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Is your pension star-rated or a dog’s dinner?  7 killer questions to ask about your pension

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

We’ve all been there: munching through a terrible meal accompanied by bad service in a restaurant... yet when the manager comes along, someone smiles and tells them everything is great.

Your pension is no different: it could involve a generous helping of cash as the main ingredient, whipped up into a delicious combination of investment growth and future prospects, all with great value prices.  Or it could be yesterday’s leftovers, warmed up.

The only way to find out which is to ask good questions. 

Here are seven killer questions to understand if your pension is Michelin-rated or deserves to be sent back to the kitchen.

1. What am I invested in?

You wouldn’t order cornflakes for lunch, and likewise different investment choices are appropriate at different stages of life. 

For example, if you’re mid-career, which is where the real build-up of your pension wealth takes place, there is little point in holding defensive assets. 

Investment growth is what’s needed, and you can stomach a lot of short-term volatility to secure it.  When you look in the rear-view mirror in 20 years’ time, a short-term dip from one month to another will hardly feature.

2. Check the bill

You’re charging me what?  No-one expects a pension to come for free.  But pension costs have moved on (read: dropped) in recent years. 

If you’re paying pension charges like it’s the year 2010, it’s time shop around.

3. How much am I leaving on the table?

The Irish government really want us to save into pensions.  So there is generous income tax relief, rising with age, for money you put in.  If you put in less than the limit, then that’s money you could have saved tax on. 

It’s worth figuring out how much you’re leaving on the table each year – and maybe adjusting your monthly payments to take full advantage.

4. What is my boss contributing?

Pension contributions are tax-efficient for employers too.  How much does yours offer? 

Maybe it’s time to press the point with them.  Would they match €-for-€ if you paid in more?  Could they pay a raise into your pension instead of your salary?

5. Time to pay yourself first?

Not so much a question this one... more a reminder that one of the best ways to increase your pension wealth is to double down on contributions (especially if

Despite the misery, lots of people have been able to save more during lockdown: why not put some of that into your pension?   

Remember you can catch up by putting in a lump sum from salary you earned in 2019 and claiming tax back before October 2020.

6. What’s happened my old pensions?

Remember that old job you had, or the year you spend in Australia?  It all counts.  Consider tracking down your pensions from old jobs and whipping them into shape by increasing control over them, driving down the cost, or moving them to a single provider. 

7. Am I on track?

Ultimately, everything boils down to this question. 

Where are you now, and how much do you need to save between now and retirement to live the way you’d like to?  It’s essential to know if you’re on track, so you can take action now to sort your financial future.

To help you figure out the answer to these questions, Pensions Awareness Week 2020 is cooking up a series of webinars and offering online consultations to help you make sure your pension is in good shape.  We’d love you to dig in! You can find out more on Pension Awareness Week.

Ralph Benson is co-founder and head of financial advice at online investments and pensions adviser

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