Graham Vidler says government and industry have the perfect opportunity to deliver a consistent message about the value of saving for retirement
We'll all be thinking a little more about love as Valentine's Day approaches. And many of us in the industry have a second significant other to think about. We share the pensions minister's desire to get people to love their pension.
Let's not forget there's plenty to like about pensions. Most pension savers see their own savings at least doubled through the addition of tax relief and a contribution from their employer. Nine million more people working for almost one million employers have been helped to save through the successful rollout of automatic enrolment (AE). The industry pays out over £1.5bn in pensions each and every week.
So, how can we use those and other features to build relationships which last well beyond 14 February?
First, however complex the work we do for savers, we need to keep it simple when we communicate it. The template for a new annual statement included in the AE Review could show the way: straightforward information, clearly signposted and concentrated onto one piece of paper can help build familiarity and understanding. And we can take these lessons into a wide range of customer communications. Consistent, simple terminology and layout should be part and parcel of how we communicate through video and online as well as on paper, through the pensions dashboard and other fintech developments as well as through annual statements.
Of course, one of the things that undermines simplicity is a constantly changing set of rules. Change can undermine our ability to communicate clearly and without ambiguity. It also undermines savers' willingness to listen; a sense that the goalposts are constantly moving is one of the key factors underlining a lack of trust in pensions, private and state. There's room for government and regulators to build consideration of complexity into evaluation of proposals for new legislation or regulation.
Perhaps above all, our communication needs to remind people what it's all for: the difference in retirement lifestyle that pension saving could make. Some 84% of people tell us they have no idea how much they might need or want to live on in retirement. So decisions about how much to save become impossible. We think it's possible to break through this cycle by building and communicating some straightforward, pounds and pence targets based on the sorts of lifestyle people might be able to identify with and choose between - where you might want to go on holiday in retirement? Where will you do your grocery shopping? How often would you like to go out for a meal? We consulted on the idea of retirement income targets in our recent report Hitting the Target and it received widespread support from across the industry. Our follow-up report - scheduled for later this year - will set out how such targets could become a reality.
Working together, government and industry have the perfect opportunity to get this right over the next couple of years. Alongside the millions of communications the industry sends out each year, the pensions dashboard and the new single financial guidance body are great opportunities to ensure that savers hear a clear, consistent message about the value of saving for retirement wherever they turn. We are firmly on board with the development of the dashboard and look forward to seeing the results of the government's feasibility study this spring. Similarly, the bringing together of the excellent work of The Pensions Advisory Service, Money Advice Service and Pension Wise in a new body is an outstanding opportunity to ensure that we're all getting the message across, clearly and consistently.
We look forward to working closely with the minister as we progress this hugely-important agenda.
Graham Vidler is director of external affairs at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association
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