At the end of October I attended the Pension and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) conference for three days of presentations and debate. A common theme across the sessions was how we engage with members. It was even the subject of a conference challenge where members of the public were asked to pitch how they would improve savings rates.
Across the population it is clear is there are many disparate groups with differing needs. We must resist the temptation to treat informing and educating people as one problem. We know the vast majority of people are not engaged with pensions and we must reach out to them.
For this to be successful the conversation needs to be on their terms. For the younger population and those on low incomes this means moving the focus of the discussion from our narrative (saving for retirement) to the financial issues that affect them, such as debt.
Debt is up around 50% since 2013, to £3,600 per UK adult and 17 million work-age Brits have <£100 in savings . We must also acknowledge the impact financial well-being has on mental well-being. Financial concerns impact individuals’ well-being and their ability to work. Research from Willis Towers Watson indicated that 1 in 5 workers find their financial problems are impacting their lives.
Once individuals are engaged we can then look to encourage a savings culture highlighting the benefits of using a pension to save for the future. There were some great ideas presented by Jerry Gandhi of Schneider Electric, Chris Wagstaff of Columbia Threadneedle and Professor James Devlin of Nottingham University Business School around how behavioural interventions can be applied to pensions. These ranged from the simple changing of wording (Employers Contribution = Free Money, Pensions Tax Relief = Savers Bonus) through to more visual solutions such as aged avatars to assist people in visualising their futures.