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Page last updated at 13:13 GMT, Monday, 4 October 2010 14:13 UK
Top tips for a better pension future

Planning for retirement needs to start early, experts warn

In Who's Taken My Pension? Panorama has looked at the cost of planning for retirement. We asked Malcolm Mclean, a pension consultant at Barnett Waddingham, to give us his top tips on planning your pension.

1. Do not put off starting a pension or some other savings plan for your old age.

Because of the way compound interest works the earlier you start the less it will cost you. So start early and pay in as much as you can. As a very rough rule of thumb a good starting point would be half your age as a percentage of your income. So at 24 this will mean 12 per cent of your income but if you cannot afford that much, any lower amount would be useful as a start.

2. Always consider joining your employer's scheme if there is one as a first step.

Not joining is tantamount to turning away wages. Your employer will be putting money in as well as you - and the government will be giving you tax relief on your contributions as well.

3. Never be afraid to ask questions of your advisor or the scheme about your pension plan.

Make sure you understand how your plan works. How much are the fees, commissions and charges you might have to pay? What might you expect to get back in returns? Do not be put off by apparent complexity. Do not be shy when it comes to asking questions and be sure to challenge any jargon. Insist on explanations in plain English. When it comes to pension planning, there really is no such thing as a stupid question.

4. Review your pension plan regularly.

Check your regular pension statements to make sure you are on track to get the level of pension income you expect to receive when you retire. If not, ask your advisor what else you can do - pay in extra contributions or change your investment strategy if necessary. Always take advice before making major changes.

5. Do not forget the state pension.

This depends on your record of National Insurance contributions. If you have not done so recently, ask for a forecast from the Pension Service of your likely entitlement. If there are gaps, consider whether it might be worthwhile - if possible - to cover them by paying voluntary contributions.

You can get further pension information and resources via the BBC News website's Your Pensions pages.

Who's Taken My Pension? BBC One, Monday, 4 October at 2030BST and then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer

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