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Dispatches from the front line of pensions


Earlier this week, over 1.5m people tuned in to watch ex-BBC newscaster Michael Burke show people ‘how to blow their pension’ on Channel 4’s Dispatches.

For someone who has written about retirement issues for longer than they care to remember, the current media attention around pensions and the new freedoms that come in from April is a good thing.

I remember talking to attractive girls at parties whose interest, piqued by the fact I was a journalist, promptly vanished when I added “I write about pensions, retirement and investments for trade magazines”. Either that, or people of a certain age would then corner me and ask about what they should be doing with their pension, at which point the colour would invariably drain from my face and I’d have to explain that I absolutely could not give advice for fear of being thrown in prison.

Happily, things seem to be changing. By and large, people seem to be engaging more with the idea of providing for their old age. Automatic enrolment, which will see millions of people being signed up to company pension schemes over the next few years, has made saving for later life a more normal, everyday activity.

At the older end of the market, the idea that you could be sitting on a financial windfall and you will have the freedom to use it as you see fit, has made people sit up and start thinking about what was all too often a passive ‘put it off until absolutely necessary’ decision.

It’s a shame therefore that Dispatches presented a tabloid view of the new freedoms. By cherry-picking the human interest case studies to concentrate on people who either just missed out on qualifying for the new freedoms, or those who had been misled into poor investments, it risked presenting a negative, one-sided view.

What Dispatches highlighted – perhaps inadvertently – was the real need for affordable advice or guidance for people taking such life-changing decisions. In each of the case studies, the people featured would likely have been better off – or would have at least have been able to take a more informed decision – if they had access to advice. But unfortunately, those who need advice most – people with smaller pension pots or the vulnerable – may often be the least likely to get it.

We hope retiresavvy will help arm you with the kind of knowledge around retirement issues that will be of genuine benefit. If there are any subjects you’d like to see us cover in the future, please leave comments below and we will do our best to address them. 

Andrew Sheen

Deputy Editor

This article has been commissioned by retiresavvy and any opinions voiced are the author's own.

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