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November 2014

Good day to you, Dear Reader (yes, I know there’s one of you out there!). After a short hiatus, I have returned to the keyboard to write a review of recent developments in the world of pensions. Reports of my writer’s block have been greatly exaggerated!

As George Osborne reveals he spent his summer holiday in a campervan in the Peak District, it may explain why Government intervention has, recently, been noticeable by its absence. Rumours that George informed our esteemed Pensions Minister that he would be vacationing, in a caravan in Rhyl, for two weeks are unsubstantiated…but may explain the Prof’s absence in the press. Not that the Treasury are calling the shots, of course…

I can see clearly now…
Talking of HMT, it was announced yesterday that the pensions of ‘army generals and top Whitehall mandarins’ would be classed, for the first time, as welfare spending. Naturally, this doesn’t make the problem go away – it merely provides transparency. Apparently, HMRC is writing to millions of households, ‘with detailed figures on how the government spends their income tax and National Insurance contribution’. A riveting read, I’m sure. Here’s hoping they recycle the missives, rather than hurl them straight in their general waste, so they don’t add to the cost of refuse disposal.

I want to retire, no longer required…
More happy news regarding the state pension age. The headlines state that a ‘worst case scenario’ would see today’s 20-year olds working until they are 75. We are expecting the SPA to be increased to 69 by 2049, although this could well be brought forward. That is then seen as a slippery slope to a 70+ retirement age, some 15 years later. Come 2064 I’d be highly surprised if the state pension still exists – if a week is a long time in politics, 50 years is as predictable as a Z-list celebrity’s Facebook relationship status.

Need guidance? Don’t ask MA…
Back in October we saw the breaking news that the Money Advice Service (MAS or ‘MA’ to her, considerably richer, advertising agency) would not be asked to help provide the ‘guidance guarantee’, put in place to help retirees liberate their pensions legally, boosting the coffers of HMT, rather than through one of those scorpion-related services, we have heard so much about.(Ed. That makes me think – surely we should get some of the ‘pensions liberation’ marketing bods on-side, because their campaigns seem to be a hell of a lot more effective that anything that falls out of the Civil Service and related NDPBs!)

Instead, Citizens Advice will provide face-to-face guidance (not advice – nobody here is providing advice, remember), alongside The Pensions Advisory Service’s telephone based guidance (not advice, don’t let the name fool you). We are yet to see any meaningful direction around how this will work in practice, but a very honest comment from, I infer, a Citizens Advice worker doesn’t fill me with confidence.

“We are not licensed or qualified or allowed to give financial advice eg how to invest money. We can signpost clients to the Telephone Pensions Advisory Service, or give them a list of local independent financial advisers (who will charge a fee) but that is all we are allowed to do.”.

You can lead a horse to water, but it seems you can only lead a retiree to a fee-charging IFA…much work to be done, methinks.

And so, I leave you to Guy Fawkes’s night on that cheerful note. Fawkes, famously said to be the “last person to enter Parliament with honest intentions”. I make no comment in that regard, although I do find it curious that we still ‘celebrate’ the chap over 400 years later.

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Category : A month in the life of pensions — admin @ 1:05 pm November 28, 2014