OpinionMar 16 2015

Ideal retirement at odds with real retirement

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Ideal retirement at odds with real retirement

As life expectancy rises and pressures on household finances grow, many face circumstances they may not have expected as they approach retirement such as adult children needing support or older relatives needing care. During interviews for our report people told us they can struggle with such pressures, and keeping up to speed with changes that could affect them.

Many find it hard to make sense of their pension choices, particularly if they face barriers such as low numeracy and literacy skills. One woman told us: “It’s foolish to sit back and not take control, but I don’t feel tooled-up to do that. [It] makes me feel embarrassed, that I’m so financially illiterate. It’s my own pension future.”

It is comments like this which bring into stark reality how crucial the Pension Wise service will be for people as they approach one of the biggest financial decisions they will ever make. People want to be in control of their finances and able to secure financial resilience and independence in older age. But many will need support to enable them to understand their pension options and how they relate to their own situation.

Citizens Advice, the Pensions Advisory Service, the Money Advice Service and the Treasury are working closely together to ensure the Pension Wise service is up and running in time for reforms coming in next month.

We have been clear from the outset that we will be offering guidance, not advice to people and we are confident that we will be providing a high quality, consistent service online, over the phone and face to face. We issued our latest update on the new service last week, which included the news that face to face guidance will be available from over 500 locations across England and Wales.

People will have the choice of whether to access Pension Wise online, over the phone or in person. This choice is key to empowering people to make sense of their pension options and understand them in the context of their own lives, which is in turn key to the success of the new pension freedoms.

Gillian Guy is chief executive of the Citizens Advice Bureau