Outlook on pensions improves

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The Independent Online

British workers are marginally less worried about the state of their pensions than three months ago according to a survey published today by Aon Consulting, one of the UK’s largest pension administrators.

While the closure of final salary pension schemes has continued to make headlines, along with reports of poor performance from pension funds, Aon said that the number of employees asking their employers for pension quotations had fallen 9 per cent in the past three months.

The number of workers requesting information on how much their pensions might be worth in retirement is regarded as a good indicator of the extent to which people are worried about their savings. Aon said pension quotation requests – both for the likely future value of retirement benefits and for the current value of pension pots - had peaked during the Spring, but remained 36 per cent higher than a year ago.

The easing of nerves over pensions may reflect a strong recovery from global stock markets over the past few months, with the FTSE 100 index of shares in the UK’s biggest companies up by more than a third since its low point earlier this year.

However, Aon’s figures also suggest that amongst savers directly exposed to asset price movements – because they have defined contribution plans rather than final salary schemes with guaranteed retirement benefits – only a tiny number have taken action to try to improve the performance of their funds.

Just 0.01 per cent of the 350,000 savers covered by Aon’s research have changed pension investments during the past three months, the same number as seen in the previous quarter.

Aon also warned that the number of new pension scheme joiners remained low, down 73 per cent on last year, though this may reflect a sharp fall in the number of people starting new jobs, as well as a lack of confidence in the environment for savings and investment.

"The reduction in member requests for retirement information and transfer out quotations during periods when leading stock markets exhibit substantial increases suggests that confidence in retirement savings is returning," said Colin Hamilton, commercial director at Aon Consulting.

"However, if stock market performance is dictating confidence levels among savers, this would suggest a lack of understanding of the long term nature of pension saving."