Pensions on Divorce – Impact of Pensions Increase Changes

Ian Conlon

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In the June 2010 budget the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the Government’s intention for future increases in public sector pensions to be linked to changes in the Consumer Prices Index (CPI).  Historically such pensions were linked to increases in the Retail Prices Index (RPI).

The Pensions Minister subsequently issued a statement on 8 July confirming that the Government also intends to use CPI for determining statutory minimum increases which apply to private sector pension schemes.

These changes will undoubtedly have an impact where pensions are a factor in divorce proceedings.

Although both are measures of inflation, RPI and CPI are calculated using different methods and are based on different “baskets” of goods.  Historically this difference has resulted, for most time periods, in CPI being a lower measure of price inflation that RPI.  Overall, commentators expect CPI to be around 0.5% to 0.8% lower than RPI over the longer term.

For all public sector pension schemes* the expectation is that future increases in pensions will be lower than previously expected.  Therefore, the switch from RPI to CPI will affect the assumptions underlying the calculation of Cash Equivalent Transfer Values (CETVs). This change is likely to reduce CETVs and may have an impact on what is deemed an appropriate percentage Pension Share.

By way of illustration, for someone who is currently 40 years old with a pension in a public sector pension scheme, the impact of this change alone could result in a reduction of around 20% to the CETV.

For private sector pension schemes, the impact of the change is likely to vary by scheme and will depend upon the rules of the particular scheme.

It is likely that many pension schemes will defer issuing new transfer values until the changes have been considered.   Further, pension schemes may decide to put on hold the implementation of Pension Sharing Orders.

For ongoing divorce cases where pension information has been provided, the solicitor and parties involved should carefully consider whether it is appropriate to base any decisions on this information and such advice as may have been provided, whether in relation to Pension Sharing or Offsetting without first seeking further advice from an actuary specialising in pensions on divorce.

Spence & Partners can provide an early indication of the likely impact on the value of the CETV and implications for Pension Sharing on taking account of these changes.

For more information on this or any other pension on divorce issue contact our divorce team divorce@spenceandpartners.co.uk

*Public sector pension schemes include the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme, Health and Personal Social Services Superannuation Scheme, Armed Forces Pension Scheme, Local Government Pension Scheme, Police Pension Scheme, Teachers’ Pension Scheme and Firefighters’ Pension Scheme.

Ian Conlon Actuary