Emma Ann Hughes  

Tough pension pill for the Tories

Emma Ann Hughes

Emma Ann Hughes

Birmingham was an apt venue for the Conservative Party Conference.

I haven’t had a close encounter with the Conservative Party Conference or Birmingham for a few years but found both as confusing as ever when it comes to figuring out where the hell you stand.

As I strode out of Birmingham New Street I was bombarded with Brexit and fear.

Would I like an anti-Brexit sticker? Have I got my security press pass to prove I am not some dodgy individual trying to frolic through a field with Boris Johnson or try and get a snap of prime minister Theresa May’s shoes?

It was depressing that the focus was so much on back stabbing among the political party and banging on about Brexit – there is so much that needs to be done to improve the lives of people in the UK today.

The reason I was at the conference was to talk pensions with politicians at a debate arranged by the Institute for Public Policy Research and Lloyds Banking Group.

Yes, Brexit is important but pensions need to be sorted out just as urgently.

While automatic enrolment has helped ensure people put more cash aside for later life – it hasn't made sure they have enough cash to avoid an impoverished retirement or made them more capable of dealing with the choice they face at retirement.

Pension freedoms means savers face greater choice – and confusion – than ever before at the very point there are fewer financial advisers and regulation has made the cost of advice prohibitively expensive for vast swathes of the population.

Alongside this we have the fact the world has changed very swiftly – people are getting on the property ladder later in life, starting their saving journey later, may face periods of self-employed or breaks to care for children.

A career for life and a nice final salary pension at the end of it is the experience of the few these days rather than the many.

To me the solution for the many is to make people engage as much with their pensions as they do investing in the roofs over their heads and perhaps it is also time for changing the product itself.

Should we even use the pension tag? Too many people have tales of losing their pension. Would lifetime savings pot be a better way to engage the nation?

In this fast paced world, despite the tax breaks, etc, the thought of tying cash up until later life is offputting to many.

We are a nation who feel confident in bricks and mortar because you can just walk past an estate agents window and get an idea of how much the roof over your head is worth.

The pensions dashboard – if done correctly – is a real opportunity to make it as easy to engage with your wider wealth.