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Is Pension Drawdown a Good Idea?

Jun 14, 2008
Before considering whether it is a good idea, it might be helpful to take a quick look at just what is pension drawdown.

Replace that "drawdown" with "withdraw" and it can perhaps be most readily understood as the ability to withdraw money from your pension fund and leave the balance invested, so that (hopefully) it continues to grow. This ability therefore gives the pension holder an additional option on retirement: instead of using the pension for the one-off purchase of a lifetime annuity, funds can be withdrawn or drawn down for the purchase of an annuity at a later date. And the later the date, of course, the more attractive the annuity should be. Tit does mean, however, that you will probably need an alternative source of income in the meantime.

Clearly, this will give you a much greater degree of flexibility in the use of your pension and preserves the opportunity of a remaining pension fund that you could pass on to your children on your death (provided, of course, that the fund is still a reasonably significant amount).

If the pension fund is sufficiently large, you will be able to draw down income and continue to manage the balance of the fund, making any necessary investment decisions for yourself. In other words, it allows you to stay in control of a significant source of savings and investment.

Pension drawdown could also result in your being able to increase your income when you are older. Obviously, this will depend not only on there still being a sizeable balance in the pension fund, but also that the investments perform well. The opposite is also true, of course. If the investments do not perform well, then the fund can become seriously depleted and the income in your old age could in fact be significantly reduced.

Pension drawdown thus offers a more flexible alternative to purchasing an annuity as soon as you retire. This will suit those people who feel that the one-off purchase of an annuity at too early a stage locks them into an arrangement which might not represent the best deal over the longer-term. They might also be concerned about the relatively limited death benefits that come with many annuities.

From the foregoing, therefore, it can be seen that there are attractions to a pension drawdown. But these attractions come at a price. And that price lies in the risk of things going wrong or you miscalculating a number of factors. In other words, pension drawdown represents a risk. If the worst came to the worst, your decisions could leave your remaining pension fund seriously - if not totally - depleted. This would leave you without a private pension at all in your old age.

The risk is sufficient, certainly, for it to be very unwise to consider this retirement option without first consulting an experienced independent financial adviser, who can warn you of the pitfalls and carefully explain not only the attractions, but also the drawbacks of a pension drawdown.
About the Author
Steve Wright is Managing Director of Wrightway Financial Consultants, Independent Financial Advisers specialising in Pensions, Investments, Mortgages and Insurance. One of their major areas is pension drawdown .
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