Making sense of pensions

May 19, 2016 2:36 PM

When the Bank of England's Chief Economist admits that he cannot make "the remotest sense" of most pension deals, we know there's a problem.

Andrew Haldane was quoting a report which found six in 10 people did not feel they knew enough about pensions to confidently decide how to save for retirement. Pensions were probably never the easiest financial product to understand but they needn't have become this complex either. According to Mr Haldane,

"There is plenty of evidence, including from the financial crisis, of financial products being made more complex than was necessary and consumers being charged a premium for buying them.

"This damaging cycle persists because of the difficulties consumers understandably face when trying to compare these products."

And this is deeply concerning. With more of us living longer and the public finances being in tatters, a pension is one of the most important purchases we're ever going to make. Yet, constant intervention from authorities has turned it into such an inaccessible product that even one of our top economists cannot make any sense of it.

There is no magic bullet to solve this - what has been done over years cannot be undone overnight. But this should certainly serve as a warning against introducing more complexities into a market which is already failing consumers.

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