The Ermine has been stitched up by Hargreaves Lansdown

As the years roll by the Ermine is becoming grizzled of years, and I have the opportunity of becoming a pensioner rather than an early retiree. In the long glide path from leaving work to getting to this stage I have gradually burned through some of the money I had saved as a wage slave, and just like the aeronautical metaphor, my room for manoeuvre drops as time goes by because the reserves are falling lower.

A while ago I opened a SIPP with HL, to make use of my £3600 p.a. tax-advantaged savings allowance. What with Osborne’s changes, I was going to take a portion of the DC AVCs I saved in The Firm’s pension scheme to add this to my HL SIPP, then take my tax-free lump sum and draw down the rest under the annual personal allowance for five years until I reach the normal retirement age for The Firm.

Now I saved in the AVCs pretty much exactly a third of the notional capital that stands behind my defined benefit pension, precisely for the reason that I could take this AVC as the 25% pension commencement tax-free lump sum, If I transfer some of that I give up some of this tax-free capacity, but I can still draw the money tax-free and before 60, just in a different way from how I designed the idea in 2012. The reason I can do that is Osborne’s changes in April 2014, obviously I didn’t know that in 2012 😉

So I take a butcher’s hook at how to actually do this, starting with their guff on transferring pensions, and I discover that the blighters have tossed rocks all over the runway as I am coming in to land. To wit:

An Additional Voluntary Contribution (AVC) linked to a defined benefit scheme could give a higher pension and/or tax-free cash if not transferred. We normally insist you take advice to confirm it is in your interests to transfer such pensions.

Which s a bastard, because this is not a huge amount of money I want to transfer, it’s a few tens of thousands of pounds. I don’t know exactly how much financial advice is but I figure it’s going to be about £400, most of which is going to be to write the letter on fancy headed notepaper that it’s okay for me to get a hold of my own bloody money. It’s a bit like solicitors who don’t get out of bed for much less than a few hundred if you want them to dirty up some of their nice headed notepaper with their laser printer to threaten some oik.

So basically HL want me to pay about 1% of the transfer to an IFA to cover their arse. I rang them up and outlined what I want to do and why and they said nope, rules is rules. IFA signoff required. So I am now investigating other SIPP providers to see if I can avoid paying swindlers and leeches IFAs for access to my money, but it’s not looking good. I observe that Cavendish Online take a similar line so I may be stuffed on dodging the IFA tax

Unfortunately you will not be able to transfer from any of the following sources:

  • Additional Voluntary Contributions schemes (AVC) linked to defined benefit schemes

And I took a look at Monevator’s piece on online financial advice – I found vouchedfor a bit more useful than unbiased which used to be the IFA goto place for search.

I have only ever taken financial advice once in my life, and it was disastrous

– which is why I am trying to avoid this. Not just to save myself a few hundred pounds, but my only experience of finacial advice stank. When I was 29 and looking for a mortgage the lovely green-eyed LAUTRO ‘adviser’ Sue persuaded me to go for an endowment mortgage, dangling the potential possibility of the endowment doubling. The young Ermine had no dependants and no use for the life insurance. If I had that need, The Firm’s pension scheme had death in service insurance worth more than the mortgage which was the grounds I finally got a claim settled  for reinstatement to where I would have been with a repayment mortgage.

However, even if endowments hadn’t started to fall short I was shit for brains to be swayed by that promise anyway. A mortgage term is 25 years, if you take £100 in crisp £20 notes and stick it in your mattress in year 0 then half the value of what you can get with it dies in about 10 years due to inflation, so if the endowment nominally doubles in 25 years you’ve still been stiffed. The Bank of England’s inflation calculator tells me indeed that £100 in 1989 would be worth £222 in 2014 when that mortgage would have been redeemed had I not moved and paid it off early. Precisely what the endowment industry managed to do to screw this up so royally still escapes me.

It was galling for my parents, who had taken the trouble to properly educate me in things financial. Although this is not a job that parents seem to consider part of their domain  nowadays, my working-class parents did, and they made a decent fist of it. My parents taught me among other things don’t spend more than you earn son, that the NAV of an IT differs from the share price, and my mother had described to me how a mortgage works down the the detail of the payments being mainly the interest to start with and repayment of the capital speeding up towards the end. They had strongly advocated repayment mortgages and told me why, and with the hindsight of a quarter of a century they were absolutely right, but in the tragedy for parents the world over there is no antidote for youthful stupidity and black-and-white thinking – to ask a 29-year old to qualify the double your money promise against effect of inflation on period of time that is nearly the same as his age is a big ask. It takes time and life experience to turn some kinds of knowledge into wisdom. I had the knowledge, but not the wisdom 😉

how a traditional mortgage builds equity
how a traditional mortgage builds equity. From the excellent Mortgages Exposed

Or maybe I was a particular twit. They were strange times, the late 1980s, though the housing market feels the same now, there are people in Britain today who may be on the verge of making a similar mistake

Anyway, while I now accept that the decision to buy a house then was the dumbest financial thing I have ever done, the amplification of that cock-up through what was basically self-serving and wrong financial advice against my interests makes me leery of the whole financial advice scene. It’s not an experience I feel I want to repeat at a gut level, and it’s not an experience I want to pay for.  I guess I can jump over that by reminding myself this was money the taxman would have stolen 40% of, and indeed money that inflation has bitten 8% out of since 2012.