Fund managers are in the unhappy position of being able to see the oncoming train but unable to move because their hands are tied. Even though they think climate change is a source of investment risk, their short-sighted clients are not letting them do anything about it.
According to research by FairPensions, nearly 90 per cent of fund managers think climate change is an investment issue, but feel they can’t do anything because of short-term analysis and lack of demand from pension funds.
Pension saving is too expensive. According to a report from the Royal Society of Arts, up to 40 per cent of pension savings disappear in fees and costs under the UK’s current system of private pension provision.
Personal accounts, the national scheme to be rolled out in the UK from 2012, are designed to tackle this problem. People will be automatically enrolled into the scheme, removing the marketing and selling costs that have helped make personal pensions so expensive.
But the £3,600 annual limit on contributions to personal accounts is too low, says the RSA report.
There is a chart in a new report from the World Economic Forum that should give anyone designing a pension plan pause for thought. It shows what a lottery defined contribution pensions can be, with Japan a particularly good example.
Based on certain assumptions, the chart (on page 48 of the report) shows a hypthetical Japanese worker retiring just before 1990 would have enjoyed retirement income equivalent to 60 per cent of earnings after contributing 5 per cent a year for 40 years investing in a 60/40 combination of domestic equities and bonds. But the unlucky one retiring 10 years later would have had to survive on 10 per cent.
Oh, how pension fund trustees must wish they could turn the clock back to the halcyon days of plump scheme surpluses, pension holidays (remember them?) and the promise that every worker could retire with a nice fat, index-linked income, guaranteed to the end of their days.
Barring the invention of the time machine, such delights are doomed to remain just a wistful memory (and in reality access to the nirvana of generous defined benefit occupational pension schemes was far from universal).
UK employers want to play a game of heads I win, tails you lose, with the members of their pension schemes. They are keen, too, to draw a veil over how much they owe the schemes: perhaps they think it is not good for their share prices to be open and transparent about this.
The FT reports today on a plan put forward by the CBI, the UK employers’ body, for sweeping changes to pensions regulations. Among other things, it wants longer to make good a deficit than the 10 years currently allowed, and to move away from marking liabilities to market, which the CBI says can misrepresent a scheme’s position.
The UK goes head to head with high earners on tax relief
Messing with tax relief on pensions for high earners has not gone down well with some of the UK’s big savings organisations.
The FT today reports that the bosses at Legal & General and Friends Provident both claim that cutting tax relief might discourage saving. Alistair Darling announced in last month’s Budget that people earning more than £150,000 a year will be restricted to basic rate tax relief on contributions.