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Parents and their invisible futures

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As a stay at home dad of two young children, I spend a lot of time talking to other mums and dads in the park, school yard, soft play centre and so on. We talk about all sorts of things; homework, phonics, nappies. Sometimes the subject will drift on to money and finance.

The off-limits P-word

This is where I get frustrated, annoyed even. I hear a lot of discussion about credit card debt and house prices. Sometimes, although it is the exception, I hear people talking about saving and investing for their children – but that’s about as far as it goes.

Even on the rare occasion when I’ve found myself amongst debate discussing finances, never do I hear mention of pension planning. This got me thinking. Why, with retirement and pensions so fully on the news agenda, is this a topic parents shy away from? My experience of parent chat is that it’s no holds barred and the more you can share with others the better, to reassure ourselves we are not going totally off piste.

Is it that these plans just don’t exist? As someone with a background in financial services, I’m fascinated by what the Government is up to with proposed pension ‘freedoms’ and would like to have a genuine conversation with others in my shoes about it - but I’ll be damned if I can shift the school-gate conversation from cartoons, cakes and credit card debt to the pension provision of parents.

When working to raise the profile of the plight of stay at home parents, I often find myself deeply frustrated. Individuals that leave the workforce for a while to raise children are often in a much worse position when it comes to planning for the future. It’s absolutely vital for parents to give consideration to pensions, especially if you are a stay-at-home mum or dad and we haven’t made provisions, as we can’t claw time back once it’s passed.

A generation gap

When I was working full time, my aunt would always ask after my pension. Her generation faced all the same financial struggles we do, but they looked to the future and thought about these things, unlike my generation, which has exploited every opportunity to take out credit.

As a parent there are huge pressures on our finances, and a constant fight for brain space across a number of different life challenges; at the age of 41 I have only just recently put my own private pension plans in place. I am a little ashamed as it has been on my radar for some time, but I just never got round to it. It was only after attending an event about retirement last year that it really hit home and I asked myself what I had been hanging around for - waiting was not going to improve my situation.

I don’t beat myself up too much as I know we have had other priorities - as other parents do too - but I do feel reassured that I have at least now got the ball rolling. Yes it’s probably much later down the line than advisable, but at least I’ve made the first move.

Surely if we talked about such things we could support each other in making the right decisions. If we had had more playground discussions about the P word, if we chatted about things like this over dinner, if we debated the news agenda and took an interest in the new plans, would I have done something earlier? Probably.

Manners tell us it’s rude to talk about money, but financial planning is different. If we don’t save for our retirement we will be living hand-to-mouth? It does make me despair thinking about why pensions and retirement are considered such boring subjects. Pensions need a makeover – and I’m on mission to see if I can help parents see them through new eyes.

What hope is there for our kids when mum and dad won’t even talk about pensions and their plans for old age? We have to lead by example, that’s our job as parents.

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

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