Gimmickry can’t soothe our pension headaches – and MaPS is no panacea.

Over the weekend , I posted a couple of blogs about the Pension Regulator’s advice to people worried about the cost of living.

In summary, the Pension Regulator is saying that people worried about what to do, when considering pausing their pension , transferring their pension or drawing it down – should speak first to MaPS or pay for  financial advice

Alistair Cunningham’s complaint that “when everything is a scam, nothing is a scam”, pointed to a specific instance of a MaPS referral- but it opened the door to concern on twitter and linked in that MaPS is not a universal panacea.

Steve Conley, posting on Linked in pointed to the lack of reach from the MoneyHelper service asking of MaPS…

Why don’t they invest in modern communication channels?

Money helper has just 136 subscribers on YouTube. There isn’t a Smart Scam YouTube channel. Just the FCA site with 2k followers, and one Smart Scam video seen by 4k. Nothing on TikTok, either of them. Nothing on Instagram.

Education in the way the public digest media is required. Knowledge is the elixir. Having people read page after page to find what they need is stupid. Having people queue up on phones for one-to-one with someone who can’t say much is a ridiculous commercial model.

For the cost it takes to employ one FTE (full time equivalent) they could reach tens of thousands on social media with videos.

Instead, it’s left to the private sector to bootstrap messages across to the public. And pointing to regulated advisers is bad when that’s a resource for the wealthy. Talking to Aviva about Mid-life MOTs is not the solution either – when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail (product).

Some good old common sense is required here.

I hear Steve and suggest that he looks at what a campaign based around YouTube looks like.

Well I’d been hoping to, except…

Pension Awareness Week

The ABI and PLSA’s Pension Awareness week intend to answer a load of questions we have through digital seminars which were originally due to go out this week but are now postponed to later in the year.

So the “Attention to Pension” campaign had given up on busses and face to face contact in favor of digital seminars and falling back on the Government to provide the guidance

The “live seminars” can be viewed at any time and as they won’t be interactive, they could go ahead at any time and be posted whenever it’s felt is appropriate. It looks from the Royal London website, that some of the seminars are videos (and transcripts ) are already in circulation!

Clearly people are not going to get their questions answered but they will hear the answers of pension industry experts and will be able to follow up with a call to – you guessed it – MoneyHelper.

To give the campaign some relevance to the under thirties , “Attention to Pension” week had commissioned Big Zuu to add pensions to the list of his celebrity endorsements .  But Big Zuu has also been stood down till the end of October. A bootleg links to the grime artist new pension-awareness inspired track and music video is in circulation (thanks to the Daily Mail)

“Grime and pensions have never been mentioned in the same sentence before, I’ll tell you that for free,” said campaign ambassador, Big Zuu. “It sounds heavy but this matters to everyone – it’s time to pay your pension some attention”.

Somehow I doubt that Big Zuu recorded this video for free. If he did, then Big Zuu is missing out on  money he can pay into his pension.

So Pension Awareness Week, that started with intentions of increasing pension contributions is now going to happen when the full blast of winter is arriving, when the cost of living crisis has deepened and with messages that are anything but “live”.


People’s financial problems have not been put on hold  by mourning for the death of the Queen. Though we are in a period of mourning, people still need to know how to answer the big questions they have and these include some important questions not on the Pension Awareness Day agenda

  1. What options do I have right now to stop, pause or reduce my payments into my workplace pension?
  2. How does pension saving affect my rights to universal credit and especially pension credit?
  3. Can I get tax relief on my contributions if I don’t pay income tax?

These questions are in the “too hard” outbox  and will remain as “save as draft” till the Pension Awareness campaign gets round to doing videos on them.

Presumably people with these questions will need to queue up and ask them at MaPS. But what can MaPS, say to question one two and three?

  1. that depends on your employer
  2. that depends on your total finances
  3. that depends on what kind of pension scheme you are in.

MaPS simply can’t answer the difficult questions because , like big Zuu, it sounds good , but doesn’t say much.

Is social media really able to help?

Being pension aware is a serious business. Pensions absorb huge amounts of our taxes, national insurance and most of all our wages.

Right now , there is no place we can go to find out about our pension, that’s because the pension dashboards still aren’t with us. So we have to put up with all this noise from the ABI, PLSA and Big Zuu that leads us to MoneyHelper.

Meanwhile, the people who know the answers, can’t give them. The hospital porter over-paying pensions by 25%, the conscientious pensioner whose pension credit got turned down because of her savings into a personal pension, the single mother who can’t afford her groceries because of payroll deductions to her workplace pension, are not getting any help at all.

That’s because no-one is allowed to talk about pensions, everything must be referred to MaPS.

Sadly Tik-Tok and YouTube are not proving effective in helping people with the tough decisions Even Martin Lewis can only deliver the “save more , save harder” message

By contrast , LCP’s brilliant website that helps people claim back under-payments of the State Pension has a million hits and has inspired people to direct action to improve their post retirement finances.

That’s because it’s factual and delivers help. It does not direct people to MaPS but to Government helplines set up to sort out issues on state pensions and benefits.

Their mother’s missing millions site , is also excellent

LCP show that a well organised website can deliver information and inspire action on pensions. Let’s hope in time that we can make it a link from Pensions Awareness Day.

Those million hits come from other trusted sources of information , like the Daily Mail’s This is Money site .

This is how pension messages are getting through. We need more of this and less gimickry.

Another gimmick

Common sense needs factual information on personal choices.

Common sense is what people apply to turn guidance into decisions, it is the way people advise themselves into taking a definitive course of action.

But without people to talk to who can give you information about your circumstances, you are not in a position to take decisions. The only people who can help you are your employer (who controls the rules on the workplace pension), your provider – who knows about your pension saving and the Government – that holds the keys to your state pension and your pre- and post retirement benefits.

Referring people to MaPS is only likely to swamp MaPS and frustrate those people who need the personal information others have but cannot tell them. That’s either because they’re scared to , or because passing people to MaPS is a quick way of getting rid of a problem.

These problems are not going away, the hard questions mentioned on this blog, need answering and MaPS is poorly placed to do so.

The answers people need do not sit on social media, though social media can signpost, the answers depend on factual information held by those who have our data. We need to empower them, not neuter them by referring all matters to MaPS.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to Gimmickry can’t soothe our pension headaches – and MaPS is no panacea.

  1. Neil Esslemont says:

    But at least Baroness Ross Altman agreed on the colour of Workie’s eyes 🙂

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