%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%More than three million people have started putting money into a workplace pension due to the Government's landmark reforms to head off a looming retirement savings crisis.
Football club West Ham United, whose vice chairman Karren Brady has backed the scheme in high-profile advertising campaigns, helped push the total number of people who have been automatically placed into a pension to the latest milestone.
The figures, which were released by the Pensions Regulator, showed that more than 10,000 employers have now automatically enrolled their workers, including charities, supermarkets and hospitals.
Automatic enrolment started in autumn 2012, with the largest firms placing their employees into a workplace pension and the scheme will roll out over a six-year period, until the smallest employers, which tend to have less experience of pensions, have joined up.
The scheme was introduced to tackle fears that people are living for longer but are not saving enough for a comfortable retirement, with just one in three private sector employees paying into a workplace pension.
People can opt out of the pension once they have been auto-enrolled, but so far around nine in 10 workers are staying in.
Tens of thousands of medium-sized employers will become part of the scheme this year and by the time the initiative is rolled out up to 11 million people will have been placed into a work-based pension scheme.
Ms Brady, who is also known for appearing as Lord Sugar's aide in the BBC's The Apprentice, said:
"West Ham United is pleased to be supporting the auto-enrolment scheme.
"It is becoming increasingly important for people to plan for their future at an earlier age. The scheme should help to make a real difference to the retirement prospects of some of the unsung stars at our club."
Concerns have been raised that auto-enrolment must not lead to people being placed into hard-to-understand pension schemes which fail to make the most of their savings, particularly as smaller firms which have less experience of pensions are brought into the initiative.
The Government has been considering placing a cap on charges which gobble chunks out of pension savings pots, but it has said that any cap will not take place before April 2015, to give firms time to adjust.
Pensions minister Steve Webb said: "We have kicked off a savings revolution that will benefit millions in their retirement."
The Pensions Regulator's website - thepensionsregulator.gov.uk - has a tool for employers to check when they are due to join the auto enrolment scheme and another to help them plan ahead to avoid unnecessary costs.
Charles Counsell, executive director of automatic enrolment at the Pensions Regulator, said:
"Thousands of employers need to act now and get match fit for their automatic enrolment deadline in the coming months."
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Auto-enrolment is a real pensions revolution. For the first time in history employers now have to make pension contributions for their staff.
"But while we should salute its success, contribution rates are still too low to deliver the pensions that most would want. It has been right to phase auto-enrolment in to give employers and workers a smooth entry, but over-time minimum contributions should increase.
"The Government should stop taking low paid workers out of auto-enrolment by raising the earnings trigger every time they increase the personal allowance."
Seven retirement nightmares
Auto-enrolment boosts saver numbers
Figures from charity Age UK show that 29% of those over 60 feel uncertain or negative about their current financial situation - with millions facing poverty and hardship. Even though saving for retirement is not much fun, the message is therefore that having to rely on dwindling state benefits in retirement is even less so. To avoid ending up in this situation, adviser Hargreaves Lansdown recommends saving a proportion of your salary equal to half your age at the time of starting a pension. In other words, if you are 30 when you start a pension, you should put in 15% throughout your working life. If you start at 24, saving 12% of your salary a year should produce a similar return.
Many older couples rely on the pension income of one person - often the man. Should that person die first, the other person can therefore be left in a difficult position financially.
One way to prevent financial hardship for the surviving person is to take out a joint life annuity that will continue to pay out up to 67% of the original payments to the surviving partner should one of them die.
The disadvantage of this approach, however, is that the rate you receive will be lower. Again, the Pensions Advisory Service on 0845 601 2923 is a useful first port of call if you are unsure what to do.
Around 427,000 households in the over-70 age groups are either three months behind with a debt repayment or subject to some form of debt action such as insolvency, according to the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS).
Its figures also show that those aged 60 or older who came to the CCCS for help last year owed an average of £22,330. Whether you are retired or not, the best way to tackle debt problems is head on.
Free counselling services from the likes of CCCS and Citizens Advice can help with budgeting and dealing with creditors.
Importantly, they can also conduct a welfare benefits check to make sure you are receiving the pension credit, housing and council tax benefits, attendance and disability living allowances you are entitled to.
The average UK pensioner household faces a £111,400 tax bill in retirement as increasing longevity means pensioners are living on average up to 19 years past the age of 65, according to figures from MetLife. And every year in retirement adds an extra £5,864 in direct and indirect taxes based on current tax rates to the costs for the average pensioner household. You can be forced to go bankrupt if you fail to pay your taxes, so it is vital to factor these costs into your retirement planning.It is also important to check that you are receiving all the benefits and tax breaks you are entitled to if you want to make the most of your retirement cash.
The cost of a room in a care home in many parts of the country is now over £30,000 a year, according to figures from Prestige Nursing and Care. So even if the prime minister announces a cap on care costs - last year the economist Andrew Dilnot called for a new system of funding which would mean that no one would pay more than £35,000 for lifetime care - families will still face huge accommodation costs. Ways to cut this cost include opting for home care rather than a care home. Jonathan Bruce, managing director of Prestige Nursing and Care, said: "For older people who may need care in the shorter term, home care is an option which allows people to maintain their independence for longer while living in their own home and should be included in the cap." However, the only other answer is to save more while you can.
Older Britons are often targeted by unscrupulous criminals - especially if they have a bit of money put away. For example, many over 50s were victims of the so-called courier scam that tricked into keying their pin numbers into their phones and handing their cards to "couriers" who visited their homes. It parted consumers from £1.5 million in under two years. Detective Chief Inspector Paul Barnard, head of the bank sponsored dedicated cheque and plastic crime unit (DCPCU), said: "Many of us feel confident that we can spot fraudsters, but this type of crime can be sophisticated and could happen to anyone." The same is true of boiler room scams that target wealthier Britons with money to invest, offering "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunities to snap up shares at bargain prices. Tactics to watch out for include cold calling, putting you under pressure to pay up or lose the opportunity for good, and claiming to have insider information that they are prepared to share with you.