Research and Consultation Responses
The latest Royal London National Funeral Cost Index reveals funeral debt in the UK has risen to £147m as people borrow from friends and family or the bank to fund the last wishes of loved ones.
Royal London’s research highlights that the average cost of a funeral in the UK is now £3,675, with 93,359 adults taking on funeral debt. The average debt being taken on to cover funeral costs is £1,601, which collectively equates to £147m across the UK.
Nearly four in 10 people who die leave behind a spouse or civil partner. Almost 70% of those bereaved say they felt either financially or practically unprepared for the death of their partner.
This report presents findings from a multi-methodology programme of research designed to understand, help, and improve, the experiences and outcomes for people who lose their spouse or partner.
Such an experience is naturally devastating, and while we may not be able to prepare for every eventuality, we can mitigate the worst impacts and help avoid the most catastrophic financial and practical effects through better planning, preparation.
A new report from Royal London finds seven in ten (69%) people who lost a partner were financially or practically unprepared for the loss. While death is a certainty we all face, only one in ten (11%) said they felt both financially and practically prepared when they lost their partner.
The first hand experiences of bereaved families make powerful reading. Whilst nothing can prepare you for the loss of a loved one, families who have experienced a loss are clear that there are things they wish they had done to ease the practical and financial consequences of bereavement.
Royal London is urging people to take steps now that would make life easier for their loved ones after they have gone.
This year’s Index confirms funeral costs continue to increase ahead of overall inflation. In 2015, the average funeral rose to £3,702 - an increase of £140 since 2014. Meanwhile, more than one in ten people struggle with funeral expenses – the average individual debt is now £1,318 per person.
Funeral costs continue to be a postcode lottery, as costs range from £2,976 for a cremation in Greenock, to £7,216 for a burial in Beckenham, Kent - a difference of £4,240. On a national scale, Wales saw the most significant cost rise of 5.2% between 2014 and 2015. This compares to a rise of just 2.4% in Scotland.
Royal London urges Government to work with industry experts to find better outcomes for bereaved UK citizens - a benefit system which is fast, simple, sympathetic, valuable and economical; one which protects both vulnerable claimants and the tax payer from unreasonable costs.
The government’s consultation, Strengthening the Incentive to Save: a consultation on pension tax relief , invited views on whether further change to the current pension system is needed to encourage more people to save and to save more. As part of this the Treasury asked whether the valuable tax relief currently available to those contributing to a pension to fund their income requirements should be changed.
As the UK’s largest mutual life, pensions and investment company, Royal London commissioned independent research to provide new insight on the views and aims of some of the key age groups impacted by the recent pension changes, to understand their attitudes to long-term saving and what, if anything, would encourage them to save more.
The research findings in the Pensions Through The Ages, highlights the need to:
- Improve the UK population’s understanding of the importance of saving for the long term so there is greater engagement with pension savings particularly with the younger generations;
- Promote the value of the benefit of pension tax relief incentives to encourage a stronger savings culture; and
- Improve the level of long term savings, with people understanding the level of income they need to secure to provide them with a comfortable retirement.
Earlier this year we commissioned YouGov to assess the extent to which Over 50s life insurance customers miss out on protection through the cancellation of their policies.
Our study found almost a third (28%) of people who had purchased Over 50s life insurance subsequently cancelled their policy. It revealed that in 2014, 52,000 UK adults cancelled their Over 50s policy - collectively losing out on £86m worth of premiums which had been paid to their provider.
This new report highlights the extent to which UK providers abandon Over 50s life insurance customers at a critical time in their lives – when they’re struggling financially with money worries. It exposes six issues which the market needs to address, and highlights problems which can’t be solved by one provider, they need attention from a united industry.
Royal London is calling for the Over 50s life insurance market to be remodelled - from the way products are designed to how customers in financial distress are treated.
We welcome publication of the FCA’s consultation paper on proposed changes to the pension transfer rules to allow for the retirement flexibilities which came into effect on 6 April.
We generally agree with the proposals contained in the paper. Safeguarded benefits are valuable benefits to the customer, so it’s important they fully understand the value of the benefits before giving them up and advisers providing advice on them are suitably qualified.
We welcome publication of the FCA’s Retirement Income Market Study.
We generally agree with the provisional findings of the market study that the retirement income market has not worked well for consumers, especially around annuities. The position will become more complex in April when the retirement freedoms come into effect unless relevant safeguards are put in place.
Customers need to be led through the retirement journey, rather than simply being told what they should do, to ensure that they receive the best solution for their needs. The proposed remedies don’t go far enough in making this happen. They need to be supplemented by affordable financial advice or an enhanced Pensions Wise guidance service that can give individuals a recommendation.
This study sheds particular light on the issue of Funeral Poverty, and the large numbers of people in the UK who get into financial difficulty as a result of paying for a funeral, or who cannot afford to pay for a funeral at all.
The picture painted by our research is of an increasingly polarised society – divided between those who can and those who cannot afford a funeral, but a society that is willing to take on funeral debt if necessary when it comes to paying for a funeral.
All the evidence suggests that the cost of funerals has risen rapidly in recent years, with a resultant increase in funeral poverty (the problem of people getting in to debt and struggling to pay for a funeral). Research commissioned especially for this report indicates that funeral poverty now affects almost 110,000 people in the UK, with the total value of funeral debt amounting to £142 million.
Royal London has responded to a consultation by the Department of Work and Pensions regarding proposals to the thresholds for Auto Enrolment.
The response to the Command Paper outlines Royal London’s position on the earnings trigger for Automatic Enrolment and the negative consequences raising the limit would have on key groups throughout society. It also outlines the importance of maintaining the lower and upper minimum contribution bands and points towards the budget ‘freedoms’ further reducing the downside risk of saving in pensions.
Royal London responds to the Work & Pensions Select Committee Pensions inquiry.
The paper outlines the need for the provision of a consistent quality of service that guarantees a good experience and generates support for increased long term saving. It explores the possible outcomes of a rise in the minimum level of contribution and also how best to ensure a good deal for members of the schemes.
The financial services industry needs full confidence in the future direction of legislation for it to fully support this market and Royal London proposes the establishment of a “Commission for Later Life Provision”. This paper supports the freedom and choice agenda signalled in the budget but believes a period of stability is needed to guarantee necessary changes can be implemented that will allow a positive customer experience for all.
The massive shift in the UK’s demographic profile (over 65s doubling in number from 8m in 2001 to 16m by 2061) was always set to lead to increased demand from later life investors for on-going investment-related financial services, which is very positive for financial advisers with the right skill sets and business models.
The scale of the opportunity and nature of the burgeoning in-retirement baby boomer client base will demand rethinking on the part of providers, advisers, policy makers and regulators in establishing robust protocols for the delivery of on-going, client-centred propositions that may endure for 30 or more years of later life.
Download and read this independent research report from Cazalet. Consulting
The 2014 Budget changes will give customers greater freedom and choice on how they take their pension benefits, but with this increased flexibility comes complexity as customers attempt to understand their options and navigate the market.
The presence of the Guidance service should assist customers in understanding their options, but it will not help them to find the best product. Only advice can assist them in this and therefore needs to be more readily available with advisory firms extending their services to a wider range of customers including those with relatively modest retirement savings.
Download and read our response
Royal London is committed to working with Government to make sure our customers get the best outcomes at retirement. The policy initiatives announced in the Budget have the potential to better reflect the changing needs of customers in a rapidly changing retirement phase of their life.
We welcome the increased flexibility the Budget reforms will bring but with this will come an increase in choice and complexity as customers attempt to understand their options and navigate the market.
We believe that the Guidance Guarantee has a critical role to play in helping customers understand and navigate the new market. We are strongly supportive of the need to develop a Guidance service that is freely available to all customers, delivered independently and impartial from any provider or adviser firm.
We welcome the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) public consultation on Reshaping Workplace Pensions for Future Generations.
We believe that the focus of reshaping workplace pensions for future generations should be on improving the current DB and DC regimes, rather than creating a brand new regime. Significant developments have taken place with investment strategies in DC over recent years aimed at improving consumer outcomes and this is likely to continue. We believe that the development of future solutions is best left to innovation within the market.