Income Drawdown plans are complex. It's a good idea to get professional advice because what you decide now will affect your pension income for the rest of your life.

Income Drawdown is a more flexible alternative to the traditional annuity route, offering greater choice and control for many people.

Benefits

You can put off buying an annuity, and instead withdraw a regular income or take adhoc withdrawals from the pension fund while the remainder of the fund stays invested. While the fund remains invested, you could benefit from growth in the market - and from ongoing advice.

Anyone from the age of 55 (expected to rise to 57 from 2028 and then remain 10 years below state pension age) can set up a Drawdown contract. It could be suitable if you:

  • want to vary your income over time, to reflect changes in your circumstances
  • want your pension fund to continue benefitting from potential investment growth, and you’re prepared to accept the risk that the value of the fund may fall
  • have other sources of income
  • want to maximise the benefits your family receives upon your death, and also give more choice about how they receive these benefits
  • are in ill health, and would like to pass on remaining assets to your estate
  • want to control the time at which you buy an annuity
  • want to maintain an active interest in managing your pension fund

Drawbacks

As well as benefits, like most things, there are also some potential drawbacks.

  • Income withdrawals from a flexi-access drawdown pension trigger the Money Purchase Annual Allowance (MPAA)
  • All of the payments above the Pension Commencement Lump Sum (PCLS) are taxable as the individual’s pension income via Pay as you earn (PAYE).
  • Unused funds remain invested and therefore subject to investment risk.
  • Sustainability – the possibility of the entire fund being depleted which would leave insufficient funds to live on in retirement.
  • Income and lump sum benefits on death are taxable as the recipient’s pension income via PAYE on death where this occurs on or after on after 75th birthday.
  • Where a lump sum death benefit is paid, this will form part of the beneficiary’s estate for Inheritance Tax (IHT) unless it is paid to a suitable trust.
  • The need for ongoing reviews, these may be costly.

Summary

Typically, Income Drawdown suits people who are not averse to investment risk, and who have larger pension funds.

However, there are no guarantees that income will be greater than if the fund was used to purchase an annuity at retirement. There is also no guarantee that the initial income level selected will be maintained. The costs of Income Drawdown are normally higher than for an annuity.

A pension is a long term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down. Your eventual income may depend on the size of the fund at retirement, future interest rates and tax legislation.