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Is it any wonder that no one wants a pension today?

And so we have the Turner report, this time on the retirement savings gap, which the government seems now to have increased from £27bn to £57bn.

It would be interesting to know how the Government or its appointed agencies are coming up with these vast figures and also why there&#39s such a vast difference between the first figure and the latest one. Are these figures just plucked out of the air? And how does the Government know just what long-term investments people are making in vehicles other than pension plans? What about Peps, Isas, unit trusts, second properties and all sorts of other things?

I strongly suspect this latest report has, like so many of its predecessors, been subject to government nobbling. The options to address this hugely increased savings gap, the Turner report concludes, are better state pensions (which means higher taxes), compulsion (which employers don&#39t want, not least because they already have to pay so much in NI contributions), working longer or saving more.

What an astounding set of conclusions. As if we don&#39t know them already. Just how much did this report cost us?

Very noticeable by its absence, though, is the most fundamental need of all, namely for the government to make retirement saving a more attractive proposition. Why isn&#39t this mentioned in the Turner report? The reason more and more people aren&#39t saving for their retirement is that the government and the financial services regulator have done everything in their power to make pensions unattractive to just about everyone involved with them. Consider:

•The pension review (enough said already about that).

•A relentless programme of interference and meddling in the way defined-benefit schemes are run, so more and more of them are closing.

•Stakeholder pensions, which hardly anybody wants to sell because the margins are too thin to make them profitable and most of the funds available through them are rubbish, not to mention the administration.

•The annuity trap and the lack of inheritability of unspent funds, which the government refuses to address despite calls from all sides; •The most complicated set of governing regulations in the developed world which, from what I have seen of it, even simplification is unlikely to make any better.

•Earnings&#39 caps, funding caps, input caps all negative, negative, negative. This list could go on and on.

And now the FSA is talking about getting semi-skilled advisers to flog stakeholder pension plans in 20 minutes. How can the government be surprised that more and more people want nothing to do with them? Except, of course, for civil servants with their comfy index-linked cast-iron final-salary pensions.

Julian Stevens




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