How does flexible access work?

When you reach age 55, you can enjoy flexible access to your retirement savings. 

You can set up a regular income, or simply take some cash whenever you need it. The rest of your money will stay invested in your plan, so it still has time to grow. Usually, the first 25 per cent of any money you take out of your plan will be paid tax free. You can choose to take all your tax free cash in one go, or spread it out over a series of smaller payments. When you die, any savings you have left can be passed onto your loved ones.

Things to watch out for

With flexible access, there’s a risk your money could run out earlier than you’d like, so you’ll need to manage your income carefully. Also, if your investments don’t perform as well as you’d hoped, the value of your savings could go down - meaning you’d have less money to live on. If at any time you need more certainty, you can always choose to buy a regular secure income that’ll be paid for the rest of your life.

To find out more about your retirement options, talk to your financial adviser, or visit

Get up to speed 

If you’re planning to use flexible access, there’s lots to think about. Select a question below to see how flexible access works and what it could mean for you and your pension savings.

  • Enjoy the income you need, when you need it 

    You can take cash withdrawals, set up regular income payments and make changes as often as you need to. 

  • Take some tax-free cash 

    You can usually take up to a quarter of your pension savings as a tax-free lump sum*. This can be paid in one lump sum, or spread out over a series of smaller cash payments. 

  • Give your savings more time to grow 

    Whatever you leave in your plan will stay invested – meaning it still has potential to grow. 

  • Change your mind whenever you like 

    If your needs change, you can use the pension savings you have left to buy a secure income – this will pay you a guaranteed, regular income for the rest of your life.

*You may be able to take more than this if you successfully applied to HM Revenue & Customs for a greater allowance.

  • You're still exposed to investment risk

    While your money stays invested, there are no guarantees it will grow. So if your investments perform poorly, you could get back less than you started with. 

  • You could run out of money before you die

    With flexible access, your income isn't guaranteed to last forever. So if you take too much money, live longer than expected or if your investments don't perform as well as you'd hoped, you could run out of money before you die. 

  • You’ll need to actively review your plan

    As with any flexible access arrangement, regular reviews are key. You'll need to make sure the money you're taking out is sustainable - and adjust things if there's a risk your savings will run out too soon. 

  • Saving into other pension plans could be restricted

    When you start taking an income from a flexible access plan, the government puts a limit on how much you (and your employer) can save into other money purchase pension arrangements without a tax charge. This is called the money purchase annual allowance – and it’s currently set at £4,000 a year. 

  • Your entitlement to state benefits could be affected

    The amount of income and/or tax-free cash you take from your pension savings could affect your entitlement to means-tested state benefits, this includes such things as housing benefits and council tax reductions.

    You should remember that tax rules depend on your individual circumstances and may change in the future.

If you have money left in your plan when you die, it can be passed on to your loved ones – usually free of inheritance tax.

  • If you die before age 75, your pension savings can normally be paid to your loved ones however they like, tax free.
  • If you die aged 75 or older, your pension savings can be paid to your loved ones however they like, subject to tax.
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Remember - you can shop around

When you come to access your pension savings, you’re free to shop around. That means you don’t need to stay with the pension provider you’ve been saving with – you can take your savings to the market and see who can best meet your needs.

How does this income option compare?

*You may be able to take more than 25% if you have protected tax-free cash. A financial adviser could help you understand whether this applies to you.
Your options Secure income Flexible access Take cash
Can provide a regular income? Yes Yes No
Is my income guaranteed for the rest of my life? Yes No No
Can I change how much money I receive? No Yes Yes
Could my money run out later in retirement? No Yes Yes
Can I do something different with my savings in later years? No Yes Yes
Can I take some tax-free cash? Usually up to 25% of your pension pot*  Usually up to 25% of your pension pot*  Usually up to 25% of your pension pot* 
Find out more Secure income   Take cash

Explore your options

Before deciding to enjoy flexible access to your savings it's a good idea to take some time to fully understand all your options.

I'd like to learn more about flexible access

Flexible access lets you dip into your pension savings, while the rest stays invested in your plan. Simply tell us how you took out your pension plan - and we'll take things from there.

How you took your plan

Find the support you need

You've got some big decisions ahead - and no doubt you'll have some questions. 
The good news is, there's plenty of support available.


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