Once you turn 50, you can cash in your pension early and access a 25% tax free p sum. Here’s what you need to know:

You can typically withdraw up to 25% as a tax-free from your pension. If you have a pension valued at €800,000, you can immediately draw down €200,000 tax-free from age 50.

When trying to value your pension, it is important to establish is which type of pension you have. DB pensions are usually 15 times larger than represented on your annual statement. So if it says you have €30,000 per annum, this could actually represent more than €450,000 in total pension savings.

Only when you know what type of pension you have, and how much is in your pension can you figure out if early pension access makes sense.

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Can you cash in your pension early ireland?

Yes, most people can cash in their pension early, usually from age 50. For this to be possible you must have a pension with an old employer, an executive pension or a PRSA.

When it comes to figuring out what type of pension you have, and evaluating the pros and cons of transferring – we strongly advise starting with our online pension transfer assessment and speaking to a qualified financial advisor.

*All consultations are 100% cost free.

Cashing in your Pension at 50

Everything you need to know
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Yes. You can cash in your pension at 50 in Ireland if you have worked for a private company in the past who had a pension scheme in place and you are aged 50 or above.

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Defined benefit pension schemes are trickier than their more common counterparts defined contribution pensions. With a Defined benefit pension scheme (DB) are guaranteed a fixed income per year in retirement, so when valuing how much your pension is worth in today’s money you pension may be worth much more than you think.

Many defined benefit pensions are worth hundreds of thousands of euros, and many are worth millions. If your enhanced transfer value if €1,000,000 then you may be able to access €250,000 in a tax-free lump sum immediately.

Find out how much your personal pension is worth with our free pension transfer calculator.

The more information you have at hand the better, but the minimum is just your full name, date of birth, a list of companies where you have pensions and the administrator of your pension fund. If you want to speed up the process, it can also be helpful to have your pension statements on file and your PPS number, though these are not absolutely necessary.

If you have this information on hand you can get a free eligibility assessment here: https://nationalpensionhelpline.ie/pension-assessments/pension-transfer-assessment/

With the larger pension transfer companies such as the National Pension Helpline or Unlock Your Pension there are no costs. We cannot speak to the fees charged by your local financial broker.

On occasion, your pension fund may have exit fees, but it is rare.

If you choose to transfer your pension with The National Pension Helpline, we try to make sure all applications are fully processed within 2 weeks, and depending on the response time from the pension administrator we could have the transfer fully processed within 6 weeks. 

Interested in cashing in your pension at 50?

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Table of Content

There are generally three types of pension in Ireland:

Types of pensions available to you

Company pension schemes

Company pension schemes are the best-known types of pension. These are often referred to as company pension plans.

It is almost always possible to cash in your company pension scheme early. 25% of a typical company pension can be accessed tax-free from age 50.

Company pension schemes are known as “occupational pension schemes” by pension advisors, but this is just the industry jargon for a company pension.

They are set up by your employer and provide a personal pension income on retirement based on your career earnings (defined benefit pension scheme) or the value of your retirement fund (defined contribution pension scheme).

Occupational Pension

Company Pensions: Defined Contribution vs. Defined Benefit?

If you have savings in a company pension fund from your current or a former employer you worked for it will usually be categorised as either a defined benefit pension scheme or a defined contribution pension scheme.

A defined benefit pension is based on your contributions as a percentage of your salary and states the actual amount you will be paid on retirement. The amount specified is based on your salary and the number of years you have worked.

A defined contribution pension is a personal pension that is built from a contribution from your salary and, usually, an employer’s contribution. These combined contributions are then invested in a fund to provide retirement fund benefits. The actual benefits you receive when you retire are not fixed and they are dependent on the value of the contributions that you and your employer have made, the performance of your investments, and any charges and fees you have paid throughout the life of your investment.

Pension options

Personal Retirement Savings Accounts

A Personal Retirement Savings Account (PRSA) is a retirement fund that you set up yourself and pay contributions into. They are generally sold by insurance companies or banks. PRSAs are a type of personal pension.

Retirement Annuity Contracts

Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs), like PRSAs (above) are also personal pension plans that you manage yourself and are sold by banks and insurance companies.

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Early Retirement and cashing in your private pension early

Once you’ve established what kind of pension plan you have and which pension fund you’re currently in, you can start considering your options. When a person turns 50 they generally want to know whether they can release funds from their pension, what a pension release actually is and what is the maximum they can take from their pension pot.

Can I cash in my pension early in Ireland tax free?

Generally, in Ireland, you can start to draw down funds from an occupational pension once you turn 50 and are no longer with the employer that set up the scheme. If you are still employed with that company then you will have to wait until you are 60 before drawing down any funds.

Cashing in your pension at 50 does not give you access to your entire pension. It allows you to withdraw a maximum of 25% as a tax-free pension lump sum and the remaining amount must be reinvested in a retirement fund (ARF) or an annuity.

While it can be a useful source of cash in middle age, starting to access it early will, of course, reduce the value of the pension over time and isn’t always encouraged. It’s best to leave your pension invested for as long as possible.

If you do start to benefit from your pension early it is important that you make arrangements around your PRSI payments to ensure that you can still access the State pension at retirement age. This is a very important consideration when deciding on whether or not you should cash out your pension.

What is a Pension Release?

The term Pension Release simply refers to the process of drawing down funds from your pension early. You will need to meet the requirements of your pension plan to do so. These should be outlined in any contracts, documents or online accounts related to your pension.

How much can I take from my pension?

You are entitled to access 25% of your pension as a tax free, up to a maximum of €200,000. After this ceiling is reached, you are taxed at the 20% rate for the next €300,000. Anything that remains must be invested in what is known as an Approved Retirement Fund (ARF).

What is an Approved Retirement Fund?

An ARF Approved Retirement Fund is an investment fund that is normally built from the residual amount remaining in your pension after you draw down early. You must invest this so that you have a guaranteed income of €12,700 per annum, which includes the State pension. Anything you withdraw from this fund is income and consequently it will be taxed as income and you will have to pay PRSI and the Universal Social Charge.

What is an Approved Minimum Retirement Fund?

The term AMRF stands for Approved Minimum Retirement Fund, but they no longer exist in Ireland. All AMRF’s have been converted to ARFs as of January 1st 2022.

What is the difference between an Approved Retirement Fund (ARF) and an Approved Minimum Retirement Fund (AMRF)?

The main difference is that an Approved Retirement Fund (ARF) is controlled by the individual who owns it and they can draw down funds as required. In the case of an AMRF you are restricted to drawing down a maximum of 4% per annum. The full amount of the AMRF will not be available to you until you reach 75 years of age.

Can I continue working after I drawdown from my pension fund?

Yes, it’s very common for people in retirement (and early retirement) to return to the workforce either part-time, on a casual basis or even full-time in some situations. It may have some income tax implications, but nothing to worry too much about as it will not effect your weekly pension income – it is supplementary.

Often this is to top up cashflow but also simply because with a lifetime of skills and nothing but free time people often get bored. Employment legislation dictates that there is no upper age limit on the protection of employees, allowing a return to the workforce without legal hindrance. You can continue working and receive the same protection and benefits as other full-time or part-time workers.

Social Welfare in Retirement?

Anyone taking early retirement may consider themselves unemployed and are entitled to the relevant levels of social welfare protection. You should seek advice from your local social welfare office to determine if you are eligible for jobseeker’s benefit or jobseeker’s allowance. You will normally also be entitled to back to work and education schemes as well as the State pension when you reach the qualifying age.

Why cash in your pension early?

There are many reasons why an individual might seek to take early retirement or access their pension benefits early before they retire. Usually, the main motivating factor is the massive tax free lump sum that is available (up to 25% of your gross pension fund).

1. Debt Elimination

People sometimes use their pension to pay their mortgage early and consider it to be a managed financial decision to reduce their cost of living overall.

2. Large Expenses

An individual might find themselves with a large unexpected bill later in life that requires payment and using their pension for this is a last-choice alternative.

 

3. Other

These are just some of the scenarios and everyone’s situation is different. You should always seek expert advice if you are planning to access your pension fund.

What can I spend my tax free cash on?

Is it too early to access my pension?

There are strict age limits in place controlling when you can access your pension. If you have an occupational pension scheme you are eligible to apply to draw down funds from 50. If you have an occupational pension scheme ,or even a PRSA, you will be eligible to draw down funds from age 50

However, there are other issues to consider also. For example, how will you fund your lifestyle in the future without your full pension benefits? The State pension may not be able to cover the cost of that lifestyle. Do you intend to continue working?

It’s also important to consider your mortgage and home ownership status. Have you paid your mortgage completely? Will you have the income to maintain the cost and maintenance of your home? Do you have dependents that you will need to support on an ongoing basis?

The question of whether or not it is too early to draw down from you pension fund is not just an age qualifying issue but one of financial planning overall. You should consider consulting an expert pension advisor who can help you make the decision to draw down part of your pension early while also planning for the future.

Withdrawal Fees

Once you qualify for the rules of your particular pension fund you are entitled to access your personal pension without fee or penalty. There are tax issues that need to be considered but you will not be penalised for accessing your pension early.

This is facilitated through a mechanism called a Pension Retirement Bond (PRB) which allows combine multiple pensions into a single unified entity. It also facilities access to your pension tax-free lump sum at age 50.

Find out if you are eligible to cash in your pension early

After completing the assessment a central bank regulated pension advisor will provide a complimentary consultation to confirm your eligiblity and options.

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Am I ready for retirement?

Whether you have a personal pension or an occupational pension, ensuring you are ready for retirement is a very personal journey. It is not just about how much money you have managed to secure in your pension but about how you plan to live your life as you age.

Throughout our careers we build a standard of living and a network of friends and colleagues who support us. Stepping away from this structure can be difficult for many people to manage. Making a successful transition is crucial and taking advice from the correct people will help with this.

The main consideration is can you live a good life with your pensions & investments while covering your life bills, loan repayments expenses and bills.

Tax in retirement

Everyone receiving a taxable income must pay income tax in the normal way, regardless of age. This includes people relying on their weekly pension benefit payments.

However, there are some important income tax exemptions that will effect your retirement income.

Currently there are exemption limits in place for people aged over 65. These limits allow you to earn income up to a certain level before you are taxed. For a single or widowed person, the limit is €18,000. Anything earned below this level will not be taxed. For a married couple or two people in a civil partnership the exemption limit is €36,000. If you have dependent children there are additional amounts added. It is currently €575 each for the first two children and €830 for any subsequent children.

In addition to the personal tax credit that everyone paying income tax under the PAYE system is entitled to, people aged 65 and over will also receive a Age Tax Credit. This is currently €245 for single or widowed people and €490 for a married couple or a couple in a civil partnership.

Business in Retirment

There no legal or financial impediments to starting a business in retirement and many people find themselves in this situation.

The main implication is that you may be required to pay income tax on the earnings depending on your income tax threshold and pension benefits.

There are many support organisations in Ireland that can help and a good starting point is the Retirement Planning Council.

Am I guaranteed a State pension?

In Ireland, the State pension is currently paid from the age of 66. It is not means-tested and so, if you qualify for it, you can also work and still receive it.

However, the state pension is not guaranteed. To qualify, you need to have paid enough social insurance (PRSI) contributions. If you have worked in Ireland and paid PRSI at any time you can apply for the State pension and your claim will be assessed based on your contributions. The weekly value of your pension will be based on how many PRSI payments you have made.

If there are gaps in your PRSI record, such as when you were raising a family or in a caring role, these will be taken into account under new rules that were introduced since 2012.

The State pension is taxable but, if it is your sole income, you will be unlikely to pay tax on it.

 

€248 a week state pension

Are there benefits in retiring early?

The biggest benefit of retiring early is the impact it can have on your lifestyle. For someone who has worked full-time all their lives, they will find the freedom of stepping away from this liberating. People who are fearful of retiring and fearful of what they are going to do with themselves and their free time rarely seek to retire early. It’s generally suited to people looking for a change in pace and in life benefits. There are, of course, people who are obliged to retire early for health reasons but this is a different scenario. If you choose early retirement when you don’t have to it’s often because you are seeking a different way to live.

You will have more time to spend with family and friends, children and grandchildren. Your time becomes your own and you can design what you do with it creatively.

Reduction in stress levels is one of the most positive aspects of early retirement. Even if you are not aware of the levels of stress you are under, when you step away from the daily grind of the workplace your stress levels reduce dramatically and your health tends to take an upward lift. You are exercising more, sleeping longer and generally looking after yourself better. The younger you get to experience this the better.

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