What trees in conservation areas have to teach pension policymakers

If you’ve never had a problem with a tree in a conservation area, you’ll straight away be wondering where on earth I’m going with this. Don’t worry, it’s simple to explain.

If you own a house in a conservation area and you have trees in your garden, perhaps even trees you planted yourself, you’ll probably be under the impression that you own those trees. But if those trees’ roots ever spread into your drains, say, or under the foundations of your house or even your neighbour’s house, you’ll find yourself coming to the conclusion that you don’t really own them at all.

Doh!

That’s because you can’t just cut them down, even though they’re “yours”, even if you planted them, even if there’s some damn-serious problem that means you’ve got an equally damn-good reason for wanting to cut them down. Even if you offer to plant another tree somewhere else in your garden. That’s because council-types have made lots of special conservation rules and, although they would no-doubt argue with me, those rules effectively say those aren’t your trees, they’re theirs and you can’t cut them down because the rules say the trees are more important than anything else.

Now, just in case the parallel with pensions policy isn’t yet slapping you in the face, consider this. Your pension is yours, right? You put money into it – and your employer too, hopefully, but they did that for you. So it’s your money. What happens if you want your money back? Say something unexpected and important crops up and you need to deal with it. Well, crudely speaking, if you’re not yet 55, the rules say you can’t have any of it. To speak up for the policymakers, that’s because they have given you tax relief on the basis that you were saving money to provide for your retirement. But I’m not going to let them off that lightly – my blog, my personal opinions, my rules!

Jumping back to the trees for a moment, remember Google’s your friend: you could try “How to kill a tree” (just saying, not that I’m condoning that). You’d be amazed at just how much help is on the web! There are apparently so many ways to kill trees, I’m amazed there are any.

Of course there are other solutions to “tree issues” – like not buying a house in a conservation area. And if you already live in one and read or hear about people’s tree sagas, you’ll probably be somewhat put off planting any new trees in your garden.

Try Googling “How to get money out of a pension” and your friendship with Google could wane. Results basically confirm waiting until you’re at least 55. Not great if you’re in your 20s, 30s or even 40s. Scroll through the results and you might find a get-out in terminal illness – not the sort of get-out any of us are looking for.

In many people’s eyes the equivalent solution in pension terms to not buying the house or planting the trees is not saving in a pension. (Us pension people do try to make people aware of the pitfalls in that approach.)

Part of the pension deal is that you can have 25% of your money as a lump sum, tax free – but not until you reach at least age 55.  Why? Fortunately, this question is being looked at in a Treasury consultation: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/consult_early_access_pension_savings.htm

I hope they’ll consider the trees.

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About sipphound

Chewing over pensions, saving and retirement issues. Sniffing around financial planning, personal finance, investing and behavioural influences. All personal opinions, no company represented and no advice given.
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One Response to What trees in conservation areas have to teach pension policymakers

  1. Pingback: Early pension access: to boost pensions saving or alleviate hardship? | SIPP Hound's space

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