Approaching retirement

What happens when I decide to take my benefits from the Scheme?

You can take your benefits from the Scheme at any time after age 55, as long as you are no longer employed by the Company.

The value of your AVCs will depend on the contributions paid in and the investment returns earned on your investment (after any charges). Remember, the value of your investment could go down as well as up, and may be worth less than what was paid in.

When you come to retire, it's important to take time to shop around for the best deal. Your AVCs can normally be taken as part of a lump sum or they can be used to buy a pension from within the Scheme. There are also a number of additional options available to you (see below), including purchasing an external annuity or you may want to use your AVCs in a more flexible way such as moving them to a drawdown arrangement. These options are not available within the Scheme, so you would need to transfer your benefits to a defined contribution pension arrangement in order to access them in this way.

Please note that once you take more than your tax free cash from a defined contribution pension, you’ll normally be restricted in how much you and/or your employer can pay into any other defined contribution pension arrangement.

When you do decide to retire, you’ll also have a number of options outside the Scheme that you could choose from.

Guaranteed for life? Is my money invested and does it have the potential to grow? Can I access my money at any time? Can I pass on what’s left?
Take a flexible income No Yes Yes Yes
Take cash from your pension No Yes Yes Yes
Buy a guaranteed income (Annuity) Yes No No No*
Leave your pension for now No Yes Yes Yes

*You could add on options at the time you buy your annuity - for example, to pay a spouse's pension after you die, whilst your income is paid for your lifetime it can also be guaranteed to be paid for a minimum length of time, or a value protected annuity would return the original amount you used to buy the annuity, less any income paid, to your beneficiaries.

Taking a flexible income means that you can leave your money invested in your pension pot. You can take as much or as little money out as and when you need it. You can also set up a regular income to ‘drawdown’ your money if you like, but you don’t need to.

This gives you the freedom to change the amount of income you get in line with what you need to suit you and your lifestyle, and also gives your pension pot the potential to grow. It’s important that you keep an eye on how much you take out of your pension pot and what’s left, as your income will stop if your money runs out. Your investments could also go down in value as well as up.

You can normally start taking cash from your Scheme once you reach 55 (may be subject to change) as long as you are no longer employed by the Company. You can dip in as often as you like, and can change to a guaranteed income or flexible income at any time.

A quarter of your pension pot is usually tax-free, and you'll pay income tax on the rest. The amount of income tax you pay depends on your total income, your personal circumstances and where you live in the UK. For example in Scotland income tax rates are different to the rest of the UK. It can pay to be tax savvy.

A guaranteed income for life, also known as an annuity, could be a good choice for you. Using your pension savings to buy a guaranteed income means you get a guaranteed amount of money every year for as long as you live.

You’ll normally be able to take 25% of your pension tax-free, and the rest can be used to buy a guaranteed income for life which will be subject to income tax.

The amount of income you get will depend on a number of things like:

  • Your age
  • The size of your pension pot
  • Your health and lifestyle
  • Whether or not you’ve chosen an option where the amount of income changes over time

You can find out a bit more about the factors that will affect your income amount from the Money Advice Service.

Many people decide they don’t need to access their pension pot just yet. You can always leave this money invested. But it’s important to keep an eye on how your investments are doing and how they're affecting the value of your pension.

Not sure which option is right for you?

Our retirement pathfinder can help

By asking you a few simple questions it can help you understand how you can take your money in a way that suits you best.

Retirement pathfinder >

Explore your options based on your pension value

The retirement calculator will give you the chance to compare different options and see how much tax you might pay.

Retirement calculator >

Useful guides

The Trustee has provided you with the following useful documents. Standard Life Assurance Limited is not responsible for the content of these documents.

Your Retirement Service - Getting the best deal (PDF, 1.2MB)

Target Retirement Age Change Form (PDF, 149KB)

Do you need help?

Contact the Equiniti Pensions Service Centre

0800 917 9568

If calling from overseas: +44(0)121 415 0891.

Email: fulwood.pensions@equiniti.com

Get some guidance

Members over 50 can get free retirement guidance from the government’s Pension Wise service.

Visit Pension Wise >