Retirement poll reveals desire for trusted guidance

Survey reveals that pension savers want trusted guidance to help them secure a good retirement

Three quarters (75 per cent) of UK adults who have a pension say that they would consider taking guidance about how to make their savings last throughout retirement from a pension provider with a legal duty to put their interests first, a new survey has revealed.

The YouGov1 survey was commissioned by leading workplace pension provider The People’s Pension2, following the publication of the ground-breaking New Choices Big Decisions3 report earlier this year, which, based on extensive interviews, found that many older savers are sleepwalking into retirement and run the risk of running out of pension savings years before they die. This study was first launched following the introduction of pension freedoms4, which has meant that individuals either must make a choice between a variety of financial products to finance their retirement or withdraw their pension savings.

The survey presented respondents with a selection of options for spending their pension savings during retirement. It found that nearly four in ten (37 per cent) of those who are saving for retirement would be prepared to be guided towards taking a pension that was split between giving them a guaranteed regular income (an annuity) and the rest as a flexible income pot (drawdown) after taking the tax-free lump sum up-front. A further 35 per cent chose a guaranteed regular income (an annuity) only option after taking the tax-free lump sum.

The survey also highlighted how unprepared for retirement planning many people are:

  • More than a third (35 per cent) don’t know when they will retire. For those aged 55 and over, more than a fifth (22 per cent) are uncertain of when they will stop working.
  • Just over one in ten (12 per cent) knew or guessed the weekly value of the UK State Pension5. This knowledge is as low as three per cent for 18-24 year olds and is only as high as 25 per cent for those aged 55 and over. 
  • Just under half (48 per cent) said they don’t know how long their retirement savings will need to last them, including 45 per cent of those aged 55 and above.
  • Nearly three in ten (28 per cent) of everyone surveyed, say they have no idea what to do with the savings they have built up for their retirement. 

Phil Brown, the director of policy and external affairs at B&CE, the provider of The People’s Pension, said: “This latest research  provides further evidence that pension savers are crying out for guidance about how they should approach retirement. It’s clear there is an opportunity for the industry and master trusts are well placed to meet it.

“Master trusts have an opportunity to develop the retirement products which will meet the needs of many for security as well as providing flexibility. This means a coming of age for well-governed auto enrolment schemes – as they move from being saving vehicles for employees to also providing their pensions in retirement.”

ENDS

How UK pensions are withstanding the fallout from coronavirus

Back in March when the world was a genuinely scary place, there was feverish speculation about what the coronavirus pandemic might mean for the pensions industry.

Both privately and publicly, fears were expressed that the economic damage wrought by the both the initial financial shock and subsequent fallout from lockdown measures might lead to a significant exodus from pensions, as financially stressed savers either ceased contributing or drew down on their retirement savings.

In the months that followed, this was a trend that we simply couldn’t see in data relating to our 5 million members. To be sure that what we were experiencing was not idiosyncratic, we commissioned YouGov to conduct a national survey of more than 2,000 UK adults.

We’ve just received the YouGov results and they’re very clear: at this stage at least, those we surveyed with a pension haven’t revised their pension saving habits much, despite the country experiencing its biggest short-term slump since records began and an accompanying rise in unemployment – the largest in 11 years.

Survey findings

According to the survey, the majority (82%) of UK retirement savers don’t appear to have made any changes to their pensions since March 2020, despite the fact just over 4 in 10 of all workers have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Only a very small percentage (3%) have stopped their pension contributions altogether during the past 7 months, while just 2% said that they’ve withdrawn money from their retirement savings.

The survey also indicates that while 2% cut back on the amount of contributions they made, a further 2% have increased their contributions. Of those who took part in the survey, only a minority, 1 in 7 (14%), have even checked the value of their pensions savings since the UK went into lockdown. The same research also reveals that 45% of UK workers have been affected by coronavirus in some way, which includes being furloughed and having wages or hours reduced.

Despite recent research, conducted by a financial services company, suggesting that 1 in 4 people have either reduced or paused pension saving, the YouGov data suggests the effects of the virus on retirement plans appears to be very limited. 1% have been prompted to delay their retirement plans, while 1% of all UK adults with a pension retired earlier than they’d anticipated.

Workplace pensions aren’t of course the only type of pension in the UK and pension organisations may witness different behaviour depending on the type of category of saver for whom they cater. In particular, the experience of those organisations which primarily serve the self-employed might be different from those which cater for employees.

Support from government

Government support for the employed has been an important factor. Subsidising employment has meant that far fewer employees have been confronted with a choice between prioritising short-term needs to generate immediate replacement income over longer-term retirement needs. Subsidy also extended to pension contributions for much of the year. Some categories of the self-employed haven’t benefitted from government support and this may have had an impact.

The survey results indicate how robust the design of auto-enrolment has been. Faced by a once-in-a-century crisis, it has held up very well. Employees who were at an age where they could have withdrawn pots and crystallised nominal investment losses, didn’t do so. Employer contributions and tax relief have helped encourage people to continue to save, even in difficult times.

While the hardship for many is far from over, the early signs suggest that the British public remains steadfastly committed to saving for retirement.