Stella Beale by Stella Beale |

We revisit our ‘New choices, Big decisions Pension Personalities’ research and the savers most at risk if we don’t find simple ways of communicating the complexities of retirement options to them.

A great success, but what now?

Next year marks the 10-year anniversary of auto-enrolment (AE). It’s been a resounding success, having helped more than 10 million people to start saving for retirement.

But more than 6 years after the introduction of pension freedoms, significant concerns linger about how to ensure savers make wise retirement choices.

Given the success of auto-enrolment was based on inertia, it would seem odd that the pensions industry would assume all savers should suddenly understand the complexities of retirement options and take control of their retirement planning.

It’s alarming to see how many savers are sleepwalking into retirement. To avoid poor saver outcomes, what’s needed are simple, good quality products that meet AE savers’ needs – built to provide a sustainable income to last their whole retirement. These factors combined should further support and help them to avoid making ill-advised decisions.

New choices, Big decisions

In our quest to make pensions work for everyone, our New Choices, Big Decisions Pension Personalities Revisited research showcases the challenges faced and decisions made by many approaching retirement.

We’ve followed a group of people since pension freedoms threw the shackles off how they can take their pensions savings and found they divided into 7 subgroups, with distinct characteristics. We’ve given these subgroups personas. Let’s consider a few that concern us the most.

Leave it Larry and Linda

Are so overwhelmed by the complexity of pensions information that, recently, they’ve decided to leave their pension savings untouched. Their savings were ‘out of sight, out of mind’ unless a life event – typically illness or redundancy – changed their plans. Lacking information, they’ve not made any decisions about their pensions for now.

Spend it Simon and Sally

They were initially pleased to take their 25% tax-free cash to spend on holidays, home improvements, or new cars but haven’t planned how to manage their pension pot. Instead, they’ve just rolled it over with their pension provider into a drawdown product and withdrawn lump sums when required. This group are unaware of investment risks and their own likely longevity. Our estimates suggest that around 3 in 4 of this group will likely exhaust their pension savings before they die.

Risky business

Decisions are difficult for savers. The here and now is easy to understand, whilst years into the future are hard to imagine.

Lack of understanding could lead people into making short-term decisions that have them:

  • jeopardise their long-term financial wellbeing
  • lose potential returns
  • pay extra tax
  • cease pension payments
  • or get scammed.

Thanks to our personas research, we’re asking the questions: ‘Are we doing enough?’ and ‘What can we do differently for our 5 million plus members?’

Recently, we presented our ‘A journey not a destination’ webinar, which looks at the findings of our ‘New Choices, Big Decisions’ research in detail – a recording is available via the link. It’s essential viewing to help everyone understand how savers approach retirement. We believe the findings show members need simple, good quality products to help them achieve a sustainable income which lasts throughout retirement.

The industry must help savers, many years before they’re planning to retire, realise it’s not a future that can fund itself.