3 Expert Tips to Help you Make the Most of your Pension

New research suggests many of us now value our pensions more amid the coronavirus pandemic. Vicky Shaw finds out more.

The pandemic has made many of us value our pensions even more than usual – and this is particularly the case if you have a ‘gold-plated’ final salary pension – new research suggests.

Legal & General surveyed grandparents and parents across the UK to discover how the Covid-19 crisis had made them think differently about their personal finances.

A fifth (21%) of those with a defined benefit (DB) pension scheme say they value the security of their pension more due to the pandemic.

DB schemes promise savers a certain level of income in retirement, based on their salary, such as final salary pensions. They have become rarer, however, as they’re expensive to run. Many employers nowadays offer defined contribution (DC) pension schemes instead – where the retirement income you’ll get depends on factors such as how well investments perform.

The research found 15% of those with DC pensions now value their savings pots more.

Pension savers may gift more to loved ones

The findings also show that one in 10 (10%) with a DB pension say the security of their retirement income has made them more likely to gift or loan money to loved ones as part of their retirement plans. They’re twice as likely to do this as those with a DC pension, with just one in 20 (5%) saying this.

Laura Mason, chief executive officer, Legal & General Retirement Institutional (LGRI), which helps DB schemes to settle their pension obligations, says: “The events of this year have led to uncertainty for many and, understandably, more people are thinking about their pension income in retirement and how it will affect their loved ones.”

3 top tips for retirement savers

David Poulton, chief customer officer, LGRI, says: “It is worthwhile for those in, or approaching, retirement to consider these three tips to ensure they’re getting the most out of their DB pension scheme.”

Here’s what Legal & General suggests…

1. Check you’re aware of all of your pension schemes

Many people will have worked for several employers in their lifetime. Even if you only worked at a company for a few months, there’s a chance there was a pension. Schemes generally send annual updates in the post, but if you think you have ‘lost’ a pension, consider trying the Government’s Pension Tracing Service.

2. Find out if you still have money left

You may think that you’ve taken all of your money out – but you may not be receiving all of the benefits you’re entitled to – or you could still have money to draw down. Once you’ve tracked down all of your DB pension schemes, ensure you know what’s left in each and that you receive annual updates.

3. Beware of scams

Scammers will target pensions. This can happen over email, the phone, or through fraudulent websites. Be aware, be vigilant, and never be rushed into making a decision. For more guidance, go to the Action Fraud website (

12 Boozy Gift Boxes to Delight the Wine or Spirit Lover in your Life

Perfectly packed and guaranteed to go down a treat, Sam Wylie-Harris rustles up this year’s best boozy gift boxes.

If you really want to box clever this Christmas, chances are you’ll find everything you need in the wine and spirit department.

Well-wrapped and attractively styled, there’s a boozy gift box to suit all tastes.

Here’s our pick of the bunch…

1. The Wine Society The Bellini Case, £22.50, The Wine Society

A new kind of prosecco experience with all the trimmings, The Wine Society have struck gold with their Bellini gift box, which includes a 25cl bottle of Van Nahmen Rhubarb Nectar and Van Nahmen White Peach Nectar. Tart and sweet Italian style – saluti!

2. Nyetimber Classic Cuvée Multi-Vintage Gift Box, £36.99, Nyetimber

One of England’s finest sparkling wines, Nyetimber have gone to town with their London Christmas Scene limited-edition box, adorned with gold snowflakes and illustrations of iconic landmarks such as Big Ben, The Tower of London and London Eye – with some fabulous fizz inside.

3. The Kraken Black Spiced Rum Unknown Deep Limited Edition, £36.75, Amazon

It needs little introduction for dark rum fans – The Kraken is one of the most prized spiced rums out there. This new-look glossy black bottle, embossed with ancient gold currency, is the first in a special-edition series, themed around a mythical story of a deep-sea expedition to find the elusive beast. Plus, The Kraken are donating a £1 from every bottle sold to the marine conversation charity, Project Aware: Dive Against Debris.

4. House of Suntory Roku Japanese Gin Gift Box, £38.50, Harvey Nichols

Crafted from six Japanese botanicals (roku means six in Japanese), as well as traditional gin botanicals (juniper, lemon peel, coriander, etc), this fragrant gin is presented in a pretty cherry blossom gift box. Yuzu citrusy top notes, cherry blossom, spicy sansho pepper and green tea make themselves known in perfect harmony.

5. Retro Gin Fridge – That Boutique-y Gin Company, £39.90, The Whisky World

With old-school looks and styling inspired by the 1950s, and eight 5cl bottles to enjoy, this must be the cutest pressie to pop under the tree. Of course, it won’t freeze your ice trays or martini glass, but who wouldn’t want to chill out with a shot of Yuzu, Smoked Rosemary or Ginger Lime Gin come the big day?

6. Christmas Day Mixed Wine and Prosecco Gift Box, £39.99, Virgin Wines

The world of wine is so huge, where to start if you want to narrow it down to a tip-top trio? Virgin Wines have done the hard work for you here, with their German pinot noir from the famous Pfalz region, crowd-pleasing Aussie sauvignon blanc and super popular Senti prosecco – plus the added bonus of a personalised gift message.

7. St-Germain Winter Bloom Bauble & Spritz Kit, £40, Hedges and Flowers

Baubles in bloom… St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur have teamed up with Hedges and Flowers floral design studio to create this luxurious spritz kit, which includes a bottle of the famous French floral liqueur, glass carafe, two art deco gold rimmed glasses and four handmade glass baubles filled with dried flowers, finished with a velvet ribbon for hanging. Did someone say deck the halls with cocktails and curios? We’re in.

8. Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée Champagne NV & 2 Branded Flutes Gift Box, £50, The Champagne Company

A chic carry case with all the trimmings, Laurent Perrier’s bag of tricks includes a bottle of their beautifully fresh and elegant La Cuvée Brut, with two tulip shaped glass flutes to enhance the steady stream of bubbles with all the bells and whistles.

9. Specially Yours Moët & Chandon Personalisable Gift Boxes: Imperial Brut Personalisable Metal Gift Box, £50, Rosé Imperial Personalisable Metal Gift Box, £59, Clos 19

Santa’s workshop has been busying itself with these personalized metal gift tins to ring out your message loud and clear. Dressed in winter white or rosy pink, Specially Yours celebrates the most wonderful time of the year to pop the corks!

10. Patrón Silver Tequila – Día De Muertos, £54.99,

Top of our tequila wish list, Patrón Silver are also encouraging us to explore personalised options courtesy of Inkd – and their whimsy limited-edition bottle inspired by Day of the Dead, the Mexican holiday which brings families together to celebrate life and death. Adorned with butterflies, marigolds and sugar skull, it’s a beautifully crafted little gem from Jalisco.

11. Berry Bros & Rudd Extra Ordinary Gift Set, £95, Berry Bros & Rudd

Sometimes, it’s all in the detail. This chic set stars two benchmark bottles from Bordeaux: Berry Bros & Rudd Extra Ordinary White and Extra Ordinary Claret. Plus Berry’s own label grand cru champagne, a champagne stopper and corkscrew, along with illustrated tote bag. One to delight wine enthusiasts and oenophiles.

12. Home of Bombay Hamper, £120, Bombay Sapphire

A gin palace to call their own, this hamper is no mere afterthought for the gin lover in your life. Nestled inside are five fabulous (70cl) expressions: Bombay Sapphire, Bombay Dry, Bombay Sapphire English Estate, Bombay East, and Bombay Bramble. Plus a long twisted bar spoon and jigger to put the jingle and joy into Christmas when they rustle up the first G&T.

16 of the Best Christmas Gifts for Gardeners

From gorgeous garden wear and robust tools to heavenly houseplants, check out our gift guide for gardeners.

Whether the person you are buying for is new grower or an experienced green-fingered guru, there is a wealth of gifts out there that they will love this Christmas.

And as well as sorting your festive shopping for gardening friends or relatives, a scroll through our top 16 presents might just provide some inspiration for your own wish list.

Here’s our pick of the gifts for gardeners indoors and out.

1. Dexshell Fair Isle Waterproof Beanie (£25,

This waterproof Fair Isle beanie is a must for gardeners who don’t let rain dampen their spirits or put paid to their efforts in the garden. It’ll keep gardeners warm and dry with its super-soft fleece lining and wind-and-rainproof membrane.

2. Personalised fork and trowel set (£25.87, Amazon)

You can personalise this traditional wooden-handled stainless steel fork and trowel set with own message or perhaps the recipient’s name. Each tool can have up to 30 characters.

3. A Christmas Cook’s Garden (£20, The Gluttonous Gardener,

This festive gift set gives you the ingredients you need to grow your own herbs, along with aromatic spices for mulled wine. The pack includes seeds for sage, rosemary and thyme, as well as cinnamon sticks, cloves and star anise, along with growing instructions and recipes.

4. Upcycled vintage spoon garden plant markers (£15 for set of three, Amazon)

If you’re into vintage, you’ll love this set of three upcycled vintage teaspoon garden markers which can be personalised with the plant, vegetable or herb name of your choice. The spoons have been flattened and the words are hand-stamped onto them, so perfect for the gardener who has everything.

5. Caledonian Tiered Raised Bed (£121.99,

Another space-saver for people who want to grow flowers, fruit and veg but don’t have enough room – the answer is to grow upwards. This planter can hold 250L of compost and the frame comes pre-notched so is quick and easy to assemble. Remember to line the trough with a permeable membrane if you are using it to grow food.

6. Barry’s Cactus Club subscription (£15 for a one-time gift; £42 for a 3 month subscription; £156 for 12 month subscription,

This is a brilliant idea for people who love these prickly plants and want to get a bit of a collection going, to put on their desk, or line up on shelves or windowsills. Each month the recipient will receive a surprise mini cactus or succulent and a specially designed ceramic pot that you won’t find anywhere else, plus in the first box you’ll get a few other goodies. Perfect for those who like low maintenance plants and fancy some new desk buddies.

7. Wildlife Letterbox Gift (£19.99, Suttons,

Letterbox gift sets have now landed at Suttons for you to send to friends and relatives who aren’t going to be joining you during the festive season. You can choose from five different types – from chilli, herb, fragrant, vegetable and wildlife. The wildlife set comes with floral seed mixes, twine, mini secateurs, exfoliating soap and a pressed flower kit.

8. Veritable Classic Garden White Indoor cultivation garden (£137.10, Amazon)

This ingenious high-tech self-sufficient garden incorporates lighting with a colour spectrum adapted specifically for edible plants, enabling you to grow herbs all year round easily indoors. You don’t need any natural light, its clever automatic irrigation system will water plants for three to four weeks, and it comes with four seed kits so you can get growing straight away.

9. Iris & Lady Moore Charity Candle (£49, Jo Malone,

A gorgeous irises design adorns the casing of this deliciously scented charity candle, which has a burn time of around 45 hours. For each charity candle you buy, Jo Malone will make a donation equal to 75% of the price to charities which support people affected by mental health.

10. Cast iron boot brush and jack (£23.95, Harrod Horticultural,

This is a must for those of us who struggle to remove their muddy boots at the end of the day and don’t know where to start when it comes to cleaning them. The tough brush bristles should remove a lot of the dirt, while the specially shaped jack will prise off the tightest boots.

11. House of Plants game (£14.99 Dobbies Garden Centres, in store only)

Who doesn’t love a Christmas game? And when it has a gardening theme even better for the green-fingered among us. The plant-themed card game is perfect for millennials and plant lovers as they build up their own urban jungles.

12. Priestlands Birch Scrub-Up and Celebrate gift set (£32.99,

After a long day of gardening, pamper yourself with these soaps, dry skin rescue oil and lip balm, and there’s even a spirit you can serve over ice – all derived from various parts of the birch tree.

13. Jane coin purse – Bumblebee Garden (£44.95,

This beautiful new handmade range, The Bee Garden Collection, is a new collaboration between Will Bees Bespoke and former head of design at Liberty Art Fabrics, Emma Mawston, featuring designs inspired by the flora and bees native to Devon and Cornwall. Handmade in England, with free personalisation – you can have the purse embossed with initials – it also comes with a small pack of wildflower seeds to attract bees.

14. Trumpet peony plant support (from £34, Harrod Horticultural,

There are some really stylish plant supports on the market – but some are less noticeable and let the plants do the talking and, if that’s your preference, this rust-coloured peony support fits the bill. Available in two heights and four diameters, it will keep your plants propped up without stealing their thunder.

15. Festive Kilner (from £7.50, Rosebud Preserves,

Festive mincemeat, chutney, marmalade and pickle all go down well at Christmas, but if your loved one fancies a go at making their own next year, these robust Kilner jars from Rosebud which come packed with flavoursome fare can be reused next year when gardening fans want to have a go at preserving their own harvests.

16. Personalised gardening calendar (£14.99,

Planning for the next season is always high on the gardener’s list of to-dos, so let them see in the New Year with a personalised gardening calendar so they can pencil in those garden visits, plan their gardening schedule and admire their own name in a variety of garden settings with each calendar month.

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