The alpha pension a scheme available to many civil servants. But what are the main benefits involved and how do you make the most of them? I’ll give you a simple guide to the alpha pension.
If you’ve stumbled across this page and have no idea what an alpha pension is, I would move on as it probably has no relevance to you whatsoever! However, if you know what I’m talking about, read on.
Back in 2015, a large number of civil servants had their old pension scheme closed and were moved onto a scheme called alpha. A frustration for many, but it was an attempt by the government to decrease its costs and make sure that the UK didn’t end up like Greece with a lot of people taking early retirement.
Now, I realise many employees were on different pensions beforehand, so I won’t touch on those as I don’t have enough knowledge or time to comment.
And, there is so much to the alpha pension that it makes my head hurt a little. However, I will try to comment on the salient points.
Is the Alpha pension any good?
Lets be honest here. Members weren’t moved over from their legacy pension to Alpha because it was a more generous scheme. However, it is far more generous compared to most pension schemes that you will find in the private sector.
How is the Alpha pension calculated?
As we all know, you pay a certain % depending on your salary. For the majority of staff, it will be 5.45%, but table below explains more.
|Annual Rate of Pensionable Earnings||Member Contributions Rates|
|£0.00 - £15,000||4.60%|
|£15,001 to £21,636||4.60%|
|£21,637 to £51,515||5.45%|
|£51,516 to £150,000||7.35%|
|£150,001 and above||8.05%|
The government will then add their contribution to the pension, which works out around 26%. But remember, this is a defined benefit scheme. That means you are guaranteed to be paid a certain amount from your pension whether you live to 70 or 110.
The amount you contribute is taken from your pensionable earnings. Generally, that is money you can expect to earn as a regular part of your contract. So earnings through overtime do not count. A full (and fun) breakdown can be found here.
How much is my pension worth each year?
So, you may pay 5.45% (on average) of your income into your pension, but the government actually uses a figure of 2.32% when calculating how much your pension will be worth each year.
For example, if you earn £36,000, £835.20 will be put into the Alpha scheme. When you hit 68, that £835.20 will make up your annual pension. This figure is usully adjusted though to take into consideration the cost of living. Usually, this means an increase but that’s not guaranteed.
Let’s say the cost of living increases 1%, that means at the beginning of year 2, your pension will be worth (based on the aforementioned figure) £843.55. And let’s say you don’t get a pay rise, and you earn the same the following year, your pension will be worth £1678.75 at the end of year 2. Again, this figure will then be adjusted after the cost of living is decided.
What does that figure mean?
Once you reach retirement age, that figure (as it accumulates) will be your annual pension. For many, that age will be 68 but will be 65-67 for select others (or oldies as I like to call you).
Example from the Alpha site
During the scheme year, a member had Pensionable Earnings of £16,000.00.
2.32% of a member’s Pensionable Earnings is used to calculate their alpha pension.
Pensionable Earnings x 2.32% = Amount of alpha pension accrued up to 31 March 2018
£16,000.00 x 2.32 % = £371.20
An annual adjustment is then applied to the total pension balance at the start of the following
scheme year in line with the Consumer Price Index. For 2018, the increase is 3%:
£371.20 x 3% = £11.14
£371.20 + £11.14 = £382.34
Can I take a lump sum?
You can. £1 of your pension is worth £12 towards your lump sum. Let’s pretend you have a pension worth £20,000 and you need a lump sum of £24,000. That lump sum equates to £2000 of your annual pension (12 x 2000). So, when you take your lump sum your pension will be reduced to £18,000 per year.
Can I retire earlier?
The Alpha scheme does allow you to retire at 55 but you will take a reduced payment. What that is, I can’t tell you. It’s a secret. Actually, it’s not a simple calculation.
Taken from the site:
The factors are worked out by the scheme actuaries, using assumptions such as life expectancy.
The pension you have built up to the date you retire is adjusted by the factor according to your age and how early you are taking your benefits.
The Civil Service Pensions website has an early retirement calculator which will give you an idea of the reduction applied to your benefits. Visit: www.civilservicepensionscheme.org.uk
But… there is an option for employees to take the Alpha early without penalty. This can be at 65, 66 or 67 through something known as EPA. Of course, this isn’t free. To qualify, you will need to pay extra each month into your pension.
How much you pay depends on how early you want to take it and how old you are.
There is a handy calculator listed on this page under EPA estimator.
Let’s pretend there is a handsome man named Pete, 39, who would like to take his alpha pension at 65 and not 68.
To do this, he would need to pay an extra 3.6% in contributions each month (that means paying a total of 9.05% of earnings). If he was currently paying in £165 per month, this would need to increase to £275. And having roughly 304 months until retirement (good grief), that means a total extra payment of £33,440.
Now, that may sound horrendous, but at £840 per year, the Alpha pension should be worth £21,840 at 65. And that doesn’t include any pay rises or adjustments for cost of living. That means, between 65 and 68, Pete will receive £65,520 in pension payments. Paying £33,440 extra doesn’t seem quite so bad now!
And don’t forget, pension payments are taken before tax. That means, for a basic rate taxpayer, increasing pension payments by £100 will mean only receiving £70 less per month in their pay packet.
If handsome Pete wanted to take his pension at 66, he would need to pay an extra 2.4% and 1.2% if he wanted to take it at 67.
Of course, working longer means a bigger pension, but that is completely up to you.
There is one big caveat to all this. As most of you are aware, the government lost its case against the Fire Brigades Union with regards to their pensions. The McCloud ruling means there could be changes made to others too. However, what that means currently, nobody knows.
The CSPS app
Don’t forget that Civil Service Pensions have finally moved into 2010 and provided an app for you to keep track of your pension. This is actually quite helpful and I suggest everyone does it.
Please note, that none of the above constitutes financial advice. In fact, you shouldn’t even lend me money. No matter what I promise in return.
Speak to a financial advisor if you are looking for the best advice when it comes to your pension.