CommentPlus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Is it a party for middle-class rebels or lefties? (Times)

Daniel Finkelstein says that Nick Clegg has an historic dilemma to solve: whether to unite the left under its leadership, or stick resolutely to the centre, emphasising "newness".

2. A trauma in Britain's placid meadow of political concord (Guardian)

Simon Jenkins looks at the American reaction to Britain's election campaign. People are enjoying the sight of the UK discovering presidentialism, although nothing in the manifestos would turn a hair in an American election.

3. David Cameron's image-makers created the vacuum that Nick Clegg has filled (Daily Telegraph)

The Tories are suffering because they don't have enough solid policies, argues Simon Heffer. David Cameron has no convictions with which to challenge Clegg's novelty value.

4. Are we the next 'new' Europeans? (Independent)

Perhaps we have been too pessismistic about the extent of Euroscepticism among young Britons, Mary Dejevsky suggests. Having been stung by our country's 20-year flirtation with American ways, our social and economic attitudes may be turning towards Europe.

5. Knives out. It's the fatal flaw in Clegg's plan (Times)

Also looking at Britain's relationship with Europe, Anatole Kaletsky warns that the Liberal Democrats are committed to joining the euro. We need only look abroad to see that this would be catastrophic.

6. The challenge of halting the financial doomsday machine (Financial Times)

Tackling "too big to fail" is insufficient, says Martin Wolf. Halting the financial doomsday machine requires fundamental changes of policy towards, and structuring of, the financial system.

7. Cameron and the cities (Guardian)

An editorial explores the Conservative Party's drift into near-irrelevance in most of Britain's cities (excluding London). Nothing in Britain's electoral arithmetic is more striking.

8. Money spent on Trident can't go on troops (Times)

Four former senior military commanders -- Edwin Bramall, David Ramsbotham, Hugh Beach and Patrick Cordingley -- ask if our nuclear deterrent is value for money, in the face of worrying cuts to the defence budget.

9. How our leaders get to grips with a scare story (Financial Times)

John Kay looks at how governments respond to widely publicised dangers. The political incentives are either to downplay risks or exaggerate them, or to do each at different times.

10. Heaven: A fool's paradise (Independent)

Johann Hari wonders why the majority of Britons still believe in life after death. Heaven isn't a wonderful place filled with light -- it is a pernicious construct with a short and bloody history.


Sign up now to CommentPlus for the pick of the day's opinion, comment and analysis in your inbox at 8am, every weekday.


Show Hide image

Stability is essential to solve the pension problem

The new chancellor must ensure we have a period of stability for pension policymaking in order for everyone to acclimatise to a new era of personal responsibility in retirement, says 

There was a time when retirement seemed to take care of itself. It was normal to work, retire and then receive the state pension plus a company final salary pension, often a fairly generous figure, which also paid out to a spouse or partner on death.

That normality simply doesn’t exist for most people in 2016. There is much less certainty on what retirement looks like. The genesis of these experiences also starts much earlier. As final salary schemes fall out of favour, the UK is reaching a tipping point where savings in ‘defined contribution’ pension schemes become the most prevalent form of traditional retirement saving.

Saving for a ‘pension’ can mean a multitude of different things and the way your savings are organised can make a big difference to whether or not you are able to do what you planned in your later life – and also how your money is treated once you die.

George Osborne established a place for himself in the canon of personal savings policy through the introduction of ‘freedom and choice’ in pensions in 2015. This changed the rules dramatically, and gave pension income a level of public interest it had never seen before. Effectively the policymakers changed the rules, left the ring and took the ropes with them as we entered a new era of personal responsibility in retirement.

But what difference has that made? Have people changed their plans as a result, and what does 'normal' for retirement income look like now?

Old Mutual Wealth has just released. with YouGov, its third detailed survey of how people in the UK are planning their income needs in retirement. What is becoming clear is that 'normal' looks nothing like it did before. People have adjusted and are operating according to a new normal.

In the new normal, people are reliant on multiple sources of income in retirement, including actively using their home, as more people anticipate downsizing to provide some income. 24 per cent of future retirees have said they would consider releasing value from their home in one way or another.

In the new normal, working beyond your state pension age is no longer seen as drudgery. With increasing longevity, the appeal of keeping busy with work has grown. Almost one-third of future retirees are expecting work to provide some of their income in retirement, with just under half suggesting one of the reasons for doing so would be to maintain social interaction.

The new normal means less binary decision-making. Each choice an individual makes along the way becomes critical, and the answers themselves are less obvious. How do you best invest your savings? Where is the best place for a rainy day fund? How do you want to take income in the future and what happens to your assets when you die?

 An abundance of choices to provide answers to the above questions is good, but too much choice can paralyse decision-making. The new normal requires a plan earlier in life.

All the while, policymakers have continued to give people plenty of things to think about. In the past 12 months alone, the previous chancellor deliberated over whether – and how – to cut pension tax relief for higher earners. The ‘pensions-ISA’ system was mooted as the culmination of a project to hand savers complete control over their retirement savings, while also providing a welcome boost to Treasury coffers in the short term.

During her time as pensions minister, Baroness Altmann voiced her support for the current system of taxing pension income, rather than contributions, indicating a split between the DWP and HM Treasury on the matter. Baroness Altmann’s replacement at the DWP is Richard Harrington. It remains to be seen how much influence he will have and on what side of the camp he sits regarding taxing pensions.

Meanwhile, Philip Hammond has entered the Treasury while our new Prime Minister calls for greater unity. Following a tumultuous time for pensions, a change in tone towards greater unity and cross-department collaboration would be very welcome.

In order for everyone to acclimatise properly to the new normal, the new chancellor should commit to a return to a longer-term, strategic approach to pensions policymaking, enabling all parties, from regulators and providers to customers, to make decisions with confidence that the landscape will not continue to shift as fundamentally as it has in recent times.

Steven Levin is CEO of investment platforms at Old Mutual Wealth.

To view all of Old Mutual Wealth’s retirement reports, visit: products-and-investments/ pensions/pensions2015/