Auto-enrolment pension scheme could create 6m savers

Automatic enrolment into pension schemes could create an extra six million people saving, generating £12.5 billion annually to the retirement pot by 2017, research from Standard Life suggested today.

The Keep on Nudging report, developed with academics from the University of Edinburgh, was based on a survey of more than 600 employees who represented the "squeezed middle", earning £18,000 to £45,000 a year.

Just under half of them (48%) said they would find it easy to save an extra £50 a month if they had to, the report found.

But it also said communication was crucial to the scheme's success.

Under the pension reforms, all eligible employees will need to be automatically enrolled into a qualifying workplace pension scheme.

The report found retention rates (the proportion of employees not opting out) could be as high as 82% when information is presented "clearly and effectively".

It said: "Making carefully designed communication a priority can ensure the success of auto-enrolment.

"By our calculation it will add six million new people saving for retirement, with increased annual retirement savings of £12.5bn annually by 2017 - fully in line with the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions)'s ambition.

The study found that 26% of employees who have never had any form of pension would choose to opt-out, significantly higher than the 12% who opt-out among employees with some prior or current form of pension saving.

The report said this confirmed the continued need for financial education.

Just over six in 10 who would opt out said it was because they could not afford it - while a third said they did not trust the Government and 28% did not trust pensions.

But there was no significant income difference between those who would opt out and those who would enrol.

The survey found: "Close to 70% of people would not find it difficult to save an additional £50 per month if they had to.

"And 48% admitted they would find it easy.

"To put this into perspective, an additional £50 a month would double the individual pension contributions of someone on an annual salary of £20,000 saving at minimum auto-enrolment levels."

Researchers suggested replacing the term "pension" with "retirement income" when referring to any retirement planning that is not the state pension.

The report said: "There was a perception in our focus groups that pensioners 'spend all day gardening'."

Professor Ed Hopkins of the School of Economics, University of Edinburgh cautioned in the report: "These conclusions are taken from survey data where people were asked hypothetical questions.

"When individuals have to make crucial decisions about their own pensions, they may act differently.

The survey follows a report released last month by the Association of Consulting Actuaries (ACA), which found that only one in four employers had budgeted for the cost when staff are automatically placed into workplace schemes next year.

That study, covering more than 460 employers, found that larger firms expect up to 17% of staff to opt out of workplace pensions after the change next year, rising to 39% in smaller organisations.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "Our reforms will get millions saving into workplace pensions, many for the first time.

"It's vital that people understand these changes, so we are working with industry and consumer organisations on ensuring people know how automatic enrolment can help them save for their retirement."