Scottish Widows - The Power of Questions

Robert Cochran, Retirement Expert, Scottish Widows.

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11 September 2021

Lots of people find pensions tricky. It’s a fact.

After being involved in Pension Awareness Day from the very beginning and travelling the country meeting thousands of people and having pensions discussions with them over the years – it has reinforced this idea that lots of people find pensions a bit confusing.

It doesn’t need to be like that though. These days pensions are pretty straight forward savings solutions to help fund your later life, but how do you get started when it comes to understanding them? On the Pension Awareness Day tours, we quickly realised that once people knew what questions they could or should ask about their pensions it helped to take away a bit of the confusion. Rather than ask generic questions about pensions, focus on your own situation.

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One of the best starting points is to ask, “What have I got?”.

If you live in the UK and are working for an employer, you’re likely to have been enrolled into a workplace pension scheme. Employers must put all their employees who are aged 22 or over and earn more than £10,000 a year into a pension plan and make payments into this pension on their behalf. So, a great place to start is to find out how much you have in your pension, it’s your money after all.

If you have lost pension details over the years from previous employment you can track down these plans using the free government pension tracing service. Watch our film on tracing a lost pension together with MoneyHelper (

If you’re self-employed, you don’t get auto-enrolled but may well have set up a pension plan as part of your own tax planning.

And of course, on top of your own private pension you are likely to be building up your State Pension entitlement as well, even if you are not in work. For 2021/22 the new State Pension is £179.60 per week. The rules here are a bit more complex but there is a really nice simple government tool you can access to see when you are on track to get your State Pension and from what age you can claim it. (government state pension calculator)

So, once you’ve found out what you’ve got in your pension, that may well trigger off a lot of other questions. One of the most common questions is “Am I on track to have a good retirement?”.

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This is a bit more complicated to answer as different people will have different ambitions for their retirement. Some people will be augmenting their pension funds by doing things like selling their house and downsizing but let’s keep it simple – when it comes to pensions there are a few tools that can really help you.

You may not have any idea how much income you’ll need in retirement, but don’t worry lots of people have already done the calculations for you and worked out how much you’ll need in retirement depending on how you want to live in retirement. For example, how frequently you want to go on holiday or replace your car, they have also done the calculations for both singles and couples in retirement too. Have a look at the content and get a feel for how much you think you’ll need. Retirement living standards | Scottish Widows

One of my favourite tools and the most popular on our Pension Awareness Tours is the Scottish Widows Your Future Self tool. ( It’s a really helpful tool and actually a lot of fun (honest – pensions can be fun!). It predicts when you could retire based on how much you’re currently saving and shows you what you could look like when you get there! It also has sliders that show you how an increase in contributions could help you to retire early (you’ll also see the wrinkles drop off your face 😊)

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The new free government service Money Helper also has a nice new calculator – this is a bit more focused around numbers but will also tell you when you can expect to get the State Pension and what any shortfall in retirement income might be if you want to retire earlier than State Pension age. Pension calculator | Work out your retirement income (

So, once you’ve found out what you have in your pension and have an idea of what you’re on track to get in retirement, the next set of questions are usually about action – “What can I do next?”.

This will really depend on the answers to the first 2 questions, and we have loads of great tips about what you can do to make the most of your pension and give you the very best prospects for retirement.

Simple things like tracking down your lost pensions and making sure you are getting the maximum pension contribution available from your employer. Taking advantage of free guidance to help you get to grips with your pension, for example if you are over 50 you are entitled to a free one to one guidance session from the government’s Pension Wise service.

So, when it comes to understanding pensions, it’s all about asking questions - we even a new TV advert ( on the power of asking questions and lit up the UK in pension questions for #PAD21 (

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There is no better place to start than looking at your own position. There is loads of support online, but you may be a little bit uncertain about who to trust. This Scottish Widows Pension Wellbeing guide focuses on the questions above, giving a lot more detail around the questions and linking to a whole host of government support to help you understand your pensions ​HELPING YOU TOWARDS PENSION WELLBEING (

You can also visit on new #PAD21 website ( helping answer your pension questions.

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Pensions – they needn’t be tricky – let’s take on your future together.

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Pensions are a long-term investment. The retirement benefits you receive from your pension plan will depend on a number of factors including the value of your plan when you decide to take your benefits which isn't guaranteed, and can go down as well as up. The value of your plan could fall below the amount(s) paid in.

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