Pension Options

by | Aug 31, 2023

When it comes to claiming a pension, choosing between taking lifetime income or a lump sum is a crucial and complicated decision. There is no one-size-fits-all answer as it depends on your individual circumstances. 

In this article, we will explore the considerations you need to keep in mind when making a pension election.

The Benefits of a Lump Sum

A lump sum gives you more flexibility and control but also more responsibility for managing the proceeds. It can provide you with a significant sum of money that you can invest or use as you see fit. This can be particularly appealing if you have specific financial goals or if you want to leave a legacy for your loved ones. 

However, it’s essential to consider your own financial literacy and risk tolerance. Managing a lump sum requires knowledge of investment strategies and the ability to navigate the ups and downs of the market. 

If you are considering taking a lump sum, you should consider your health and overall retirement income and needs. If you are married, you should also consider the long-term financial well-being of your spouse.

If you are not comfortable or confident in your ability to manage a lump sum effectively, it may be worth exploring other options. 

The Advantages of Lifetime Income

On the other hand, lifetime income provides you with a guaranteed stream of income for life, which can be reassuring for some people. If you are considering taking lifetime income instead of a lump sum for your pension, one isn’t universally better than the other. It ultimately depends on your individual circumstances and preferences.

A lifetime income annuity, also known as an immediate annuity, can convert your savings or a pension-plan lump sum into a lifetime stream of income. This can provide you with peace of mind, knowing that you will have a steady income throughout your retirement years. The amount of income you receive will depend on various factors, including your age, gender, and the prevailing interest rates at the time of purchase. The capital used to purchase the lifetime income stream is consumed, so there is nothing left to go to heirs upon your passing. However, some annuities/pensions will guarantee a certain payout length that would apply to both you and your heirs, such as 10 years.

Researching Annuity Rates

Before making a decision, it is crucial to review the open marketplace for the rates offered by annuity companies. This allows you to compare the lifetime income stream provided through your pension with the current market rates. Annuity rates can vary significantly, and shopping around can help you secure the best possible income stream for your retirement. Working with an experienced financial advisor can be invaluable in navigating the annuity market and finding the most suitable option for your needs.

Considerations for a Pension Election 

When it comes to financial security in retirement, having the right pension election options can make all the difference. High net-worth individuals should consider a variety of factors when making their selections, such as how much guaranteed cash flow they want, whether non-guaranteed income is preferable, and potential inflation effects. Below are some key questions to ask when making a pension election. 

  • Rates of return on the pension 

First, you’ll need to consider the rates of return available on your pension at various life expectancies. A higher rate of return on a longer-term annuity may be more beneficial for you than taking a lump sum payout if you have a longer life expectancy. You should also calculate when the break-even point is for taking a lump sum versus an annuity, as this will help you make a more informed decision. 

  • Annuity rate

Additionally, it’s important to investigate what annuity rate could be obtained today using the lump sum amount, and compare these with the payout rate from your pension provider.

  • Guaranteed cash flow (versus non-guaranteed) 

Think about when your cash flow needs may arise in retirement. If you expect to have high expenses in the near future, such as for an expensive purchase or medical bills, you may find that a lump sum is more beneficial than a long-term annuity. On the other hand, if your cash flow needs are spread out over time, then taking regular payments from an annuity may be more financially advantageous. 

  • How Much Guaranteed Cash Flow Do You Want? 

The amount of guaranteed cash flow versus non-guaranteed income is an important factor to take into account. Depending on the type of pension you have, some or all of your retirement income may be guaranteed, while other types may provide more of a mix. Consider your preferred level of income security, and be sure to understand what kind of protection is offered by the pension election options you are considering. 

  • How Important Is Cash Flow Versus Capital? 

You should also consider the importance of cash flow versus having access to other funds. Some pensions may allow you to withdraw capital while others may keep it intact, so be sure to understand the implications of each option. You’ll also want to consider whether having access to capital is more important than guaranteed income or vice versa. 

  • Inflation Effects 

The value of your pension payments could be affected by inflation over time, so it’s essential to factor this in when making your decision. Consider what inflation rate you’ll be comfortable with, and think about how much of the pension benefit is likely to remain after a certain number of years. This is particularly important if you are thinking about leaving the pension benefits to heirs. 

  • Survivor Benefit 

When making a pension election, it’s also important to consider the survivor benefit. This could include a lump sum payment, a payout from an annuity, or other options. Consider what is most important to you and make sure that your choice fits with your overall goals for retirement income security. 

This will ensure that when one spouse passes away, the other will receive their full pension. If you take less than a 100% survivor benefit, your spouse may receive additional income from other sources to replace the lost pension income. It’s important to consider if their expenses will be reduced by at least the amount of the lost pension. 

  • Tax Benefits 

Another factor to research is the tax benefits of deferring your pension benefit. Depending on your individual situation, it may be more advantageous to hold off and receive a larger payment in retirement instead. Be sure to look into both immediate and long-term advantages and disadvantages, as well as potential tax consequences.

  • Pension Plan Sponsor 

It’s also important to assess the stability of both your pension plan sponsor and the trust funds they manage. You should feel confident that they will be able to pay out what they have promised when it comes time for you to retire. Research their track record to judge if is reliable and secure. 

Determining the Best Choice

Choosing between lifetime income and a lump sum for your pension is not a decision to be taken lightly. The best choice depends on your individual circumstances, financial goals, and personal preferences. It is essential to consider factors such as your risk tolerance, long-term financial needs, and plans for your retirement years.

Working with experienced financial advisors can also provide you with the guidance and expertise you need to make the right decision. 

Don’t leave your retirement to chance! 

For more financial planning advice, you may visit our website and read our blogs at Kreitler Financial. Learn more about our services and work with our experienced financial advisors today!