Fund supermarket decides against offering retirement annuities broking service

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A major fund supermarket has decided against offering a broking service allowing investors to cash in their retirement annuities when a new scheme launches next year.

Hargreaves Lansdown said it was concerned that for many investors, selling their annuity in exchange for a lump sum would be a "poor decision".

From April 2017, Government changes will free up people to sell their annuity income if they want to, without tax restrictions that currently apply, as long as their annuity provider agrees.

The Government has previously said the move will open up new freedoms to around five million people who currently have an annuity, as well as future annuity holders.

Annuities give pensioners a certain, guaranteed level of income, but they have been controversial in recent years due to low rates giving people disappointing incomes. However, the regular income provided by annuities does give people the security of knowing they will not out-live their savings. 

The pension freedoms introduced in 2015 mean that people approaching retirement are no longer required to use their pension pot to buy an annuity, but the changes introduced at that time did not affect people who already had an annuity.  

Hargreaves Lansdown said it was still considering whether it will offer an advisory service to investors who may be contemplating selling their annuity and who are looking for an adviser to consult on the decision. 

Tom McPhail, head of retirement policy at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "Like the Government, we are keen to see as many investors as possible taking on both the freedom and the responsibility to manage their own retirement savings.

"For a small number of investors, selling an existing annuity income in exchange for a lump sum may make sense. However ever since this proposal was first made, we have been concerned that for many investors, it is likely to be a poor decision.

"We have therefore made the decision not to enter the secondary annuity market at this time."

Hargreaves Lansdown said the potential risks faced by investors contemplating selling their existing annuity include under-estimating how long they will live for, and running out of money; having difficulty working out the value of the income they are giving up; and being vulnerable due to financial pressures, poor health or poor financial capacity.