July 28, 2016 / 11:10 AM / 3 years ago

British savers unlock more than 6 billion pounds from retirement pots

A man and a woman sit in deckchairs near the beach in Bournemouth, Britain August 6, 2015. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

LONDON (Reuters) - British pensioners have unlocked more than 6 billion pounds of cash from their retirement savings since landmark pension freedoms were introduced 15 months ago, the Treasury said on Thursday.

The reforms, which removed the obligation to buy an annuity and handed Britons greater choice over how to spend or invest their savings, have helped 159,000 people to access 1.7 billion pounds since April.

This is more than double the 820 million pounds reported in the first quarter, insurer Aviva (AV.L) said in a statement in response to the Treasury’s latest numbers.

The latest rise takes the total value of payments to more than 6 billion pounds across 772,000 payments since reforms were launched in April 2015.

“Money is tight for many, and the demands on our finite resources – savings and property – are great. Freedom, choice and popularity is to be celebrated, but savers must be supported to ensure their enthusiasm today does not damage their ambitions for tomorrow,” Alistair McQueen, Savings & Retirement Manager at Aviva said.

The government’s pensions guidance service, Pension Wise, has clocked up more than 2.7 million visits to its website and nearly 75,000 appointments to date, indicating sustained interest among consumers about how they can take advantage of the new systems.

The government has also announced plans to protect consumers by capping early exit fees and giving millions more people the ability to trade expected income from their annuities on the open market from April 2017, subject to agreement from their annuity provider.

Reporting By Sinead Cruise. Editing by Jane Merriman

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