The Diamond Jubilee made me reflect on how life has changed since the Queen ascended the throne 60 years ago and I decided to seek out some facts and figures.
Since 1952, the number of pensioners has doubled, 44 times as many Britons are reaching age 100 and we are living, on average, nearly a decade longer.
There are 5.6 million more pensioners today than in 1952, rising from 6.8 million to 12.4 million. The percentage of pensioners in the population has increased from 14 per cent to 20 per cent and there are around 13,400 centenarians, compared with just 300 in 1952.
Less than five million pensioners claimed a state pension in 1952, compared with 11.5 million today, with a further million living overseas. The state pension was £1 12s a week (£1.60p) and you claimed your pension with your old age pension book at the Post Office. It does not take much to work out the enormous increase in cost to the Government (and taxpayers) of providing the state pension today. Few could argue the figures do not justify the need for auto-enrolment, while many believe the requirements do not go far enough and want full compulsion and/or higher contributions.
The CII has just published a report on research into SMEs’ readiness for auto-enrolment, which reveals that only a minority of small firms are prepared for the reforms.
A small number of these firms have already sought external assistance ahead of auto-enrolment and, of these, nearly half have been to see a financial adviser. The vast majority of these firms were satisfied with the advice they received.
Out of all the firms surveyed, financial advisers were the most popular potential source of assistance for advice on auto-enrolment, coming above accountants and pension providers.
Firms place specialist knowledge and trustworthiness at the top of the list of attributes they look for in advisers. There also seems to be a willingness to pay for advice for certain services, particularly one-off tailored advice on setting up a pension scheme and ongoing advice on the scheme.
There is a clear demand from SMEs for advice on their pension reform responsibilities but the big question will be whether there are enough advisers willing to provide it.
Travelling the country last month delivering our spring roadshows, I talked about the opportunities and received mixed views. I think fee-based advice to employers is a huge opportunity and well worth considering. If you doubt it, I suggest you look at the report and decide for yourself.
Fay Goddard is chief executive of the Personal Finance Society
A copy of the CII’s research report Auto-enrolment and small businesses, is available here