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On 18th March 2016 the Government Scapped Plans to allow you to sell an existing annuity in payment
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The ability to sell your annuity is to become law

On this morning’s Andrew Marr Show (Sunday 15th March 2015) Chancellor George Osborne appeared to confirm what has long been suspected, that the Government are going to pave the way to allow people who have already purchased an annuity to be able to trade it in for a cash lump sum.

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This will be welcome news for some pensioners who may be able to make better use of a lump sum than a comparatively small regular income, even though that income will be paid for the remainder of their life. It could be even better news for the Government as we suspect they will benefit from a tax windfall. Just like all pension plans, any amount taken after the initial 25% tax free lump sum, will be liable to income tax. It is quite possible that a lump sum payment from a traded annuity could push the pensioner into the 40% tax band, and possibly higher.

Currently if asked by a customer “when will I be able to cash in my annuity” our answer has been that legislation won’t be passed (and products designed) until April 2016. Mr. Osborne’s comments today seemed to confirm this. This is undoubtedly very exciting news, but there are a number of dangers and concerns that go with it.

Of most concern to us, and industry professionals, are the answers constantly given to questions about what happens if an individual blows all of their pension fund in one go and then finds themselves with no income in what could be a very long period of retirement. Andrew Marr again pursued this question this morning. The Chancellor’s response was typical of answers previously given by himself and other ministers - he implied that he thought such a way of thinking was somewhat patronising and that individuals could be ‘trusted’ to use their pension pots wisely.

The pension freedoms announced last year undoubtedly caused much excitement and there are numerous customers who plan to take a big lump sum, if not all of their pension fund, in one go as soon as the new financial year starts. Even if the vast majority make financially sound decisions there will undoubtedly be some who will come to regret the choice.

As an internet business, our approach is to provide customers with all the information they need to enable them to make an informed decision. As we offer a nationwide service it is not possible for us to make a personal recommendation to customers who we may never even speak with. We will offer our customers a non-advised service where they understand and accept that the decision to sell the annuity for a cash lump sum is entirely theirs.

It is somewhat ironic that the announcement was made in the same weekend when the media was also reporting that the regulator, The Financial Conduct Authority, has very specific concerns that many customers who did purchase an annuity may not have got the best deal. With the risk of future compensation claims, it could be that some annuity providers may be keen to buy their way out of annuity deals they consider may have become toxic. However it is highly questionable if such a deal is likely to be in the best interests of the customer.

There have been previous examples of governments blowing the trumpet signalling brand new benefits for individuals, only for those benefits to be proved somewhat dubious a few years later. The announcement by the Thatcher government that people could contract out of the Second State Pension and their occupational pensions in favour of having the contributions paid directly into a personal pension in their name, created a considerable customer demand. Undoubtedly many customers independently chose to do this and sought out a company to help them achieve it. However when it was subsequently proven that the customer would have been better off staying with their old arrangements, it was the financial advisers and insurance companies who picked up the bill – in many cases unfairly. We did not have any such issues in our company, but we learnt the lessons from it.

Many advisers who remember the contracting out issue may hesitate to offer any advice whatsoever that implies that a customer should sell their annuity. In effect they will say “don’t do it, but if you want to, here are the forms”. All customers should remember the age old principle ‘caveat emptor’ meaning ‘buyer beware’.

Please don’t think we are against these changes, we are not. There wouldn’t be much point in running a website offering the service. However we are keen to make customers aware of the risks and that they will need to make the decision for themselves. For some customers it will be a good thing, for others a potential mistake. It is important that the customer understands that, with the industry being caught in the middle of the Government’s new changes and what has previously been considered ‘best advice”, all financial companies may be very uncomfortable offering definitive advice in this area. The customer will have no one else to blame if they do make a bad decision other than themselves.

Important : Your annuity is designed to provide you with a guaranteed income in retirement. This income will continue to be paid for as long as you live. If you sell your annuity you may not have a sufficient level of income to sustain your lifestyle in retirement. It is likely to be the case that the value of the lump sum you receive will be less than you would have received if you had kept your annuity and died in line with your life expectancy at the time you took out your annuity.
Freedom for people with an annuity
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"Well we’ve already given freedom to people saving for a pension. What we’re going to do today is give freedom to the 5 million pensioners who have an annuity. Now for many of them, that will be the right thing to have. But some will want access to that money, so we’re going to change the law. It’s all part of trusting people who’ve worked hard and saved hard all their lives. It’s all part of having a long-term economic plan where we build our country on savings and investment."
George Osborne - 15th March 2015

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We are an internet retirement business. We help people with all kinds of retirement issues, We take great pride in what our customers say about us.
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”Considerate, conscientious and confidence-inspiring”

From the start Bob and his team let us know that they understood our nervousness about deciding what to do with our pension fund.  We were never put under any pressure to make a decision; on the contrary,  the team were considerate of our need to take our time to think about what we were doing and be satisfied that we were doing the right thing.  It didn’t seem to matter how many questions we threw at them – they always replied promptly and in as much detail as necessary and they were always ready to help further.

Indeed, we were very impressed by just how conscientious they are.   We received emails and paperwork accompanying every step we took and it would be no exaggeration to say that no efforts were spared to make sure that everything was documented down to the last detail.

Bob and his team inspire confidence and do so in a way that is friendly and familiar.  We’re confident that we’ve found someone who understands what’s going on in the pension industry and is able to help us make our own decisions about how best to invest our fund.   And we’re happy that this person is someone who’s always very approachable  and ready  to do what he can to help his clients. 

Mr V. S. - Prague
January 2015
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Please Note : Some of the ideas and concepts discussed on this website are not yet law and may not become law. There is still the possibility that some or all of these changes could be altered or cancelled as the changes announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer have to be passed by Parliament. We cannot be held liable for any action taken by a customer in anticipation of the proposed legislation becoming law.
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