OpinionAug 14 2017

Pensions? Why bother?

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Why bother with a pension?

I've been asked this question by friends and family nearly every week since I first started working as a financial journalist back in 1999.

In fact, even before then, I was helping to put myself through university by working in a local authority pensions department. 

I've always been an advocate of the workplace pension - where else can you get a minimum of 100 per cent return on your investment? I put in £1, my employer puts in £1. Actually, I put in 6 per cent of my salary before tax, my employer currently puts in 12 per cent. That's pretty generous.

Ever since I started work, I've paid as much as the scheme rules allow into a pension pot. Granted, I started off on a salary of £16,000 and 20 years on I'm only just about doubling that salary, but even so, I've accumulated about £60,000 in various pots. 

I'm now feverishly squirreling as much as possible into my equity Isa to shore up my need for more cats in retirement.

But I am starting to wonder myself whether it is worth it. I got my pension statement through from the defined contribution pension I paid into from 1 April 2010 (an inauspicious date) to December 2015. 

It claimed I had £45,000 or so, with an expected £60,000 something when I reach scheme retirement age. 

According to the projections, this would mean I could enjoy the wondrous taxable income of £1,200 a year.

More accurately, £1,284 a year.

One thousand, two hundred and eighty four pounds a year. Before tax. 

Let me put this into perspective. That's less than £100 a month. And that's before I get old enough to have free TV licences and winter fuel allowances (if these even exist when I retire).

I showed this to my mother, who used to work for the Guardian Royal Exchange, then Prudential, then Hartshead pensions. She retired on £16,000 and thanks to a generous GAR, she actually enjoys a higher annual income from her workplace pension than I am expected to do.

Diligence is not being rewarded. What happens to my £1,280 if there's another 'lost decade' like there was in 2008? How can I recover from any market risk? 

Even assuming that all my collective pots get me about £80,000 when I retire, we're looking at maybe £2,400 a year. 

Evidently I can't afford to divorce my husband, so that's not an option, even if I wanted to, which I don't. It's only been four dewy-eyed years, after all.