The state of pensions – from Lady Lucy


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It’s an odd Monday morning, I’m on my boat, BBC Radio Wales have just asked me to comment on a story about the state pension (no chance – I’m setting up my boat) and in a few minutes Professional Pensions will be arriving with a film crew to film me gabbing on about pensions – from a boat.

Not any old boat mind you – Lady Lucy – the pensions boat.

Here is our agenda for discussion as we ply the Middle Thames in search of inspiration.

Interview questions:

Tell us about the Lady Lucy – when did you purchase the boat, and why? Any funny pensions stories on the boat that you’re willing to share?

!946 Osborne Motor Cruiser, double diagonally planked in mahogany and build to an RNLI design, the boat has hosted many celebs – Debbie Magee, Gavin Henson and the great Rodney Bewes. Best story, motoring down from Sonning with Rodney we came to the split in the river- one fork of which goes to the lock – one to the weir. With only a searchlight to guide him I ask Rodney what the wooden sign at our bow said

“It says Danger” – replied the likely lad.

3 seconds later we were on the ropes of the weir.

Could you talk us through your pensions career – what were the peaks and troughs?

36 years of drudgery, no highs – plenty of troughs – though I didn’t get fed as well as some

How has pensions changed since you started, from both a regulatory and industry perspective?

In 1983 pensions were provided by the state and employers and – for the well off professional- by guaranteed annuity schemes. Today a pension is anything which qualifies for tax-relief, the idea of a wage for life has all but been forgotten and regulators fight like stink to keep the wolves at bay.

Where have your expectations been exceeded by government and industry, and where have government and industry gone wrong/disappointed you?

I was genuinely surprised and pleased to see auto-enrolment work, this was a Government success though payroll played a big part. To a lesser degree I am pleased that people are getting better state pensions. The biggest disappointment is the Government’s inability to focus on the needs of ordinary people who aren’t given guarantees from employer schemes

What are the key issues in pensions today, and how can they be resolved?

We have to return to the idea of a pension as a wage for life and not a tax-dodge for the wealthy.

If you were in charge of regulatory decision making in pensions, what would be the most important things you would tackle, and how would you change them?

I’d try to re-create a default retirement income choice for those with a pension pot, I’d call it CDC. I would also let the private sector get on with dashboards.

On a more positive note, where is the government/industry doing good and making solid improvements? I think the state pension is being better managed, DB pensions are being given the right steer, either to shape up or consolidate. 

What do you envisage for the future of pensions? Pensions – though not guaranteed by employers. I see a return to mutual insurance using the pooling of risk and CDC. CDC is the way for the ordinary people to spend their pension pot

What would advise would you give to the next generation of workers in pensions? Some certainty about what they are saving for.

What does the future hold for trusteeship? (I.e. Diversity, governance/should every scheme have an accredited professional trustee, minimum standard of knowledge and understanding) There are far too many schemes and too many trustees. Trustees should focus on making sure members are getting value for money. For members – read sponsors of DB plans. If trustees can’t show they are managing the value and money aspects of their schemes they shouldn’t be trustees, I don’t think you need exams to do that, just a good business brain.

How will my video interview turn out?

With a bit of luck- you’ll be able to watch my interview on a boat as we sail along on the digital pages of Professional Pensions.

I look forward to posting the link in due course, but right now – it’s stopped raining and I must get on with scrubbing the decks!

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About henry tapper

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