If you are aged 50 or over and have left the company, you may be offered the option to retire and receive your benefits early.
This option will generally only be available for defined benefit schemes if they meet the statutory minimum funding standard. At the present time, many pension schemes do not meet the funding standard.
Taking early retirement may or may not be in your best interests. Typically, taking early retirement will result in a lower annual retirement income than would have been the case if you transferred to a PRB, PRSA or new company pension plan and waited until normal retirement age to draw down your benefits.
However, if it would be beneficial for you to have a pension income and/or a lump sum immediately, early retirement may be the best option for you.
You should note that while there is nothing to stop you from taking early retirement and continuing to receive earnings from a new employer or from self-employment, this course may not be tax efficient, as your pension income and earned income will be combined for income tax purposes.