An increasingly rare sight. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Whatever happened to the election posters in our windows?

You could always tell it was election time from the posters in people's windows. Where have they vanished to?

There was a time – not so long ago – when you knew there was an election in the air because house and flat windows were suddenly adorned with posters – red, blue and yellow – telling the passer-by that this house was voting Labour/Conservative/Liberal (as was).

But here we are amidst the ‘most exciting election campaign ever’ and there’s not a window poster to be seen. I live in a marginal constituency, and I work in another, and despite my best efforts to date, I have seen none.

It’s a pity; not just because the posters added to the general excitement (and made for very useful TV pictures to illustrate which party might be winning on the doorstep)) but because it was always fascinating to discover that that slightly stuck-up lady down the road was in fact a socialist and that the nice bloke on the other side of the road was a Tory.

It was also great for morale if you were a party worker, either delivering leaflets or knocking on doors, to see a street festooned with window posters advertising your candidate.

But those days appear to have gone. It’s been a gradual trend over the past few elections which now seems to have reached some sort of apotheosis.

But why? Is it because we have all migrated online and we’re still busy putting up posters but these are now done online on Twitter Facebook or elsewhere?

Or is it because we are all now so privatised, and perhaps wary, and think it’s better to keep our political opinions to ourselves?

Or is it because, despite the excitement of the politicians, pundits and activists – this election has left the general population unmoved? And could it be that I speak to soon, that after the leaders’ debates campaign fever will really take a grip and our streets will once more become a sea of red, blue, yellow, green and purple?

Maybe, or maybe not; and if it’s the latter it's a tad worrying. For if this campaign, clearly the most unpredictable in living memory, doesn’t stir the blood of the average voter, then political disillusionment is even more profound than any of us might have thought and our democracy is in deep trouble.

So come on, it’s time to come out, open that envelope from your party of choice and show the world your political colours.

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/