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Editor’s Column: Is Pension Freedoms roll-back under way?

News this week that the Government will press ahead with plans to push up the age for accessing the Pension Freedoms from 55 to 27 by 2028 will have surprised some and disappointed many.

Given the top priority of coping with the impact of Coronavirus the Government could have perhaps been forgiven for putting any changes on on the back burner.

The fact it did not suggests reforming the Freedoms is more of a priority than we think. Given the steady increases to the State Pension age it is not impossible to foresee further increases to the Pension Freedom age and perhaps also some further brakes imposed. We’ll see.

Experts concerned over raising Pension Freedoms age to 57

My view has always been that while the Pension Freedoms were a necessary reform they were ill thought-through and many of the predictions of pension scams and the like have come to fruition primarily due to the Freedoms.

It’s hard to recall now what the pensions landscape was before 2015 when the ‘Freedoms’ arrived but accessing pensions early was far from easy.

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Fast forward to 2020 and we have a very mixed and confused picture, possibly made worse by the pandemic.

We know anxious pension savers have pulled millions out of personal pensions early and shifted money into bank accounts paying virtually zero interest in the mistaken belief these are ‘safer.’ Of course we know the real enemy is inflation which has fortunately been low but many pension savers are already seeing their ‘safe’ money eroded by inflation year after year.

For Financial Planners there will be more work to do advising those affected by the change. A good chance to talk to ‘younger’ clients.

Those planning to retire before 57 will find it considerably harder after 2028 although we will need to see the substance of the legislation to be sure of the full impact.

There is little doubt now that the Pension Freedoms face further reform and will most likely restricted in some way. We will not go back to pre-2015 restrictions but some balance between Freedoms and the risk of early access mistakes, scams and bad decisions needs to return.

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Kevin O’Donnell is editor of Financial Planning Today and a financial journalist with 30 years experience.  This topical comment on the Financial Planning news appears most weeks. Follow @FPT_Kevin 


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