We watched the Martin Lewis 90 minute pension special again last night – not to pick holes in it but to pick up tips, especially around the sections on the state pension and benefits. We have friends and family who call on us about pensions and too often I find myself frantically googling answers to complex questions about tax and means testing and most of all about the pre and post 2016 versions of the state pension.
Steve Webb and the state pension
Here is a taste of the section of Martin Lewis’ pension special that relates to the vanishing window to buy state pension credits.
Urgent. Less than six weeks for millions to boost state pension by £10,000s (some can do it free)
Feel free to spread the word. pic.twitter.com/Jm5t5dcW2r
— Martin Lewis (@MartinSLewis) February 22, 2023
Martin Lewis was joined for the show by Steve Webb who was at his brilliant best (wise and funny with it).
One of my favorite bits of this fabulous program was the interaction between Martin Lewis and Steve Webb. Webb was the architect of the new state pension which is about the only simplification of a pension benefit that I can remember working. But simplification came at a price – a part of the price is inheritability. Spouses whose partners die with a full set of state pension credits cannot pass on those credits , if they reached state pension age after 2016. Martin knew it was Steve’s rule and Steve knew that Martin knew and many in the audience will have guessed that! It was one of those moments when you realise that the pensions we enjoy are shaped by people – not inchoate and anonymous departments of state.
You can get advice on state benefits for free as it is not regulated advice
This brings me to the title of this blog. I got a bit of stick last week for being termed a financial adviser in the Daily Mail. I think it’s easier to be a “pensions expert” but – as I’ve just mentioned, I’m sitting at the feet of giants and most of the time I’m simply googling my way to providing the necessary information.
Martin Lewis and his research team are no more than interpreters of complex legislation looking out for opportunities (such as the fast closing window to buy added years to your state pension). If you haven’t got a bookmark on your computer settings that reminds you of your state pension entitlement, you should have. The cost of buying part years of state pension credits can be so low as to make this a sensible investment even for people 25 years or more from retirement. You should be familiar with a message personalised to you that says something like this
If your is forecasting less than £185.15 you should be checking your state pension credits. Here’s how to;-
get information about your State Pension
report a change in your circumstances, such as a change of address or bank details
report a death
ask any other questions you have related to your State Pension
Telephone: 0800 731 0469
Textphone: 0800 731 0464
Relay UK (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 731 0469
British Sign Language (BSL) video relay service if you’re on a computer – find out how to use the service on mobile or tablet
Welsh language: 0800 731 0453
Welsh language textphone: 0800 731 0456
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
You can get advice on the state pension from the DWP , you can subscribe to Martin’s emails, you can go on LCP’s state pension checker and find out if your state pension is being underpaid
There is a wealth of help available from employers , insurers , commercial workplace pensions and from the large public sector pension schemes about workplace pensions.
Graham Crossley , who appeared on the show as the pension wonk on the NHS provides his service at medifintech.co.uk
The help Graham gives is not regulated financial advice but essential for many who struggle with the complexities of the NHS pension scheme. There aren’t enough Grahams, but most public and pension scheme has one
For most people there is sufficient financial help in the system for them to make decisions, the problem is finding it. Contact details for everyone on the program are listed at the bottom of this blog.
Moneyhelper and Pension Wise
One of the best things about the show was Charlotte Jackson who was simply excellent in promoting what help the Money and Pensions Service’s two pension services can offer.
If you have a general inquiry about pensions you can speak to Moneyhelper, if you want formal guidance on your retirement options – you can book a call or meeting with Pension Wise.
I don’t know why these free services are not better regarded by employers. I was on a call immediately prior to the Martin Lewis pensions special with about 50 senior pension and reward people. The feeling was that the state weren’t much help. They should watch the show and pay attention to what Charlotte Jackson says.
Moneyhelper and Pensions Wise will give you guidance on decisions you take on regulated products such as personal pension and Sipps but they can’t tell you want to do . For that you need a regulated financial adviser – or your own judgement.
If ever we need a financial advisor
Sarah Lord did a good job of explaining how regulated financial advice differs from what you get from Martin Lewis, Steve Webb, Charlotte Jackson or this blog.
She focussed on one of the areas where Martin Lewis says he gets most calls, bringing together your pension pots as you go through life or when you get to taking your money back.
Sarah was good on reminding people of the pitfalls of doing this on your own. But she may have mad a rod for adviser’s backs in positioning the availability of regulated advice the way she did.
She is attracting attention from her profession for setting the bar too low and advising people who have as little as £50,000 to invest to seek independent advice.
She is also attracting attention for suggesting that people can go to an adviser and get some one off advice.
The economic reality of running an advisory practice is that its value depends on repeat business and not on “one off advice”. The cost of getting to know a customer makes one off advice very expensive and if there isn’t a substantial transfer of wealth to an advisory platform there is no likelihood of regular income from a client.
There are advisers who work pro bono or will provide personalised and regulated advice on issues discussed in the program, but most advisers I speak to are not looking to build their business that way.
Financial Planning (as practiced by Consumer Duty – the band playing for Ukraine tonight) are financial planners who help clients manage complex financial decisions using their technical expertise and their capacity to listen, interpret and influence. But necessarily they serve a small proportion of the population for whom the risk of getting decisions wrong outweighs the cost of ongoing advice on planning.
I think it is important for financial advisers to make it clear what kind of clients they have and the clients they wish to take on. They serve a niche of the population and there is no harm in defining that niche. For too long we have pretended that regulated financial advice is for everyone. That message stops many people from taking decisions because they feel they can only do so with the help of financial advice.
The Martin Lewis shows that people can take complex decisions about pensions with the help of Government resources, helpful websites and trusted individuals. It promotes financial advice without demanding we take it.
Just a quick thank you for our four brilliant panel guests on @itvMLshow tonight. I think they did a great job and really helped cut through the crap…
-State Pensions @stevewebb1
– Moneyhelper @CharlotteJetc
– NHS pension geek (said fondly) @gdcuk
– And Sarah Lord (IFA)
— Martin Lewis (@MartinSLewis) February 21, 2023
Sarah Lord can be contacted through her company Cooper Parry, whose fee calculator is a useful tool for anyone considering paying for financial advice.
A small quibble Henry. You quote the general contact number for the Pension Service but if you are not yet at state pension age you are probably better off trying to speak to a voluntary National Insurance contributions (voluntary NICs) Specialist at the Future Pension Centre (0800 731 0175) to discuss your options and the cost of making voluntary NI contributions. they are open Mon – Fri 8am – 5pm I believe.
Having said that I gather they have been swamped by calls and some are finding it very difficult to get through.