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Turner risks cut in savings

The Government has been seen to be doing something on pension reform but they haven’t really done anything yet.

A reduction in means-testing will be brought about by an eventual linking of the state pension to average earnings. That will have to await various comprehensive spending reviews and budgets. The argument has been conceded but one has to remember that the Chancellor has been losing this argument and then promptly ignoring it for much of his very long term as Chancellor. We wonder if he really has seen the error of his ways.

The board of the FSA has rather cravenly backed down on the issue of RU64 following some pretty unseemly ministerial pressure from Pensions Secretary John Hutton. This probably isn’t the end of the world but there is a risk that the Government wants the regulator to jump on the current pensions system with hobnailed boots – a reworked and stricter RU64 – although how IFAs can compare existing pensions with something that does not exist remains to be seen.

Sadly, but inevitably, there is nothing about advice in the paper. Advice is not just a luxury, as the Government believes, but a very useful element if people are going to get themselves out of pension poverty and be convinced to pay for financial services which could make their lives better.

Turner also clearly increases the burdens on some employers but it is also likely to encourage some dumbing down of existing provision by employers. It also makes it much riskier for financial companies to invest in selling pensions because much of that business may be whisked away and into the NPSS.

These two issues add up to one of Turner’s biggest risks – that it could actually cut the levels of savings. If this is a cut in pension savings overall, but one that sees more widespread savings, perhaps this is a price that the Government is prepared to countenance paying.

However, someone really ought to let the public know that is the plan. Maybe the opposition parties are up to the task. But perhaps that is one role for advisers in all this process – letting the public know just what on earth is going on.

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