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Caution over pension withdrawals

Raiding the savings: Many took money out of their pension funds after 2010

Tapping into workplace pensions should only be an “absolute last resort”, according to a local pensions expert.

Marie-Jo Caesar, chief operating officer for pensions at Colonial Group International, made the remarks after The Royal Gazette reported that locals had taken $17 million from their pensions.

According to figures obtained by this newspaper from the Ministry of Finance, the millions went towards hardships such as rental arrears, mortgages and medical bills, in the wake of a 2010 change to the law.

However, Ms Caesar cautioned that the withdrawals could lead to difficulties later in life.

“I understand that these withdrawals were due to financial hardships and probably would not have happened otherwise, but it is so important to understand that people may not reach their retirement goals as a result,” she said.

“It can cause you not to be able to retire when you had planned or cause you not to be able to afford to live out your golden years as comfortably as you had envisioned.

Ms Caesar called on members of the public to investigate every option first, and said it was important to try and build up an emergency fund in a low-risk and easily accessible account.

“The most important consideration is accessibility, so don’t worry too much about the interest you are receiving for now,” she said.

“Investing for retirement is a long-term plan and therefore getting yourself into good money management habits, through proper budgeting and saving, will put you in a much better position to be able to handle unforeseen emergencies without having to sacrifice your retirement plans.”

She added that people were now living longer and one of the top risks retirees are faced with was longevity risk.

“Outliving your money is a real risk and withdrawing money in the short term can derail you off your long term path to achieving the retirement you want.”