I am off to Westminster this morning to meet the new boss of the Single Finance Guidance Body. We’re not going to be talking dashboards – he’s in dashboard purdah till the consultation’s over. My agenda is AGE – Assist-Guide-Equip.
I don’t presume to think for everyone, or talk for anyone but myself, but personally I think we’re rather ignoring the role the state has and will play in helping ordinary people figure out their financial futures – especially the part of the future where money stops coming in from work and starts coming in from pensions.
We underestimate the importance of this transition, we believe because we feel we can work for ever, that it will always be thus. But it isn’t. Many people find in their fifties that the opportunities and will to keep making money diminish. As John Cooper-Clark wrote of ageing bikers “Tyres are knackered, knackers are tired”.
Preparing for the longest holiday we’ll ever take
The realities of our older years are difficult to think about. The deterioration of mind and body is complimented by the joys of reminiscence, the peace of final years that should be devoid of stress – a time to enjoy families. While we have been mentored by parents and in the workplace, in retirement we are the mentors, the people others turn to.
It’s difficult to think about because there is no career path – all of us are on our own. Which is why a little guidance along the way is very helpful.
In my current thinking , I’m interested in how we help people into this new stage of life and particularly how we prepare them for the financial side of things.
I am sure that the majority of us will not be well-prepared, we’ll muddle through and look back and regret financial decisions we took that were not thought through. The decisions we take in our fourties, fifties and sixties about debt, savings and protecting ourselves and our families can and should last us a lifetime. That’s why I’m interested in simple concepts like the AgeWage- the replacement income we provide ourselves in our later years.
Bringing the Single Financial Guidance Body into being
We are now but a fortnight away from the arrival of a new name in financial guidance. SFGB doesn’t have any obvious resonance, it is a name not a brand – it inherits the brands of MAS and TPAS and most of the people who worked there, but it has to forge a new identity and relevance – which – it’s hoped – will make it the obvious place for us to go for assistance, guidance and to be equipped for later life.
John Govett is the new CEO, I want him to know that I’m rooting for him and for the SFGB. It’s a national resource and I want it to be known nationally. I will promote it.
At the same time, I will need it- as I needed TPAS – for myself and for the many customers of Pension PlayPen and AgeWage who need personal financial guidance and help for staff who often turn to their employers first.
John Govett has the job of making SFGB the next step for millions of us – who may start our exploration of the future tentatively – needing the kind of mentor that they’ve had all their lives – but won’t have in the future.
John has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders and he could do with support. I will be speaking with him this morning about how he can rely on mine and how I hope I can rely on his organisation.
The need for universal relevance
The Government has made some changes to the way we can organise our futures.
- We have a state pension that pays out a single amount from a different time. Understanding how this fundamental building block of the AgeWage works is a challenge for us and for SFGB
- We have new ways to spend our pension savings – PensionsWise (or whatever it will become) was set up to help us understand what pension freedoms mean and give us next steps in using them
- We have matters we don’t like to think of, the implications of failing health, the changes to the way we plan for this are yet to be announced but the strain on the NHS and younger generations is getting greater – the SFGB can help us here too.
I haven’t mentioned the dashboard , and I won’t in this piece any more than to say that the DWP’s current plan is that SFGB is where the dashboard will sit, at least for the first few years till commercial dashboards are unleashed on the poor unsuspecting public!
The current thinking appears to be that the Pension Dashboard becomes the first new deliverable of SFGB. This should make it universally relevant as Pension Freedoms should have made PensionWise relevant. That only 1 in 10 of us use our shot at PensionWise is a mark of failure not success. The dashboard (and PensionWise) should do better.
We need SFGB to be universally relevant, pensions and pension saving and debt management and long-term care funding should be things that all of us think about and prepare for. Of course not all of us will, but we can and should do better.