Is your employer blocking access to your pension cash?

Michelle McGagh
Is your employer blocking access to your pension cash?
Is your employer blocking access to your pension cash?

Chances are most of your pension savings are tied up in your workplace scheme and while its easy to save through an employer do you know how difficult it will be to get the money out?

Pension freedom has given anyone aged 55 and over the chance to access their pension savings as cash, regardless of whether they are retiring or still in work (although if you're still earning and take your pension cash you could be hit with a big tax bill).

However, since the freedom was introduced in April there has been a problem for some people in accessing their cash: their employer scheme doesn't allow it.

A survey by Towers Watson shows just 43% of employer pension schemes support 'drawdown', which is needed to access a pension as a cash lump sum or even as a steady income stream while it remains invested.

Unfortunately for the 57% of employers who don't offer it, the majority of staff want it (87% according to the poll).

Costs, difficulty and regulation are all reasons that were given for keeping people from their money but 53% of those employers who don't offer just said they simply don't want to.

Someone clearly needs to give employers a dictionary definition of the word 'freedom'. What they clearly don't understand is that the money they are holding on to doesn't belong to them, it belongs to their employees.

If you have a troublesome employer who won't let you access your pension as cash and is insisting you buy an annuity, there isn't much you can do from a legal point of view – after all you signed the pension contract.

The only option is to transfer out of the scheme and into a new one but unfortunately this will cost you money for physically transferring your savings and it is likely you will need to take advice, which again will cost money.

The other sting in the tail is that if you are still working and want to continue paying into your pension but just take a bit of the cash, your employer probably won't pay into your new scheme.

As this new way for pensions becomes more ingrained, we can only hope that employers understand the importance of providing access to pension cash and shell out to put the systems in place to allow people to get hold of their money.

And that is the key point, the money held in a company scheme is a workers' money, not the employers.

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