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Bid/offer spread: the cost of buying your investment, often 5 per cent of contributions.

Allocation rate: the percentage of your contribution that actually goes into your pension fund. It can be misleading. For example, pension companies sometimes claim an allocation rate of 102 per cent, which looks attractive until you realised the allocation is applied after the bid/offer spread. This means you invest pounds 100, lose 5 per cent through the bid/offer spread and only then gain 2 per cent through the allocation.

Policy/plan/initial fee: charged on every contribution you make. A pounds 2 monthly charge may seem little but if you are paying pounds 50 it adds up to 4 per cent.

Annual fund management charge: can be a further 1 or 1.5 per cent of your fund value.

Front-end loading: where the initial commission for setting up your pension is paid to an IFA upfront. This can eat up to 85 per cent of your first two years' contributions.

Level-loading: the IFA's commission is paid over the full course of the pension.

Carrying back: this allows you to make a contribution in one tax year but have it treated as if it had been paid the previous year to exploit any unused tax relief

Carrying forward: if you have unused tax-relief on personal pension contributions from the last six years, you can claim this relief on extra pension payments.