Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Pension system needs urgent reform

The country's pensions system is in 'urgent need' of improvement, according to a report

The country's pensions system is in "urgent need" of improvement if millions of workers in private firms are to save enough for retirement, according to a new report.

A commission set up by the National Association of Pension Funds uncovered "widespread concern" about the charges, risks and complexity of the pensions of 23 million workers.

The Workplace Retirement Income Commission said workers must get a better deal from their pensions if they are to save enough for their retirement.

Lord McFall of Alcluith, who chaired the commission, said the spotlight for reform had rightly fallen on public sector pensions, but he added there were "critical problems" in private firms as well.

"Too many people are stuck in a complex, costly and inefficient system that relegates the consumer's interest to second place. On top of that, they simply aren't saving enough to secure a decent retirement."

The commission said fee structures were too "opaque" and too many people were being short-changed by their annuity choice.

Workers in defined contribution pensions were being left to carry all the risk of funding their retirement and were often "at the mercy" of stock markets, said the report. Trust in pensions was low, the report added, calling for a permanent, independent commission to be established to take the politics out of pensions.

A DWP spokesperson said: "Ensuring the private pensions sector is fit for purpose is a priority for the Government, especially in the run up to automatic enrolment. So we welcome all contributions to this debate.

"We have already taken significant steps to reforming the system. We are consulting on simplifying the State Pension to provide a clear foundation for saving and people will start to be automatically enrolled into a workplace pension from October 2012, helping millions to save for the first time.

"We are working closely with the pensions industry on many of the issues raised in the report, for instance we'll be bringing forward proposals on addressing small pots, short service refunds and transfers in the Autumn."

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