Henry Tapper, in his recent blog post: ‘If you write as good as you talk – no one reads you’ suggests that there’s no use in any pensions/expert/guru/bore banging on whether in magazines or on blogs or conferences if nobody’s reading/listening. He’s set himself a challenge to produce material that is ‘relevant, stimulating and fun and get it out there on social platforms, encouraging people to share it, comment on it and respond to it with their own content’.
I think two things about this: one, we need to be careful not to divert attention away from the structures of our societies and our pension schemes, as we have an increasing tendency to blame people for their errant behaviour for example in not saving for a pension, when maybe we should be looking more at the balance between state, market and family; the role of unemployment, terms and conditions of employment, low wages, student loans, mortgage and debt policy and so forth. But that’s not to say that communication is unimportant. Clearly, whatever your policies or ideologies, communicating in meaningful ways with people is key.
So second, I think one of the challenges for all of us is what message are you trying to impart? One of the reasons women end up poor in old age is because of the ways that men and women share income and expenses within couples. I have a longstanding research interest in how couples negotiate about money behind closed doors. I went into a high school to chat to some A-level students about old age and money, and took the view that what I really wanted to talk to them about was how they and their boyfriends/girlfriends might structure and make decisions about money within the next few years – had a fantastically interesting discussion about fairness, gender issues, power and consumption. Especially fairness i.e. notions of equity and justice between people. In my mind, I was talking to them about pensions but I don’t think we even mentioned it. I have absolutely no idea whether I influenced any of them, but I hope at least that I gave them something to think about in the very near future. Since my quick survey of when they thought people were first old elicited a distribution that started in the early 30s and peaked at about 44, maybe this was sensible!
I guess what I mean is that some ideas might be more salient than others. And I don’t mean compound interest, or exhortations to save and not buy new mobile phones.