Trading your hard earned pension fund for an annuity is the final step for most of us when it comes to our retirement planning. With thousands of pounds exchanging hands and no going back getting the right deal is essential.
Swapping your pension fund for an annuity will secure you a regular income throughout your retired life.
But crucially, once you’ve picked an annuity there’s no going back so it’s important to make the right decision.
Here’s our 5 top tips for buying an annuity:
1. Reject your first annuity offer
When the time comes to use your pension fund for buying an annuity, it’s likely that your existing pension provider will be at the front of the queue. In fact most pension providers automatically draw up an annuity quote for you when you reach retirement age.
While it can be tempting to choose the easy option and accept your first quote, it’s unlikely that it will top any annuity comparison tables and you could make your money go much further elsewhere.
Instead you should make a note of the quote and compare it to other deals from other providers; you'll be pleasantly surprised the difference it can make!
2. Decide who gets paid
Pensions and annuities are designed to provide you with a replacement income after you stop working.
But while the primary annuity definition is centred on your income and your retirement planning, they can also be used to provide financial support to other family members and dependants when you stop working too.
If you’re married or want to ensure that your children continue to receive an income after you die you can usually choose to include this in your annuity, although, this will come at a cost and mean that you’ll be paid less.
Another option is to add a time guarantee to your annuity, so that even if you pass away shortly after taking your income that it will continue to be paid for a set period – usually 5 or 10 years.
Longer term life insurance to cover your family's costs could be a more cost effective way of maximising your annuity income whilst protecting your family's financial future.
3. Be honest about your medical history
Annuity rates are determined by a range of factors, including your age, lifestyle and importantly your medical history.
Buying annuity policies is probably the only time in your life that having a chequered medical record will work in your favour!
Annuity providers will offer enhanced rates for a wide range of medical conditions that can, on paper at least, shorten you're lifespan and the length of time they'll have to pay out. So make sure you let them know about any and all illnesses and aliments eg high blood pressure, asthma and diabetes to name a few.
You may also find that you will get a better annuity deal if you’re a smoker or drinker so it really is best to be totally open about your circumstances when looking for the best annuity rates.
4. Weigh up how you want to be paid your pension income
Choosing an annuity is all about finding the best retirement income for your circumstances.
While this will largely depend on the annuity rates you're offered from each company - this deterimines the amount of money they'll pay you - it’s also worth considering how you want to get the money.
When buying annuities most people choose to receive their annuity payments on a monthly basis, similar to a work salary, however that’s not the only option. Many insurers also offer to pay your income annually, bi-annually or in some cases quarterly.
Before you decide you’ll need to think about how you’ll be managing your money once you retire. Although you might be used to having a monthly income, once you’ve stopped work will this still be the best way to receive it?
You’ll also need to check if your annuity rate will differ depending on how you’re paid; some providers will reduce what they pay-out if you opt to receive your money annually in advance, equally you may get extra cash if you choose to get your income annually in arrears (although you would have to wait 12 months for your first payment).
5. Shop around for the best annuities rates
Once you’re confident that you understand what you're looking for you can begin getting annuity quotes and directly comparing what each provider has to offer.
Undertaking an annuities rates comparison based on your circumstances and preferences will enable you to secure the largest income possible for your retirement.
The easiest way to do this is using annuity tables or an annuities calculator; this will allow you to compare all the different features in one place and then find the best annuities rates for your circumstances.
However, because it's such an important decision, getting annuities explained by a qualified professional is always worth considering if you're at all unsure about which annuity provider you should go with, or which options are going to be best for you.