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Why you shouldn’t rely on a partner’s pension

Close up of senior man and woman in love pension
Couples often pool their financial resources so they can split day to day living expenses but it is important wherever possible to build your own pension. (Riska via Getty Images)

February is the most romantic of months with Valentines Day and the leap year raising the prospect of unexpected marriage proposals. It’s easy to get carried away with the prospect of living happily ever after but it is important to make sure you aren’t sleepwalking into a pension disaster.

Couples often pool their financial resources so they can split day to day living expenses and plan for things like holidays. This can work out really well for budgeting, but it is important wherever possible to build your own pension.

If your partner has a very generous pension it is tempting to think you don’t need one yourself and this could work out fine if you stay together. However, if you were to split up, you could find yourself approaching retirement with little, if any retirement provision.

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It may feel very unromantic to think this way when you are in a happy relationship, but the prospect of a retirement where you are struggling to make ends meet is an even less pleasant prospect.

Recent research from Hagreaves Lansdown shows that only 43% of people believe they could cope financially in retirement without receiving a share of their partner’s pension. Men were more likely to feel they could cope with almost 60% saying they could compared to just 28% of women.

Read more: Where is the UK’s pension dashboard and why has it been delayed?

Pensions can of course be included in any divorce settlement, but the reality is they can be forgotten in the heat of arguments over other assets such as the family home. If you have your own pension, then you are less likely to need to apply for a portion of your partner’s.

It’s also worth saying that if you choose to cohabit, rather than marry your partner you could find yourself walking away from the relationship with nothing in the event of a split.

If you stay together

Even if you do get your happily ever after there are really good arguments for building up your pension separately.

For instance, you will both have your own set of tax allowances — the current annual allowance is set at £60,000 per year, so you can both make full use of these allowances if you are able to.

Even if you are not working you or your partner can still contribute up to £2,880 per year into your pension and receive tax relief topping it up to £3,600. This is something you can plan together as a couple to make full use of your allowances and really boost the financial resilience of your family.

Read more: Tackling the myths holding back your pension planning

Even if you build up your pensions separately it’s still very important to plan together so you both have an idea of what kind of retirement you are planning for and making sure you are on track. Leaving decisions to one partner leaves the other in the dark and you may not realise if you or your partner is under saving.

Similarly, you could miss key opportunities to boost contributions that could make a real difference to how much you end up with in retirement. Having your own pension will also give you important financial freedom in retirement that will benefit you whether you are single, cohabiting or happily married.

Watch: When should I start paying into a pension?

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