BLOG: Out with the old

Written by Lauren Weymouth
06/05/16

Two and a half years ago, just a few days before I started my first job as a reporter in the pensions industry, I bought myself a copy of Pensions Explained by Jonquil Lowe.

For those who haven’t heard of it, it’s a ‘pensions for dummies’ style book, designed to help savers understand the very basics of saving for retirement.

At the time, the Which? book helped me to grapple with the industry lingo, fill many a commute to work and send me to sleep at night (it’s not exactly a page turner).

But yesterday, as I started to gather some of my things together ready for my next journalistic adventure, I dusted off the book and had a quick flick through with completely different eyes.

So much has changed since the book’s publication in 2013 that this once handy little vehicle for revision is now totally out of date, and subsequently completely useless.

A plethora of new policies, rules and regulations have been implemented over the past few years and it would be a struggle to find a single chapter in this book with descriptions and anecdotes relevant for pension saving today.

Just to give you an example, 2013 was of course pre-freedom and choice: “When you come to draw your pension, you do not have to take the annuity offered by the scheme – you have the option instead to shop around for your own,” the book reads.

But little did Jonquil Lowe know, savers would soon be entitled to so much more freedom than just the ability to shop around for a different annuity; an around the world cruise or a new house in the country would also be an investment option if they so wished.

Axing compulsory annuities is just a small part of the changes. Since then, the state pension has been revamped, DB schemes have transitioned from ‘gold plated’ to ‘rusty and at risk of erosion’ and the auto-enrolment wave has swept millions of new people into workplace pensions.

A quick scan on Amazon tells me there aren’t any revised copies of this book (a heads up for any budding authors), but I can’t help but wonder what an updated version would look like.

For a start, I can’t imagine it would be worth publishing a book solely about pensions anymore – at the very least it would need to be called Retirement Savings Explained.

And perhaps the DB chapter would be demoted to a small box within the ‘workplace pensions’ section, and the majority of the book would be dedicated to the various types of alternative ISA products.

The truth is, I can’t blame Jonquil Lowe for not having updated this book. If she did, she’d barely have a moment to have it re-published in between the constant edits.

But as I say goodbye to my first pensions tour guide, I’m also happy I can’t pass it on. Now, I’m able to leave the industry knowing everybody has the freedom they deserve and the ability to have the retirement they have always wanted (as long as they save enough, of course!).

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