Pensions Summit: hard hitting action needed to get employees saving

Robust financial education programmes, the promotion of share schemes and hard hitting advertising campaigns are all needed to minimise the impact of an ageing population and get today’s workforce saving for enough for their retirement.

These were the views expressed by employers and pension experts during a panel debate on pension reform and long-term savings held at the Employee Benefits Pensions Summit 2010, which took place at Pennyhill Park in Surrey this week.

Mike Sullivan, president of the Pensions Management Institute (PMI), said that a general mistrust in pensions and the “false belief” held by younger employees that they will enjoy the same lifestyle in retirement could prevent today’s workforce making adequate pension provisions.

He said: “We need some shock advertising like there has been in the past around drugs and aids. We need some harrowing scenes [illustrating the consequences of not saving] popping up in the middle of Coronation Street.”

Sullivan also said the complex nature of pensions was also barrier to future saving.

He said: “There is the problem of the can’t cook won’t cook brigade. [But] if pensions professionals find it difficult [to understand pensions] then what must it be like for the man on the street.”

Jim Dredge, head of operations and money guidance financial capability at the Financial Services Authority (FSA), said it was imperative that employees were encouraged to make savings during the first half of their working lives.

“If you delay saving for your pension [until you late thirties] you probably need to be pulling in three times as much as you would in your 20s to get a similar sum at retirement.”

It is essential, said Dredge, for employers to address employees’ other financial issues in their workplace financial education programmes before moving on to bigger topics such as pensions.

“If you start too high you immediately cut out a lot of people. A lot of those people may be in a financial crisis. There is no point talking to those people about a pension because they have debt issues to address”, he said.

However, James Churcher, pensions manager at the Telegraph Media Group, pointed out that employees can be reluctant to discuss their financial circumstances in front of others and therefore employers should offer one-to-one financial advice sessions as well as workshops.

Meanwhile Jeremy Mindell, senior reward and tax manager, at Henderson Global Investors, argued that younger employees should be encouraged to invest in shares. This would mean that when the scheme matured after three or five years employees could get the “instant gratification” of cashing in some of their shares immediately while deferring the rest into their pension.

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