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NEST (Not Exactly Scintillating Topic)


This year sees the launch of the NEST (National Employment Savings Trust) pension scheme providing a route into pension saving that to date has been denied to many or not pursued by many. We wish it well and hope that individuals do really see the benefit of saving for their later life whether that will truly be retirement or will be some mixture of work and supplementary income provided by a pension.

As part of the preparation phase NEST has commissioned a survey from YouGov covering people’s understanding/attitude towards pensions with the following rather predictable findings. Only 6 per cent of people interviewed think pensions are ‘straightforward’. Only 4 per cent believe pensions are ‘easy to understand’ and just 3 per cent agree that pensions are ‘simple’. In addition, only 5 per cent of respondents found pensions ‘interesting’ and 2 per cent agreed they are ‘engaging’ (who are these people?). The words people more strongly associate with pensions are ‘confusing’, ‘complicated’ ‘boring’, ‘difficult’ and ‘off-putting’.

NEST will be competing with many other pension providers in trying to convince individuals that pensions and, in particular, saving through NEST is in their best interests. And even if people had the spare cash to save, bad publicity regarding low investment returns, plus high fees and administration costs have made savers highly sceptical.

Nor is the only way to save for later years through pensions alone. There are other ways, for example investing in property and then downsizing later or releasing equity. These have their pros and cons and also their problems, as a recent Which? survey has revealed.

The point is that the vast majority of the population has a long, long way to go to become sufficiently adept and confident in financial matters of any kind but, in particular, saving for retirement.

There will also continue to be a major problem as long as products are pushed by those with particular vested interests, “bigging up” the merits of their offering while failing to give people a detached, dispassionate and objective real understanding of the issues.

No number of whizzy phrasebooks or self-indulgent videos will remedy this.


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