This is a query that arises frequently and the answer is different depending on the type of pension arrangement.
- If you have a Personal Pension (a.k.a. Retirement Annuity Contract or RAC) the earliest you can retire is age 60.
- If you have a PRSA and are self-employed the earliest you can retire is age 60.
- If you have a PRSA and are in PAYE employment you can retire from age 50 as long as you are also retiring from the employment. After age 60 you don't have to be retiring from the employment to draw benefits from a PRSA.
- If you are a member of an Occupational Pension Scheme, you can retire from age 50 onwards with the approval of the scheme trustees. The trustees don't have to give this approval. For example, if you are in a Defined Benefit pension scheme, early retirements may be prohibited because they can affect the financial position of the scheme as a whole. If you are retiring from an Occupational Pension Scheme before the scheme's Normal Retirement Age then you must also retire from the employment and if you are a shareholding director, dispose of your shares.
- If you have Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs) or an AVC PRSA, then you must access these at the same time as retiring from the main Occupational Pension Scheme.
- If you are retiring due to ill-health then you can retire at any age, regardless of what type of pension arrangement you have. There is a fairly strict Revenue definition of what qualifies for an ill-health early retirement but in broad terms it means that you are so ill that you are reasonably unlikely to be able to work again. Medical evidence will usually be requested to verify this. (If you do take ill-health early retirement and are fortunate enough that you subsequently recover, that's no problem - you can get a job again if you want/can.)
- Until March 2016 there is a temporary scheme whereby you can withdraw up to 30% of any AVCs you have as a once-off lump sum regardless of your age. Any such withdrawal will be subject to your highest rate of income tax. It only applies to funds accumulated through Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs). If your fund is not an AVC or a PRSA AVC then this scheme doesn't apply to you. This scheme was discussed on AAM here and you can read the Pensions Board FAQ on it here.