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How to calculate your retirement income

Retirement fund jarThree-quarters of people nearing retirement don’t know what income they can expect once they stop working.

That's according to a new report from pension provider AXA Life Invest.

And the same could be true of those who are saving through alternatives to pensions.

So, however you're saving for retirement, here are five steps towards estimating your future income.

1.Take stock

Look up your most recent savings account and pension statements, as well as statements for other assets.

If you can't find any, contact the companies involved and ask for the balance.

Deduct what you think you're likely to spend before you retire.

And add on any savings and investment contributions you expect to make from now until that time.

If you're going to take up to a quarter of your pension pot as tax-free cash up front, deduct that too.

What's left is a conservative estimate of your future retirement pot.

2. Convert your pension pot into a retirement income

One way of converting your pension pot into a regular retirement income is to purchase an annuity.

If you retire today at 65, a £25,000 retirement pot could be converted into a guaranteed income of about £1,500 per year (£125 per month) until you die.

If you retire younger it might be less. If you retire older, or have health issues – which means you may qualify for an enhanced annuity - it might be more.

Annuity rates rise and fall. Generally they're low when interest rates are low – like now.

Although they could fall further, when you come to retire they could well be higher.

In 10 years, you might – for example – be able to convert a £25,000 pot into £2,000 or £2,500 per year.

To see roughly what your own retirement pot might be worth as a retirement income, take your total from step one and use Confused.com's annuity comparison service.

3. Estimate your state benefits

Get a projection of the state pension you'll be entitled to through the web page Get a State Pension statement.

Then use the government's online benefits adviser to see what other taxpayer-funded benefits to expect.

You'll need to include your state pension estimate, as well as your annuity amount from step two. Use your expected retirement age, not your actual age.

By the time you retire, taxpayers might not be able to fund all the benefits shown.

So you should halve the amount shown to be on the safe side.

4. Put it together

The benefits adviser will show you your expected private and state income in retirement.

If the total is disappointingly low, you could benefit by saving more for retirement and you'll probably have to work longer, perhaps part-time.

Before panicking, though, try to envisage, and even estimate, what your outgoings might be when you stop work.

Many retirees have lower costs than when they were younger.

5. Are you on track?

While you're at it, check where your money is invested.

Most people with investments (including pensions that are invested, rather than linked to a salary) should consider switching to low-cost index-tracking funds.

This is particularly so if you have some decades to go before retiring.

Index trackers track the stock market, or different stock markets around the world.

They can help people with little knowledge of investing to beat most private investors as well as many professional fund managers.

More importantly, they help you invest at low cost and with low risk compared to other stock-market investments, especially if you make regular contributions.

Nothing is guaranteed and there are substantial risks, however you choose to save for retirement, but generally, in the long run, index trackers keep up with and beat inflation.

This may make it easier for you to get the income you need.

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Neil Faulkner

Neil Faulkner

Neil Faulkner waded his way through a mountain of claims as a paralegal before moving on to be an insurance consultant and claims manager. He is a long-term investor, and one-time property owner and landlord. He writes about property, investing, insurance, consumer issues, and helping people get out of debt misery.

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