Blog: Pension Awareness Day 2021

Today (15 September) marks Pension Awareness Day 2021, and this year has seen the most industry-wide support for the campaign since it began, receiving backing from the Department for Work and Pensions as well as a number of industry organisations.

The campaign may look slightly different than when it was first launched by Pension Geeks in 2014, taking place virtually for the second year in a row in light of pandemic restrictions.

But this has not stopped the industry from building on last year's virtual success, which saw nearly 16,000 people watching pension webinars, with webinars and Q&A sessions held both live and streamed on the online platform this year.

“I am proud to support Pension Geeks and their partner Now Pensions in their endeavours to help spread awareness about all things pensions,” Pensions Minister, Guy Opperman stated.

“From the very basics, to the more technical aspects of where your money is invested – Pensions Awareness Week puts retirement savings in the limelight and gets people thinking about later life planning.

“It’s never too early or too late to start thinking about making sure you are on track for the financial future you want. I urge anyone who has been thinking about retirement planning to take advantage of what is on offer. All webinars are free and there are also opportunities to speak with experts one-to-one, to help you get a handle on your pension.”

And the campaign is clearly needed, with multiple organisations publishing research to coincide with Pension Awareness Day, highlighting the lack of pension knowledge that remains so prevalent amongst pension savers.

Research from the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, for instance, found that savers remain “in the dark” about pension basics, with over three-quarters (78 per cent) unsure on how much the state pension is for retirees.

It is not only a lack of knowledge that can be concerning, however, as further research has highlighted a number of adequacy concerns, with research from Fidelity International suggesting that many workers intend to “phase in” retirement in light of such financial concerns.

The industry has been quick to back savers, with questions published by Interactive Investor, for instance, aimed to help savers understand what questions to ask a new employer about their work pension to ensure they are confident in their retirement finances.

And there is an improving awareness of pensions as a benefit, with recent analysis from MoneyPenny revealing that 42 per cent of respondents viewed a pension as the benefit that’s most important to them.

However, whilst this presents an opportunity for the industry to engage with savers and emphasise the importance of increasing their engagement, it is also an opportunity to spur the industry into action.

Pension experts have also identified a number of broader reforms, such as the 2017 auto-enrolment reforms, which could also help combat adequacy concerns by supporting those savers most at-risk.

Sharing the load is crucial, and change and engagement is needed on both sides, particularly when industry research reveals findings that may not be what were expected.

A survey from MyPensionExpert, for instance, has revealed that the majority (84 per cent) of savers do not expect dashboards to change how they manage their pension, with 60 per cent of Brits opposing the use of technology by their pension provider to manage their pension online.

Indeed, Tisa head of retirement Renny Biggins, says that whilst dashboards have great potential if implemented the right way, they are "not the holy grail and people will still need to be engaged to use it".

"There is no silver bullet and what engages one person, will not engage another. And we will realistically never have 100 per cent engagement," he said.

"However, if government and industry work in a collaborative way, placing consumer outcomes at the centre, we stand a fighting chance of providing the support framework and choices a consumer needs to navigate through the conundrum that is retirement."

Awareness is a double-edged sword, and it is essential that the industry actively listens to what savers are saying, and responds as appropriate.

This is perhaps increasingly important as pensions become more prominent in people's minds, with the narrative often outside of the pension industry's control, as various recent headlines have highlighted pension schemes as the potential superhero's for the future, whether this is by 'building back better' or providing support for the net-zero transition.

Pension Awareness Day may only be a short opportunity for the pension industry to engage directly with savers, but the industry will have a full year until the next one; providing plenty of opportunity to act on the ideas and issues raised by members - ready to do it all again next September!

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