A necessary strike

If there’s one area of consensus among the politicians this morning, it’s that the national pensions strike called for today (30th November) is unnecessary and something this country can ill afford. I disagree – this is a necessary strike, not because the unions are right, or the Government is right but because we need to get out of the trenches of ignorance and have a proper debate in no mans land.

If it costs £500m to engage the nation then so be it- it may cost £15 per tax payer today but if it helps us to get our act together tomorrow that’s a small price to pay.

Good arguments are presented on both sides; if you want to hear an argument from a private sector trustee in solidarity with the public sector pensions, then read Paddy Briggs’ piece.

If you want to hear the argument of a private sector pension advisor pointing out how lucky the public sector are with their pensions, read Mark Polson’s  piece.

If you want to see how the private sector could re-engage its employees in the new type of DC pensions, read Jenny Davidson’s  piece.

If you read my blog, you will know that I have sympathy for those who argue that defined benefit plans are affordable if only we were to give them a chance and I have sympathy for those who have followed Corin Taylor in pointing to the pensions apartheid – the have’s of the public sector, the have not’s – the rest of us. You’ll also have read about Debora Price’s research on the shortfall between the presumed financial capability of the general public and the financial incompetence with which most people display.

We need to give pensions more attention- more particularly the way we organise our retirements in a fair but sustainable way. We cannot point to the past to answer tomorrow’s problems.

The world is still the same as it was 50 years ago – it has not spun off its axis, the seasons still follow each other etc. However, the demographics of Western Europe, of which we are apart have changed radically. We are effectively ten years younger than we would have been in the 1950s. We can expect 65 year olds to behave like 55 year olds (if our expectation of 55 year olds is based on the 55 year olds of yesteryear). Yesterday I discovered I would have to wait till 67 to draw my old age pension, five years ago, I expected to be retiring at 65. These changes are not exclusive to people in the private sector the demographics effect all of us!

It would be great to think that the nation’s wealth had grown sufficiently to have enabled us to afford the extra years of life that we have been granted by better lifestyles. Unfortunately, it has not. That lesson needs to be learned.

Mark Polson points out that to get a pension of 2/3 the average wage costs way over £500,000 – a sum way beyond the dreams of most in the private sector who rely on poorly funded DC plans. For us today is a timely reminder that we either need to get ourselves a Plan B -(house, lottery, criminal plot) or reprioritise how we spend our money so that £500,000 becomes attainable.

Paddy Briggs reminds us that by forsaking the mega mutual defined benefit plans established for employees in large companies, in small companies (where they clubbed together) and in the public sector, we are losing the most efficient way of delivering dignity in retirement that this country has ever had.

Jenny Davidson argues that the new agenda for employers who have given up on funding proper retirements is to teach employees how to do it for themselves.

Today could be a massive wake up call for the citizens of the UK. A day to consider just how we intend to support ourselves in retirement and how we intend our children to do the same. Instead of sniping at the public sector, let the private sector get on with sorting a new settlement. Instead of moaning about their loss of benefits, let the public sector get on with planning how to sort out their shortfall. May all of us profoundly wish for a better set of tools going forward to enable us to save and spend our savings in a way that maximizes our retirement income and not lining the pockets of the pensions industry!

Oh- and if you just want a laugh – try this from the Daily Mash


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
This entry was posted in annuity, corporate governance, dc pensions, Liberal Democrats, NEST, Retirement and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A necessary strike

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