There was a lot of thinking going on yesterday, I found myself listening to people’s thoughts on retirement all day, the Zoom, Teams and Webex was turned on from 9 am to 6pm. I thought it might never end. Everyone I met told me how much insight they were getting from the conferences they were attending and the reports they were discussing. But sat at home with the usual deluge of messages , mails and calls to deal with, I felt I was overdosing on insight.
People thinking about retirement.
For most of that time, I listened to the TUC pensions conference which was supposed to be about auto-enrolment but was really about inequality. Inequality between men and women’s pensions, why those managing our money are richer than those whose money is managed, how DC pensioners might do as well as DB pensioners (if they became postal workers).
Lurking behind the conference was the spectre of pensioner poverty for a generation of pensioners who have nothing but the state pension , 850,000 of whom aren’t claiming pension credit (and all that comes with it), some of whom are facing April with choices such as “heat or eat”.
I’d been thinking about some research done in Sweden which suggested that the people who stop working earlier than their state pension , do so- either because they can’t work any more (the manual worker who hasn’t had the means to feather his/her nest) , or because they’ve sat at a desk all their lives and had the means and time to think about retirement and save.
It struck me that almost everyone I’d heard during the day, fell into the latter category, the exception being some people that came to my building to fix some problems , they were self-employed, not in a pension and looked like they weren’t doing many pension webinars.
The Swedish research showed that people who retired early (T-) consumed less in retirement that those who retired late (T+)
The early and premature retirees are in a nasty shade of red while the normal and late retirees are in a more comfortable blue
So we learn that if you hang on and retire later, you consume less in retirement , but in a more equal way. If you retire too early in Sweden , you end up not spending anything later (because you’ve run out of money). I didn’t suspect many at the TUC conference would be badly off in retirement.
This insight doesn’t take me much further than what I had been thinking for the last 40 years of adult life, we kind of knew what the Pension Commission told us – “work longer, save harder or spend less when you stop working”. But it was good to know we were right.
In the middle of the day, in what used to be called the lunch break, I Zoomed into a new think-tank called Phoenix Insights that assured me that they were conducting research in a new way and would be giving us all new insights.
Phoenix Insights are obviously different from Nest Insight because they have multiple insights in their name.
I wanted to know what was new about these insights but missed it, it looked like they’d discovered that people weren’t saving enough to stop working and that there was a simple solution – work longer, save harder or spend less.
Phoenix Insight is a group of people who sit at desks thinking about what it might be like if they didn’t have such a cushy job. The exception was a bloke called Lord Victor , who was clearly used to sitting on panels with a lot of young and eager policy researchers.
Baron Victor Adebowale indulged his colleagues , though he probably felt as awkward as I did, listening to how the Phoenix Group intended to ” to reimagine society for longer lives”.
The mission statement is ambitious
If we are to help people lead better, fulfilling longer lives, there is an urgent need for radical reconsideration of how we learn, earn and live.
Phoenix Insights will use high quality research and public engagement to encourage people across the UK to challenge their assumptions and reimagine their own futures.
Turning insight into action
I did have other Zooms. I Zoomed with Gareth Morgan and Debora Price to find out whether we had enough good ideas about how to increase pension credit participation rates, to merit setting up a working group. Answer, we have far too many ideas and need to work out which have merit.
I also met on a Webex a man from Illinois who told me that I could convert all the heirlooms in my attic into a revenue stream using NFTs which could provide me and my extended family with happiness in retirement and a monetisable legacy.
The world does indeed divide into people who think about things and people who do them. If I can do something about the calamity of not claiming entitled benefits , I will do. If I can avoid ever having another conversation on monetising nostalgia with non-fungible tokens, I will do so.
Perhaps my best insight yesterday is that whether you are working for a big bad insurer or a caring union, you end up with the same insights, which are about other people less fortunate than you. We all get it, inequality exists and so long as we can spend our days on Zoom , discussing it, we are fortunate.
My second best insight is that these conferences allow you to register your concern while getting on with your working day. For the vast majority of yesterday , I was not part of any debate and was only able to contribute through the chat facility. This meant that I could continue to take calls and emails, prepare spreadsheets and manage my business.
I’d like to say that after 8 hours being talked to, I was considerably the wiser, but in truth I wasn’t.
Once I got involved in pensions, whilst still at work, it has always seemed to me that the pensions decisions we make are governed not by our circumstances, past present and future, but by decisions over what makes the best financial sense to those who run the company (NOT the pension fund trustees that is!). Am I just old and cynical (and happy retired)?