Pensions jargon busted

If looking at pension documents leaves you in a spin, check out our quick-guide to the key points without the gobbledegook.

Ah, pensions. So complicated, so dreary, so… unappealing. But like cutting your toenails, you have to tackle this boring but necessary job if you don’t want to trip yourself up in the future. Luckily, we’re here to translate the jargon for you, and help you navigate the maze of options without falling asleep through sheer tedium. Your toenails though? You’re on your own.

Personal pension

If you’re not paying into a pension scheme run by your employer, this means you can get a personal pension. An independent advisor can run through your options, and you can make choices about the kind of investments you want your money to be put into – you can choose an ethical fund, for instance. Personal pensions are a form of money purchase pension, which means that they invest your money on your behalf and then pay out a lump sum and/or an income at retirement.

Stakeholder pension
These are government-approved pensions that can be set up by your employer or by you as a personal pension plan. They offer flexibility and give you the option of making low contributions if that’s what you think you can afford at the moment.

Basic state pension
Most people know by now that the future of the basic state pension is bleak: there just isn’t going to be enough money in the pot to support an ageing population.

This stands for self-invested personal pensions. These are for people who are confident about playing the market and want to be able to move their money around themselves, or pay someone to micro-manage their own fund personally.

Occupational salary-related schemes
These are few and far between these days. Employers offer their employees a retirement pay-out related to their final salary – no matter what has happened to the funds invested over the years.

Money-purchase work pensions
These operate in the same way as personal pensions, but are organised by your employer, who may also pay into them to top up payments you make yourself. This is the most common work pension operating now.

Allocation rate
This is the amount of money that is actually invested in your pension plan after the provider has taken their slice.

This is the most usual way of realising your money-purchase pension investment when you retire. Your regular contributions have been invested – wisely, you hope by the pension company with the aim of making the money grow. When you reach the magic age of retirement, you buy an annuity to convert your lump sum into an income.

Tax relief
Pension contributions qualify for tax relief, but you need to check the latest legislation. If you’re buying a pension through your employer, your contributions will be taken before tax has been deducted, so you don’t have to do a thing. If you’ve got a personal pension plan, your provider will claim the tax back from the government on your behalf, if you’re taxed at the lower rate. Higher rate tax payers have to claim tax back via their tax return.