Our viewpoint

Let’s go back to basics
on pensions talk

Stacy O'Sullivan

Let’s go back to basics on pensions talk

Monday 7pm.  To my one year old “what story would you like tonight Kitty?” “Baaa baaa”.

Tuesday 7pm.  “What story would you like tonight Kitty?” “Baaa  baaa”. Sigh.

Wednesday 7pm. “Please Kitty any chance of anything other than baa baa black sheep?” “Baaa baaa”.

As I settle into my 30th consecutive night of singing Baa baa black sheep and I let the short, simple words wash over me, I find myself wishing ‘If only all the things I read today had been so straight forward’. 

As a DC pensions consultant, my day is often spent battling through pages of investment reviews, The Pensions Regulator (TPR) guidance and deciphering member booklets.  Much of what I review is written for members by technical experts who are more concerned with meeting legislative requirements than empowering and educating members. 

As an industry, we all recognise the power of plain English – NEST first produced their well-received phrasebook in 2012, but what has happened since then? Er…. well not a lot actually. 

We all still use inconsistent, baffling language to describe simple concepts. Annuity, diversification, accumulation, decumulation (seriously?), crystallisation….the list goes on. With roughly 1 in 20 adults in the UK having the literacy and numeracy levels of a 5 year old*  is it any wonder that people are scared of engaging with their retirement savings?

At a recent member focus group, I was surprised at how short the window to engage actually is.  This group told me that we have 2 minutes max to grab their attention before they file things in the ‘too complicated’, ‘too scary’, ‘too dull’ folder. They never read benefit statements, haven’t logged on to check to their pension account and have no idea about what financial position they’ll be in when they stop working.

As an industry we need to ditch the acronyms, stop the jargon and make a commitment to say what we mean to help people understand their pensions.

Let’s face it, would my one-year-old still be requesting baa baa black sheep if it were “baa baa black ovis aries, have you any wool? Affirmative, affirmative, three receptacles sufficiently adequate”?

I doubt it.  Let’s get back to basics so we can move forward positively and inspire action.

Read more about how we inspire action with our member communications.

And listen to our own Hayley Williams talk about how LCP Horizon helps trustees and pensions managers to boost engagement with their DC pension scheme and support employees as they approach retirement.

Keep an eye out for my second blog in this series that looks at how to engage the disengaged member who’s totally turned off by pensions and how we can help get them back on board.