Blog: Falling out of love with pensions

The Valentine’s Day press releases have been trickling in over the past few days, as companies and pension providers take the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the benefits of showing pension savings some extra love.

Whilst the financial services industry is arguably shoehorning itself into a day for romance, it seems a more well-intentioned campaign than some of the high-priced menus and chocolates that will be gifted today.

And efforts like this are sorely needed given the current pension adequacy concerns, with warnings that the UK could be sleepwalking into a retirement crisis appearing almost daily.

But while pensions may not be an industry that strikes excitement in the hearts of most, I have been genuinely excited to be part of the industry since I first got involved in the world of pensions back in 2017.

Whether it is bugging my friends to rethink that last round at the pub in favour of a pension top up (yes really), telling my family with lost pension pots about the potential benefits of pensions dashboards, or repping my Pensions Attention pin on every jacket I own. I have been proud of my involvement in pensions, some might even say smitten.

But in recent months, it has felt more like Groundhog Day than Valentine’s day, and I can’t help but fear that I may be falling out of love with pensions again.

The calls for change are becoming far too familiar, and whether it is work on dashboards, regulatory changes, or reviews and updates to ongoing initiatives, there is so much crucial work that seems to be taking far too long to progress.

It is encouraging to hear that the new Pensions Minister has dashboards firmly in his sights, but other areas of change seem to have slipped down the agenda.

In particular, whilst there was hope for progress on auto-enrolment (AE) reform last year, with a Private Member’s Bill to extend auto-enrolment to lower earners and younger workers receiving Royal Assent in September, the consultation on these changes has yet to be seen.

Although the government recently said that it remains committed to plans to consult on these changes, there seems a slight change in tone, as DWP clarified that this is “subject to discussions with employers and other stakeholders on the right implementation approach and finding ways to make these changes affordable".

The DWP also said that it would be looking to give employers and savers time to plan for any future changes, suggesting that even when a roadmap or consultation is shared, this will be just the next step in a potentially long road to change.

But this an issue with a deadline and vague timelines are not enough.

These are vital changes, which could help narrow the gender pensions gap and bring more savers into workplace pensions, with recent industry analysis suggesting that the changes could boost younger savers' pensions by £105bn over the next 50 years.

And the benefits could even be more widespread, as industry research recently found that AE can help people's finances beyond pension savings, with some highlighting AE reform as one route to also help address the broader savings challenge in the UK.

Every month that passes is another missed opportunity for money to be going into savers’ pensions.

Pressure is building, and many in the industry have already set their sights on the next round of AE changes, with growing calls for the government to tackle AE contribution levels.

Valentines is often seen as an opportunity to spark life back into important connections, and this could be true for pension issues too.

So keep the chocolates, keep the diamonds and keep the Chanel, I’ll be hoping that my valentine comes in the form of a consultation on AE reform, before another failed promise leaves us broken-hearted and falling out of love with pensions.

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