If I was ever asked to judge a financial journalism award , I would nominate, vote for and present an award to Soumaya for this piece.
I don’t know the journalist and assumed I was clicking on another article from a young person assuming my generation had eaten all the pies.
I was wrong, the article is a thought through argument for retaining the state pension and not going down the Australian route, where getting the state pension is considered a sign of failure to properly mange your Super account and by extension your career. By pure coincidence, I have blogged about the inadequacies of the Australian system today. (Australians struggle with their complex pension system)
There are many people in the UK – what Bernard Levin called the silent majority – who do not think having an A level or Baccalaureate in Math is a “life-skill” . For such people, the certainty of a state pension – paid to you in return for 35 years of work or caring or even because you legitimately cannot work, means a great deal.
Soumaya summons up a dystopian vision of life when in 30 years when her generation starts thinking of stopping work.
The year is 2053, and a band of spry protesters wave placards outside parliament. Inside, a throng of ashen-faced MPs vote to pass new legislation. In Thockrington, Northumberland a groaning, creaking sound disturbs the local sheep. It’s William Beveridge, architect of the welfare state, turning in his grave as the state pension is scrapped for all but the poorest.
30% of people don’t think the state pension will be a thing in 30 years. I suspect that the same statistic applied 30 years ago but maybe not 30 years ago – a time when the NHS and the Welfare State weren’t stale.
It is true that demographics are in favor of the boomers but that does not mean that Gen X and subsequent generations can’t find reason to encourage each other to support a pension that provides a reasonable standard of living for most, and a benefits system that targets extreme poverty where it exists.
Soumaya is writing in the FT . but writing about the kind of people who don’t read the FT, the people who will get a top-up to their state benefits from saving and aren’t worrying about the annual allowance or passing on their pension tax-free. These are people who do not want to apply for help from the state (any more than want to manage their own pension).
A tough means test like that for Britain’s pension credit, which tops up income for the very poorest, would save bucketloads of cash. But in 2021 the average pensioner couple got around half of their gross income from the state. So a new system that wanted to avoid thumping millions of people of modest means would have to give the vast majority of pensioners something at least — and have them all process mountains of annoying paperwork.
This is in direct contrast to the current craze that would have us pay attention to the pension with Timmy Mallett
NEWS | ‘What can 80s TV star @TimmyMallett teach you about your pension?’ 📢 Not just an itsy bitsy teeny weeny amount but A LOT!
— Pay Your Pension Some Attention! (@PensionAttn) September 21, 2023
Pensions for people with attention deficit syndrome are a special niche but most people who don’t spend their time worrying about sustainable draw-down rates and the likelihood of the LTA returning under a Labour Government do not have ADHC. They do not need to be treated as imbecilic for not having the “life-skills” of an IFA.
Instead, they appreciate the kind of sensible and balanced arguments that Soumaya gives us. She couches her piece as self-help in pushing back against the means-testing of the state pension. But what she’s really after is that pensions are left alone and people left to enjoy the prospect of a dignified retirement without having to become a pension geek.
The wit and guile of the piece, its range of reference and its certainty of intent is admirable. Her view of a pension is a wage for life that replaces our wage from work. This clear sightedness marks her as a pension spokesperson for the next generation.
The generation I belong to, have responsibilities we cannot duck. We must focus on sustainability and not just the sustainability of the planet. We must make it possible for those like Soumaya contemplating a decent state pension more than 30 years away, to be confident it will be there for them. We are doing that right now – we are establishing a state pension worth preserving.
That means my generation paying the proper price for what we have right now. We cannot be the generation that got well-being on the cheap.