Green shield stamps ( how to buy a pension)

Lawrence Churchill of NEST and John Hutton (of the report) spoke eloquently yesterday of the need for people to focus on a desired retirement outcome (for instance;-“I want an income of £15,000 pa”) work out what it takes to get it and then save like crazy.

As I listened  my mind went back to Green Shield Stamps. I used to look in the catalogue, decide what I wanted, work out how many books I needed to complete and then make my parent’s life a misery till I got what I wanted.

Typically this meant long detours to out of the way petrol stations that gave out quadruple green shield stamps and shopping at rubbish supermarkets like International Stores in return for stamps which kept me quiet.

My son still plays with the Dunlop golf clubs that I got from all my badgering ane the taste of those stamps that I neatly aligned on each page (never cheating) still tingles my tongue.

Enough of nostalgia –  what of the future?

There’s plenty to learn from Green shield stamp books.

  1. They were tangible. Pensions aren’t tangible but savings tokens can be. We don’t need Chilean style savings books but a monthly text telling me how my savings are going would serve the purpose better. Like the stamp books (pictured), I want something to focus on!
  2. They offered certainty. The deal was simple and immutable. The targets were definite and the means of achieving them in my hands.
  3. They delivered. We may not have needed the pressure cookers, garden hoses and rubbish jewelry but we got them without snags!


If we could make pensions savings as simple as collecting Green Shield Stamps and the annuity purchasing decision as simple as handing over the books and collecting the goods, we would not be in the state we are in today!

If we could get the British public as enthusiastic about pensions as the vouchers we collect from moneysavingexpert and other parts of the net we would not be in the state was are in today.

What brings my memory of Green SHield Stamps back to me with that warm glow? Because saving green shield stamps was fun.

Now there’s a challenge for the Pension Industry……….. Maybe the Pension Play Pen can help!

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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7 Responses to Green shield stamps ( how to buy a pension)

  1. sipphound says:

    You are definitely on to something there – invisible progress towards an intangible/incomprehensible goal at an immediate opportunity cost that’s all too apparent … And we wonder why most people aren’t engaged with pensions?

    Execution is tougher. That monthly text might reveal a lower fund value than the previous month – for the umpteenth month in a row, even. People probably ought to think, great I’ll invest more but everyone in our industry seems convinced it will make pension savers jibbering, frightened wrecks, leading to them giving up or becoming quiveringly timid.

    Maybe a an actuarial calculation of a total nominal level of contributions to be made and progress towards it would do the job, current fund values being totally disregarded. If unfavourable adjustments to those calculations are needed, the problems of confidence return …

    Wasn’t it so much better with DB? That worked with so little employee engagement ever required – and bad actuarial news went to the employer!

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  5. Steve Clark says:

    Henry – as ever wise words. We were the same in our house. In fact I’ve still got some books somewhere that I was saving up towards the Ford Cortina. Engagement has to improve. Many times at member meetings I hear the cry “Pensions are Rubbish”. This view is probably at least partly down to the invisible, intangible and long term nature of pensions. Something’s got to change and as ideas go this is a good start. Maybe by the time I retire I’ll get the Cortina!

    • henry tapper says:

      That Ford Cortina- did anyone ever get enough books? They must have had no tongue left.

      I can still remember the joy when the bog ten stamp arrived!

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