I’ve been asked to pontificate on how we should make pensions relevant for the young, in 750 words. My audience won’t be young and nor am I. In every sense of the word, this is a paternalistic project. If I’m not careful it will not just be paternalistic but patronising. The two words have the same Latin root (Pater=father), it’s generally considered that “patronising” is the condescending version of paternalism.
My immediate reaction is to hand the whole thing to my son, who at 20, has joined me and is researching engagement as part of AgeWage. He’s already put me and my colleagues in our place when we have assumed how he wants information on retirement saving presented to him.
There is no way that people like me can get inside the head of someone less than half my age. The question is whether we can find a way of talking about later life savings at all.
I’ve written before about Iona Bain’s project NextGen – which is about promoting and encouraging the next generation in the pensions industry. Iona’s blog is required reading for anyone trying to understand how young people process information.
If people like me are to have a part in making pensions relevant to people like Iona, or indeed my son, we are going to have to empower them to write the articles, not be written to.
Sadly – the power is with my generation and the commissioning editor is asking for me – not my son- because that is the way things get done.
What Iona is doing, and doing well, is taking control of the message away from people like me and speaking for her generation directly..
It’s quite obvious to me, from everything that I see on my son’s phone, that the messaging for people under 30 needs to be radically different to get any impact.
What seems less clear is why what works for a 25 year old – should not equally work for a 55 year old.
In other words, shouldn’t we be putting the design of the messaging in the hands of people under 30 and let them get on with it? This may sound a little risky from a compliance point of view, but if the outcome of a compliant pension system is the exclusion of many people through poorly presented information, then perhaps there’s a bigger risk elsewhere!
“Young people are idealistic and have less barriers to save – discuss!”
One of the great surprises of auto-enrolment is that opt-out levels are so low for millennials and so high for people closest to retirement. The barriers to saving for people my age appear higher than for the impecunious twenty- some things struggling with debt, housing costs and starter-wages.
Is this because young people are so apathetic, they don’t know that they’re saving?
Or is it that they are sufficiently idealistic that they can embrace the concept of locking up money for thirty years for the future good?.
Intuitively, I say it’s the latter, though it’s been a long-time since my twenties.
Certainly the feedback from the millennials who are transferring pots to Pension Bee is that if they can save into a pension that makes sense to them, invest in funds that satisfy their idea of responsible investing and be looked after by bee-keepers who look and sound a bit like them, they will make positive decisions and transfer their pension monies to Romi Samova and her team.
So maybe I should be spending some time talking to Romi and some time with Iona and my son, before submitting any copy.
And maybe I need to forget about telling people how to talk to young people, and let young people talk for themselves. Perhaps that’s the dividing line between being paternal and being patronising.