Thursday, May 16, 2013

POLL: Artists - Have you made provision for a pension?

The topic most people seem least keen to talk about apart from death is pensions.  Artists are no exception.

In fact if anything they seem less likely to talk about it because, unless they are prompted to do something, they get few reminders.  At least when in employment you see a deduction going into a pension pot each month!
The vast majority of artists have no private pension plans
Katsushika Hokusai, in an 1839 self-portrait
age 79
I suspect that reasons why artists don't get to grips with pensions are various:
  • the gobblydygook which masquerades as advice about pensions is a big reason for a lot of people
  • Another reason is affordability - when artists don't make a lot of money from their art and hence have few resources with which to create a pension.  
  • a belief, erroneous or otherwise, that artists never retire and can continue to make good art into their old age - hence no need for a pencion (Hokusai created his great works and became famous after the age of 60)
  • a total disinclination to even think about pensions!
I'm guessing that one of the reasons that a lot of UK artists teach within state funded education is so that they can earn themselves a pension pot as most other people in employment do.

Artists Interaction and Representation (AIR) provided an update on their work re artists' pensions in December 2012.  They concluded thus
Key findings so far include:
  • The Pensions for Artists research commissioned by Arts Council England in 2007 showed that 70% of artists (across all artforms) didn’t have a private pension.
  • In the UK working population as a whole, 44% don’t have a private pension. It also showed that affordability is the key factor in whether artists save for their pensions, and that artists are twice as likely as the working population as a whole to earn under £10,000 a year.
  • It is common within performing arts unions to offer pension schemes. The combination of the employer contribution and tax relief are powerful incentives for these members to opt in.
  • However, given that 50% of artists nowadays are self-employed they would be the sole contributor to their own savings. This presents a significant challenge in creating an affordable, well-adopted scheme for visual and applied artists.

Making A Mark Poll - Pension provision for Artists

The Making A Mark Poll for May is about pension provision for artists.

It aims to provide a guideline as to what proportion of artists make provision for a pension.  The question and options are as below.

Artists - Have you made provision for a pension?

  • Yes - I make regular payments into an artists pension plan
  • Yes - I make contributions when "in funds"
  • Yes - I'm an art teacher with a pension
  • Yes - I have a regular job with a pension (use this one if already retired with a pension)
  • Yes - I'm relying on a state pension 
  • No - no spare cash for pension contributions
  • No - I shall keep selling paintings until I drop
  • No - I've no idea where to start or what to do
  • No - I'd rather not think about it

You can find the poll in the right hand column.  The deadline for voting is 00:10 on 31st May and I'll try and report the poll results as soon as possible after that.

Pensions for Artists

Here's one useful link - the UK Government's State Pension Calculator for those who are paying National Insurance in the UK.  This tells you how much pension you can get from the State when you become eligible.  The full State Pension is £110.15 a week (£5,727 p.a.)

One of the things I'm also going to do this month is research what information is available online in connection with pensions and will produce a website so I can share that with you
UPDATE 2016: You can now find that page at Retirement and Pensions for Artists

(a bit like my Art after death - Resources for Artists & Art Collectors website) UPDATE 2016: The Art Legacy webpage


  1. At one time the Arts Council did a great workshop on pensions - I went to a session in Brighton (so SE Arts Council).

    If you're not in a higher tax bracket, another thing to consider is an ISA. There's little to no advantage of a personal private pension scheme over an ISA other than rules of access. Plus, there are ISAs that will let you deposit as little as £1 a month! I had trouble finding a private pension fund that would let me start with no lump sum and a very small monthly contribution.

  2. Tina - I think you've written about this in the past. I'd love to link to your blog posts if you have.


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