It’s a big question, but as the Government tries to find balance in pensions, we asked five experts for their views

The UK pension system has been repeatedly overhauled in a bid to make it fairer and affordable, but it still has plenty of flaws. Many feel it could work better for them.

The ageing population will put the system under more pressure than ever, making further reform inevitable.

Some recent changes have worked well, notably the auto-enrolment scheme which has given millions a company pension for the first time, while pension freedom reforms have proven popular.

We asked five experts to pick out what they think has worked, and what needs to change.

People need more help

“Successive governments have placed the burden of responsibility on individuals to save for retirement without ensuring they have the skills and information to make complex financial decisions. This leaves pension savers confused and vulnerable, and failing to save enough. Some lose out by leaving money in high-charging, low-performing pension schemes, or by failing to shop around for an annuity at retirement. We also need more robust regulation to protect individuals against fraud, mis-selling and over-charging by pension providers. Pension freedom reforms and constant rule changes have only added to the complexity. Millions will pay the price in later life.”

Ania Zalewska - Professor of Finance at the University of Bath

Scrap the triple lock

“The triple lock was introduced in 2010 and pledges to increase the state pension by the highest of earnings, inflation or 2.5%. It has helped retirement incomes catch up with earnings, but it is increasingly hard to justify. It doesn’t protect the poorest who claim the Pension Credit top-up as this benefit only rises in line with earnings. The triple lock has cost £3 billion so far – this could increase pressure to raise the state pension age at a faster pace to cover the cost, which would hit those with lower life expectancy or in poorer health. A double lock would be fairer, with all state pension payments rising in line with prices or earnings, whichever is higher. We should dispense with the 2.5% figure as it has no economic or social logic, and was introduced purely for political reasons. There’s also a strong case for reforming pensions tax relief. Higher-rate taxpayers can claim 40% tax relief while basic-rate taxpayer’s can claim just 20%. A flat-rate incentive of 33% for all would be fairer.”

Baroness Ros Altmann - Former Pensions Minister and an expert on pensions, retirement policy, annuities and social care funding

Auto-enrolment is a great start

“Auto-enrolment has made a huge difference to people’s retirement savings. More than 8 million people have been auto-enrolled into a workplace pension, with far fewer people opting out than was initially expected. Yet self-employed people remain ineligible for the scheme, leaving 15% of the workforce at a disadvantage. The Conservative Party’s pledge to bring the self-employed into the scheme during the last election campaign was very welcome. We would like to see the government deliver on that promise. One way of doing this is for HMRC to enrol them through the self-assessment tax regime, which would enable self-employed people to save more effectively for their retirement.”

Andy Tarrant - Head of Policy and Government Relations at workplace scheme The People’s Pension

More consideration for women

“The state pension age is being increased so that both men and women will retire at age 66 by 2020. We understand the need for this change but are concerned that women were not given sufficient notice of the change, with no time to make alternative financial arrangements. Some were given less than one year’s notice that they would have to wait an extra six years to claim their state pension, whereas men had six years to prepare for their one-year increase. Around 3.8 million women born in the 1950s have been unfairly affected by the way successive governments have implemented these increases and we are calling on the Government to provide a bridging pension and compensation to ease the hardship.”

Jane Cowley - Director of campaign group Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI)

Help the self-employed

“More than 80% of self-employed people are not paying into a pension and we need to get them saving. The Lifetime ISA, introduced in April, partly addresses this by giving younger savers a 25% top-up on their contributions but eligibility stops the day before your 40th birthday, while the average freelancer is 47 years old. There are also steep penalties for early withdrawals and this causes particular problems for the self-employed because they often have fluctuating incomes. The Government must do more to incentivise saving for later life and help mitigate the risks of self- employment. Extending auto-enrolment to the self-employed may help some, but we are not confident it will be the answer for all.”

Jonathan Lima-Matthews - Senior Policy Adviser at the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE)

YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • The value of pensions and investments can fall and you may get back less than invested.
  • The tax treatment of pensions and investments depends on your circumstances and may change in the future.