Just eight per cent of the 2,011 39-54-year olds captured in the nationwide ‘Generation X Retirement Prospects’ study commissioned by pensions specialist fintech company Dunstan Thomas, have consulted an Independent Financial Adviser in the last 12 months.
These findings accord with AgeWage’s research and that of the FCA (who have reported a small increase in the use of financial advisers since we published their “94%” number.
That 92% of people approaching the seismic changes in their work and finances, don’t seek professional help, is a worry.
The statistic prompts two questions “Where do they get help” and “is that help good enough”.
In this blog I pick up on the things that Dunstan Thomas find matter to Generation X; there are things which should matter to them – such as retirement planning – which they are not finding help with.
My conclusion is that it is not GenX that needs to change, but the support we give them.
Often we need to give support to people without intervening in their lives. Remote digital support is what many of the 92% seem to prefer.
Nearly half (48 per cent) of female and over a third (34 per cent) of male Gen Xers had never heard of Pension Freedoms before responding to the survey. A further 30 per cent had heard of it but knew nothing about it at all.
Put another way, at least two thirds of savers are saving blind. What is worse, they are confused by saving and investing and don’t know which of the two they are doing.
The survey asked 51-54 year olds what their pension intentions were
54 per cent had no plans to touch the pension for the next five years
Dunstan Thomas comments “these need to ensure their savings are properly invested for growth rather than left in cash as many are today”.
The opportunity cost of not investing over a five year period is obvious. Unless (like Paul Lewis) you have a conviction for a nil-risk, negligible return cash strategy , you need to know what your pension is doing (get to know your pension).
But do we really need a financial adviser to get to know our pensions – should pensions really be that hard? I was looking at L&G’s recent proto-type for their investment pathway guidance and felt that 92% of their customers would be better off for it!
The challenge facing MAPS
This may be from a framing bias in the research, but what is odd is that the Money and Pensions Service plays no part in the study. Despite the Money Advisce Service and The Pensions Advisory Service having been around for more than a decade (and Pensions Wise getting on 5 years), these “arms length bodies” have not been embraced by the general public as their port in a storm.
Nearly half (44 per cent) don’t consult anyone at all! A fifth (21 per cent) of Gen Xers source supporting financial information from online financial comparison sites like MoneySupermarket.com; while 13 per cent rely on the national media’s personal finance pages; and the same percentage go to friends and family for more information.
For MAPS to be relevant, it is going to have to become a touchstone for much more than pensions and debt, it will need to reach the parts MoneySupermarket doesn’t reach.
Influence over advice
It would seem that most people are taking decisions influenced by people they trust. These influencers are few and far between in pensions.
There are now about 30 “go to” spokespeople for the popular press including Ros Altmann, John Ralfe and SteveWebb. Since Michelle Cracknell left TPAS, there has been no consumer champion within Government. Government has withdrawn from influencing consumer decision making – increasingly hiding behind “guidance” and information as risk-mitigators.
This has left an opportunity for IFAs to become influential on pensions and investment just as Martin Lewis is influential on savings and debt.
But this is not happening.
An information vacuum on pensions
The absence of an authoritative advisory service (as the Pensions Advisory Service set out to be), means that Gen Xers are being starved of the information they need to become their own pension experts.
Dunstan Thomas’ survey paints a grim picture for Gen X
“The closure of large swathes of the DB market; AE coming too late for older Gen Xers; together with changing working practices and demographics; and lower levels of access to financial advice post-RDR, are all major factors influencing Gen Xers’ retirement saving levels.
The result: only about five per cent of 39-54-year olds are on track to fully fund even moderate retirement lifestyles and 25 per cent of them stated they had no savings or investments at all.”
Contrasting with much greater clarity on non-pension savings
As I mentioned in my previous blog on the Dunstan Thomas survey, the much more radical finding is that most people are much clearer about their other retirement plans, than they are about their pensions .
Average additional (non-pensions) savings for the three-quarters of Gen Xers that have savings are £71,591 each; 39-54 year olds with total household income exceeding £5,000 per month have average non-pension savings and investments amounting to £223,000.
A tenth (11 per cent) of high-income households bringing in more than £5,000 a month after tax have at least one Buy-to-Let property to their name. Three per cent of those with household monthly take home pay exceeding £4,000 per month hold Peer-to-Peer Lending-linked investments and 17 per cent of that same income group hold Stock and Shares ISAs.
42 per cent anticipating receiving an inheritance before they retire, nearly one in ten (nine per cent) will ‘not be able to retire at all’ until they receive that inheritance. A further third (34 per cent) think that their inheritance is ‘a fairly important factor’ in supporting their retirement income and only 12 per cent felt it was insignificant.
And work is much more a feature of retirement than “retirement” would suggest. Over half (53 per cent) of Gen Xers think they will ‘probably’ take a part-time paid job in semi-retirement and more than a quarter (27 per cent) have decided they will ‘definitely’ do so if they can secure paid part-time work.
Larger numbers of people are prepared to work part-time to make ends meet in lower income groups – a third (33 per cent) of those with a total household take home pay of under £2,000 per month are ‘definitely planning to take part-time employment’ when their core job finishes.
Who needs financial advice?
For most people “financial advice” in a regulated sense, is pretty low in importance.
What people need is help understanding where to get work in retirement, how to look after their parents (and guard their inheritance) and how to manage their income from their house(s).
The Dunstan Thomas survey is telling us that Gen Xers are influenced by what they read and watch. They look out for people like Martin Lewis and Ros Altmann as touchstones and follow what they say, much more than regulated advisers.
My personal view is that the Independent Financial Advisor no longer speaks to the common man, but to the 8% who are wealthy enough to need their technical skills.
But there is a large market of people at or approaching retirement who see their pension pots as a small part of their retirement plan and are looking for help establishing a retirement plan which meets their and their family’s lifestyle needs.
This kind of assistance can be funded by fees paid where referrals are made (including fees for introductions to advisors). But the assistance must be “free” at the point of delivery and needs to be accessible via the kind of technology that best suits the customer.
It is not the customer that needs to change – it is the nature of the advice.