Confession time: when Aviva approached me, to ask if I’d review a new pension planning web tool on the Aviva website, it seemed like perfect timing. The pension planning tool is called Shape My Future and recently I’ve been worrying that my future is looking… well, pear-shaped.
One reason for this is the lingering and uncomfortable knowledge that I could – and most certainly should – be stashing more cash into my pension schemes every month.
We don’t talk about pension savings very much (we are British, after all – and it’s MONEY). Like a lot of people my age, however, I have spent a good deal of my adult life job-hopping, trying to get my own ventures off the ground and plunging all the savings I had into a house deposit.
In terms of pension planning, my 20s were a disaster. Then I panicked about what retirement would – or wouldn’t – bring and began paying all I could into a private pension plan. To date, I have nearly £16K socked away. With all the financial ups and downs our household has had, it took a lot to get it there – but at this rate, I doubt it’s going to be enough.
I also belong to a pension scheme at my current workplace, but it’s modest – through my own making. My employer pays a fixed percentage of my qualifying earnings, which I can top up by as little or as much as I choose. Right now the total contributions stand at the £150 per month mark.
So I’m conflicted: I’m pretty sure I should be paying in more, perhaps a lot more, for a safe and cosy retirement. This should be a priority. At the same time, there are a lot of other pressures on my wallet. The ancient boiler is on the last of its nine lives, the house needs a full rewire (let’s not go there), car woes have seriously depleted my emergency fund, but my savings are shot after a few months of statutory maternity pay… You get the picture.
What worries me even more is that the state pension no longer feels secure. Will it even exist by the time my generation reaches retirement age? Even now, certain groups reaching retirement age in the UK are being short-changed.
Take my mum. She is a WASPI Woman: born in the 1950s, she is having to wait longer than expected for her state pension to kick in, thanks to the government postponing her pension age with relatively little notice. Having written to her pusillanimous MP, to no avail, she has joined the ranks of the WASPI campaign: women affected by the unfair changes who are fighting, hard, for a fairer deal. Success is far from assured: just a few weeks ago, the current Pensions Minister stated there would be “no compromise”.
If the state pension goalposts are moving at such a rapid rate now, where on earth are they going to be in 30 years’ time? It compounds my growing anxiety that, unless I pull out my finger pretty sharpish, retirement is going to suck.
So here I am, looking at the Shape My Future tool, hands poised uncertainly over mouse and keyboard. The Aviva people tell me the Shape My Future tool is a “light-hearted, approximate look at how the choices you make now might impact your later life.” Frankly, although the tool couldn’t be easier to use, I still feel anxious. It calculates how much income you may have in retirement, and compares it to your likely outgoings.
I’m going to give this tool a whirl. Come join me! In a post next week, I’ll set out the results and work out what the heck I need to do. Is there still hope – or is it tap-water sandwiches from here on out?
To be continued…
This post was produced in association with Aviva. I’m not-so-secretly pleased to have been approached by Aviva to work with them on the Shape My Future project, Partly because they are paying me, but mostly because I really do need a foot up my backside in order to confront my pension demons. ‘Pension demons’? They must wear bowler hats, right? Anyway, the Aviva Shape my Future tool uses simple inputs to give a basic idea of retirement income. Details of assumptions are available at Aviva.co.uk.
Image credit: Roberto Trombetta, used under a Creative Commons licence.