Tell it straight mate! – Pension engagement in Straya!

My Christmas stocking bulged with goodies from down under,  not least, this tweet from our #1 Aussie journo.

You hear a lot of talk about “engagement” with workplace pensions in the UK. But what we’re after is engagement on our terms. Or at least on terms that don’t jeopardize the futures of the pension schemes we ant engagement with.

But that’s not the kind of engagement you’d be getting from the 1,000,000+ Australians who’ve been comparing their “Super” pensions.

If you look at the funds that underperformed, our analysis showed it was more than double the number of people leaving them than in previous years (sic)

What Australia has got (and the UK will soon have) is a mature DC audience who are not interested in projections but very interested in backward looking measures like how much they have more or less they have in their pot, than if they’d chosen differently.

And of course many people don’t choose and there will be recriminations when people remember they were in the fund because of their boss/neighbor/adviser/Dad.

Are you still so keen to have engagement?

Australians are fast realizing that while everyone’s in the Super system, not all pensions are equal.

So how is this working for Aussies? Over to Xavi for a bit of advice.


Step forward Xavier O’Halloran, who describes himself as a consumer advocate whose role it is to keep industry and regulators accountable to consumer needs in financial services.

He’s the  Director of Super Consumers Australia, a new organisation raising the voices of Australians on low and middle incomes to ensure everyone gets a fair outcome from the $3 trillion superannuation industry.

His advice was to type in your own personal circumstances and age then look at whether the fund was classified as performing or underperforming on the website.

“So look at whether the fund has failed the performance test or not, then look at the fees once you’ve fed your actual balance into the tool,”

“Then I would look at the performance lastly.”

Is is so impossible that an “apples with apples” website might start promoting relative outcomes on a personalized basis in the UK?

UK pension experts will point to the past being no guide to the future, to the dangers of encouraging a run on a fund and to the cost of transition for those trying to change horses mid-stream. A “pension is for life” seems to be the mantra, though poor performance and high charges can be the death of an affluent retirement.

Could this be Christmas Future in the UK?

Step forward Jane Hume, Australia’s Minister for Superannuation

“Australians work hard to earn their wages, and of course superannuation is deferred wages … We will always put Australians first, not fund managers,”

“Australians work hard to earn their wages, and of course superannuation is deferred wages … We will always put Australians first, not fund managers,”

It’s worth repeating.

Performance and fees = pension outcomes

I’m of a generation that grew up thinking of DC pensions as a monthly deduction from pay or perhaps a direct debit from a bank account. We counted success by the size of the contribution we could wring out of the worker and the boss. That’s still what most industry experts judge engagement on.

But my generation are now turning 60 . Today, I know that a 1% change in the value of my pension will be equal to twice my monthly salary.

Work hard and save hard and you could be a pension millionaire – provided you pay low fees and get good performance. Work hard and save hard ,pay high fees and get no growth on your money and you could be looking at half the pot of the man next door.

Pension Trustees , fund managers and sponsors may not feel too happy to see their apple compared with a lemon, but that’s what will happen if this kind of site comes to the UK.

For that to happen , we’re going to need a few Xavier O’Halloran and the odd Jane Hume. Don’t bet against it.

Christmas past and present

I am a great lover of Quietroom, they have pioneered better ways of engaging us with the business of saving. Here is there latest offering, rather more palatable than the Australian alternative.

This is a vision of pensions without investment risk, without the risk of being overcharged and with the magic of a benevolent employer, a benevolent tax system and a simple way to turn a pot into a pension.

With still two days of Christmas to go, I hope this soothes the savaged brow, but I’m not sure it’s telling it straight (mate).

About henry tapper

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