Questions of cash: Will we lose out if we shift schemes?

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Q. My husband and I are professionals in our early thirties, but because we have changed jobs several times we have between us seven pension schemes. Several have only a small amount of money in them. We find it difficult to compare schemes, some of which are final salary and others money purchase. We are thinking of consolidating the holdings into a current pension scheme, but this would eat up some of the money in charges. How can we get a good view of what our retirement benefits will be?
SG, by e-mail.

A. With an increasingly mobile workforce this is a problem facing more people. Carl Melvin, a pensions specialist at Pension Transfer Solutions, says: "There are two issues here: to get an idea of what your pension benefits will provide at retirement, and to determine whether individual pensions should be transferred/consolidated to simplify matters and provide ease of administration.

Independent financial advisers have software that provides a pension shortfall report, showing the level of pension income provided from existing plans against a target income of, say, 66 per cent of final earnings at retirement date.

You will then know if you are on track for your required retirement income. Such a report costs about £500, as it involves a lot of work from the adviser. The IFA can then assess each scheme to determine whether funds should be moved.

In general, final salary schemes should remain in place as the transfer value offered will be too low to justify moving it. With money purchase schemes, the assessment should consider investment performance, costs and plan flexibility. If a stakeholder pension plan is used to receive the transfer it will not apply penalties, but the transferring scheme may."

You will need to pay for the advice to avoid commission bias in any recommendations. But you should make sure you engage a pensions specialist adviser who has passed the G60 pension qualification.

Q. You helped me last year with my complaint against Norwich Union regarding a mis-sale of an endowment by Provident Mutual. But since September I have not had any reply to my letters from Norwich Union regarding other mis-selling complaints.
CS, Buckfastleigh.

A. Norwich Union's Provident Mutual sold you an investment bond, with the cost of servicing this plan added to your mortgage repayments. NU has accepted, after an investigation, that the sale of this product was inappropriate and has agreed to pay you £8,841 compensation for the additional cost of the mortgage and £5,177 for the investment losses you incurred on the bond.

NU was already required to pay you compensation of £2,129 because the Financial Ombudsman Service upheld your complaint for mis-selling of the endowment. On top of this, NU will pay you £100 as an ex-gratia sum because of the continued delays in handling your case.Your total compensation will be £16,247, but tax is payable on the element of compensation representing lost investment income.

Not only did NU not deal with your complaint quickly and effectively, we also had to be persistent in chasing NU to obtain a final resolution to your case.

Q. At the end of 2003, I paid a £75 deposit for kitchen furniture on my Halifax credit card. Late last year, the supplier went into administration, then into liquidation. I asked Halifax to repay the deposit, as I understand that under the Consumer Credit Act it has joint liability with the retailer for the transaction. Halifax rejected my claim on the basis of the time passed since the transaction. GG, by e-mail.

A. Claims for non-receipt of goods must be processed within 120 days from the date of transaction, under Visa terms. However, this does not affect your rights under the Consumer Credit Act. Halifax accepts that it has joint liability for the supply of goods under this Act and is accordingly paying you the £75 refund.

* If you have any queries, write to: Questions of Cash, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail: cash@independent.co.uk. Please send copies, not originals.

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