I don’t know why my friend wishes to remain anonymous. Maybe because he is too close to the action- perhaps because he knows too much. I know him to be independent of financial services providers and – as a pensioner – of the pensions industry.
I can only call him an enthusiast, the pensions equivalent of the man who gives up time to reopen railways or write articles for Wikipedia. This is what he wrote me yesterday.
I would love to believe 2016 will be the year when the UK pensions world world woke up from its dream/lethargy and realised what a dire state of future provision it has created, supported, went along with, distracted by irrelevant minutiae.
The OECD say through it though, and hopefully Mercer Melbourne will push us into the relegation zone by properly recognising the risks in DC rather than over optimistically projecting the outcomes from it.
And then perhaps we will understand that we are heading for a world where:
(1) state pension will be at around 25% of average earnings from age 67 and rising. And headed for cutbacks even at hat level.
(2) private sector provision is risky.
(3) whilst the risk from scams is appalling, the greater risk is the fundamental one of investment returns. The industry needs to engage with Aon’s analysis of what DC would have produced over the past 55 years, and the variability thereof. Once again, over focus on the periphery of the issues.
(4). And the EXPECTED outcome is probably overestimated, given the prospects for returns assumed from typical default funds. But might just provide about 20% of lifetime average earnings – so say 10-15% of final salary. Who knows.
(5). Perhaps, just perhaps 2016 will be remembered as the year when the DWP kicked off the first real investigation of State Pension Age and it was carried out by a new Adair who dared to challenge this cornerstone of our system in protecting the elderly. And returned it to that. And away from what it has become, which is a for many an added encouragement to stop working when they could be contributing to society.
(6). Let’s hope it is not remembered instead as the year dominated by GMPs and all their trivia.
Like the man on the moon in the advert, he sees things with perspective,he has the integrity of independence and the experience of years at the wheel.
The trivia of course pays the bills for many thousands who reconcile GMPs and I indirectly benefit from that work. The rearrangement of deckchairs involved does nothing to save the Titanic but it makes for an orderly retreat. Once the ship has gone down, we will be left with lesser crafts, but at least those craft will be more manoeuvrable, less vulnerable to icebergs.
I’ve spent the Christmas period in the company of two 80 somethings, learning how they organise their lives, keep active and make the most of their considerable mental (and in my Mum’s case physical) energy.
I’ve come across organisations I never knew about like u3a.org.uk making things possible through the internet for older people who might otherwise have been stuck on their own.
My friend is only at the start of the adventure which is later life, I am not even there yet. But I sense that it is not- for him – nor for my parents, a coda but a final movement, not an appendix but a great last chapter. Maybe a series of movements and chapters.
Another friend, Debora Price, who has recently taken up a post at Manchester University, is bringing together research on later life using all the tools at her disposal (including social media).
These are the people the Government should be turning to, to understand how to protect the elderly, these are their champions.
My new year resolutions will be focussed on the need to make the system protect the elderly, invest with social purpose and ensure that another generation does not approach retirement as unengaged, under-educated and disempowered as ours.