Pensions – a day working out what matters (and what doesn’t).


There were three events yesterday that made me ask “what matters”.

  1. The Rebalance Earth Conference , a “real-life” conference addressed by John Glen and a range of experts engaged in restoring our planet’s natural capital.
  2. An SG Conference, focussing on the Australian pension system as a model for ours.
  3. Martin Lewis’ 90 minute pension special on ITV, focussing on viewer’s worries

It was a day struggling  to “get real”; whether talking elephants, sand grass and  plankton; whether puzzling why we don’t “own” our pots ; whether answering the concerns of viewers of Britain’s primary source of financial information.

Can my pension help save the planet?

John Glen – the economic secretary to the Treasury announced that DEFRA was seeding a fund to be managed by  Federated Hermes where investors could buy into commercial ventures improving biodiversity and restoring natural capital. It turned out that one of the areas that has lost most of its wild life is Britain. We learned that David Attenborough will be focussing on this in his next series. Do I want some of the money I have saved for my retirement to be directed in this direction – I do.

Do I trust the people I listened to yesterday – I did. I had been invited to the conference by Rob Gardner and sponsored by Mallowstreet. Although I could not stay for the later sessions, I saw enough to see how TNFD’s risk management and disclosure framework could  enable organisations to report and act on evolving nature-related risks.

This in time will become a framework that will inform and compliment TCFD. Clearly it is getting the attention of fine minds and the support of the Government. I was hugely impressed.

The planet matters and we must use our financial resources to ensure we reverse the destruction of our natural capital – using whatever resource we have – it seems impossible for pensions not to consider natural capital as “mattering”.

What can Britain learn from Australia when it comes to pensions?

Much has been made of the similarities of Australia’s Super system to the development of DC workplace pensions in the UK.

What is not being talked about is that in Australia, the purpose of building a large balance in your DC pot is to obviate the need for State Pension support, a means tested benefit the claiming of which is a badge of shame.

In Britain, the workplace pension is an additional (semi) voluntary contribution that supplements a Universal State Pension which is the basis of  people’s retirement planning.

There may come a time when there are sufficient balances in workplace pensions for pressure to supercharge the State Pension by the triple-lock to subside but right now – for most people it’s State Pension first and workplace pension second.

The arguments that swirl in panel sessions of pension conference about the importance of us saving more into workplace pensions, fail to get to first base. Most people have no idea what they own from their pension savings

and until we start giving people a way of valuing what they have -the pension pot will become something that people worry about more but  to do much about

Where Australia has got to – is that people own their pension pot, however Australia is still a long way away from achieving its common purpose.

Australia matters in helping us understand how we can get people to own their pensions but we shouldn’t assume that workplace pensions will matter to us as Super does to Australians, we have similar but different challenges.


Martin Lewis tires to make sense of pensions


Martin Lewis was joined for his pension special by IFA Sarah Lord and State Pension specialist Steve Webb. Martin was focussing on issues relating to State Pensions picked up on this blog but amplified to an audience of several million.

It was clear throughout that the State Pension was at the core of the program. Sections of the program were devoted to public sector pension rights, including a baffling excursion exploring various sections of the NHS pension schemes.

People’s major concern with regards their workplace pensions was to work out whether to bring pots together now or later. Some “guidance” was given to alert people to differing costs, exit penalties and “investment choices” but you could see Martin Lewis at his most uncomfortable, discussing issues that clearly had no black and white answers.

Great credit to Charlotte Jackson, an old friend from TPAS days , who popped up speaking for MaPS and promoting MoneyHelper and Pension Wise. Pedants will pick Martin up for wrongly informing the public that PensionWise is available from 55 (correctly 50). While MaPS’ guidance is downplayed by those offering “financial well-being platforms”, they remain the most important source of information for those whose employers do not have the resource offer private wealthcare.

Martn Lewis knows what matters to his viewers, we would do well to pay him more attention.

What matters to people should shape pensions’ common purpose.

There’s no doubt that there is a lot more we can do to make our money work as hard we do. We need to be clear about how that’s happening. In the morning I heard about how pension funds could help restore a broken planet and the opportunities and risks of doing that properly.

In the afternoon I learned how those managing some of our largest workplace pensions are putting our money to better use.

In the evening I watched Martin Lewis , MaPs and others helping ordinary people make the most of what they’ve saved or accrued for their retirement.

It was a stretch to bring these three events together and write about them in one blog. All that unites my memory of the three events was me struggling to “get real”. The diversity of people, topics and levels of understanding were mind-blowing.

The Australians are searching for a common purpose and yesterday reinforced my view that we need one too.


About henry tapper

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