How to consolidate pensions

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Fact Checked.
Updated on
January 10, 2023

In a nutshell

Consolidating your pensions is now super easy – a good pension provider will handle everything for you. All you need to do is pick your favourite new provider and let them know where your old pensions are – they’ll handle the rest. However you can’t transfer your existing workplace pension until you leave your company.

Nutty

If you've got lots of pensions all over the place or just a couple, it's a good idea to consolidate them into one (combining pensions together), and take advantage of all the lovely benefits.

Pension consolidation

You’ll never have to worry about where they are, or how much you have in them again. Plus, you can potentially benefit from lower fees and better growth (performance) over time if you pick a pension provider that manages your money and invests it wisely (meaning your pension pot could be much bigger by the time you retire).

The good news is that it’s super easy to do – a good pension provider (people who manage pension pots) will take care of the whole transfer process. Just give them the name of your old pension provider, it really is that easy!

How to consolidate pensions

All you have to do is choose the right provider for you – not sure what one to use? We’ve got you covered – we’ve done all the research and put together the best personal pensions

Best providers to consolidate pensions

In a rush? The best way to consolidate your pensions is simply by letting a good pension provider handle everything for you. Here’s the best pensions:

Best pension providers

Boost your pension pot with a personal pension – you’ll get a 25% bonus on everything you pay in too.

Best personal pensionsBest personal pensions

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Best overall

PensionBee

PensionBee are leading the way with modernising pensions. The investment options are great for many pension savers, it’s an awesome app and website, which are both easy to use, and have tools and charts to show you how your money is growing – and importantly, how to hit your retirement goals.

It's easy to set up and get going, you can start a brand new pension, or simply transfer your existing pensions across.

You’ll pay one simple fee that decreases the more you save.

Fees: low (0.5% to 0.75%) for their core plans

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PensionBee rated 5 stars

Our friends at PensionBee will contribute £50 to your pension when you open a PensionBee account.

Capital at risk.

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Simple and easy

Penfold

Penfold is a great app to get you going, with simple pension fund options to choose from and awesome features on the app to view your money at any time. Plus simple tables and charts to work out how much you should be investing to hit your retirement goals.

You don’t need an existing pension to use it, but if you do have one, or a few, you can move those overs too.

Fees: low (0.75% or 0.88%)

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Penfold rated 5 stars

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Expert advice

Moneyfarm

Moneyfarm is like a financial advisor on your phone (or website), their experts will work with you to determine the best investment strategy. It’s low cost, with an excellent investment track record and great customer service.

You’ll pay one simple fee that decreases the more you save.

Fees: low (0.35% to 0.75%)

Rating

Moneyfarm rated 5 stars

Quick overview of pensions

Before we get any further, we just want to make sure we’re all on the same page with pensions as they can be quite confusing, especially all the different types of pensions there are. Don't worry, we'll explain everything clearly.

First of all, there's 2 categories for pensions, a private pension and then the government pension (called the State Pension).

The State Pension

The State Pension is what you’ll get when you reach official retirement age, currently 66 but rising to 68 in the future, but only if you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions – at least 10 years but 35 years to get the full amount. 

State Pension

You’ll get up to £185.15 per week, which works out at a lot less than minimum wage. And that’s where private pensions come in.

Private pensions

A private pension is a pension all in your name (private to you), you get to decide how much money you put in, and when to take it out (as long as you’re over 55 years old). There’s 2 different types of private pension, a workplace pension and a personal pension.

Workplace pensions

A workplace pension is what your employer will set up for you (if you’re employed), they’ll pick the pension provider and take contributions directly from your salary (before you pay tax, so it's technically tax-free!). 

Workplace pensions

You’ll have to pay at least 5% of your salary each year, and your employer will add 3%, so it’s kind of like a pay rise!

Personal pensions

A personal pension is one you set up yourself – you pick the pension provider, and unlike workplace pensions, you decide where and how your money is invested. Don't worry, you'll normally be given a few simple options and after that it's all managed by experts.

Workplace pensions and Personal pensions

As it's your choice, you can pick a provider that’s easy to use, has low fees and a great track record of growing money (we’ll cover this in more detail). 

Plus, you can still benefit from tax-free saving. The government will automatically give you a 25% bonus on anything you put in (yep, we’re not joking!). Why? Well, you've already paid tax on your salary, this is them just giving it back to you, as pensions are meant to be a tax-free way of saving money.

Personal pensions

There’s also a self-invested personal pension (SIPP), which is a personal pension where you decide which investments to make, rather than the experts. We don’t recommend this option unless you know what you’re doing when it comes to investing.

Although confusingly, modern SIPP providers also have experts managing the investments for you – you just pick from a smaller range of investment options, so act just like a regular personal pension. They're great because the fees are normally lower and you still have the experts looking after your money. We highly recommended them here at Nuts About Money.

Self-invested personal pensions (SIPP)

Note: if you’re self-employed, a personal pension is your only option, but it's still a great way to save for your future. Learn more with our guide to self-employed pensions.

Should I consolidate my pensions?

Retirement planning is really important, even though most people don't think about it, we should all be trying to save as much as possible for when we stop working and don't have a salary.

Having a big pension later in life can really make a big difference in your livings standards as it’s often your only source of income.

That’s why we recommend that most people should consolidate their pensions. And here’s why:

Never forget where they are

If you combine your pensions so they’re all in one place, you’ll never have to worry about forgetting where your pensions are. If you’ve had lots of jobs over the years (like most of us), you’ll likely have pensions all over the place.

Lost pensions

This can be a big issue when it comes to retirement as no one from your pension company is going to remind you to take your pension (they’d rather you forgot about it and kept taking their fees!).

Having them all together in one place, and telling your loved ones where it is will make it a lot easier for your family to get access to your well earned money when you pass away. You’ll also be able to nominate who gets your pension (a beneficiary) to make things a bit easier too.

Keep up to date with your pension performance

Ask yourself this, do you know how much you have in your pension right now? Didn’t think so, not many people do!

With your pensions all together, and using a modern provider means you'll be able to see your total pension savings whenever you like. Knowing how much is in your pension is essential to working out how much you should be saving every month or year in order to have the retirement you want.

Morden pension providers

By the way, we've done the maths to work out how much you’ll need in your pension pot when it comes to retirement, and it’s a lot! You’ll need as much as £869,533 to provide a yearly income of £33,600 in retirement. Don’t worry, we can help you get there – read our guide to how much you’ll need in your pension pot to learn more.

Potentially save on fees

Most people don't think about fees when it comes to pensions, probably because they are usually hidden, and just get taken from your total balance automatically. 

You'll pay fees with all pension providers, including your current providers. However, some of the nicer pension providers out there will actually reduce their fee if you have more saved with them (as a percentage of your pension balance).

This is great news as fees can eat away at the growth (profit) of your pension over the years.

If the fees are too high, your money won’t be growing as fast as it potentially could be, which can have a huge impact on the size of your total pension pot when it comes to retirement.

That’s because of something called compound interest. This is when your money makes interest and this interest itself makes more interest too – this snowballs over and over every year.

High fees can slow this growth down a lot, a small saving when you first start out saving for a pension can have a dramatic effect on the total amount when you retire.

Pension compounding interest

Fees are important, but this also applies to the investment performance of your pension too…

Potentially grow your pension more

When you save into a pension, your money is actually invested into something called a pension fund. This is a large pool of money from loads of different people’s pensions, and this money itself is managed by expert investors, using sensible investment strategies to grow your pension over time.

Compound interest also applies here – if you have a poor performing pension, it can mean a much lower total pension pot when you retire, and if you have a great performing pension – you could be flush with cash when you retire. The difference can be huge!

By choosing a pension provider with a great track record of growing money over time can be a good bet that they’ll continue to grow pensions well in the future too.

Typically workplace pensions, which you get from working a job, don’t tend to have the best performance. But the good news is that with a personal pension you get to decide which pension company you want to use – and transfer over all your old workplace pensions.

By the way, you don’t need to panic about your pension being invested, it’s the best way of growing money over time – pensions always tend to go up, and the longer they’re invested, the more they grow – we’re simply talking about the difference between how much a pension fund can grow over time.

Pension fund performance

Is consolidating pensions safe?

Yep! It’s perfectly safe to consolidate your pensions, your money is transferred directly from provider to provider and your new provider will handle everything for you. Your money will simply appear in your pension account when it’s transferred.

Pensions are looked after by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), who make sure that pension providers are looking after your money properly. They need to authorise all companies in order for them to operate and are continually reviewed.

Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)

You can check if a company is allowed to manage your pension by checking the FCA register.

This also means that your pension is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), should anything happen to the pension provider, such as going out of business. This provides compensation up to the whole amount of your pension.

In addition, with pensions and investments, your money is actually held within the investments themselves and these are held in your name, with a separate very large bank, and can only be returned to you.

Can I consolidate my pensions?

Yep! Almost everyone with a pension can transfer and combine their pensions if they want to – that’s providing they have a defined contribution pension scheme. 

Defined contribution pensions are pensions where you contribute money yourself, and where your employer can too, such as with workplace pensions.

Defined contribution pensions

Note: providing it’s not your current workplace pension, you can transfer these to any new pension provider any time you like!

The alternative type of pension scheme is a defined benefit pension scheme. These are common in government jobs, such as the NHS, and how much you get in your pension each month is determined by how much you earn during your career and how long you’ve worked there.

A defined benefit pension is also often called final salary pensions, but you’ll be very lucky if your pension scheme does actually offer a final salary pension these days – they’re very rare!

You can technically transfer defined benefit pensions, and they’ll be given a ‘pension transfer value’ to transfer them to a defined contribution pension scheme (which all personal pensions are). However, if the transfer value is over £30,000 then legally you’ll need advice from a financial advisor. You can find great financial advisors with Unbiased¹.

Exit fees

Exit fees are a fee you might have to pay when transferring your pension away from your current provider to a new provider (with some very greedy pension providers!).

Most modern pensions won’t have exit fees (in fact it’s illegal to have them on new pensions), however some older pension providers can have fees.

The current rules are that if you are over 55, and you do have an exit fee, it’s capped at 1%, and providers cannot increase their fee to 1% if it was lower than this. 

However it’s likely you don’t have a fee, or if you do it’s a small one – your new pension provider will let you know if you do, and how much it is before they transfer your pension.

If you do have a fee, it’s often a good idea to pay it anyway, as it likely means you’re paying a higher annual fee than you otherwise could be (with another provider), and it could be worse investment performance – so you could save (and make) much more money over time with a better provider.

How to consolidate your pension

You’ve got 2 options to consolidate your pension pots, although the first is much better than the second. Here’s your options:

1. Open a new personal pension

Your best option is to open a new personal pension with a top personal pension provider. Using a personal pension means you have complete control over where and how your money is saved – which pension company to use and which pension plan to use (for instance, a socially responsible pension plan (e.g. no fossil fuels) – we’re big fans of these here at Nuts About Money).

Set up a personal pension

You can choose a pension provider that’s easy to use, has low fees, a great track record of growing money over time, and one that provides complete transparency over your money at all times (such as an app on your phone).

Best of all, good pension providers make pension transfers super easy (pension consolidation), they’ll handle the whole transfer process for you. You just need to let them know who your old pension providers are. Just a reminder, our top pick is PensionBee¹, for all the reasons just above! To compare, here’s the full range of the best personal pensions.

2. Transfer old pensions to your current workplace pension

If you’re employed in a job currently, you’ll likely have a workplace pension set up by your employer. If you want to, you can transfer your old pensions to your current workplace pension, if your new pension provider allows it.

This is not often the best idea however, as typically workplace pensions can have higher fees and not the best investment performance (they’re often just set up as it’s a legal requirement, rather than finding the best pension providers out there).

You also won’t be able to transfer your pension away to another pension provider until you leave your company. And that includes all of your pensions you transfer to your current workplace pension (as they’ve been consolidated into one!).

What happens when you retire

Hopefully you’ve got a nice big pension pot when it comes to retirement after all those years of saving – and ready to live a comfortable retirement. All in one easy to manage pension with a great pension provider, after transferring your old pension schemes and consolidating your pension.

Nuts About Money tip: if you’re a bit worried about how much you’ll have, here’s how much you should be paying into your pension.

As long as you’re over 55 (57 in 2028), you’ve got 2 options to start taking your private pension. Although we recommend leaving it until you retire so your pension savings grow even bigger!

First, you could use your pension pot to buy an annuity, which is a guaranteed income for the rest of your life (or a set number of years). Or, you could leave your pension pot where it is and start withdrawing cash from it as and when you want it (such as regular monthly payments).

The good news is that the first 25% of your pension is completely tax-free, and you can take this as a tax-free lump sum if you like. If you don’t take it as a lump sum, the first 25% of every payment will be tax-free.

The remaining 75% will be liable for Income Tax, which is the same as your salary now. However, you’ll still get your Personal Allowance each year, which is how much you can earn before you start paying tax, and is currently £12,570 per year.

And if you qualify for the State Pension, you’ll start getting this at age 66, but rising to 67 in 2028, and later to 68.

Over to you

And that’s everything you need to know about pension consolidation. We hope we've simplified a pretty complicated topic for you!

We recommend consolidating your pension pots if possible, it makes managing your pension savings much easier, and you’ll never forget where they are, as you’ll just have one single pension to look after (plus it’s much easier for your family if you pass away).

By using a good modern pension provider, you’ll also be able to view your total pension balance any time you like – and plan how much you’ll need to save to have the retirement you want. Plus, you can top up your pension whenever you like (straight from the app on your phone).

And by consolidating your pension, you’ll potentially benefit from lower fees (as a percentage of the total amount saved) and potentially better investment performance over time. Both of these things can have a huge impact on the total pension pot when you come to retire – and can be the difference of £100s, if not £1,000s per month in your monthly pension income.

What makes it even better is it's super easy to do too – all you need to do is pick a great new personal pension provider and they’ll handle everything for you. Just let them know where your old pensions are (if you’ve forgotten, your old employers can let you know).

To help you find the best new provider for you, we’ve done the research and put together the best personal pensions where PensionBee¹ comes out on top. They’re rated 5 stars, have low fees, a great track record of growing pensions over time and can handle everything for you. Here’s our PensionBee review to learn more.

It’s really that simple. Now over to you. And some last words of wisdom, the more you can save now, the bigger your retirement income will be!

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Best pension providers

Boost your pension pot with a personal pension – you’ll get a 25% bonus on everything you pay in too.

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This article was written by the team at Nuts About Money, and fact-checked by 2 independent reviewers. You’re in safe hands.

Best pension providers

Boost your pension pot with a personal pension – you’ll get a 25% bonus on everything you pay in too.

Best personal pensionsBest personal pensions

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