24th August 2007 at 01:00
Q I start my PGCE course in a couple of weeks' time. Is it true I won't be able to draw my pension until I reach the age of 65? That seems a very long way off. Should I worry about my pension anyway as someone who is still in their early 20s?

A Since January this year, all new entrants have a normal retirement age of 65 so yes, you can expect to have to work until then if the present regulations continue unchanged. There are additional benefits which accompany the change, plus some facilities to draw down a pension before the normal retirement age. However, as we saw in 1996 when there were significant changes to the early retirement rules, nothing is fixed and can be subject to pressures especially since there is no actual pension fund for teachers and they are paid out of the government's annual expenditure after taking contributions into account. If you understand the importance of compound interest, you will know that paying into a pension fund while in your 20s, although taxing on your income when you have so many other demands on your money, pays immense dividends due to the length of the time the money is invested. The Teachers' Pension Fund also has the advantage of being a government fund so, unless the economy is in a terrible mess, it should be pretty secure. The pension is also linked to inflation. There is a risk that salaries don't keep up with what you could earn elsewhere, so it is sensible to look at all the elements which make up both the job and the remuneration package of a teacher. Remember, there are likely to be some heads retiring on a pension of up to pound;50,000 a year. My main gripe is that during your PGCE you won't be earning pension credits this doesn't seem fair if others can do so during their training for other public sector posts. Still, it doesn't affect what I said earlier about the value of paying contributions right from the start of your career.

John Howson is a recruitment analyst and visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University. To ask him a question, email him at askjohnhowson@tes.co.uk

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