Coronavirus - we're here to help
From how to access your account online, scam awareness, your wellbeing and our community we're here to help.

Skip to main content
  • Register
  • Help
  • Contact us
  • Log in to HL Account

6 types of pensions worth holding onto

We look at six types of pension where it's unlikely to be a good idea to transfer, and explain how to find out if you have one.

Important notes

This article isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure whether an investment is right for you please seek advice. If you choose to invest the value of your investment will rise and fall, so you could get back less than you put in.

Transferring certain pensions or consolidating old pensions can be a good idea if you're looking for a way to make managing your finances easier. Or even if you've found a provider who offers better value or investment choice.

But in a few cases, some pensions are just best left where they are. In this article we look into six different types of pension where it's unlikely to be a good idea to transfer.

This article isn't personal advice. If you're unsure whether a course of action is right for you, please ask for advice. Pension rules can and do change and the benefits will be dependent on your own circumstances.

  1. Pensions with Guaranteed Annuity Rates

    An annuity provides you with a retirement income that's guaranteed for life. If your pension scheme comes with a guaranteed annuity rate (sometimes referred to as GAR), it's likely to be a higher rate than what's available on the open market. So you could be better off buying the annuity through your current provider. To find out whether you have one of these, just simply check with your provider.

    The way the annuity is paid is often hard-wired into the plan, which might not be what you'd automatically choose. You might be able to change the basis of the annuity, but this could affect the initial rate offered.

    If you have a pension without a guaranteed rate, you'll usually get a higher annuity income if you shop around.

    More about annuities

    Please be aware you might also be required to take financial advice if you decide to transfer one of these pensions and it's worth £30,000 or more.

  2. Defined Benefit pensions

    These pensions offer a guaranteed income when you reach retirement. It will normally increase each year, and usually continue to be paid to your spouse, civil partner or dependants, often at a reduced rate, when you die. You're more likely to have one if you've ever worked in the public sector, or for a large company in the past.

    There can be some niche circumstances where a transfer can make sense. But the transfer value you get in return normally undervalues the benefits you sacrifice. A starting point could be to assume a transfer of this type might not be the best option.

    Some of these pensions will also have an additional voluntary contribution (AVC) pot linked to the scheme, which can give more flexibility when it comes to accessing tax-free cash. Your pension provider should be able to confirm these details and your options if they apply.

    And again, you'll also need to take financial advice when transferring this type of pension, providing it's worth £30,000 or over.

  3. Pensions with Guaranteed Fund Returns

    These pensions (also referred to as ‘guaranteed drawdown') have been around for a while, but they tend to be few and far between. They can be looked at as a halfway house between an annuity and drawdown.

    The returns might not be very high, but they can offer security for some, so it might not be worth transferring. You should check these details with your provider.

  4. Old Company Pensions or Section 32 Plans that allow enhanced tax free cash

    Some company pensions that contain benefits that were built up before April 2006 might allow members to take more than the maximum 25% tax-free cash entitlement that applies to most pensions. This quirk can mean more of your plan can be claimed without paying tax on it.

    However, just because it has this quirk, it doesn't automatically mean a transfer isn't a good choice. It depends on the size of the enhanced tax-free cash and the growth prospects in the scheme, as well as the retirement options available to you, which could be limited. You can ask your provider for a pension statement which should explain your options and detail any protected benefits you hold.

    Some old company pensions might also allow you to take benefits from them before age 55 (the earliest you can usually take money from a pension).

    It might also be possible to retain the enhanced tax-free cash entitlement or protected retirement age when transferring, although certain conditions do need to be met. Again, it's worth speaking to your provider for more information.

  5. Pensions with large exit penalties

    Most modern pension plans charge little or nothing to transfer. However some older style pensions can charge bigger sums, including market value reductions if you're invested in a ‘With Profits' fund. So it's very important to contact your provider and check this before deciding to transfer.

    There is an exception to the rule though. If you're 55 or over and have a personal pension, early exit fees are capped at a maximum of 1%. So if you're fed up with your existing provider, remember a low cost transfer is usually available ahead of taking any income, or lump sum. This might be of particular interest if your current provider doesn't offer access to all the main retirement options – drawdown, lump sums and annuities.


  6. On-going employer contributions

    Your employer might have put you into a pension scheme that you don't like. But transferring that pension will only make sense if the contributions your employer makes on your behalf can carry on being paid into the pension scheme you want to transfer to.

    Some employers will allow these to be redirected, but most won't. In these instances it's usually best to wait and continue to collect the contributions in your current scheme, until you leave their employment before deciding to transfer. If your provider doesn't allow for redirected payments, you might wish to consider transferring just part of your pension. That way you can keep your employer pension open and benefit from the best of both worlds.

If your pension's not on the list…

If you've considered the above, including all exit fees and valuable benefits, and you still want to transfer, or have an old pension you're not happy with, transferring to a scheme that better meets your needs is possible. If you want a wide investment choice, good value and excellent customer service, you could consider transferring to the HL SIPP.

All you need to do is confirm the details of the pension you want to transfer, and we'll normally do all the legwork for you.

Most pensions are transferred electronically as cash – selling any investments first. This is particularly important to consider during times of market volatility. It could play in your favour if the market falls, but if it rises you'll miss out on the potential gains.

If you decide, and are able, to transfer your investments without selling them, you'll normally be unable to make any changes to your portfolio until the transfer is complete. Due to their nature, and third parties being involved, these transfers tend to take longer than transferring as cash.

More about transferring

What did you think of this article?

What did you think of this article?

Thanks for your feedback

Click here

What did you think of this article?

Thanks for your feedback

Click here

Editor's choice: our weekly email

Sign up to receive the week’s top investment stories from Hargreaves Lansdown

Please correct the following errors before you continue:

    Existing client? Please log in to your account to automatically fill in the details below.


    Your postcode ends:

    Not your postcode? Enter your full address.


    Hargreaves Lansdown PLC group companies will usually send you further information by post and/or email about our products and services. If you would prefer not to receive this, please do let us know. We will not sell or trade your personal data.

    Important notes

    This article isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure whether an investment is right for you please seek advice. If you choose to invest the value of your investment will rise and fall, so you could get back less than you put in.

    Editor's choice – our weekly email

    Sign up to receive the week's top investment stories from Hargreaves Lansdown. Including:

    • Latest comment on economies and markets
    • Expert investment research
    • Financial planning tips
    Sign up

    Related articles

    Category: Pensions

    Downsizing at retirement – are pensions safer than houses?

    Average house prices saw their biggest annual rise since 2016. We look at the potential pitfalls of rushing into downsizing, and why you shouldn’t assume that your property is your pension.

    Michelle Branco

    18 Sep 2020 4 min read

    Category: Pensions

    Retirement age to increase – what this means for pensioners

    Millions of people in the UK are set to have to wait an extra two years to dip into their pension savings. We discuss the proposed rule change and offer three top tips if you’re looking to retire early.

    Isabel McDougall

    17 Sep 2020 4 min read

    Category: Pensions

    In the dark over pensions? What you don’t know could haunt you later

    Lots of people aren’t sure what happens to the money in their pension – and it could cost them later on. We shed light on the pension basics and help you get yours on track for retirement.

    Michelle Branco

    17 Sep 2020 4 min read

    Category: Pensions

    Autumn Budget – cuts to pension tax relief around the corner?

    We look at the possibility of pension tax relief cuts in the upcoming Autumn Budget and what these changes could mean for your pension.

    Michelle Branco

    15 Sep 2020 4 min read