Royal London Policy Papers
Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics on the ‘savings ratio’, suggest that British households have stopped saving in large numbers. This new policy paper looks ‘under the bonnet’ of the official statistics and concludes that there is a danger that commentators and policy makers may be drawing the wrong conclusion from these figures.
Recent decades have seen a profound change in the way we live our lives. One of the biggest changes has been the fall in the proportion of people living as part of a married couple and the rise in the proportion choosing to cohabit outside marriage.
The new government faces two key challenges on pension policy:
- To support existing pensioners in a fair and sustainable way;
- To ensure that today’s workers, both employed and self-employed, build up a decent pension to complement the state pension they will receive in retirement
In this ‘manifesto’ we set out three key areas where the new government needs to take action and make recommendations for reform.
Housing wealth in the UK is becoming increasingly concentrated amongst older generations. Home ownership rates amongst the under 45s have been falling steadily, whilst older homeowners have benefited from high levels of house price inflation. But what will happen to that housing wealth in the future andwhich generation will ultimately benefit?
Automatic enrolment into workplace pensions has been one of the biggest good news stories in pensions for many years. As at 31st December 2016, nearly 7.2 million workers1 had been automatically enrolled into a workplace pension, with more than four in five choosing to remain in a pension rather than exercising their right to opt out. This is a hugely encouraging reversal of the long-term decline in pension scheme membership in the private sector.
Download ‘The Mirage of Flexible Retirement’ here.
The desire to hold wealth in the form of cash – such as bank accounts or Cash ISAs (Individual Savings Accounts) – is entirely understandable. Ready cash provides a buffer against unexpected expenditures, and at a time of market turbulence, holding wealth in cash can provide a measure of stability.
But when cash holdings turn from a short term buffer to a long term investment, the alarm bells should start ringing. Interest rates on cash deposits slumped to record low levels after the financial crisis and fell again after the UK’s vote to leave the EU. As a result, when viewed over a ten year period, cash has not even achieved the very basic objective of keeping pace with inflation. By contrast, money invested across a wide range of asset classes – multi asset investment – has beaten inflation and outperformed cash by a wide margin.
£1000 put into a deposit account 10 years ago would be worth less than £900 in today’s money. £1000 put into a simple multi asset fund would have been worth more than £1500 in today’s money.
Download ‘The Curse of Long Term Cash’ here.
New analysis by Royal London has found that new mothers may have lost out on more than half a billion pounds in state pension rights in the last three years because of changes to the rules around Child Benefit. We are calling on HMRC to take action to deal with this problem before a whole generation of women reach pension age with incomplete pension records.
Download The Mothers Missing out on Millions here
In recent years, the HMRC’s limits on pensions tax relief have been repeatedly reduced. The Lifetime Allowance (LTA) is the maximum amount of tax relieved pension saving that an individual can build up over their lifetime. This has fallen from a peak of £1.8m in 2011/12 to £1m in 2016/17. The Annual Allowance for contributions into tax privileged pension saving was cut from a peak of £255,000 in 2010/11 to £40,000 in 2014/15. This was followed in 2016/17 by the introduction of a complex tapering system, with a reduction from £40,000 per year to £10,000 per year for the highest earners.
In addition to the fall in the value of these HMRC limits, annuity rates have fallen sharply, particularly since the financial crash of 2008, and again following the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. This means that the value of a pension that can be purchased by someone who stays within the HMRC limits has fallen sharply in the last decade, particularly when account is taken of inflation.
Download Time to end the 'Salami slicing' of pensions tax relief here
The number of people in paid work living in rented accommodation has risen sharply in recent years. In 2013/14 there were around 7.7 million working adults living in rented accommodation compared with around 4 million a decade earlier, a rise of over 90%.
Many of these renters may assume that if they were to lose their income because of unemployment or sickness their rent would be covered by the State. But for millions of renters this would be a mistaken assumption. In the event of loss of earnings, large numbers of renters would find either that they were not eligible for housing benefit or that the amount payable would only cover part of their rent. If loss of earnings continued for a sustained period these renters could find themselves unable to pay their rent and could be forced to move out. The research contained in this report suggests that the number of such ‘renters at risk’ is large and has risen substantially in recent years.
A small but growing number of people report that they are planning to fund their retirement not through saving in a pension but through investing in their own home. Their plan is to downsize to a smaller home at retirement, freeing up a large cash sum to sustain them in their later life. But this report shows how this ‘downsizing dream’ could easily turn into a nightmare.
In Part 1 we show why changes in family life, the mortgage market and the jobs market may mean that the assumptions behind the downsizing dream may be unrealistic.
In Part 2, we look at how much equity would be released by trading down at retirement and how much income this could generate. For the UK as a whole, we find that even if someone traded down at retirement from an average detached house to an average semi-detached house, the equity released – combined with the state pension - would generate an income of barely half of pre-retirement wages. In all parts of the UK outside London the typical downsizer would be left with a standard of living well below their pre-retirement quality of life.
In Part 3, we consider other barriers to the ‘downsizing dream’ including the lack of suitable property for downsizing and the psychological barriers to moving out of your cherished family home just at the point where you are going to be spending more time in it.
Citizens of Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands and several other countries can do something that British citizens cannot – they can go to a single website and see all, or most, of their pension rights in one place. This can help them to plan better for their retirement, to move their money to the best value pension schemes and track down lost pensions. Whilst there has been much talk in the UK about the need for a Pensions Dashboard, the current timetable to have something in place by 2019 looks very unambitious.
This paper first provides a taster of what is done in other countries.
The second part of this paper summarises the UK debate to date. It highlights the fact that whilst ideas for dashboards have been around for years, very little progress has so far been made despite the best endeavours of various players. It calls for government and regulators to move from their passive stance to date. Instead, they need to actively drive forward the process, making sure that the consumer interest is front and centre and that all holders of pension data play their part in providing the information that scheme members want and need.
Automatic enrolment will give around ten million employees the opportunity to join a workplace pension, benefiting from tax relief on contributions and an employer contribution. Whilst the amounts going in to such pensions are typically relatively low, the policy will at least lead to much higher levels of pension scheme membership amongst employees, reversing a decades-long decline.
Britain’s 4.6 million strong ‘army’ of self-employed people are generally not included in automatic enrolment and have therefore not been part of this huge growth in pension scheme coverage. In fact, coverage amongst the self-employed has plummeted in recent decades and is now at crisis levels. For example, the limited data available suggests that in the mid 1990s around 62% of self-employed men were members of a pension scheme, but by 2012 this proportion had fallen to less than one quarter.
On 16th March the Chancellor faces one of the most difficult judgment calls of his time in office. Following a summer 2015 Green Paper, he will now have to decide whether to go for major reform of the system of pension tax relief, minor tweaking or simply leaving the system alone. His decision will affect millions of workers and firms, future generations, the financial services industry and the wider macro-economy.
This paper outlines the very wide range of factors which the Chancellor will be considering. As well as the desire to raise revenue he must think about the impact of any reform on the incentives to save both by individuals and firms. He will need to find ways of simplifying a hideously complex system and of making sure that the system genuinely does incentivise people to save for the long-term. And any reform must stand the test of time and put an end to the constant tinkering that we have seen in recent years.
Changes in workplace pension provision mean that coming generations of retirees could have a radically different experience of retirement from their parents. Unless today’s workers begin to save significantly more for their later life, many will find that the quality of later life enjoyed by their parents will be unattainable unless they work well beyond traditional retirement ages. For many people, continuing to work to these much higher ages may simply be beyond their physical capability. Without significantly higher levels of engagement in pensions, we may be witnessing the ‘death of retirement’.
In this paper we look at the workplace pensions into which millions of people are currently being enrolled. Whilst the average contribution rate into an old-style final salary pension was around 20% of total wages, the statutory minimum for a new automatic enrolment scheme is barely one third of this level. Previous pension levels will be unattainable at these contribution levels, so this paper asks what individuals would need to do in terms of longer working lives in order to address this shortfall.
Elements of the UK social security system have failed to keep pace with social change. When the National Insurance system was designed in the 1940s, entitlement to benefit following the death of a partner was restricted to married women. At the turn of the 21st Century entitlement was extended to widowers, and shortly thereafter to civil partnerships. But the system continues to ignore cohabitating couples, despite the fact that six million people in the UK are now cohabiting, double the number just two decades earlier.
As a result of this omission, when one person in a cohabiting couple dies, their surviving partner is not entitled to a lump sum Bereavement Payment, a weekly Bereavement Allowance or a weekly Widowed Parent’s Allowance . In this paper we have estimated the cost of these rules – the ‘living together penalty’ – at around £82 million each year. A typical older bereaved person could miss out on around £7,800 in benefit, whilst a younger bereaved parent could lose over £25,000.