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A New Age Of Personal Responsibility

Looming Pension Crisis

Looming Pension Crisis

Britain’s workforce needs “a new age of personal responsibility” to avert the looming pensions crisis, the latest Friends Life Visions of Britain 2020 report, entitled “Pensions: The Root Problem”, warns today.

Neither workplace savings schemes, nor the Government’s auto-enrolment initiative, will do enough to stave off the impending chaos unless individuals become more accountable for saving for their old age, independent experts claim.

The study by the influential think tank the Future Foundation on behalf of Friends Life found that an over-reliance by workers on “paternal employers” to provide answers to many of life’s day to day problems is a leading factor in the focus of many of today’s workforce on short term needs rather than their long term security. Workers increasingly expect support that was not widely available in previous generations, such as personal counselling and conflict-resolution at work, according to the study. The net effect is that, at a time when planning for retirement is more critical than ever, the key role played by employers in helping their workforces save for the future is often overlooked.

Andy Briggs, Chief Executive Officer at Friends Life, said:

“It’s no surprise that for younger generations the idea of instant gratification prevails. But the common argument of ‘I can’t afford to save’ wears slightly thin when you compare regular savings habits with regular outgoings such as gym membership or satellite TV. The widely held belief that the future will take care of itself is a misconception we cannot ignore. I think individuals should shoulder part of the blame. Yes, we all have many choices facing us in life but what we need is a new age of personal responsibility rather than just relying on the government and our employers.”

Ian Costain, from the Association of Independent Financial Advisers, when interviewed said:

“Why would people look to something that is kind of deferred gratification, which is what a pension is, when there are so many opportunities for instant gratification in terms of spending money now? There has to be some sort of stimulus to get people to save longer term, whether that is advice or persuasion, but it really needs to be something kind of quite hard hitting to actually change people’s behaviours.”

Of those surveyed, only 43% of those in employment said they were saving through an occupational pension, while 17% were saving via a personal pension. Nearly a third (32%) were not saving for a pension at all.

Asked why not, 24% said they had “other financial priorities”, while 35% believed they were “young enough not to have to worry”. Some 16% said they hadn’t “got round to it yet”, while 10% said they expected the state to provide a retirement income.

More than a third (34%) of 18-24 year olds and over a quarter (26%) of those aged 25-44 said they found pensions “too boring” to interest them.

The research also uncovered a “paternalism” culture fostered in workplaces. Nearly three quarters of those asked said employers were responsible for providing a good benefits package, including, for example, healthcare and childcare. Some 91% believed their boss was responsible for developing employees’ skills and helping them realise their ambitions, 88% believed employers should help resolve inter-personal conflicts at work and 58% said their bosses should provide personal and emotional support when necessary. Some 87% said it was their boss’s responsibility to provide a good pension.

Britons also expect the Government to play a paternal role with 76% agreeing that “the government should do all it can to make sure that its citizens are financially secure in their retirement” and 69% believing that the government should “try to make everyday life less complicated”.

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