Change can be an odd feeling. It can take time getting used to a new subject area, new terminology, new legislation and overall a new environment.
This is exactly the sensation I feel as I pen my last ever soapbox for the magazine. I have now been given the task of heading up Pensions Age’s two sister titles, Insurance Asset Management Europe and Money Age. So it’s six years and out for me writing about pensions. I therefore thought I would provide a brief commentary of my feelings about how the pensions industry has changed over these six years and what direction I think it is heading.
I immediately link back to my opening word, ‘change’ to commence my summary. Change can certainly be a welcome thing to have, such as new auto-enrolment legislation now firmly embedded in the pensions industry helping people to start saving. Compliance duties around governance and reporting, changes in legislation around master trusts, pension transfer changes, these have all been designed to boost the overall savings environment.
But over the six years of being a pensions journalist, I can’t help but feel that these ‘good’ changes have somewhat been tainted by the ‘bad’. There is still a great feeling of confusion and complexity engulfing the sector over legal requirements, tax legislation, governance standards and accounting rules that the lay person will never in a million years be able to get their heads around. Industry jargon is still rife. I fully applaud the work that is being done to improve this, but I do feel the word ‘pension’ will never be a simple concept for the majority of the population. With changes in other financial areas and with savings products like LISAs, building societies offering high interest rates, and bonds knocking on the doors of youngsters today, I’m not so sure that we will ever fully break through the shell of non-pension savers.
As with everything however, the industry must continue developing new savings products and vehicles targeting savers and really make the point that a pension is so vital in your retirement years. I’m not sure past and present governments have done enough to emphasise this message to savers of all ages, and it would be absolutely fantastic if we could have more Budgets and statements whereby the pensions industry is not targeted so the government can make up for losses elsewhere.
The last six years have really opened my eyes to the pensions industry and I now believe that financial education should be on every school curriculum. It is THAT important.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have perhaps taken a range of savings messages from features and news that I have written for the magazine and online and I hope you all continue with the energy and enthusiasm that oozes out of you to make the UK pensions space something to be proud of.