It’s always nice to attend a client’s governance meeting when markets are up

It’s always nice to attend a client’s governance meeting when markets are up.  Not only is the meeting shorter (less questions about good investment news than bad) but the meeting normally has that lovely up beat feel that rarely happens in financial services – honestly I know – I joined an investment bank as a Client Service Director at the tail end of 2008, so bad news was my bread and butter!

On top of good investment returns we had an update from our very shiny new provider – we are replacing our original workplace pension provider with a new one following a market review last year.  So, all in all, a very nice way to return to consultancy and to chairing my first Independent Governance Committee after having the twins.

Equally lovely was the fact that my client was running member presentations on pensions today – run by the very shiny new provider – and I got to attend!  Hooray, as this is my favourite part of working in pensions…meeting the members.

And there was even more to be cheery about – on top of the good investment returns.

1. We had fab attendance – with some members coming from off site in other parts of Cornwall to hear about the latest developments in workplace pension pensions.

2. Members were taking notes.  This means they were listening.  This means they were engaged with the content and genuinely interested in pensions! Hats off to my client’s super HR team for sorting this out.

3. We had some really intelligent, thought out questions.  So I don’t mean “What is a pension” but “What skills should I be looking for in an independent advisor if I was interested in transferring out of my final salary scheme”. This shows that people are engaged with pensions, have thought about them and came to the presentation prepared, looking for some answers.

4. And finally, shiny new provider did a really great, engaging talk about our scheme and their platform and so provided a really interesting and value added hour out of my client’s employees’ day.  Seriously, this should not be underestimated as a few years ago the “pensions talk” really was the graveyard shift.

So, it’s been a great day!

To hear more about pensions please follow me on Instagram at @mdv76 where I will be taking questions for my blog #10steppensions which starts after Easter

What’s a Gold Plated Pension, and how do I know if I’ve got one?

The first thing to say about “Gold Plated Pensions” is that they are not as glamorous as they sound. They are not adorned with Swarovski crystals, or gilded in glitter but are simply one of the oldest ways of a company giving a pension to its workers.

“Gold Plated Pensions” are also called Final Salary, or Defined Benefit schemes and were the main type of pension used by large companies and the public sector until recently.  The name “Gold Plated” comes from the fact that these type of pensions are often more generous than other types and some of them have guarantees attached to them.  However, as the BHS story and others have shown, things can go wrong! 

The chances are, if you are a teacher, NHS worker, member of the fire service, police or other large company and started work a while ago (exactly when will depend) you may have some gold plating in your pension. They are therefore more popular than we realise. 
But what is it? Basically it is a promise from your employer to pay you cash after a certain age. It doesn’t matter how much you save as the cash payments you will get depend on other things (how much you earn and how long you worked for). If there isn’t enough money when you decide to cash in, that’s your employer’s problem not yours -hence the “Gold Plated” label.

Most people DO need to pay into these schemes though and if you’re lucky enough to be in one of these schemes your employer will be taking, or will have taken, money from your salary to cover part of the cost. Don’t worry – they will also have been putting money in as well so these pensions are usually a pretty good deal!

Another part of the “Gold Plating” in that when the payments start from these schemes they normally go up each year to keep pace with the cost of living. Again a pretty valuable thing to have!  

Top tip: If you think you may have one of these types of pension, even if it’s from a job you have left in the past make sure your employer (or ex-employer) knows where you live. That way you will get all the information you need and not miss out on anything. 

Every year thousands of pensions go unclaimed because people haven’t told their old employer that they have moved. 

If you’ve lost details of your old employer then the Pension Advisory Service may be able to help. 

It’s an easy thing to update your contact details and could make all the difference to your finances later in life! 

 

Hooray for a pension free budget, drinks at the Citizen M and a new website!

The 7th floor bar at Citizen M, Tower Hill.  Not a bad spot to do your pensions homework

The 7th floor bar at Citizen M, Tower Hill. Not a bad spot to do your pensions homework

Happy Saturday everyone.  We’re up early in Cornwall. Twin 2 is watching Postman Pat – who seems (literally) to have gone up in the world since I was a kid and now has a suite of vehicles including a helicopter – and twin 1 is asleep.  A good time to get back on line and post my first “post twin” blog.  I was relying on #spreadsheetphil coming up with the goods on Wednesday and giving me something meaty about pensions to blog about – but no such luck.  With the exception of a promise to clamp down on overseas pension arrangements this years’ Budget was pensions free!  Hooray, is my response.  This is a very, very good thing.

My stock answer for years when asked by journalists what I hoped for regarding pensions in previous Budgets was “nothing”.  My view for a long time has been that the Government has tinkered and teased our pensions system to the point of public confusion and what the UK desperately needs now is a period of stability within the pensions industry in order to build public confidence and for us, the pensions professionals, to deliver some badly needed education about pensions – with some hope that what we teach will remaining relevant for longer than 12 months.

So could this be the end of a long era of the Government medling with pensions?  Before my mat’ leave began not a day seemed to go by without pensions being in the press and something either being changed, proposed or reported as miss-sold.  Fast forward and things do seem to have quietened down a little, thank goodness.  This is bad news for consultants but great news for members of pension schemes and companies that need to focus on their core business as opposed to understanding and complying with the latest round of pensions changes.

I’m formally back to work after Easter but am doing a number of “Keeping in Touch Days” at the moment, which are an absolutely brilliant concept and a massive help, particularly in a role which involves knowing what is going on in the world beyond what Postman Pat’s latest mode of transport is.

One of my KIT days involved a quick catch up with the king of all pension bloggers Henry Tapper who, over a nice cold drink in the fabulous 7th floor bar at the Citizen M hotel, Tower Hill, summarised what I had missed whilst having the twins.  Put briefly, “a pop at independence in the investment world” and “a paper on final salary pensions which claims the problem with DB can’t be cured over night” are the two big headlines.  Neither are ground breaking.

So, on to pastures new.

A huge shout out to the wonderful Ally Toulec for dragging me up to date with modern day blogging practises, teaching me about Instagram, which I have exciting plans for (watch this space) and helping me update my website which I think is all looking a little bit smarter.