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TLC: The tax system should encourage us to save for our own retirement

Pensions need TLC…and a boost from Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, says RACHEL RICKARD STRAUS

Which item in your possession has the highest monetary value? Perhaps your home comes to mind, if you own it. Or your car – the same. Or maybe a family heirloom.

But I wonder if you took your pensions into account. For millions of us, they take first or second place on the podium. They are a greater store of wealth than property in the UK.

So, given their value, it’s surprising how often pensions are overlooked. Annual statements are tossed in the recycling bin or in the bottom of a drawer with little more than a cursory glance. When divorced couples divide their property, pensions are often not even mentioned. There are over £19billion in pensions that have been completely overlooked.

But just like other valuable assets, give your pensions a little care once in a while and they will pay you back in abundance. And the good news is that, unlike houses, they don’t need hours of maintenance, cleaning and repair. And unlike cars, they don’t need expensive MOTs.

Workplace pension plans, in particular, are designed to require as little commitment as possible. Retirement providers know that choosing funds is not the idea most people have a good time and want to make sure we get the best possible results by default.

TLC: The tax system should encourage us to save for our own retirement

TLC: The tax system should encourage us to save for our own retirement

But as Stephanie Hawthorne’s report opposite reveals, that doesn’t mean they can be completely ignored. She looked under the hood of some of the most popular workplace pension funds and found that their performance varies wildly.

Some of us will have enjoyed exceptional returns over the past few years, while others will have fared less well. Inevitably, there will be winners and losers from year to year. Pension providers follow different strategies, so performance varies depending on market conditions.

If your workplace pension plan has had a bad year, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad year.

But what you need to watch out for is if yours repeatedly produces low or even negative returns. Second, be careful if your pension loses money when the financial markets as a whole are having a good year. That should sound the alarm. You can find all this information by quickly consulting your annual pension statements or by contacting your pension fund.

Unfortunately, we have no say in which provider our occupational pensions are held with. Employers pick a plan and we either love it or we can’t.

But that doesn’t mean we’re helpless. If you are not satisfied with your plan, you can file a complaint with your employer. And if you think your pension is not in the right fund, you can ask your insurer to move it.

This is what we can do to keep our occupational pensions healthy. That and pay as much as we can afford. But the pension industry and government could do much more to help us take care of these valuable assets.

The most useful step would be a pensions dashboard, where we could log in and see the details of all our pensions in one place.

We wouldn’t have to wait for dry annual statements to be mailed out unless we wanted to. A dashboard would give us an overview of what we have and how our funds are performing at all times. It would give us a much better idea of ​​whether we’re on track for the retirement we want – and what we need to do to get back on track if we’re not.

But the scoreboard, which was supposed to go live in 2019, has just been delayed again. We don’t even have a deadline for putting it online. Each additional delay drives savers even lower. Of course, it has to be fair and that’s no small feat, but a pension scoreboard should be a top priority. Top of the basket of the Minister of Pensions. Not stuffed in the bottom of a drawer.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt could also help give our pensions some TLC in his budget on Wednesday.

The tax system should encourage us to save for our own retirement. The more we save for ourselves, the less we will depend on the state later. So it’s ridiculous that there are currently tax rules that discourage some people from saving – or even working. I hope Hunt will solve it. We’ll be watching Wednesday to see what he does. It’s time we all gave our precious pensions some love.

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