The pain of Equitable Life members looks set to be inflicted on others, this time policyholders of AMP, owner of Pearl Assurance, NPI and London Life.
Around two million people who have with-profits life insurance policies with these companies have been shocked to find that AMP is pulling out of the UK and transferring its funds to Henderson, after record losses. Not only that but it's moving all the NPI funds out of shares into cash, while slashing the equity holdings of Pearl and London Life. So when a stock market recovery does come, policyholders won't be at all well placed to benefit from it.
The future for these funds is bleak. They are already closed to new business and AMP looks like it wants to forget about them. Even though Henderson will be managing the money, AMP's confidence in that firm has been called into question amid rumours circulating last week that it is set to sack Henderson as investment manager for its own staff pension scheme. Yet policyholders are expected to be satisfied that they're in Henderson's hands.
For people who are relying on these funds for a comfortable retirement, it's a worrying situation. Those who want to get out will have to pay an exit penalty of 30 per cent, which is more than many will be able to afford.
Just as life at the Equitable didn't improve after the first penalties were introduced, the same is likely to be true of AMP. If you are near retirement, you ought to sit tight and wait for your payout. But if you are not in this position and can afford to swallow the penalty, it might be worth cutting your losses and running now, before the situation deteriorates. Every case is different, though, so policyholders should seek urgent advice from their financial adviser before taking any action.
The end is NI
There is more pension woe for the millions who weren't aware they had underpaid their national insurance contributions – because the Inland Revenue didn't send out any reminders between 1997 and 2001.
Only now, as they near retirement, are these people being told that unless they contribute as much as £1,500 in some cases, they won't get the full state pension they were banking on.
Many of those affected are on low incomes and will find it impossible to make up this shortfall. It's not good enough. It can be hard, as it is, making ends meet in retirement without discovering that the pittance of a state pension will be even less than expected. The Government needs to sort this out quickly.
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