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Different strokes

Learning to swim is one of those events in your life where you need to place complete faith in your instructor. If they let you down, it could keep you on dry land permanently. You could, of course, rely on water wings. However, as your confidence grows, you are more likely to be focused on swimming as opposed to avoiding drowning.

When residential property was first mooted at an investment for self-invested personal pensions, I let out a sigh of exasperation. Here were we, professional advisers, trying to preach the benefit of asset allocation, following on from Sandler’s remarks. Just as we learned the innermost workings of stochastic modelling, we were faced with clients contemplating placing their entire faith in one asset class – residential property.

But it was not all bad news. At last, it meant that people would commit significant sums to pension provision.

Perhaps the Chancellor recognised this potential asset imbalance just in time or more likely realised the implications of in specie transfers. But, if he is that smart, just why do we still have pension credits?

The take-up of this benefit is as bad as the adverse impact it has on pension savings or, worse still, on those joining Adair Turner’s National Pension Savings Scheme only to find that the pension credit makes it a waste of time.

For those of you who have yet to assist in completing an application for pension credit, it is a ridiculously long and an ill-designed form. It is no surprise that take-up is well short of expectations.

As a fellow Scot, I am sorry to say I am ashamed of Brown’s antics and lack of common sense when it comes to pensions.

We do not need pension credit, we need a flat-rate pension. Auto-enrolment is effectively compulsion and setting contributions at such a low level and with no age-related element is plain daft.

If someone was to save under Turner’s plan, only to fall out of entitlement for pension credit, what message would that send? Setting contributions at this level will imply that it will deliver adequacy and we all know it will not.

What we need is a requirement to be financially savvy prior to taking up your first job. Making tax relief available for this kind of programme would be a small price to pay for a more financially-aware population.

Investing in property only became an issue due to the non-regulation of Sipps, with non-regulated firms running roughshod over the advertising rules that govern the likes of us. This and the level of in specie transfers set off the alarms.

Is the Chancellor showing the right qualities for a future Prime Minister? No, he is not and that view is gaining momentum in the Labour Party as I write.

No one has all the right answers. The Chancellor needs to accept that fact or face the consequences.

Those “new swimmers” recently contemplating pensions needed to be made aware of the liquidity issues that property investment brings with it. Their confidence could have been damaged if they were let down by the Chancellor. Let us hope they recognise that, without pensions at retirement, they will not be waving, they will be drowning.

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