The search for a reliable retirement income

Posted by siteadmin on Monday 24th of October 2016.

The search for a reliable retirement income

 The April 2015 pensions changes scrapped compulsory annuities, giving pensioners greater choice over how to take their retirement income.

In principle, this historic change to UK pension legislation opened up a range of investment opportunities. With increased control of their pension, investors can seek to position their portfolios to deliver the income required, while retaining – and perhaps even growing – their invested capital.

Generating income in a low interest-rate environment

While these pension changes offer many opportunities, generating investment income remains difficult – particularly in view of the historically low interest rates.

The Bank of England’s target interest rate had been stuck at 0.5% for more than seven years, and it was cut to 0.25% in August 2016 and held in September 2016. Meanwhile, the income that can be earned through holding UK government bonds – a traditional staple instrument of low risk, income-focused investment portfolios – has shrunk from over 5% before the 2008 financial crisis, to less than 2% now.

Equity markets risk income stability

The dividend income available on UK equities has risen somewhat, making them an attractive proposition for many investors.

However, income-seekers should be wary of rushing headlong into equities in search of the returns that have been eroded in other asset classes. Investing in equities entails a degree of risk, particularly for those relying on their investment portfolio for their means of living. Should equity markets suffer a setback, retirees may find their pension fund much reduced in size, and incapable of generating the necessary income.

Taking a diversified approach

A robust income strategy should not be overly reliant on a single asset class. But making a decision on which asset class to hold is tricky – the top performer changes regularly and the returns are very volatile.

Investors who are over-committed to one asset class run the risk of disproportionate losses should that asset class underperform.

An alternative approach is to take a much wider view and consider other potential sources of income from a broader range of asset classes and capital structures, across many different countries and regions.

Taking a more diversified approach means that a drop in the value of one asset may then be offset by increases in other asset classes, leading to smoother overall performance – and a potentially more stable source of retirement income.

You should not use past performance as a reliable indicator of future performance. It should not be the main or sole reason for making an investment decision. The value of investments and any income from them can fall as well as rise. You may not get back the amount you originally invested.