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Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Two facts about today that make me smile.

  • Saint Patrick's Day is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador and Montserrat – that is a wide range  of locations!
  • Lent restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted for the day, which has encouraged and propagated the St Patrick's tradition of alcohol consumption!

Happy Valley-Goose Bay is a Canadian town in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. I have a picture of Goose Bay in my house; it is of my father training with the Royal Canadian Air Force to be a navigator. My father’s pension history was interesting.

  • He was in the Armed Forces pension for 35 years. He never asked questions about the benefits and arguably did not have to.
  • In the last 10 years of his working life, he was in a private pension, which was dogged by poor administration. The provider always put it right for him but he kept asking me “who is really paying for the corrections”.
  • When he retired, he took a tax-free cash sum from his Armed forces pension. The advice he received was that he should not but, as he died after 5 years, it turned out to be a good decision.
  • From his Defined Contribution pot, he chose to buy a single life annuity, for logical reasons. Turned out to be a bad decision.
  • He was surprised to get a letter from the State of Virginia that paid him a very tiny pension based on my mother working as a teacher when he was posted to Washington DC.
  • Two years after his death, my mother got a fearsome letter from the HMRC saying that she had underpaid tax due to receiving two personal allowances. It scared her.

So lessons learned?

  • Based on my family experience, I would have no idea that I need to take a more active role in ensuring that I have an adequate income in retirement. What should we do to let 50-somethings know that the pension world has changed?
  • As an industry, we need to be better at the basics of administration or why would people trust us with our money? How can the Pensions Dashboard be used to improve pension scheme records?
  • Life is uncertain and there are no right or wrong decisions.
  • Lost pensions is an issue even for really organised people.
  • The vast majority of people are law abiding. Someone who has never completed a tax return in their life should not be expected to know that checking the tax deducted is their responsibility. How can we better support and guide people at life events?

Now, to happy valley! Where’s that pint of Guinness. Lent is on hold!

If you've got a question about your pension or want to find out more about how pensions are changing, please call our team direct on 0300 123 1047 (Mon- Fri 9-5). No question is too big or too small! 

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