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Leaving pension admin to your partner? Five times to take the helm

Five life events where it’s absolutely crucial that you take charge of your pension. Plus something you might not have thought of.

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.

When we surveyed people in relationships*, more than half of them said that one partner tends to take the lead on long-term financial planning. And a quarter of those who are less involved in some financial areas say they’ve lost track as a result.

Leaving the lion’s share of your pension admin to your partner isn’t necessarily a bad thing if they’re keeping you in the loop. But neglecting it completely has serious risks.

We’ve taken a look at the five critical life stages where you need to check in with your pension and make the decisions yourself. Plus, the other significant time where it could help you save tax.

*HL survey of 2000 respondents conducted April 2021.

This isn't personal advice. If you're not sure what's right for your situation, ask for financial advice. Pension, LISA and tax rules can change, and benefits depend on your circumstances.

The five times you should reconnect with your pension

1. Now

There’s never a better time to start looking after your pension than now.

While 'Now' might not be a critical life stage. If you haven’t thought about or looked at your pension for a while, then you should think about using the tools and topics discussed below to review your pension.

2. When you change job

If you’ve been automatically enrolled into a new workplace pension, you should check how much you’ll be paying in each month and whether your employer will pay in more if you do too.

Try our pension calculator to get an idea of whether your contributions will be enough for the retirement you want, and how paying more in all adds up. Keep in mind that you won’t usually be able to access money in a pension until at least age 55 (57 from 2028).

You should also check in with your previous workplace pension (and any other old pensions you have) to see whether it’s worth bringing them together. Transferring them into one pot could make it easier to keep track of what you’ve got.

For more control over where you invest, you might want to consider the HL Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) as the new home for your old pensions. Before transferring, check you won’t lose valuable benefits and whether your current provider will charge any exit fees.

More on transferring

3. If you take a career break

Career breaks often mark the start of a major life change like starting a family, but it’s important that your pension doesn’t fall off the agenda.

If one of you is changing work patterns, talk to your partner about pension contributions and find something that works for both of you. Simply cutting your pension contributions and assuming your partner’s will make up for it later could leave you out of pocket if you ever separate.

Plus, you could miss out on tax relief. Even if you’re not earning, you can still pay up to £2,880 into pensions each tax year and get 20% tax relief added on top. Providing you’re a UK resident, you can do this up until your 75th birthday.

If you’re taking a break to go on paid parental leave, it could pay to keep your pension contributions going if you can. That’s because your contributions will normally be based on your actual earnings during that period (which are likely to be lower). But any employer contributions will continue to be based on the level of earnings you were getting before any paid parental leave started.

Career breaks impact women’s pensions

Thanks in part to career breaks, women can end up with less saved for retirement compared to men. Read our guide for practical tips on how you can try and boost your pension and plug the gender pension gap.

Download the guide

4. If you get divorced

Not knowing how much your pension is worth (or that of your partner’s) could mean they’re overlooked at divorce and not divided fairly. In fact, the Pensions Policy Institute found that seven out of ten divorce settlements didn’t take pensions into account.

Not getting your fair share could seriously derail your retirement plans. Especially for divorced women who tend to have far less pension wealth than their male counterparts.

If a divorce leaves your pension pot severely diminished, you might need to revisit your retirement plans and consider rebuilding it as quickly as possible.

5. When you hit 50

If you’ve been leaving things to your partner until now, your 50s are the time to wade in and take a more active role. It’s the last sprint before retirement, so you should start to scope out your retirement plans and whether you’re paying in enough to reach your goals.

You should also take stock of where your pensions are invested and whether they line up with your plans. It all depends on how you plan to access your pension, the timescales involved, and the level of risk you’re happy with.

For example, you might want to think about switching to more cautious investments or cash in the hope of locking in any gains. But keep in mind that unlike the security offered by cash, all investments go down as well as up in value and you could get back less than you put in.

Download our step-by-step guide for help creating your retirement plan.


Checking in with your partner

If you’re sharing your life and your finances with a partner, it’s time to start talking to them about money and get a plan in place for the future.

Read our guide for practical tips on:

  • How to start the conversation
  • Aligning your spending and saving
  • Ways to save for your goals


Smart tricks if you’re changing tax brackets

It’s not quite a life event, but moving to a higher rate of tax means you could get more tax relief on what you pay into a pension. You could get up to 45% on what you pay in, depending on what you earn, so you might consider paying more in. Just remember to check your pension contribution limits first and that Scottish tax rates and bands are different.


And if you’re a basic-rate taxpayer, a Lifetime ISA (LISA) could be a smart way to save for retirement. It makes sense to maximise any employer pension contributions first. But after that, you could consider putting up to £4,000 into a LISA every tax year and get a 25% top up from the government.

The trick is that, for basic-rate taxpayers, the government bonus is effectively the same as the basic-rate tax relief you’d receive on your pension contributions.

When you come to take a pension, you only usually get the first 25% as tax free and the rest is taxable. But with a LISA, withdrawals are completely tax free after the age of 60.

If your employer offers salary sacrifice for your pension contributions, this can give extra savings compared with a LISA, so you should consider this as well. If not, we think a LISA could be more tax-efficient for basic-rate taxpayers.

You need to be between 18 and 39 to open a LISA. But once it’s open, you can keep paying in until your 50th birthday. Any withdrawals before 60 that aren’t used for an eligible first home purchase will normally have an exit penalty of 25%, so you could get back less than you put in.


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    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.

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