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Should I take my pension as a lump sum?

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

Although increasingly rare, employer pensions can make up a considerable portion of our clients’ expected retirement benefits. Whether you are nearing retirement or are already receiving ongoing pension payments, you may have the option to choose a lump sum distribution/buyout instead of a lifetime stream of payments. Several factors must be analyzed in order to determine what course is best for our clients and their unique circumstances.

This flowchart helps us guide our clients as they consider their pension options. It covers:

  • Life expectancy considerations

  • Viability of pension plan

  • Risk tolerance and the need for guaranteed income

  • Wealth transfer considerations


Planning for retirement involves making critical decisions about pension benefits, and one of the key considerations is whether to take the pension as a lump sum or opt for a lifetime stream of payments. In this blog post, we will explore a comprehensive flowchart designed to help individuals analyze various factors when deciding on their pension options. We will delve into important aspects such as life expectancy considerations, the viability of the pension plan, risk tolerance, guaranteed income needs, wealth transfer considerations, and lifetime income options.


Determining Your Best Course of Action:

  1. Assessing Life Expectancy: The first step in the flowchart is to evaluate your health and consider any factors that may affect your life expectancy. By accounting for potential health concerns and considering personal circumstances, you can better determine if your life expectancy aligns with the average. This information is crucial in comparing the value of a lump sum versus the expected lifetime income from the pension.

  2. Evaluating Lump Sum Value: If your life expectancy is shorter than average or you have concerns about health-related issues, the next step is to determine if the lump sum value exceeds the expected lifetime income. Taking a lump sum may be advantageous in maximizing the value you receive, allowing you to pass the assets along to your spouse, children, or a charity.

  3. Considering Financial Viability: Evaluating the financial health of your pension plan is crucial. While pensions are generally in a better state now than they were in the past, it's essential to be aware of any potential adjustments or risks. If serious doubts arise regarding the viability of your plan, opting for a lump sum may be the prudent choice.

  4. Analyzing Retirement Income Sources: Assess whether your other retirement income sources, including social security and investment accounts, will adequately cover your expected fixed costs during retirement. If these sources are sufficient, it may be worth considering taking a lump sum for greater control over your assets.

  5. Legacy and Wealth Transfer: Do you desire the ability to transfer your pension assets as a legacy to your heirs? If so, taking a lump sum provides ownership and control over the assets, ensuring you can pass them on to your loved ones. This option is becoming increasingly popular among individuals seeking greater financial autonomy in retirement.

  6. Longevity Risks and Overspending: Consider whether you are concerned about overspending and the potential risks associated with increased longevity. If these concerns resonate with you, choosing a lifetime income option can guarantee a steady stream of income throughout your lifetime, providing financial security in retirement.

  7. Comparing Options and Market Alternatives: Compare the lifetime income quote from your pension plan to alternative options available in the market. Exploring different strategies, such as pairing life insurance with a lifetime income option, can help mitigate risks and ensure a stable financial future.

Deciding whether to take a pension as a lump sum or opt for a lifetime income stream requires careful consideration of various factors. While the flowchart discussed in this blog post provides a general guideline, it is crucial to consult with financial professionals who can evaluate your unique circumstances, conduct thorough calculations, and provide personalized advice. Remember, retirement planning is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and it's vital to choose an option that aligns with your financial goals, risk tolerance, and overall comfort level. By making informed decisions, you can navigate the complexities of pension options and secure a prosperous retirement.

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