Pension Minister Dr Ros Altmann The government's pension minister Dr Ros Altmann said she realises that "many people were forced to buy a poor value annuity in the past that may not have been suitable for them and this is something we are actively looking at. I remain hopeful that we can give people in this position new options."
This statement will give hope to the thousands of people who, before the introduction of the government's new pension freedoms were forced into buying an annuity, many of which have been poor performing and not suitable for the individuals in question.
Dr Altmann's article, entitled 'What is the future for pensions' sets out her vision of UK pensions in the future and spells out the big task she has to continue with the sweeping changes that the industry has seen in the past few years. With people living longer than ever, the UK is experiencing an ageing population, it's crucial that the government puts into place measures to help working people prepare properly for their retirement as well as ensuring the retirement incomes of older people today are safeguarded. Two of her priorities she spells out are:
Auto enrolment will eventually encourage 9 million people to start saving for their retirement or save more towards it. We're currently at the halfway mark and already we've seen over 5.2 million people like this auto enrol. One of the early concerns with auto enrolment was the number of people expected to opt-out, but this has been much smaller than expected, especially amongst the young. Dr Altman writes, "…what is particularly pleasing for me is that younger workers are the least inclined to do so".
Altmann is a firm believer in pension freedoms, but recognises that more needs to be done. "Some pension firms are acting positively, but the whole industry needs to pull its weight and treat customers fairly" she said. These new freedoms, which let savers do what they want with their pension pots rather than being forced to buy an annuity have been undermined by some companies making it unduly difficult for savers to access their money. However, it is good news that Altman has vowed to take action on this issue.
Ros Altmann is a longstanding pensions professional and campaigner for older people's rights and her appointment by the government as pensions minister was one that was almost universally lauded. It's an exciting time in the world of pensions and it's good to have someone of Dr Altman's experience and ability, experience and enthusiasm overseeing these reforms. She states that "I will try hard to make pensions work better for people – whether they are in receipt of one now or looking forward to doing so in the future – and hope to be able to make a real difference." We hope you do Dr Altmann, we really do.