Action we’re taking on pensioner poverty
Over the past few days I’ve been assembling my thoughts for a meeting with some industry big-wigs to discuss how the private sector can best address pensioner poverty.
The meeting came out of work I did for the Pension Minister on Pension Credit in May and June , I’m co-hosting this meeting with him on Monday. Too bad for us and our guests that we will have to get into central London – albeit we’ve booked a posh air-conditioned room which is a luxury you might not have when reading this! No excuses for non-attendance!
The more I think – the more I conclude that we really don’t know our elderly customers very well.
There’s a lot of people living in the UK above the normal minimum retirement date (55) and a lot in receipt or soon to be in receipt of the state pension (and ancillary benefits)
In 2020, there were over 938,000 people in the UK aged 55, more than any other age.
To listen to the pensions industry , you’d think that the two big ideas are 1) to get everyone saving more into DC and 2) to stop DB schemes screwing up corporate finances.
But for most people, “pensions” are the things that enable them to stop work, or at least manage their workload so they can take weeks like the one coming up – off! For most people past 55, their pension provides the means to their end!
Notice the huge spike in numbers of people between 65 and 75, these are the people born after the second world as Britain repopulated. These include the WASPI women and the generation that bought annuities – rather than enjoy the pension freedoms. They are represented on the books of insurers and in the membership of occupational schemes as “pensioners in payment” – the financial services industry knows little about them but their bank accounts.
Beyond 75, numbers decline as age takes its toll, but the decline is exacerbated because so few children were born between 1940 and 1945. Those over 75 are often thought to have reduced needs for money, a recent IFS study has shown this not to be the case. Our over 75s are consuming at much the same rates as their children. There is no section of the chart to the right of 75 that is not impacted by the decline in income from private and state pensions that we are seeing in 2022. This decline hits invested accounts through the damaged financial markets and state and other defined benefit pensions , through capped indexation.
It is a commonly held trope that the over 55s are the lucky generations, this is true for some, but these are generations of maximum inequality between those who have secure private pensions and those who don’t, those who have full state pension entitlements and those who don’t. Those who understand and manage their finances – and those who don’t.
Those who don’t have private income, a full state pension and a good understanding of benefits are the people who the meeting is concerned about.
Five calls to action
In the past five days, I have suggested five point at which the private sector can take action
- When children reach “mid-life” and wake up to their parents being both a source of bequest and a financial liability. Caring for Mum and Dad should be on the mid-life MOT.
- Those between 55 and 65 should be aware of their state pension forecast and be planning their retirement income around it. Those without a full state pension and with small pots , should be woke to pension credit.
- The pensions dashboard should be constructed to ensure people can manage this interaction between state and private pensions properly
- Insurers investing in housing for the elderly should be particularly aware of state support through housing benefit unlocked through pension credit, this is particularly the case for those struggling with housing costs.
- Every private sector organisation paying pensions should be aware of the financial cliff-edge of a partner’s bereavement. Death should trigger not just emotional support but a clear nudge towards what may be on offer from state benefits (pension credit being key)
The links take you to recent blogs that explain the issue and opportunities for financial services organisations to pay more attention and more respect to our most elderly customers.
Three things that must change
The first and most immediate reason for change is the cost of living crisis. Many pensioners will be plunged into needless poverty because they fail to claim pension credit and miss out on “door to more” benefits. This needs to be addressed immediately through interventions made by the pensioner support teams of the insurers and the administrators appointed by trustees.
The second thing that needs to change is the culture of commercial pension providers , which needs to consider care of elderly customers as part of their consumer duty. We cannot continue to obsess about increasing savings amongst those at work while ignoring the needs of customers who are the other side of work and busy spending their pension rights. Elderly consumers command the same duty as those in work.
The third and final thing that needs to change is a fundamental shift towards including the over 55s as digital customers, encouraging the use of the state pension forecast, pension dashboards and the modelling tools available to older people (and their children) so they can take greater control of their later life affairs.
Many of us who have good pension provision would Covent funds to a
Poorer pensioner IF it did not cause the loss of the recipients state benefits and if the tax burden ( probably nil) pass to the beneficiary and not to suffer income tax on the donor.
We used to do this in the 70’s I believe we had to do this for at least 6 years
Many of the poor pensioners are also very lonely so if they have increased social contact as well as the money that would be even more valuable. Give them some time as well as money