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My Pension Transfer Story
Amanda Swift - while at the NHS
After I emigrated to work in USA back in 1996 I had left the National Health Service with a preserved UK pension. You only had to complete 5 years' continuous service to qualify for that and I had already done 15 years. Retirement seemed a long way off in those days and I suppose I didn't pay much attention to the frozen pension I had left behind. I was into a new life and a new nursing career in America.
Then one of my British colleagues mentioned that she had transferred her NHS pension to a personal UK pension plan with much better benefits and options. It seemd to be designed for expats like us.
She put me in touch with the company that helped her - Kestrel International. They are the leading UK pension advisers in North America. I soon found out that I am one of the lucky ones at NHS. You see, staff who left before January 1986 are not permitted to transfer their pensions away from NHS. As I left after that date I was able to take advantage of a great opportunity.
I filled out the enquiry form authorizing release of my NHS data. After a while I received a free review, comparisons and a good recommendation - which I followed. It was a "no brainer" - as they say here.
TURNING A PAPER PROMISE INTO HARD CASH
There is no actual money in the NHS pension. It is just a promise by the UK Treasury that my future UK pension would be paid by the British tax-payers. Well, when the Exchequer kindly offered to buy me out with hard cash I thought I could put that cash to better use. So, I now own a Self Invested Pension Plan where I control all the assets. I can also decide when and how to take the benefits - which look as though they will be a lot better than relying on the NHS arrangement. I can take them as early as age 55 - without penalty - including a lump sum of up to 25% of my pension fund. If I wish, I can defer the pension income until later.
TAKE CASH OUT
I discovered something else. Did you know that you can now export your UK pension - not to USA though - the IRS won't allow that - but to some other country even if you don't live there ? An EU country is preferable - but it means you can escape from the UK pension rules and taxation completely once you have been an expat for 5 years or more. Then you can get your hands on up to 30% of the money - all in one lump - as early as age 50 if you really need it badly.