Punter Southall urges government to prioritise retirement adequacy in Pensions Review

Punter Southall, a UK professional services company specialising in retirement, pensions, analytics, and legal issues, welcomes the appointments of Stephen Timms as Minister at the Department of Work & Pensions and Liz Kendall as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. While the planned comprehensive review of pensions is a positive step, Punter Southall highlights the need for government to also address retirement adequacy to prevent millions from retiring without appropriate guidance and advice.

Steve Butler, Managing Director of Pension Potential and trustee for the Centre of Ageing Better, states: “The government’s commitment to maintaining the state pension triple lock and reviewing the pensions and retirement savings landscape is highly positive. However, retirement adequacy is a major issue. The Resolution Foundation[i] highlights that around two-in-five working-age individuals (13 million people) aren’t saving enough to meet the minimum target for an adequate retirement income. Nearly half fear their savings will run out, creating a ticking time bomb.”

Butler says better education around retirement planning could also help address this issue and close the ‘advice gap.’

He notes, “The lack of affordable advice for those approaching retirement with relatively small pension pots (less than £100,000) is a significant deficiency in the UK’s pension provision. We also risk a lost generation, those too young to have benefitted from defined benefit pensions and too old to have built up substantial defined contribution pension pots. Many don’t understand the implications of drawdown and other options, such as annuities, that provide a guaranteed income. Age UK[ii] highlights that around 90,000 retirees are making unsustainable withdrawals, taking an annual income of 8% or more from their funds. Seeking financial advice before choosing drawdown is crucial to mitigate these risks.”

Research by The Lang Cat[iii] shows that only 9% of people currently pay for financial advice, down from 11% in 2023. Cost remains the main barrier, with one in five avoiding advice due to perceived expense. Butler stresses that simplifying retirement planning and improving access to affordable advice is crucial.

However, he highlights the promise of the Financial Conduct Authority’s advice guidance boundary review. This review aims to create a regulatory system that fosters commercially viable models of advice and support, enabling consumers to make effective financial decisions. Labour’s “Financing Growth” policy paper pledges to monitor this review closely to ensure it effectively closes the advice gap and aligns with the statutory remit of the Money and Pensions Service.

Punter Southall’s Pension Wish List:

  1. Commit to the continued roll out of Auto-Enrolment:
    • Address the gender pension gap by allowing partners to pay into the pension pots of those on career breaks.
    • Lower the minimum age and salary level for auto-enrolment to include younger or part-time workers, benefiting women significantly.
  2. Introduce greater flexibility in pension access:
    • Remove the Money Purchase Annual Allowance to enable true pension freedom, allowing people to draw on pension funds for retraining or upskilling without penalties.
  3. Promote the Pension Tracing Service:
    • Increase awareness of the nearly £20bn in unclaimed pensions. Support initiatives like “National Pension Tracing Day” to help individuals locate lost pensions, which could significantly improve their financial situations.

Punter Southall also supports the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF)’s call for the appointment of an Independent Retirement Savings Commission, that would be accountable to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and have a clear remit to define, measure, and promote good retirement outcomes.

Butler concludes, “The planned pensions review is a major opportunity to rethink government-led education on retirement planning and the importance of seeking advice, which will also increase understanding of online planning tools and digital advice models. These initiatives can provide affordable financial guidance, helping everyone make better retirement decisions and ensuring pension adequacy for all.”

 

[i] https://ifamagazine.com/study-reveals-nearly-one-in-two-are-worried-about-running-out-of-money-in-retirement/#:~:text=Fear%20of%20running%20out%20of,%26%20Investment%20(UK)%20shows.

[ii] [ii] https://www.unbiased.co.uk/news/financial-adviser/drawdown-pensioners-unaware-of-risks-study-suggests#:~:text=An%20estimated%2090%2C000%20retirees%20are,would%20last%20only%2017%20years.

[iii] The Advice Gap 2024 – The Lang Cat

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