Where’s best to build my retirement savings?


The flight to investment continues. Savers – Lord knows why – don’t appreciate rates of interest of less than 1%. When the talk turns to us paying banks to keep our money, thoughts turn to investment in real things- like companies and infrastructure and savers turn lenders and buy bonds that return them more than they can get from deposits.

This creates pressure on stock and bond markets as demand outstrips supply and valuations go up. This means that the value of pension pots, which are fully invested, go up too. This is an investors market, not a savers market and people who have kept their nerve (or simply sat on their hands) are now seeing the value of their pension pot rocket.

The returns we get from pensions grow free from capital taxes and we get generous incentives to save by way of tax relief and (for many low paid) a boost to savings even when you don’t pay tax. The dice are very much loaded in favor of using pension plans to build money up for retirement.

So where should I put my money?

There are two decisions for people who are saving for retirement, the first is whether to move money that would otherwise gone into savings into pension investments. This can be done either by increasing regular savings into workplace pensions, if you are already doing this, or by transferring money in savings and non-pension investments, into pensions.

The second decision is what to do with the small pots that most of us have built up over the years, either from pensions we were sold by advisers or joined because of work. For the most part, these pots are a mystery to most pension investors but this shouldn’t be the case, it is plain that most of this money in dormant pots should be moved either to modern workplace pensions or to self invested personal pensions (where greater control is required).

For those who have the means to pay an adviser to manage the money , life is relatively easy. Provided the aggregate value of your pension pots is above a certain value, advisers will take your money under their advice and charge a retainer for managing the money from the pension fund they set up for you. For the money taken from your pot, you will get advice and execution which should ensure your affairs are properly organized  with regards tax and your future financial plans incorporated into the cash flow model your adviser creates for the return of your retirement savings (as a pension).

But a large proportion of British savers don’t make use of a financial adviser ,this is either because their savings don’t meet the threshold needed to  make them a viable client or because they choose to make their own decisions and not pay advisory fees. For these people, the system is not working particularly well.

What should be easy….

It should be very easy for people to see their various pension pots in one place and make decisions on whether to invest savings or increase workplace pension  contributions. It should also be easy to work out whether to keep lots of little pots or combine pots into a workplace pension or (if you want greater control) a self invested personal pension (SIPP). It would also become clear whether you can or want to use a financial adviser to sort your pension out.

It should be easy because we now have financial technology to make all these decisions simple, and we should by now be using pension dashboards which we were promised would be ready not last year, but the year before (2019) to help us take decisions. The likelihood of getting to see all our pensions on a pension dashboard by 2023 is slim and this is because pension providers are reluctant to adopt open pensions as the banks have adopted open pensions.


Were pensions “open”, it would become obvious that most people would be best served using a non-advised SIPP (Pension Bee is a good example), or combine money into a workplace master trust like NEST or Smart Pension or Lifesight or a workplace personal pension offered by an insurance company.

I say “obvious” because it becomes obvious with a little analysis that certain providers are offering a lot better value for money than others, and were the information that I have in my possession, shared with the general public (as dashboards would allow), we could quickly see movement of money from poor failing pension pots into successfully managed pension pots where investors would get more value for less money.

I say this with the confidence of nearly 40 years evaluating good from bad and with the technological power-house of big data behind me.


I hope that 2021 will be a turning  point. I virtually met yesterday with the Chair of the All Parliamentary Fintech Group, I will be meeting today with the DWP, later in the week with the Pension Regulator and I have two meetings later in the month with the FCA.

We desperately need to standardise pension information and make it generally available to ordinary savers so that they can make  investments and organise existing pension investments for the future.

Right now, they are being frustrated from doing so by the lack of information and the lack or transparency with which information is presented to them. To use Adam Alfreyie’s  phrase yesterday, we need to give ordinary people a red button that they can press with confidence to get their affairs sorted.

If this sounds ludicrously easy, it is because we work in  a world where doing things like making pension investments, consolidating pension investments and spending our retirement pot, are ridiculously hard!

Where’s best to build my retirement savings?

This may sound a cop-out if you were looking for me to say “Pension Bee” or “Nest” or “Legal and General”, but my answer is more fundamental. The best place to build our retirement savings is on-line using a computer or hand held device to get information with which to make informed choices.

Whether that choice is to employ an adviser, to work with a pension provider or to manage the complexity of multiple pots , is your decision.

But right now , you are being held back from taking control of your pension affairs by the lack of availability of information and that is a bad state of affairs.

Rest assured , I am frustrated beyond measure on your behalf, which is why I will continue to write these blogs, meet with decision makers and work with organizations that share common goals – to make change happen.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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3 Responses to Where’s best to build my retirement savings?

  1. Eugen N says:

    Henry, as you know I really appreciate your work.

    But your conclusion that if somehow you have all the information on a handheld device you will take the best decision for yourself is wrong.

    I am not saying that having the information is not important. However, without having the education to read the information, you get nowhere. People could easily see from existing pension statements (if they want to) that they will be short in retirement, however most won’t do anything to mitigate. And here lies the problem.

    People do not trust financial services and pensions, they have all heard bad stories (which spread fast), but not the good stories. They all have behavioural biases, and they get guided by them.

    The personal relationship and trust that we build with our clients as financial planners is invaluable. If something is to help, I would think that reducing the regulatory burden on us, so we can take more clients would be a must.

    In my opinion, we really need to make simplified advice to work, and to institute some clear boundaries for that, so Professional indemnity could be obtained easily. A simple factfind, a maximum of £150,000 invested, a lower FOS compensation level (£150,000), a clear rule where this should apply to: people saving for ISAs and pensions, using basic financial cashflow projections, with consideration to debts and mortgage repayments.

  2. ian layton says:

    At least one of your subscribers, who appreciates your efforts and thinks he understands some of which you blog, has done things all wrong, built up a pension pot almost by accident, been sold a with-profits bond by a commission-led ‘adviser’ back in the day (remember how we were all funnelled away from plain advisers to independent ones by HMG? and thought that was a smart move?), then got mis-sold on a pension transfer, and spent the first six years of retirement trying to make sense of a chaotic, opaque service sector with ever-changing charging structures.Yes, there certainly is a deep mistrust. Some advice must be sound, surely, but when you feel like a sardine in the middle of a tuna feeding frenzy, when expensively-gained experience tells you it’s only a matter of time before the next ‘shocking’ scandal emerges and government has to react, it’s easier to assume they all want to eat you. Keep up the good work, and I hope you’re feeling better.

  3. Too late to put in insurance, probably invest in a business or real estate?

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