I’m saving £400 a month but my projected pension at 65 is still puny

I am a bank employee. I work in electrical engineering so don’t have any banking or pension knowledge. I have been contributing to the company pension scheme at my work.

In rough figures I basically put in £400 a month to my pension and after 10 years my pension pot has £40,000 in it.

If I retired at 65 my pension pot is expected to be £128,000. I would be entitled to a £32,000 lump sump and £2,340 per annum which equates to £195 a month at the end of the term when I retire.

Steve Webb: Find out how to ask the former Pensions Minister a question about your retirement savings in the box below

Although markets go up and down, the last 10 years has included some good periods for stock markets.

Charges do reduce the value of your pot, but a standard workplace pension with a household name firm should have relatively low charges. It would be worth asking your pension department for a more detailed explanation.

In terms of what you could get in retirement, a lot depends on whether the projection is based on the assumption that you contribute for another 20 years.

If so, you would have contributed another £4,800 per year or £96,000. Together with the £40,000 you already have plus two decades of investment growth, a final pot of £128,000 seems very low.

It might be worth clarifying with your pension provider the basis of their projection if it is not clear from the statement.

Obviously, if you have only paid in for 10 years and you’re expecting a pension to last you for 20 or more, then you can’t expect a fortune, but if you plan to pay in for 30 years in all, then you should certainly expect something better than this.

Assuming that the figure of £128,000 is correct, the lump sum figure is simply the standard 25 per cent that you can take tax-free.

However, the annual income figure looks very low to me. As a very rough rule of thumb, for someone at age 65, you should expect an income of roughly £1 per week for every £1,000 in your pension pot.

In your case, you would have £96,000 left after the tax-free lump sum, which would generate a weekly income of roughly £96 per week or £416 per month, which is much higher than the figure you have been given.

One possible explanation for the difference is that my rule of thumb is for what is called a ‘level annuity’ – this is a regular income which does not rise in line with inflation and does not pay out anything to a spouse if you were to die.

The lower figure you have been quoted may be for what is called an ‘index-linked’ annuity – one that rises each year in line with inflation.

Although the starting figure looks low, if you are retired for a couple of decades, that annual increase for inflation means that the true value of what you are getting is greater than it seems.

My key point would be that you are absolutely right to be asking searching questions about your pension. Make sure you understand how much your employer is contributing to your pension, as you would lose that contribution if you decided to opt out.

But by all means ask your workplace pensions department and your pension provider to give you answers about why your pot is not larger and why the retirement income figure you have been quoted looks so low.

ASK STEVE WEBB A PENSION QUESTION 

Former Pensions Minister Steve Webb is This Is Money’s Agony Uncle.

He is ready to answer your questions, whether you are still saving, in the process of stopping work, or juggling your finances in retirement.

Since leaving the Department of Work and Pensions after the May 2015 election, Steve has joined pension firm Royal London as director of policy.

If you would like to ask Steve a question about pensions, please email him at [email protected]

Steve will do his best to reply to your message in a forthcoming column, but he won’t be able to answer everyone or correspond privately with readers. Nothing in his replies constitutes regulated financial advice. Published questions are sometimes edited for brevity or other reasons.

Please include a daytime contact number with your message – this will be kept confidential and not used for marketing purposes.

If Steve is unable to answer your question, you can also contact The Pensions Advisory Service, a Government-backed organisation which gives free help to the public. TPAS can be found here and its number is 0800 011 3797.

Steve receives many questions about state pension forecasts and COPE – the Contracted Out Pension Equivalent. If you are writing to Steve on this topic, he responds to a typical reader question here. It includes links to Steve’s several earlier columns about state pension forecasts and contracting out, which might be helpful. 

If you have a question about state pension top-ups, Steve has written a guide which you can find here. 

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