In such chaotic, fast-moving times, thinking about and planning for the future is unlikely to be the first thing on people’s minds. Life is hectic enough; who wants to worry about what might happen in 20, 30, 50 years’ time?
The reality, of course, is that these things matter and, with state pension provisions stretched to the limit, individuals have to take responsibility for their long-term financial health and security.
It is increasingly clear, however, that people are failing to take action. Research from Yorkshire Building Society earlier this year found that one in six people in the UK have no savings. Quite simply, it is not a priority.
Government and the financial services industry have hardly done much to encourage people to put money aside for the future.
Politicians will of course point to auto-enrolment as providing a framework for people to save, and to “pension freedoms” legislation as giving individuals more responsibility over the finances. Both of those however were some time ago and in the case of the latter, can be argued to have little impact. The same Yorkshire Building Society survey found that 49% of people feel pressure to spend based on social media; data from the Bank of England shows that £2.8bn was withdrawn from pensions between April and June this year; and the Daily Telegraph recently noted a trend towards savers keeping their assets in cash, rather than investing them due to fears over pensions losing value, the economic fallout from Brexit and, critically, apathy or a lack of investment know-how.
The latter reasons are obviously unacceptable and unsustainable, with much more needed to encourage people to save.
And this is where the financial services industry has a critical role to play. The Brexit quagmire means that government is unlikely to act, with politician’s first and last thought currently being about how the UK should exit the EU, if at all. Any other issue is a secondary consideration.
In contrast, the financial services industry not only has the expertise and resources to encourage people to save and think about their financial security, it is in company’s interest to do so. High street banks have started down this path to some degree, but there is a lot more that can be done and, indeed, efforts to provide financial education could be a highly useful tool to generate business and enlarge companies’ customer bases.
Put simply, we are told frequently that we should be thinking about our financial futures. Talk is cheap. Now is the time to act.