Yesterday was exuberant. The main UK stock market index rose 2.4%, the FTSE 250 even more. The pound rose and there is a “fill your boots” feel to the City of London.
The Conservative party gaining a significant overall majority has brought the “certainty” the markets craved. Meanwhile the political mantra from #10 is all about pouring money up north to reward those who have loaned this Government their votes.
It is easy to be cynical and ask whether the City sees through the political messaging but I’m prepared, as I was with Theresa May , to believe that social justice and economic liberalism can walk the same road. I do think that a prosperous Britain includes successful markets and a redistribution of Government to areas and people who have lost most since the financial crash of 2008.
Where the green shoots spring…
I have written recently of ways that we can move pension policy on so that pensions become the hope for all, not just the wealthy.
I am pleased that as we enter a new decade, the triple lock is continuing to strengthen the safety net for those without private provision. We cannot underestimate the power of this pension to provide protection and – though our state pension is still one of the lowest in Europe – it is considerably more important than when I started writing this blog in 2009.
The establishment of the single state pension , for all the inequalities it created – has made our state pension system easier to understand and we can hope that the pensions dashboards will allow ordinary people to start thinking of their pension savings as part of their retirement plan, not just as free-money in their late fifties.
The democratisation of retirement savings resulting from auto-enrolment means that pensions do reach parts of the population previously excluded. Organisations such as NEST, People’s Pension, Smart and NOW pensions have taken up the strain on employers and made pensions part of business as usual , not just for established businesses but for every employer in the land.
These are the green shoots of a better retirement deal which I see as a key element in the vision for social justice that politicians of all parties claim as their’s.
And with this movement towards pensions for all is coming a realisation that our savings don’t just go into a black hole but are invested in real things. And what’s more, the investment of our money can make a difference in how the investments are managed , the companies run.
Our money can make organisations fairer for all staff, more responsible in their environmental behaviour and we now know we can invest to create a positive impact on society, by choosing or lobbying for funds which embrace the ideas behind ESG.
A propitious moment for pensions
The conditions for improving the way that we provide for ourselves in later years are in place. We have in technology – a way to spread information to everyone using the web and the new devices we have in our pockets and handbags.
The answers to our questions are only a search away and knowledge sharing means that we are constantly learning how to do things for ourselves, that might have been beyond us ten years ago.
Right now, I am helping design apps which can help people make sensible decisions on how to organise their pension pots so they can help fund retirement plans. I will spend the first half of next year working out whether we can make technology easy enough to use, so that millions of us, as we approach and move into retirement, can feel confident that they have their own robust financial plan to enable them to stop or wind-down work.
I enter into 2020 , more confident that I will be able to achieve something that will move the dial in the right direction.
I don’t want to sound messianic , but I do feel that now is a time when we can move on and get things done and I want to catch that spirit of optimism that is there in Redcar as much as the City.
I didn’t vote Conservative but I am going to back them for the next five years because there is no value in bitching , there is value in helping those in power and I want to help our next pensions minister , the civil servants in the DWP and the Treasury and the two regulators I have dealings with.