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Baby boomers need to be realistic on pensions

Scotland's "baby boomers" face the prospect of working longer or lowering expectations for a comfortable retirement, but are more switched on to finance than their UK counterparts, according to research published today.

risk WORTH TAKING: James Martin believes that investment in stocks and shares through ISAs pays off in the long run.
risk WORTH TAKING: James Martin believes that investment in stocks and shares through ISAs pays off in the long run.

Two-thirds of those aged 49 to 68 said funding a comfortable retirement was their biggest priority, yet four in 10 had not yet started to save for it, says fund giant Blackrock, drawing on an above-quota sample of 500 Scottish respondents as part of its annual global Investor Pulse survey.

Scottish baby boomers on average expect an annual income of £27,386 on retirement - almost £10,000 more than the average expectation in the UK of £17,700 - with public sector pensions an influence.

Half of the sample thought having a financially secure retirement was less attainable today than five years ago. More than one-third (37%) were concerned about outliving their savings in retirement, and 29% said they couldn't afford to save at all.

The cost of living is an issue, with the baby boomers currently spending 37p in the pound of their monthly income on bills while saving 15p, compared with Scottish 25 to 48-year-olds who spend 46p on outgoings but manage to save 18p. Almost one in five (19%) of the older age group are concerned about spending more than they earn, and 18% still have financial dependents.

Blackrock not surprisingly observes that Scottish baby boomers are "conservative" in their approach to saving. The average portfolio is 52% cash, while 45% said they were not willing to take risks to achieve higher returns, and 55% were not investing in financial markets. However, 12% said they were ready to invest but not sure how to do so.

The survey coincides with the annual marketing season of Individual Savings Accounts, where the continuing poor returns on cash Isas make the alternative route of stocks and shares Isas look more interesting. Blackrock says: "Almost half (47%) of Scottish baby boomers believe that their cash savings will help fund their retirement income, highlighting that many underestimate the ravaging effect of inflation on purchasing power over the long term. To demonstrate, a cash pile of £50,000 five years ago would only purchase £42,320 worth of goods today."

Scottish baby boomers, however, seek more professional advice (23%) on financial planning than their UK counterparts (17%), have a greater proportion of their portfolio in stocks and bonds (30% against 24%) and save more than the UK average, with 51% regularly monitoring the performance of their savings and investments.

Two-thirds (66%) of Scottish people said they took their financial planning seriously (62% in the UK) with 61% of those saying they felt confident and in control.

Tony Stenning, Blackrock's UK head of retail, commented: "It is about people getting realistic with their aspirations. The baby boomers want to retire on £27,000, that means a pension pot of £350,000, but the encouraging thing is that versus the rest of the UK, Scots are actually more realistic."

Mr Stenning said that if the average expected pension was added to the new flat-rate state pension, the pension pot equivalent "is probably not a million miles away" from the income target, though "there is still a gap".

But he went on: "Four out of 10 are not actually saving at all, that is quite scary in itself, and nearly half do not want to take any risk whatsoever to achieve higher returns."

The survey found the older generation advising younger people to be more savvy than they were. "If people had their time again they would save earlier, save more, and think long-term," Mr Stenning said. "We want people to look through short-term volatility, which is hard to do when you are stuck in it, and think about the risk aspect in a different dimension, about how to use your longevity to your benefit, rather than thinking you want no risk to your capital for 20 to 30 years."

The urge to look to the stock market comes as the FTSE-100 last week hit its highest level since the all-time high of 6930 points at the end of 1999. Interest rates, meanwhile, are set to stay low for at least another year, according to experts.

Barclays Stockbrokers reported this week that in a poll of clients holding Isas, 46% of investors were shifting from cash into equities and 15% were moving into other investments such as funds, gilts and bonds.

Fidelity said £1000 deposited in the average high street cash savings account 10 years ago would now be worth £1107, while invested in the all-share index it would be worth £2201. Fidelity's Isa Calculator and its Pathfinder Funds are among the tools available to investors planning how to invest.

Bestinvest has a Free Investment Report Service & Tool (FIRST) to enable investors to analyse their existing investments before deciding where to allocate new monies. www.bestinvest.co.uk/first

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