It’s Christmas morning which is a very special time. We all have our private Christmas’ but it’s a day when we share ourselves with family and I’m lucky still to have my parents with me and our whole clan are gathered in Shaftesbury where I grew up.
I realise that this firm base has given me great security and though we argue with each other, as all families do, we are as one in the big things and – happily – on the big day – Christmas!
This sense of security is important to me. 2016 is a year I look forward to with excitement and trepidation. There are two enormous changes coming which are the cause.
The first is the impact of over 600,000 employers becoming part of the so far 70,000 strong group who have staged auto-enrolment.
The second is the announcement by George Osbourne on what he intends to do on pension taxation.
These two events so change the way in which we will do our business that they scare me. But along with the fear is an excitement that breeds courage. For the challenge is an opportunity.
If this sounds a little portentous, I should add that I intend to have considerable fun in 2016 with our Pension Play Pen. Thanks to all who came to our little party on Wednesday evening and to all who attended our lunches and the summer party. Thanks to all who came to Henley onboard Lady Lucy and those who travelled with us to Cheltenham for Champions Day. All these events will happen again in 2016!
So how do we take the fear out of 2016 and meet the challenge.
Firstly we need to restore our confidence in pensions.
There is a mistrust of pensions among those who really matter, the employers staging auto-enrolment. This will come in time but it won’t happen in 2016. But in 2016 we will see the Independent Governance Committees deliver their verdict on the progress insurance companies are making in sorting out their legacy books. They will also be giving us their thoughts on how we can measure value for money (for it it cannot be measured- it cannot be managed).
The Chairmen of the Trustees of our occupational pension schemes also have important jobs to do. Those providing master trusts will work towards achieving the master trust assurance framework. I hope the occupational pension schemes will address the problem for those in net pay schemes who do not get tax relief as they would in relief at source schemes.
Secondly we need to address how we spend our retirement savings.
I am disappointed we have not got further towards proper spending options , especially for those with DC pots that are neither too small to be taken as cash or large enough to merit the attention of financial advisors. It seems to me that providers are making a meal of paying people their money.
We have made little progress towards the pension bank account envisaged when the freedoms were announced in April 2014, the cost of drawdown is too high and the emergence of alternative and potentially the default means of spending these savings has been stalled by the DWP’s decision to shelve the DA agenda.
I have made the point about fixing the potholes, we can carry on doing so- we can even build a hospital for the casualties of fraud and silly decision making, but we need a new road – and quick!
Thirdly (and finally) we need to do something good about advice.
Of all the consultations on the go – the Financial Advice Market Review is the most important. The investigation into the role of investment consultants will be of interest – especially as it touches on their role in the ongoing farce which is the management of the Local Government Pension Scheme.
But what we need to nail is how we give these millions of under-engaged, under-educated and disempowered middle-savers, who desperately need new ways to get advice. I have great hopes that pensions will embrace new technology and provide people the single view of their finances needed for them to make informed choices.
I could (and no doubt will) go on. But you get my gist. We have two ways of looking at 2016, one is with a weeping eye, worrying about the consequences and therefore doing nothing. The other is with an upraised eye towards a vision which is certainly not here yet.
Whether 2016 is a success or not will very much down to which attitude we take.