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  • Ben Larter

Education, communication and financial salvation

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change.” - Charles Darwin

‘Ooof!’ was the clean version of what crossed my lips this morning when I read that around 2.6million people over 50 in Britain expect to have to keep working 'indefinitely' as a result of the pandemic's impact on their finances.

Back in August last year, we also read that a quarter of a million over-50s could fall permanently out of work after being made redundant during the coronavirus pandemic.

This is clearly bad news, not only for the poor souls who are directly affected by this but also the potentially lasting domino effect this could have on the economy, taxes, mental health and much, much more.

This issue warrants further discussion and, dare I say it, collective action.

If we are to address the issue of potentially working until we shuffle off our mortal coil, we need to discuss savings.

For years, the investment industry has, with furrowed brow, been trying to address the issue of the pensions savings gap with varied levels of success. Some cynics will cite some of them as merely self-serving and profile raising, others might applaud their attempts.

There are several reasons why the gap is so huge. And not all of it is to do with the economic boom of the baby boomer generation coming to a close. It has as much to do with lack of willingness to engage. Whether it comes down to an individual’s affordability, lack of understanding (financial terminology) or a lack of trust….the reasons are plentiful, but a cultural issue must play a part.

Encouraging more saving is not just about economics, but culture. The savings culture in Britain simply isn’t where it should be and it needs to find a way to foster one where saving is not just a ‘someday’ choice, but an inherent ‘everyday’ need. Not only that, but to build an environment where savers feel they are rewarded rather than ‘penalised’.

To my mind, there are two things we need right now:

- Financial Education in schools

Yes, it’s a tired argument but only because we’re astonishingly still having to argue the case. It seems odd that something so intrinsically linked to almost every part of our lives every day is not part of the National Curriculum. Surely one of the best ways to instil a basic understanding of money and budgeting is if it’s built into our learning at an early age? That has to have a lasting cultural effect. Even amending maths problems might help: “If John has £5, spends £2 on sweets and saves the rest, how much extra time can he spend on the golf course in retirement?”

Well ok, but you get the idea…

- Better communication

Financial verbiage, to the majority of the population, is a language all to itself - up there with Klingon and Wookie. We need to find a better way (regulatory requirements permitting) to engage with end investors in a way that they appreciate, value and understand. A key part of this is not simply touting your wares but addressing the issues that are affecting would-be investors. Speak to your PR teams and let them help shape your communications around this - they speak with journalists all the time and understand what readers want and need to hear.

Coherent and consistent communication whether through schools, via the press or directly to the public is essential if we are to bring about cultural change and bridge the savings gap. It’s not just a financial and economic issue either, it’s one of wellbeing - for ourselves, our families and the economy.

Extra food for thought….if the savings gap continues to grow, will the investment industry contract proportionately?

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