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Pension reformers should come out of the closet

Pension reformers should come out of the closet

For too long pensions have been associated with the yawn factor; a subject that is too dull for anyone in the real world to focus on. In the heady consumerist world of the nineties and noughties, those banging on about pension reform were relegated to unreported meetings in dusty halls, far from the political limelight.

Experts and analysts constantly asserted that pensions were a hugely important issue but that it was impossible to make everyone realise this as the public weren’t interested in the subject and it was impossible to attract mainstream media to it.

Today, it has all changed. The materialism of the last two decades has been replaced by an austerity-driven focus, and collective action has come back into fashion. Strikes, public protests and broad campaigns are setting the media world alight and the cornerstone of all the debate is – PENSIONS.

Workers in the public sector and those in the privileged part of the private sector, that have defined benefit plans, are suddenly united. The penny has dropped that one of their most valuable possessions is their pension entitlements.

They are making their voices heard across the nation and, frequently, the lead item on the evening news concerns pensions – Teachers, public sector employees, Unilever, and now the Doctors have all had strikes and protests and their grievances have been aired on the public airwaves.

Day by day, the effect of the crisis in the pensions’ arena is spilling over into everyday life, mainly by way of the inconvenience of losing various key services. So when people claim that no one is interested in pensions, it turns out that lots of people are, albeit reluctantly, as the subject is impacting their daily life.

Too often in the past, pensions experts have bemoaned the fact that no one was interested in listening to them. Now they’re being shuttled between TV stations as broadcasters struggle to get enough information out to their viewers.

This is a great opportunity for all those seeking pension reforms to capitalise on the sudden awakening of public interest in the area. Now is the time to engage with the public in a debate on the fundamental requirements of a pension infrastructure and to establish the key principles e.g. who funds it, how will it be managed and what, if any, privileges will be attached to this particular type of saving.

Now we should be seeking every opportunity to get our message across to the public that their pension is their chief concern and they need to devote more attention to it than to any other asset they may have, including their house and their car.

The attention span of the general public is short and unless we engage with the public and seek to make pensions a permanent consideration in their daily life, the topic will slip back into the shadows and we will be left rueing a wasted opportunity.

Tom Murray

Twitter: @TomMurrayDublin

Now that pensions are in the media spotlight, will pension reformers make their voices heard? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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