Looking for a challenge in financial journalism, joining the Pensions Age team at the time that I did, (28 June 2016), was certainly that.
The UK had been hit with the reality of Brexit and as I threw myself into the world of pensions, we witnessed the UK pension deficit reach highs of £935bn – and continue to rise to record levels by August – annuity rates fell by more than 3.5 per cent and pension transfer values soared to a record-high. All in my first two weeks!
While this year has unfortunately been characterised by many losses, shocks and political controversy that has brought significant division across the world, there have also been considerable highlights for pensions. Auto-enrolment being one of them.
The government’s workplace pension drive successfully reached and exceeded the 200,000 employer mark, with 6.5m employees saving into a workplace pension this year and continues to target the last wave of small businesses.
Its further consideration of engaging self-employed, part-time workers and those with multiple jobs indicates that most people will (hopefully) be set to reach retirement without empty pockets, if they start saving now!
Listening to actor Sir Lenny Henry speak at this year’s Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association Conference in October, for me, hit the nail on the head into how pensions should be discussed and made more accessible for those not wrapped up in the industry and its jargon.
Humour, simplification and education are the key ingredients for greater engagement with pensions, Henry explained. So, it’s most definitely encouraging to see that The Pensions Regulator has planned to launch its education and enforcement drive in 2017 to raise trustee standards and optimise communication, not to forget the importance placed on member communication in the upcoming Pension Scheme Bill.
If simplification is what is being asked for, the government has also responded to this with its recently proposed plan to create a new financial guidance body in 2018 to combine the Money Advice Service, The Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise. One single body is likely to be more useful for consumers who are unsure about where they should go to seek pensions advice.
With that said, while pensions, for the most part, have become simpler for me, bring on 2017 to get more people saving and make pensions more straightforward for all!