• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Public in the dark on pensions revolution

It is barely two months since Chancellor George Osborne detonated his bombshell news on pensions during the Budget, but the signs are that it will have a far-reaching impact.

His move to allow anyone over 55 to turn their defined contribution pension into cash appears to be giving a morale boost to younger savers. But one-third of those approaching retirement are unaware of the reforms - which come in next April - according to research for Metlife. Meanwhile, the pensions industry is unclear on how people should receive the advice promised by the Chancellor.

More than one-quarter (28%) of us are now more likely to start saving or save more into a pension following the reforms, according to research by the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) - with young people the most likely group (54%) to change their behaviour.

Lower-income respondents also said they felt more attracted to pension saving (42%), implying that they like the idea of not having their cash in a locked box.

More than 60% of people said they felt capable of deciding what to do with their pension savings. But while one-quarter expected they would take everything in cash, 58% said they would still prefer to receive a regular income for life rather than risk their money running out.

Joanne Segars, NAPF chief executive, said the results were encouraging, but added: "We do need to make sure people are fully aware of the consequences of taking all their pension savings in one go if they do not have any alternative sources of income."

The Chancellor promised "face-to-face advice for all", which appeared in Budget documents as a "guidance guarantee". But Segars said the industry was "not clear how this service will be delivered or who will be responsible for it".

In the NAPF survey, 29% wanted face-to-face independent advice, while 14% said they would decide for themselves.

Fewer than half (43%) were prepared to contribute towards the cost of advice - with only 3% prepared to pay more than £200 and no-one willing to top £500.

David Thomson, an adviser at VWM Wealth in Glasgow, admitted that more modest investors had been "disenfranchised" by the Government's retail distribution review which banned commissions.

He said: "We have gone upmarket, we are finding it less profitable to service smaller clients." However, he said fee-based independent advice guaranteed that "people can be sure we are working for the benefit of the client".

One-quarter of the survey respondents said they had no idea how much they needed to save for a comfortable retirement. Another quarter thought they would need to save £150,000 - which would yield an annual income of around £9000 a year, or £16,000 once the new single-tier pension (£144 a week from April 2016) is included.

The Treasury Select Committee has said that pension companies must step in to provide guidance which is impartial, free at the point of use, and offered at least a year ahead of retirement, without final product recommendations.

However, Andrew Tully, pensions technical director at MGM Advantage, said: "While providers can help provide information to customers, I don't believe they should be part of the guidance service. That needs to be independent and impartial."

Tully, who previously worked for Standard Life in Edinburgh, added: "A one-off conversation about their pension pot is unlikely to be what many people need.

"Ideally, people may need someone available over a long period, potentially up to 30 years, well into later life."

David Trenner at Intelligent Pensions in Glasgow said: "The most frightening part of this is that the retail distribution review was specifically designed to stop hidden charges. We seem to be taking two steps forward and one step back."

Contextual targeting label: 
Finance

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

235778