Where are our retirement savings?

Thanks to Fundscape for sharing  this  graphic which seeks to lay out what we have in investments  (some of which may become our retirement savings – or even a pension).

My title refers to  “Retirement Savings”, though Fundscape are talking about consumer investment markets.

Their categories are of course not exhaustive, many of us hold direct shareholdings (typically from company share schemes ) and most people who are savers also have money on deposit. I guess the exclusion of deposits (and cash ISAs) is because these aren’t strictly investments.

Money saved into workplace pensions is surprisingly  smaller than money held in wealth management. Looking more closely at this graphic , I am finding more questions than answers

In my previous life as a financial planner I would talk about saving for school fees, daughter’s wedding, even that holiday of a lifetime, but never about investing for them.

I guess we invest for later life partly because we know in the back of our heads that investment is about “long-term” but mainly because it is in our DNA that whereas we know something about our short-term liabilities, our needs in later life are mysterious and worthy of a speculative approach.

I would be interested to know (especially from wealth managers and their wealthy clients) what all the money detailed as “held or invested in the UK wealth management industry” is eventually spent on. Or is it some vast capital reservoir never to be drawn down but kept in perpetuity, cascading down the generations (as John Major envisaged)?

But would any ordinary person understand their retirement savings form this graphic?

I can understand the difference between a pension and an ISA but what defines “wealth management and how does it differ from money “held or invested on adviser platforms”? Does an adviser platform become a direct to consumer platform if the adviser isn’t advising and can’t I be advised about the funds I hold with Hargreaves Lansdown (which I am told is D2C).

In this landscape, it is hard for the consumer to understand just what is going on with his or her money.

Property remains the only form of investment that is properly understood by the general public and that is because there is so very little intermediation between the house and its owner. Although estate agents and lawyers get involved in transactions, most people manage property as an investment themselves and as they can see and use their assets, they are cherished in a way that all these platforms and wealth management accounts cannot be.

Ordinary people really don’t have a clue about all this stuff on the graphic.

Where are our retirement savings?

We really don’t have a clue what our retirement savings are, the pension pot we save into at work is only the tip of the iceberg. Quite apart from all the financial clobber we’ve built up, is the financial clobber other people, especially our parents, have built up. We may reasonably expect to get some of the wealth when the wills are read but are these part of our retirement savings?

And even when we think we have got a grip on what is ours, we discover that a large part of what is coming to us is subject to the largesse of trusts and entitlements from Government depending on our work history. Can our rights to state and company pensions be considered our retirement savings?


This blog started out wanting to analyse an info graphic and is ending up demonstrating just how hard it is to think about retirement finances holistically.

Fundscape’s info graphic must make sense to those it is designed for (presumably people researching the UK pension market within the pension industry). But it has ended up making me aware that my investments are considerably more complex than can be circumscribed by the financial services’ value chain. Like just about everyone, I manage my finances outside the FCA’s regulatory perimeter, choosing to invest in everything from boats to antique maps with a view to a happier life in future.

So if anyone tells you they know about your retirement savings or even where your money is invested – smile sweetly and move on.

The Office of National Statistics may have a better view

While it is not so sexily presented, the ONS data is perhaps more inclusive.

The numbers below  are at 2018 – data is released every two years and this is the most recent .  These numbers  suggest we have invested £14.5 trillion in total of which private pensions are £6.1 trillion which is larger than property (£5 trillion)


Thanks to Con Keating for supplying this table.

About henry tapper

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