Making the most of every penny is going to be vital for people to make ends meet in 2012. Employers spend considerable sums on workplace benefits, which form an important but often overlooked part of people’s total remuneration. The Alexander Forbes Group has revealed five top tips to enable people to make the most of their workplace benefits in 2012.

1. Protect your income: “Your health and your capacity to earn an ongoing salary are the most important things for you to protect, particularly as the level of safety net support available to many working people is being eroded through NHS and other Welfare reforms. Increasingly, we cannot expect the state to support us as it cannot afford it.

“It is important to ensure that you have all the income protection cover that you can afford. Cheaper products are increasingly available which cover your basic needs in the event you should become long-term sick or incapacitated. Make sure that you cover at least your mortgage and basic living expenses.” Bernie Clark, Head of Health and Risk, Alexander Forbes Healthcare
2. Access employers’ wellbeing schemes: “Companies are increasingly offering wellbeing programmes to assist you with improving your lifestyle. Take every opportunity afforded to you by your employer to take control of this, as without good health your ability to earn and save for your family’s future is limited. Studies have shown that people with healthier lifestyles are less likely to be hospitalised and that they also recover faster, when they are sick.” Bernie Clark, Head of Health and Risk, Alexander Forbes Healthcare.

3. Check you are saving enough to retire (defined contribution (DC)/money purchase pensions): “It is of paramount importance to work out where you are now with your pension fund and find out the projected value using relevant assumptions. You also need to establish what your income will look like against what income you hope to have at retirement.

“Then look at what is happening in the annuity world and the retirement market. Understand the impact of pending legislation such as Solvency 2 and the unisex rate equalisation against how that might affect your retirement plans. If appropriate to your objectives, is it worth considering taking your benefits this year prior to these rulings taking effect?

“Above all, seek expert assistance or advice to help you make the most of what is a very important decision regarding your retirement income.” Gemma Goodman, Head of The Annuity Bureau

4. Check the health of your employers’ pension scheme (final salary/defined benefit (DB) pensions): “When you receive your annual scheme update from the trustees (this is a legal requirement for DB schemes with more than 100 members) take the time to read and absorb the information given properly. This will show you the funding position of the scheme and how it has changed from a year ago and other valuable information. If you understand how your scheme is doing this could help frame your thinking if, for example, you are offered an enhanced transfer value (ETV) for your pension benefits.” Jarrod Parker, Head of Defined Benefit Delivery, Alexander Forbes Consultants & Actuaries

5. Make sure you have full details of your employers’ pension – especially from past employment: “Make sure you know what your benefits are and that you can locate your most up to date DB statement of entitlement, especially from past employers as this may make up a valuable part of your retirement income. Also make sure you informed the pension trustees/administrators if your address changes – otherwise you may not receive you benefits when you retire.” Jarrod Parker, Head of Defined Benefit Delivery, Alexander Forbes Consultants & Actuaries