What benefits are there to having a retirement account called a "pension" in Ireland, as opposed to simply making investments of one kind or another for the same purpose? I am not really asking about the payback as such, more about the security and nature of the arrangement; in that I understand that a pension carries with it certain other benefits, for instance my financial advisor told me one thing about tax breaks based on pension payments and also something about an individual who went bankrupt and though his creditors were able to take his house and businesses, they couldn't by law touch his pension.
I am in Ireland so the law may be different per country, so I am really just asking generally, are there other benefits similar to these, or what is the difference between having bona fide pension and say if i was good at playing stock market or something like that?
I stared a pension recently and at the end of one year I had the exact same as what I put in, plus €4. Further to this while I believe that the pension I am on is with a good company, is there any guarantee that I wouldn't end up with less than I put in?