Are you too young for a pension plan?

You are never too young for a pension plan. That’s it, end of article? But maybe you need to be convinced of this fact!

The benefits of starting your pension funding as early as possible are really immense. Now we are not suggesting that everyone should live a life of penury in their 20’s and 30’s in order to safeguard their lifestyle in their later years. But starting a pension plan early has a significant impact on your final retirement outcome and this is down to one main fact, the effect of compound interest.

The Rule of 72
To look at compound interest, it’s useful to consider a maths equation that is commonly known as “The Rule of 72”. This is a simplified way to determine how long an investment will take to double, given a fixed annual rate of interest. All that you have to do is divide 72 by the expected rate of return. The answer is the number of years it will take for the amount of money to double. Consider two examples of how you can use this below;

• If you are aiming for a return of 6% p.a., it will take 12 years for your investment to double (72/6% = 12 years)
• If you want to double your money in 10 years, you will need to achieve a return of 7.2% p.a. (72/10 years = 7.2%)

The impact on your pension plan
This rule demonstrates that a contribution made to a pension plan in your 20’s or 30’s has the benefit of time on it’s side to grow very significantly from the time it is made, to your retirement age. And because you have this time on your side, you will probably also be willing to take some risk with your funds, with the aim of achieving higher growth rates.

These higher growth rates may be achieved through investing in the likes of equity (stock market) funds. If you had invested in the S&P 500 Index of shares from 1st January 1985 to 31st December 2014, your investment would have achieved a Compound Annual Growth Rate (annualised return) of 11.40 per annum over the 30 year period! Now of course previous returns are not necessarily a guide to future performance, but they give a sense of what can be achieved over a long timeframe.

So when you put higher potential growth rates and a longer term together, the impact can be significant. Instead if you wait until much later in life to start your pension planning, you will probably want to be more cautious in your investment choices (to limit any downside risk), thus reducing your potential growth rate. You also won’t have the investment duration to benefit from the compound interest effect.

So yes, live your life for today while you’re young. But doing this with some investment in your future will yield great benefits when you do eventually hang up your working boots!

What is . . . ?

Life Assurance: This is cover designed to provide a financial lump sum to a family/person/company in the event of the death of a specified individual. There are different kinds of Life Assurance that include:

  • Mortgage Protection – Decreasing Life Assurance – ends at set term

  • Term Assurance – Level Life Assurance – ends at set term

  • Whole of Life cover – Level Life Assurance – No set term

  • There is reviewable and non reviewable Whole of Life cover

    Life Assurance with convertible option: You can request a conversion option on some Life cover. This allows you to extend the lifetime of your policy without having to supply any medical information. This allows some people to choose a shorter term for cover now, at a lower cost.

    An example of this benefit would be if you take out €100,000 Life cover for 10 years with a conversion option. During the 10 year lifetime of this plan you might get sick or be struck with an illness that would prevent you from taking out Life cover in the future. The conversion option would allow you to extend the term of your €100,000 Life cover beyond the 10 years and the Life company could only use your medical information from the original application.

    Serious Illness Cover: This is cover designed to provide a financial lump sum to a family/person/company where a specified individual is diagnosed with a Serious Illness.

    Income Protection: This is a cover designed to be a replacement Income if a person is unable to work due to illness or injury. It is particularly important for self-employed people.

    The cost of these covers depends mainly on your age, your smoker status, your health and the length of time you would like the cover.

    Pensions: During your working life, you can save into a Pension arrangement to subsidise your drop in income at retirement. The main advantages of this are that you get tax relief on your contributions and you get tax free growth on your investment.

    Savings/Investment plans: An alternative to saving/investing money in the bank. The main advantage is that there is a much greater potential to grow your investment. The main disadvantage is that your value can go down as well as up.

Pensions, are they still worthwhile?

I am working in my office right now and was trying to come up with this month’s segment. My father in law came out to ask how business was and we got talking about Pensions. I was stressing how some people do not really value the concept of saving for retirement. He said, “Thank god I have my Pension secured, I know a lot of people who used to have a good standard of living who are struggling now in retirement”. His words, not mine.

As such I thought I would write about a question that has come up quite regularly from people who have arranged to meet with me to discuss non Pension products. That question is an inquisitive “Are Pensions actually worth paying into?” It is too broad a question to completely explore in this segment, but I will try to at least give people something to think about.

The biggest immediate benefit of saving in a pension is the tax relief you get at your standard rate. To save €100 into a savings plan, you have to invest €100. To save €100 into a Pension would cost up to 40% less after tax relief. You also get tax free growth on an investment in a Pension; you pay regular tax on any growth on normal savings/deposit accounts.

I am finding that some people actually like the fact that they cannot get their hands on their Pension until retirement. That is to say, they know that they can’t spend it impulsively like they would if it was available to them.

One of the things that many people find understandably difficult is putting themselves in their own shoes in the future. Imagine you are retiring next month and you have nothing but the state Pension, how would you manage? Some people have chosen to rely only on rental properties for their Pension and I would suggest that between 2007 and 2012 some of them have had a very stressful retirement.

Saving into a Pension doesn’t have to be your only source of retirement income (you can purchase rental property aswell). I find that once people start a Pension they don’t actually miss the money that they are putting aside. They also don’t think of it as something they can spend now and as such they have started the good habit of saving now for their eventual retirement.

People can argue the merits of saving into a Pension, but I would ask people to really think about how they intend on subsidising a drop in income at retirement. Whether you are an individual or a couple, the same conditions may apply once you cease working. The big question is will you have saved provisions to subsidise it.