Route maps for the maze

The last in our series on pensions looks at sources of information, help and expertise

GETTING a decent grasp of how the UK pensions system works is something that may well defeat many people. But not understanding pensions can lead to poor decisions that will have a serious impact on retirement income. So, to conclude this series, here is a list of sources of information, advice and help.

o Money Management magazine has a register of independent financial advisers (IFAs) who charge fees, and whose advice should not therefore be influenced by the commission they could earn from a sale. For a free list of advisers in your area ring 01179 769444. Money Management is a monthly magazine used mainly by financial advisers and other professionals. It often carries detailed articles on pensions and can be useful to people who are trying to work out which pension plan to buy. The magazine is stocked by many newsagents and costs pounds 4.50; or ring 0171-896 2525.

o IFA Promotion, a body that promotes independent financial advisers, can also supply a free list of IFAs. Ring 0117-971 1177.

o The Society of Pensions Consultants will supply a list of its members. Write to the society at Ludgate House, Ludgate Circus, London EC4A 2AB (0171-353 1688). The Association of Consulting Actuaries (ACA), at 1 Wardrobe Place, London EC4V 5AH (0171-248 3163), will also send a list of members.

o Opas is the Occupational Pensions Advisory Service. This is an official body, but independent of government. Despite its name and origins, it offers advice to people in dispute over an employer's scheme or a personal pension plan. Opas does not give advice on the state pension scheme, nor does it give general advice. Its services are free.

You can turn to Opas only after you have first tried to resolve the dispute directly yourself. In some cases Opas will intervene on your behalf. It is based in London but has a national network of volunteer advisers. Write to 11 Belgrave Road, London SW1V 1RB (0171-238 8080). Alternatively, you can contact it through the Citizens' Advice Bureau.

o The Pension Ombudsman has the power to adjudicate where the advice or intervention of Opas fails to resolve a dispute. The ombudsman can rule on complaints about injustice caused by maladministration and disputes about facts and law. The address of the ombudsman is the same as for Opas.

o The Personal Investment Authority Ombudsman is the arbiter in many cases, rather than the Pensions Ombudsman. In the case of personal pension plans and free-standing additional voluntary contribution plans (a type of top-up plan for those belonging to employer's schemes), the appropriate arbiter is usually the PIA Ombudsman at Centrepoint, 103 New Oxford Street, London WC1 1QH (0171-240 3838). You have to exhaust the complaints procedures of the plan provider before asking the PIA Ombudsman to rule on your case. The PIA Ombudsman rules on cases involving companies regulated by the Personal Investment Authority (or PIA), including many life insurance companies.

o A common area of dispute arises from the pensions scandal, where tens of thousands of people are believed to have been wrongly advised to leave employer's schemes.

The Personal Investment Authority runs a dedicated helpline to give advice on this. Ring 0171-417 7001.

o It is easy to lose track of pension rights built up with a former employer, especially as a lot of companies change their name or are taken over. The Pensions Scheme Registry may be able to help. Ring 0191-225 6393, or write to PO Box 1NN, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE99 1NN.

o For advice on state pensions contact your local DSS Freeline Social Security on 0800 666555. You can ask for form BR19 and fill it in to get a forecast of the state pension you are building up. The DSS also publishes a range of leaflets.

o If you are on the point of retiring and have a pension fund that has to be converted into a pension income in the form of an annuity it is important to get advice.

The life insurance company that runs your personal pension plan will certainly offer you an annuity, but you may well have the right to exercise the "open market option" and go to another annuity provider. Annuity rates can vary considerably from one provider to another. Make the wrong decision and you could be landed with an unnecessarily low income for the rest of your life.

Furthermore, there is now a new option, to postpone buying an annuity but to draw an income from your accumulated pension fund in the meantime. But this option, often called a deferred annuity, is not suitable for everyone. Annuity specialists include Annuity Direct (0171-588 9393) and the Annuity Bureau (0171- 620 4090).

o There are two highly readable books: 'Pension Power' by Debbie Harrison, published by John Wiley at pounds 10.99, and 'The Which? Guide to Pensions' by Jonquil Lowe, published by the Consumers' Association, at pounds 9.99.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manager - (communications, testing, DM)

£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manage...

Guru Careers: Finance Account Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Direct Marketing Manager - B2C, Financial Services - Slough

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity h...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum