DebbieLovewell: Early pension saving is vital

When I first entered the world of work, my head was filled with ideas of what I would do with my monthly salary. After four years of studying at university, the idea of holidays and other frivolities seemed very appealing.

This was closely followed, fairly sensibly I thought, with saving for a property deposit. Pensions and the need to save for retirement didn’t even cross my mind.

Maybe if I’d been faced with some of the cold, hard figures spelling out what a difference beginning to save early could make, it might have been a different story.

Last month, research from pensions consultancy Barnett Waddingham calculated that a 25-year-old, earning £25,000 a year, who delays joining a generous pension scheme (with a 10% employer contribution) until they reach the age of 40, could miss out on £97,700 in employer contributions, tax relief and estimated investment returns, as well as their own contributions.

But it seems we have some way to go to convince employees. Research by the Money Advice Service last month found that, while 91% of the 5,000 people surveyed believed it is best for individuals to begin paying into a pension in their 20s, just 28% of respondents were paying into a pension. Also, 14% of respondents aged under 35 felt it was better to begin saving into a pension in their 50s rather than their 20s.

A healthy dose of reality could help to hammer the message home. Some employers are already taking action in this vein. Legal and General, for example, has partnered with charity Age UK to challenge employees to volunteer to live on £75 a week (once rent and bills have been stripped out). The idea is to give a taster of what life would be like, or could be like, if people do not save enough for their retirement.

With auto-enrolment now also very much a reality, the question is: will inertia/common sense (delete as appropriate) mean more people begin saving at a much younger age? Of course, whether the minimum contribution levels will provide a sufficient income in retirement is a whole other debate.

Debbie Lovewell
Deputy Editor
Employee Benefits

Follow Debbie on Twitter: @DebbieLovewell