HM Revenue & Customs  

Keeping a level head

Alison Steed

Alison Steed

Welcome to 2017, a year which you could easily be forgiven for thinking has already transported us to a parallel universe given the recent political upheavals we have seen.

So far, in case you have been living under a rock and have missed all the fun, we have seen Donald J Trump inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States, and the UK government told that Parliament has to have a say on the triggering of Article 50 before the PM can fire the starting gun on Brexit.

We now have a reality TV star holding the codes to the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, and President Trump has already shown he is not afraid to follow through on the campaign promises he outlined on his way to the White House. Yes, the wall will be built between the US and Mexico, and yes, he fully expects Mexico to repay the cost of building that wall although clearly the Mexican government has its own ideas about this.

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The market reaction to both President Trump’s inauguration and the news that Parliament must vote on Article 50 before it is triggered? Well, the Dow Jones reached record highs last week having busted through the 20,000 threshold for the first time ever, and the FTSE 100 – which has been hitting record highs for the first two weeks of this year before falling back slightly - also rallied a little after the Supreme Court ruling as the pound slid. But the roles were reversed when the pound started to regain some of its lost ground on the day the announcement was made.

We also have a new phrase that has been brought into the English language this year – alternative facts. Interesting if you ask me, since I had always understood facts to be just that, pretty irrefutable. But hey, this is 2017, so who knows what will happen next? 

While all of this excitement has been making the headlines around the world, the rest of us have been ‘getting on getting on’ and dealing with the more mundane but, ultimately, probably more important tasks from our point of view of living our everyday lives. The big political ramifications of the ‘movements’ surrounding the Trump presidency and the Brexit vote have no doubt influenced many of us as to how we feel about things right now, but even when that comes to pass, it will take time for those decisions to impact on the man on the street in a really significant way.

So, what have the rest of us been up to while the politicians have been cooking up a storm? Well, it seems we have been very sensible, at least when it comes to taking money from our pensions. We have quietly been taking £9.2bn from our pension pots since pension freedoms were offered to us in April 2015, according to official figures from HM Revenue & Customs. In the past three months 162,000 people took out £1.56bn out of their pensions – which amounts to £9,630 apiece.