Simon Read: It's time to take time and save thousands

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The Independent Online

Mentioning the "P" word in public is usually reason enough for people to turn away, switch off or tune out. But please, do yourself a favour and read on as what I'm about to tell you could make an awful lot of difference to your financial future.

If you're into saving money – and who isn't? – then this is aimed at you. But it's much better advice than you'll find from any of the so-called money experts who spout about saving pounds on your gas bills or bank charges. I'm talking about your pension – there I've said it. No, please don't go, leave now and you could lose out on thousands.

I assume you want to be thousands, or tens of thousands, of pounds better off? Good. The key is to start thinking differently about your pension. Approach your retirement planning in the same way you think about your savings, utilities, insurance, mobile phone contract or broadband arrangements and you will almost certainly end up better off when you retire. I'll go further than that. Taking a little bit of time once a year or so to check your pension scheme and how well it is performing could mean the difference between having a comfortable retirement and struggling to survive your golden years.

I'm prompted to pass on this crucial advice by a shocking survey being published today by the Prudential. The company's research reveals that nearly a third of Britain's 8.8m active occupational pension scheme members pay no attention to how their retirement savings are invested, while 29 per cent – more than 2.5 million scheme members – have never reviewed how their chosen pension fund is performing. Even more alarming is the fact that almost half of workers aged 25-plus have their money invested in the "default" fund of their company pension scheme.

That inertia means millions run the risk of losing tens of thousands from the value of their pension pot. It's shocking that those same millions are happy to spend time to reduce their mobile phone bill by a few pounds, or scour the internet to cut a little off their gas or electricity charges. But when it comes to potentially losing out on comparatively huge sums, which could massively affect their lifestyle for decades in retirement, they choose to do nothing.

Making investment decisions about a pension fund is not a simple issue and there are lots of factors to consider. For that reason choosing the '"default" fund of a firm's pension scheme is an easy option, but it can be a financially disastrous one. That is especially true in a period of market turmoil when an investment decision taken as recently as six months ago may need to be completely reversed or, at the very least, re-examined. The decision to do something about this is in your own hands.

Taking action now to ensure your pension pot is on track could be essential. It may be that your money should be invested in different funds, or that you need to make additional voluntary contributions. If you can't decide about these factors for yourself then talk to an independent financial adviser who can help guide you through your options. You'll find details of specialist advisers at

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