If ill health means you have to retire early


However carefully you've planned your retirement, things don't always go according to plan. If you're having problems with your health you might need to retire earlier than you expected.

There's plenty to think about as you approach retirement – but nothing is more important than your health. Aviva can help you understand how retiring earlier might affect your plans.

What do we mean by ill health?

Serious – or potentially serious – conditions such as stroke, heart disease, cancer or diabetes are examples of illnesses which sometimes cause people to bring forward their retirement date. People suffering from conditions such as these may also qualify to receive a higher income if they buy an annuity – a financial product which pays you an income for the rest of your life. More on this later.

Being diagnosed with a terminal illness can also affect your options – for instance, it could mean you're able to take all of your pension fund as cash before the standard age of 55. For these purposes, a terminal illness is usually defined as an incurable condition where the individual concerned is likely to have 12 months or less to live.

If you're already an Aviva pension customer and you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, please call us on 0800 158 3470 so we can guide you through your options.

What to consider…

If it looks as though you'll need to finish work earlier than you imagined, there are a number of questions you'll need to ask yourself.

  • Do you need an income from your pension fund?
  • Do you need to provide for any dependants?
  • Do you know what state benefits you may be entitled to?

You may well have thought about these issues already – but retiring earlier than you'd imagined may mean you need to resolve them sooner.

Getting an income from your pension fund

You can take your entire defined contribution pension fund as a lump sum when you reach 55. It won't matter how much you have in it, or if you have any other sources of income. You'll normally be able to take the first 25% as tax-free cash, and you'll pay tax at your marginal rate on the rest.

To find out more about accessing the money in your pension fund, it's worth reading the information on how can I take money from my pension Options such as annuities and income drawdown are available if you don't want to take the whole fund as a lump sum.

This change won't apply to defined benefit pension funds, or final salary pensions as they're more commonly known.

If you're providing for dependants

If you're used to going out to work every day, the idea of retirement can be hard to get used to. Especially if poor health has caused you to retire earlier than you'd planned. If you do find yourself in this situation, it's important to think carefully about the things that you can do something about – such as making retirement income choices that feel right for you and your dependants.

Checking what benefits you could claim

Any state benefits you currently receive could be affected if you retire early. You should check if you're eligible for any benefits, these include the personal independence payment or help with your bills.

For up-to-date information on the amounts you may receive, check with your local benefits office or online www.gov.uk.

Care options

You may want to know what the options are for long-term care and how your local authority could support you. Make sure you consider all of your options before making a decision.

How illness could affect you retirement income choices

If you choose an annuity

Sadly, ill health can often have a negative effect on your finances – as you'll know if you've been prevented from working. But if you choose an annuity to provide an income for you during retirement, ill health can actually mean you get a better deal. This is because you may be entitled to enhanced benefits since your condition may affect your life expectancy.

Read more about annuities here.

If you buy a single life annuity you need to know that the income it provides will normally cease when you die. Some annuities will continue paying an income to a dependant for a time if this happens, but it's important to shop around and make sure you know exactly what you're buying before you make a decision. You could also consider a joint life annuity, which would guarantee your dependant an income for life should you die first.

If you choose to take your fund as cash

Normally the rules state that you can take your cash at 55 as standard. However there may be circumstances when you can take it before aged 55 when retiring due to ill health. It's important to check with your pension provider which conditions are accepted under this rule.

If you choose income drawdown

Thinking about your dependants is also important if you choose to use income drawdown to provide you with an income in retirement. Please remember if you choose income drawdown your pension pot remains invested. The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you could get back less than paid in.

You'll need to specify how you'd like the money from your fund to be distributed among your dependants in the event of your death. You can decide whether you'd like your dependants to receive only an income, or to have the choice of a lump sum. Tax may be applicable on income or lump sum options, depending on circumstances.

Read more about income drawdown here.

Pension Wise has been set up by the government and offers free and impartial guidance for people retiring with defined contribution pensions. It will help you understand what your choices are and how they work.

You'll be able to get help on the Pension Wise website, over the phone or face to face.

If you are approaching retirement we recommend you get guidance or advice to help you understand your options.

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There’s a lot to think about when planning your retirement. Take a look at our

Frequently Asked Questions.

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