Investment podcast - April 2020

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Katie Eagles and Lorna Blyth from our investment solutions team discuss how the coronavirus might be impacting your pension.

You'll find out about some of the things to think about if you’re unsure what to do:

  • You might see the value of your pension has gone down, but don’t panic and don’t make any rash decisions.
  • Pensions are long term investments – and it’s very normal for investments to go up and down in value.
  • The company managing your pension should be very used to dealing with this type of event and they should be making decisions to help maximise your pension value in the long term.
  • If you’re thinking about switching investments, or if you’re taking money out of your pension, we strongly recommend that you seek financial advice to consider your options thoroughly before taking any action.

For more information about how stock markets may be having an impact on your retirement savings, visit our market update page.

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[Katie]

Hi I’m Katie, and this is Lorna [Hello] and we’re part of the investment team at Royal London and we’re here to give you an update on how the coronavirus might be impacting your pension investments.

Now before we get started, we just want to say that if you or a family member has been affected by coronavirus then our thoughts are with you. Royal London is here to help you as best we can during these really difficult times.

Hopefully we can reassure you about how we’re looking after your investments during this uncertain time as well as share some of the things to think about. So, whether you’re paying money into your pension or at the stage of taking money out, we hope you will find this short podcast useful.

We are recording this on week 3 of the UK government lockdown and it does feel like life has already changed beyond recognition. Lorna- How has this lockdown impacted the economy and our customers’ pension investments?

[Lorna]

Well it does feel like right now everything leads back to coronavirus. The isolation measures we are all experiencing have caused massive disruption to large proportions of both the Uk and the global economy. This has resulted in a big drop off in economic activity as well as one of the largest, fastest drops in stockmarkets since October 1929. This is relevant because your pension is invested in a wide range of stockmarkets across the globe, including the UK and the value of it goes up and down depending on what’s going on in the world. As economic conditions have worsened, markets have become more volatile and this is directly impacting the value of your pension. You will likely have seen the value of it fall in recent weeks.

 [Katie]

Definitely, and of course no one knows yet when we will see a return to normality. This will depend on the virus numbers peaking to allow social distancing measures to be relaxed. It also assumes that the policy measures put in place by governments to support businesses and workers are successful so that we can all start spending again and economic activity picks up. Until then pensions values could actually go up and down quite a bit. What should people be doing with their pensions in the meantime?

[Lorna]

The most important thing to remember is that pensions are a long term investment and that making decisions based on what’s happening in the short term can be a very risky thing to do. It might be tempting for example to move investments into cash for a while – but if you do that then you might miss out on the point when the value goes back up so you could lose out in the long term. There is lots of evidence which shows that the strongest positive returns tend to follow the biggest falls, in fact we saw this recently in the US where the Dow Jones Index had its biggest one-day rally since 1933. So, time in the market is more important than timing the market, if that makes sense.

The second most important thing to remember is that in most cases, certainly for most Royal London customers, pensions are invested across a mix of assets to spread the risk and reduce the impact. For example anyone invested in the Royal London workplace default or a governed portfolio will hold a wide range of investments, including company shares, property, government bonds, commodities and cash. This spread means they are better prepared to withstand sudden market shocks so if one particular investment is performing poorly you shouldn’t be as badly affected. We have seen this recently where most of these investments that I mentioned have fallen since the start of the year with the exception of UK government bonds, which have delivered a positive return over this period as demand for them rises during periods of uncertainty.

Pensions are a long term investment, spanning anywhere between five and 45 years, maybe even longer for some of our younger customers, and so this is about looking beyond this disruption which relative to your investment timeframe, will be short term.

And finally it is worth remembering that there is a team of highly experienced investment professionals who are making decisions on your behalf, aiming to maximise your long term outcomes.

So my suggestion overall would be not to make any rash decisions, but to make sure you’ve taken time to understand all of your options and the pros and cons of those options. This might mean you need to speak to a financial adviser is you’re not sure.

[Katie]

And what about people taking money out of their pension?

[Lorna]

This is where it’s really important to think through all of your options and the implications. Withdrawing money from investments when markets are down tends to be a bad idea if you can avoid it – because you’re essentially selling your investments at a lower price, and once it’s out you’ve lost the opportunity for the value to go back up when everything blows over.

The obvious complication here is that not everyone has the option to delay taking money out of their pension. Again, it’s really important to seek financial advice about this if you’re not sure what to do – an adviser will be best placed to go through all of your options and help you decide on the best course of action.

[Katie]

OK thanks Lorna so just to summarise the key points:

  • You might see the value of your pension has gone down, but don’t panic and don’t make any rash decisions
  •  Pensions are long term investments – and it’s very normal for investments to go up and down in value
  • The company managing your pension should be very used to dealing with this type of event and they should be making decisions to help maximise your pension value in the long term
  • If you’re thinking about switching investments, or if you’re taking money out of your pension, we strongly recommend that you seek financial advice to consider your options thoroughly before taking any action

Thank you Lorna and thank you for listening.