Early pension release rules

Early pension release, also known as pension unlocking, refers to withdrawing money from your pension before the age of 55 (rising to 57 from 2028). Whilst it’s possible to access your pension early, there are only two circumstances where you can do so without incurring a large tax charge. No reputable pension provider will let you withdraw a pension early outside of these circumstances. Anyone claiming to be able to help you release your pension before 55 is likely trying to scam you.

PensionBee does not permit unauthorised payments, before the age of 55, under any circumstances. We’ll report any suspicious attempts to withdraw money from your pension and will share any non-personal information we gather with other pension providers.

Accessing your pension

Pension freedoms legislation gives anyone with a defined contribution pension much more flexibility over how they take their pensions. The limit on how much someone over 55 could withdraw from their pension was removed. For those under 55, unless you have a serious illness or a protected retirement date on your pension (described below), you’ll be charged up to 55% tax on the amount you withdraw.

Pension release over 55

Once you turn 55, you’ll be able to withdraw up to 25% of your pension tax-free from your personal or workplace pensions. And for withdrawals made on the remaining 75% of your pensions, you’ll be charged at your normal income tax rate. When considering withdrawing your retirement savings, there are four main options to consider. These include:

These also apply if you’re self-employed.

Pension release under 55

While it’s not against the law to access a pension before the age of 55, doing so isn’t recommended for two main reasons.

  1. You’ll incur a tax charge of 55% on your withdrawal

You’ll be charged up to 55% tax on the amount you request to withdraw. This will significantly impact how much of your pension you’ll end up receiving. An early withdrawal means you could risk running out of money before retirement and having to work for longer to save more into your pension.

  1. You could be the victim of a scam

Many third-party companies claim they can help you access your pension before age 55 by exploiting loopholes in the system. Such offers are likely to be a pension scam. These companies could charge you up to 30% of your withdrawal amount to access your pension. So, you’ll be charged 55% tax for the early withdrawal, plus a further 30% by the third-party, leaving you with just 15% of your pension. You shouldn’t trust a third-party to act on your behalf as they’re unlikely to be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Permitted reasons for accessing your pension before 55

Two exceptions allow you to access your pension before the age of 55.


You have a serious illness which means you can no longer work or you’re under 55 and have a terminal illness with less than a year to live.

Protected Retirement Age (PRA)

A protected retirement age (PRA) generally only applies to careers where early retirement is common such as professional sports or military service. A PRA must have been granted before 6 April 2006 to be valid.

When transferring a pension with a PRA to a new provider, it may no longer apply to the new pension scheme. If you don’t have a PRA, you won’t be able to access your pension before the normal minimum pension age which is currently 55 (rising to 57 from 2028).

Can I take my money out of NEST or a SIPP before 55?

The same rules for accessing your pension before age 55 also apply if you have a NEST pension or a Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP).

Pension release rules

Here are some of the key things you should remember when considering early pension release.


Consider your options carefully. Before you make any decisions about early pension release it’s important to calculate how much money you have, and how long it’ll need to last you. Our Pension Calculator can help you calculate how much you can realistically afford to withdraw.

Speak to your pension provider for more information. Contact your provider if you believe you’re eligible for early pension release due to ill health or if you have a protected retirement date. If you think you can access your pension early for another reason, check the details of your scheme and still speak to your pension provider in the first instance.


Share any details about your pension. Beware of anyone who contacts you out of the blue offering a free pension review or claiming they can help you release your pension before age 55. You could receive a phone call, text message, email, letter or be approached in person. So it’s important to be vigilant with anyone who enquires about your pension.

Keep something suspicious to yourself. If you or someone you know has been approached about early pension release and you think it may be a pension scam, you should report it. Call the Financial Conduct Authority’s helpline on 0800 111 6768 or visit the FCA website.

Risk warning

As always with investments, your capital is at risk. The value of your investment can go down as well as up, and you may get back less than you invest. This information should not be regarded as financial advice.

Last edited: 06-04-2024

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