Written by Steve Butler, CEO, Punter Southall Aspire
One of the most severe storms in decades has blasted its way across the UK. No, I’m not talking about Eunice (or Dudley) but about the continuing fall-out over the rights and wrongs of pension freedoms and the ever-present fear of scams.
We’ve read that the pandemic saw a rise in the number of older employees bringing forward, delaying or considering retirement as the working world was convulsed by the impact of the coronavirus.
Indeed, of the 600,000 who left the workforce during this time, most are 50 and above. They have also taken with them a lifetime’s skills and experience, qualities which are now in even shorter supply, given the record number of vacancies in the UK.
I have long made the case for the inter-generational business and how we should embrace and blend the assets of both youthful enthusiasm and seasoned know how. Regular readers may even consider it a manifesto for enlightened 21st century commercial practice and they’d be right.
Managers and HR colleagues who can shape their organisation as an environment to enable people of all ages, outlook and experience to combine effectively are the key to making this happen. With hybrid working and more flexible, individualised approaches which focus on outputs rather than input processes, I believe we are seeing more evidence of this welcome change taking place.
So, has this particular storm blown through this older age group? Leaving sunshine and tranquillity in its wake?
Not quite. The flipside of the removal, forced or otherwise, of a cohort approaching retirement is how they organise their financial affairs to prepare for life after work.
Being able to take your pension at 55 is now pretty well known. How to do so is a different matter entirely.
When pension freedoms came into being seven years ago, they explicitly gave people more say over what they wanted to do with their retirement savings.
But then came pension transfer advice mis-selling with some people giving up guaranteed valuable occupational pension benefits in favour of less certain or, in the case of British Steel workers, an inferior proposition.
Where has this left us? Pension freedoms were a response to an era of more individual choice, a loosening of: we know what’s best and will decide for you. In my view, that’s progress, if it comes with the right level of informed support.
But it’s that lack of available advice which is now being blamed on the rising number of members in this age bracket being “red flagged” by trustees because their inquiries about transferring their pension are thought to put them at risk of being scammed.
No responsible player in the industry wants this to happen but the unintended consequence of blanket action taken to protect people from questionable advice is that it has made it far harder for those who want help to navigate this process to find any suitable guidance at all in this area.
I should say for balance that there is a wealth of information to guard against scams both online, on the phone and from any legitimate advisor but is it enough?
There will always be those who need protecting from themselves but if the goal of the freedoms was to hand more autonomy to people to play a greater part in planning their retirement, can it be judged a success on this test alone?
The jury is out, especially when we read that those who have been forced into, or have chosen, retirement – that same group of over-50s – are those responsible for raising the current crop of flags.
They have savings and the time may be right to assess their options. Do they have the help at hand to enable them to do so, confident in the knowledge that they can chart a safe course, avoiding scams along the way? On the basis of this evidence, the answer appears to be: not yet.