The ball’s in your court

After a marathon 45 years, Pensions World ceases publication this month. Editor Stephanie Hawthorne bids it a fond farewell

All good things come to an end and that is true even for Pensions World – beaten by rising print and production costs. This is the last ever issue of the 45 year old title.

During my 28 year tenure as editor, I have been privileged to meet many marvellous people, from pensioners and politicians to high flying industry gurus too numerous to name. Pensions World began life in 1972 at the height of the success of the defined benefit (DB) era and has charted the turmoil and decline that followed. Ironically, it bows out as pensions have staged something of a recovery since the arrival of auto-enrolment in 2012.

Hope for the future

My earnest hope for pensions is that after the 2017 auto-enrolment review is completed, the government bites the bullet and raises the total auto-enrolment contribution from 8% to 12%.People are beguiled by the advertising. They think their pension is sorted – “I’m in” – but that is far from the truth with the current derisory 2% of salary contribution. With the demise of DB, employers must not continue to use the rise of defined contribution as an excuse to cut costs and not finance their employees’ pensions adequately, as I fear is too often the case. Your workers are worth more than that: they are not just a cost centre to be exploited. And every expert will tell you it is the size of contribution that makes the biggest difference to the pension pot.

I hope the regulators will keep a watchful eye on charges, which have a nasty habit of creeping up, and on hidden extras appearing. I would like to see a return to a guaranteed minimum income level at retirement before people are free to blow their pension money – perhaps fixed at state pension levels plus £5,000 fixed income. Better at-retirement and post-retirement products are desperately needed so that people can share in the economic success of the country through stocks and shares, ideally with some form of guarantee that they will not run out of money or be too afraid to spend their lump sums for fear of being a pauper at 90.

I have often called for more access to independent advice, even for those with small pots of money, for all ages, from newcomers to the workplace to those about to retire. In today’s brave new world, advice has never been more important.

And then there is the elephant in the room of pensions tax. Pensions are at least a 40 year, if not 80 year commitment, and governments of all complexions must take this into account. Countless tax changes, changes to the state pension and reforms every year are just too much. People need certainty so that they can plan. Don’t keep on reinventing the wheel with every Budget – fame only lasts for five minutes.

Finally, I would like to thank all the readers, advertisers and subscribers who have contributed so much to Pensions World over the years, especially our outstanding regular columnists: Robin Ellison, who celebrates 40 years of writing for us this month, Allison Plager, Ceri Jones and Anthony Hilton. I would also like to thank the Association of Consulting Actuaries, the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, the Society of Pension Professionals, the Pensions Management Institute and my boss, Chris Jones, director of tax markets at LexisNexis, for their support.

Perhaps the biggest thank you should go to my assistant editor Mary Morton, who has been such a tower of strength over the past decade, and to Carrie Love and John Woffenden who have contributed so much to the impact of the magazine.

Force for good

I hope my editorials over the past 28 years – and indeed Pensions World itself – have been a force for good in the pensions industry. I am not leaving the industry, but plan to continue working in a freelance capacity and would welcome hearing from you via LinkedIn or my personal email sjhawthorne@btopenworld.com

Stephanie Hawthorne has been editor of Pensions World since 1989. An honours law graduate of King's College, London and winner of 10 first and second prizes for pensions, property and insurance journalism, Stephanie has been a journalist for 25 years. Starting her financial career as a researcher/marketing specialist for a national independent financial adviser and subsequently a leading life office, she then moved on to Insurance Age, Planned Savings and Financial Times' Money Management (deputy editor). Stephanie has contributed articles to the Financial Times, Mail on Sunday, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph and The Observer, as well as numerous magazines. Among her other editorships are Counsel: The Journal of the Bar of England and Wales (from 1997 to 2007) and Charity World (managing editor, 1993 to 1997).

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