£20bn unclaimed, millions out of DB and we don’t let people see the DC price tag!

Around about a year ago Steve Webb spoke at a First Actuarial internal event to our staff. It was fair to say he was a great success. At the end , Hilary Salt asked him what chance CDC, part of the Defined Ambition, he’d introduced – would see the light of day in the UK.  Steve said “no chance”.

I was chairing and I looked hard at Hilary , when Steve responded. The look of determination in her face made me sure that she would prove him wrong – she did.

Yesterday, Royal Mail took another step closer to getting the CDC scheme that Hilary helped negotiate – in her role as pensions adviser to the CWU (Royal Mail’s principal union).

guy cdc.PNG

Guy Opperman replying to Frank Field

It wasn’t just Hilary, but it was Hilary’s idea and I’m romantic enough to believe that it was at the moment that Steve challenged her, that Hilary became determined to make a difference.

It was not just at Royal Mail, her and Derek Benstead’s work with UCU has resulted in a major shift in the position of both USS and UUK, the setting up of the JEP and a potential solution to the pensions dispute that blighted many students academic progress.

Neither her or Derek were to the manor born, they have achieved what they have by force of intellect and character. They have encouraged me to speak out for what I feel right – on this blog and elsewhere. We will not be at the PLSA this year.

What can we do to reunite people with the £20bn that’s gone missing?

Petrie Hoskin

Petrie Hoskin – start saving!

Around this time yesterday, I was sitting on top of a Dutch barge in Amsterdam harbour speaking to Radio London.

Are the PLSA standing up for pensions? I don’t know

Addressing the bias

I won’t pretend that the handful of people who were around to listen to the show were influenced by my standing up for pensions, but I felt very proud to have the opportunity to rebut Petrie’s rubbishing of regular saving for retirement.

The publicity that pensions (and in particular the £20bn unclaimed pensions) got yesterday, is very much needed. Until people have a well mapped path to find their lost money, they will consider that money has been taken from them by an unfair and uncaring system they want nothing to do with. I am not talking here of the people who read this blog, but of the millions of people who feel totally helpless.

Their helplessness is precisely why Hilary stuck her neck out on their behalf. Ordinary people – whether it be through the closure of collective pension schemes, the loss of Government Incentives or the failure to trace their pension rights – are losing out. They are simply not getting the help with their finances that their efforts to save and to pay tax and national insurance deserve.

The social contract between big Government and ordinary people is letting ordinary people down, it is being skewed to meet the needs of the 6% of us who take financial advice, those of us with “rich people’s problems”. Meanwhile, the pension poor are largely ignored.

Thankfully, there is in parliament a self-correcting measure. It is there in the select committees – most notably the Treasury Committee run by Nicky Morgan and the Work and Pensions Committee run by Frank Field.

Thankfully we have a pensions minister who has asked to have financial inclusion in his title and clearly feels he is not just here for the wealth managers and institutional pension funds.

I’d like to think that Frank Field, Guy Opperman -even Nicky Morgan, are influenced by the groundswell of disapproval for the obscene bias’ built into our pension system. A disapproval articulated by among others Hilary Salt, Andy Agethangelou and those who Andy has brought together through his Transparency Task Force.

This groundswell of disruption needs to be articulated. I hope that the PLSA will give it a voice. I am pleased that my friend and colleague Chris Sier is participating.

Opperman at the PLSA

This afternoon, Guy Opperman will speak at the PLSA and launch a new page pension statement. I am embargoed from publishing my thoughts on that statement – or the statement itself. I do not want to derail the statement’s progress. I have a great deal of admiration for Ruston Smith and Quietroom and everyone else who are trying to give people simple information that will help them with their pensions. I will not re-blog my thoughts till after the Minister speaks at 3pm today.

But I will say this. The statement does not give ordinary people one of the three things they really want to know about their pension.

  1. How much it’s worth
  2. How it’s done
  3. What it’s cost them

People want to know what they pay for something, we are denying people easy access to that information. Pension experts say that telling people what pensions cost will stop them saving; I believe the truth is exactly the opposite.

So long as people aren’t allowed to know what they pay for pensions, pensions will remain a mystery – something for Petrie Hosken to avoid.

Pensions are for spending

I hope that the PLSA will spend some time at its annual conference, talking about the most important part of pensions, for most ordinary people. I’m talking about how people who are retired- or in the process of retirement – get to spend their money.

It is after all what we save for. I accept that a few – a very few of us – want to spend our pensions on our kids and don’t need the money. But for the vast majority of people, pensions are for spending.

The pensions industry is too little interested in the outcomes of saving, since spending makes us no money – in fact it deplensishes our larder.

But until we focus on paying people a pension, I don’t think we have a right to talk about what we are doing as “pensions” at all.

With the vast majority of employers in this country using pension savings mechanisms that have no pensions attached, isn’t it time we started to listening to Derek and Hilary – and started thinking how we can turn what we save to a “wage in retirement”?

Isn’t it time we made a concerted effort to give people a way of finding the £20bn they have lost.

Isn’t it time we stopped telling people to save into products which don’t have a price tag?


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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