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer.
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3. Ignoring inflation
Standard annuities pay a flat level of income for the rest of your life. But if you sign up for one, there is a big risk that your income will be eroded by the effect of rising prices.
You should therefore consider taking out an inflation-linked annuity: although this means that payments will be lower in the early years, it could offer you much-needed protection against price increases later in your life.
4. Forgetting your spouse
It is worth thinking about what happens to your spouse if they are relying on your income in retirement and you die before they do. Joint annuities guarantee to keep making payments to a surviving partner after the holder’s death.
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5. Putting all your eggs in one basket
New pension rules introduced in 2015 mean that you don’t have to buy an annuity when you reach retirement: instead, you can leave your fund invested in the stock market and hopefully benefit from future growth.
Increasingly, people are taking a mix-and-match approach to their retirement finances, with part of their pension funds used to buy an annuity and the rest left invested.
There may be no need to put all of your savings into an annuity, so make sure you explore your options and seek advice if necessary to work out what approach suits you best.
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