I’m With Brenda

Last week the BBC went out on the hunt for the views of the General public on the news of the forthcoming General Election. Why the press insist on randomly grabbing people on the street and asking them to answer a question they had not previously thought about or considered I have no idea. As Winston Churchill noted “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter”. In fairness Winnie, as his friends called him, also said that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”.

But occasionally the approach strikes gold. Having failed to locate a single  Clapham Omnibus, with or without its ubiquitous “man”, the BBC stumbled upon Brenda.

I think that’s what in the metropolitan media they call a Vox Pop or possibly, in Brenda’s case, a Vox Very Very Pop.

My West Country tones betray that I am from Bristol. Though I appreciate that may be difficult for you to pick up from print.  For those that don’t speak Bristolian, allow me to translate.  “Oh, what, not another one, surely?”. For me, that places Brenda very much in the upper decile of voters by Churchill’s measure and I think I’d gladly speak to her for a least five minutes.

In short, I’m with Brenda.  The concern that I have, is that much of this is unnecessary and distracting us from some pretty fundamental problems. This is another vote, called for short term party political advantage with no regard to the wider apolitical needs of the country.

The Select Committee’s wish list following the BHS enquiry was optimistic at best.  But at least someone had started to think about the issues facing the UK when it comes to retirement saving.

The Government’s response to the Select Committee wasn’t altogether promising – pouring cold water on the vast majority of its suggestions.  But the debate had started.

Now, everyone has become distracted by party politics once again.

We are sitting on a massive retirement savings time-bomb.  People simply aren’t saving enough, and there is going to be a backlash at some point when the “typical” UK 40 year old reaches 55, and thinks they can enjoy the same sort of retirement that their parents did.

There is no chance.

My father he left school at 16, worked for 43 years, lived for most of his life in a cardboard box and retired early at age 59 on a pension of about two thirds of his salary. (One of those statements isn’t true but three of them are). Chance of me retiring on two thirds of my salary at 59?  Nil.  Chance of me living in a cardboard box at some point? Hopefully tending to nil, but appreciably higher than in my father’s case.  I know this – I work in the industry – but I am constantly amazed at the lack of familiarity with the issue, even amongst the most educated of people.  Pensions are a general turn-off to the masses…..

With the forthcoming election, there are no good news stories here for the politicians.  No vote winners.  So, all suggestions for addressing a real problem that will affect significant numbers of people are now going to get kicked down the track. Again.

The maths is quite simple – we don’t live in 9% discount rate land and haven’t since exit from the ERM, and people are living significantly longer.

What does it take for this to be dealt with??

I’ll leave the final words to Winnie but I’m not sure Theresa, Jeremy, Tim et. al. will listen  –  “It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required.”

Adrian Kennett
Adrian Kennett

Adrian is a Director of Dalriada Trustees and is responsible for leading the ongoing Trusteeship practice. He has detailed experience with a wide range of pensions issues, including administrative, legal and communication issues, particularly in relation to closed schemes and those preparing for wind-up.