The Joy Of Pensions

OK, it’s not sex, though at least I have now grabbed your attention. But can pensions ever be fun? I have to admit that the thought of a pensions dedicated event did not fill me with enthusiasm. Fair play then to Melanie Stern, and her team at Financial Director magazine, who put together a really enjoyable and informative evening at the London Stock Exchange last week.

Of course it helps if your speakers are entertaining, and in Kevin Wesbroom and Jackie Daldorph from Hewitt Associates, Allan Course, an independent pension trustee, and Michael Johnson, author of a Centre for Policy Studies paper on changes to state, private sector and public sector pensions, Melanie had made some wise choices.

Kevin and Jackie set the scene with an amusing overview of the current pensions scene, including the election pledges of the three main parties, the key issues that nobody seems prepared to address, public sector pensions and the likely impact of NEST and NEO. Allan highlighted some of the challenges that pension fund trustees were facing in a world that wants to move away from final salary pension schemes.

Yet it was Michael who advanced the notion that the problem with pensions was the concept of pensions themselves. He strongly advocated a wider more flexible savings method that was more in tune with the uncertain times that we were now facing.

There is an argument that says that pensions are “so 20th century”, and they are in desperate need of a rebrand for the new millennium. Certainly the original aim of Lloyd George to provide a few years of well earned rest and recreation for 70 year olds following a lifetime’s toil does not match with today’s possibility of the retirement period lasting almost as long as the working life that has to pay for it.

The pensions model as we know it would appear to be broken. New ways of thinking are essential if we are to reach the stage where pensions will occupy our minds more than sex does with sufficient wherewithal to enjoy our twilight years. The evening spent with Financial Director magazine was a valuable step in the right direction.

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