Understanding complex occupational pension schemes & the importance of expert advice

As one of the small number of Certified Pension Experts across the UK, I understand all too well how complicated pensions can be, which is why finding a qualified, accredited adviser is so essential.

There are a range of pensions and pension needs, from Defined Contribution and Defined Benefit/Final Salary pensions to SIPP and SSAS pensions… so how do you know which you have or which one may fit you best?

In order to understand how much variety there is in pension planning, I can briefly define some of the pensions you may have heard of and what they mean:

1. Defined Contribution (DC) schemes

DC schemes are occupational pension schemes – simply put, your own contributions and your employer’s contributions are both invested towards your pension in monthly payments.

2. Defined Benefit (DB) / ‘Final Salary’ pensions

Also known as a final salary pension, the DB pension is a special kind of workplace pension, as instead of building up a pension pot over time, it provides a guaranteed annual income for the rest of your life, based on your final or average salary.

3. Small Self-Administered Schemes (SSASs)

This is an investment-regulated pension scheme, generally set up by company directors for themselves and senior members of staff, with contributions being made by the individual and/or the company, also benefitting from tax relief.

As an SSAS is for a group of people, it can generally mean reduced costs when compared to a SIPP.

4. Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP)

Also known as a DIY pension, this pension involves making your own personal choices and managing your investments (unless you choose an investment manager to run your portfolio).

Though these pensions have more flexibility, they also require understanding of investments and tend to have a higher level of risk and responsibility due to the importance of your investment choices. 

It’s hardly any wonder it can be difficult to know where to start!

With all of that in mind, if you decide to seek out advice relating to pension schemes, what can you expect? 

From my own experience, the best approach is one that is detailed and grounded in thorough research.

  • A full, detailed report should be provided regarding deferred company pension scheme benefits
  • You should be aware of the projected benefits upon your retirement
  • The benefits available upon death, both pre- and post-retirement should be discussed
  • You should be given a calculation of the benefits that are available in the existing scheme

This is a very brief overview of the type of financial planning advice you should receive around pensions, but it is my belief that starting on these specific areas is a solid basis for concise pension planning.

If you would like to find out more about how I could help you to plan your pension and give you the best possible advice to help you meet your financial goals, I’d be happy to help! Ask me about your pension options.

Get in Touch

We would love to help you with any aspect of your financial planning, no matter where you are in life. 

If you would like to make an appointment with one of our Financial Advisers, please call on 0113 254 9666  or fill in the contact form and we’ll be in touch.


The value of a pension with St. James’s Place may fall as well as rise. You may get back less than the amount invested.

The levels and bases of taxation and reliefs from taxation can change at any time and are dependent on individual circumstances.

Sovereign Wealth Limited is an Appointed Representative of and represents only St. James’s Place Wealth Management plc (which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority) for the purpose of advising solely on the Group’s wealth management products and services, more details of which are set out on the Group’s website www.sjp.co.uk/products.