November 1, 2021

U.K. research shows a lack of pension awareness, confusion on how plans work

While it’s great to be encouraging people to join pension plans if they can, and to save for retirement on their own if they can’t, new research from the U.K. suggests we may need to educate people a little better first.

According to Employee Benefits, a recent survey carried out by U.K. HR and payroll services firm MHR found that one in four Britons didn’t have a pension at work – and that “58 per cent of respondents admitted they find it hard to understand how their schemes operate and how to contribute to a pension plan.”

The research prompted MHR’s CFO, Mark Jenkins, to tell Employee Benefits that this figure shows “the stark reality of how unprepared today’s workforces are for their future.”

The article, citing research by Canada Life, suggests there is a gender divide in the U.K. on the issue of retirement confidence, with “two-thirds of men feeling confident they will retire at the age they intend to, compared to around half of women.”

As well, the Canada Life research showed fewer women than men “did not feel they would have any financial worries in retirement, at 45 per cent and 58 per cent respectively,” Employee Benefits reports. “This suggests that targeted pensions communications may be needed to address this gender imbalance,” the article adds.

Finally, the article – citing a third batch of research from Nudge Global – notes that “only 32 per cent of (U.K.) respondents receive” personal finance education (known on this side of the pond as financial literacy). All this research leads the Employee Benefits editor, Kavitha Sivasubramaniam, to conclude that despite the fact that Brits have “auto-enrolment” in workplace pension plans (they are automatically signed up for any pension program, with the right to opt out) “it hasn’t necessarily increased engagement with, or understanding of, pensions among employees.”

She goes on to write that “studies are constantly reaching the same conclusion, highlighting that raising pensions awareness is still most definitely a work in progress.”

One could easily write a book about pension awareness/literacy. So let’s not do that here. Let’s just say this – if you’re not sure whether or not your workplace offers a retirement plan, find out from a co-worker, the boss, your internal website, the HR folks. And if you can, consider signing up to whatever type of plan is being offered.

A pension, and your retirement, is never top of mind until you get within a few years of the actual last day at work/golden watch/retirement party. From that point forward, any workplace-related pension benefit will make life much easier for the future, retired you. It’s easy, especially when you are young, with many other things on your plate, to put off thinking about retirement.

So if there’s a workplace pension that you may be able to join, consider doing so. You really don’t want to regret not joining it 30 or 40 years from now.

And if you don’t have a plan at work, fear not. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan has all the pension infrastructure you need to build your own, do-it-yourself program. They’ve been helping people save for retirement for 35 years – be sure to check them out today!

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Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

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