Category Archives: Money Matters

New UK annuity reforms – lessons from the US

Photo credit: Linus Bohman (Flickr Creative Commons)

Photo credit: Linus Bohman (Flickr Creative Commons)

This week’s guest blog is from across the Atlantic. David C. John is a senior strategic policy advisor at the AARP Public Policy Institute. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million older people across the USA.

 American experience strongly suggests that the coming UK pension freedoms sound better in theory than they will work in practice.  After nearly a decade where the UK has been the gold standard for retirement savings policy, it is about to take a step that it may regret.

As annuity purchases are not required, very few Americans buy them, feeling that they are spending a great deal of money for a comparatively small monthly income.  Even those in traditional DB pension plans usually take a lump sum if they are allowed to do so.  As a result, many US retirees spend unwisely, trust the wrong financial advisor, or make other financial mistakes.

Many people greatly overestimate how long their savings will last.  Most others assume (often wrongly) that they can manage their own money as well as anyone else or that they can live comfortably on Social Security alone.  US Social Security pays a benefit that depends on the retirees’ individual income history.  The average annual amount is about $13,000 (GBP 8,700).

One survey found that in West Virginia, a state with a relatively low average income, 78% of those near retirement and 67% of those at retirement would likely outlive their financial assets.  Workers with lower incomes are most at risk.  A recent national study found that by the 20th year of retirement, more than 81% of Americans with incomes up to $27,000 would run short of money, as would 38% of those earning up to $42,000, and 19% of those with incomes up to $65,000.  Even 8% of those with the highest incomes could not meet their expenses. Continue reading

Pension Schemes Bill entering final stages

Scrabble pieces spelling the work 'pension'

The Pension Schemes Bill has nearly completed its passage through Parliament, taking a step closer this week as Peers considered the Bill at its Report Stage in the Lords. As you’d expect, Age UK has taken a keen interest in this Bill, which is part of the Government’s wider ranging reforms to pensions announced by the Chancellor in the Budget last spring – the most significant changes to private pensions for over a generation.

From this April, there will be great flexibility, and greater choice for older people to access their retirement savings but with greater choice comes more responsibility, and potential complexity and risks, for older people making these important choices. Generally speaking, the pension reforms are a really welcome move giving those with pension savings approaching retirement freedom and greater options about how to access their money. However, with greater flexibility can also come greater risks for consumers. Continue reading

Pension reforms – opportunity and risk

 

Pound coins - Photo: Flickr user hitthatswitch

Photo credit: hitthatswitch, Flickr Creative Commons 

April 2015 will represent a landmark day for pensions, with an end to the requirement to use a pensions ‘pot’ to buy an annuity. For better or for worse, people at point of retirement will hold their own futures in their hands, with decisions taken at this time having implications that can be felt for many years to come.

Age UK has welcomed greater flexibility, but it’s clear that the rapid speed of change has led to significant challenges ahead for the government and the industry, as well as – most importantly – ordinary pension savers.

Disengaged savers

Age UK recently published an independently-written report, Dashboards and Jam-jars, which looked at some of the main issues facing people with average-sized pension pots. It highlighted some of the main problems that could arise – for example paying too much tax or running out of money – and suggests what can be done to mitigate these. Continue reading

Ending poverty and inequality in later life

Before getting help from Age UK County Durham, Lily, 88, was having to make painful sacrifices every day due to her limited income. This meant going to bed early just to stay warm because she couldn't afford to put the heating on.

Before getting help from Age UK County Durham, Lily, 88, was having to make painful sacrifices every day due to her limited income. This meant going to bed early just to stay warm because she couldn’t afford to put the heating on.

Last week we launched our End Pensioner Poverty campaign. Joanne Sawyer, Equality and Human Rights Policy Adviser, looks at how the issue of pensioner poverty relates to human rights in the UK.

Today in the UK, 1.6 million older people live in poverty, of whom 900,000 are living in severe poverty.  Whilst the number of pensioners living on a low income has fallen considerably in recent years, progress has now stalled and pensioner poverty levels have stayed the same.  In practice, this means constant financial worries for some older people and struggles to afford basic essentials like fresh food, warm clothes, and heating during the winter.

This unequal situation persists despite the right of everyone in the UK to an adequate standard of living which includes “adequate food, clothing and housing”, whatever their age and whatever their background.[1]  The General Assembly of the UN has stated that “older persons should have access to adequate food, water, shelter, clothing and health care through the provision of income, family and community support and self-help”.[2] Continue reading