Over the coming years, those who are better-off will be at the sharp end of the problemby Andy Davis / August 16, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
The point of most investment is to create income and assets for the time when we will no longer support ourselves through work. Increasing the value of our savings by investing them is inevitably a slow process so we do best to focus on long-term goals, notably our pension.
That’s how today’s personal and occupational pensions work. But what about the income we are promised by the state? Ostensibly the same principle applies. During our working life we build up a state pension by paying National Insurance (NI) contributions (although the self-employed, including me, pay a lower rate than employees). Then, when we retire, our decades of contributions to the National Insurance Fund deliver our basic retirement income, in my case from the age of 67.
There’s another factor that makes the state pension system look like a private retirement fund: once you start taking out, you no longer have to contribute. This is why people who are drawing a pension do not pay NI, just income tax.
But the apparent similarities between private and state retirement systems are misleading. Our NI contributions are not invested over decades to generate the pension the state promises us—the money you put in today goes straight out again to pay today’s state pensioners. Rather than operating as an investment vehicle, therefore, the National Insurance Fund is more like a giant, taxpayer-guaranteed insurance company: we pay premiums through our working lives via NI contributions and claim when we retire. Provided we have paid enough, our claim is valid and we receive a state pension until we die, funded from the NI contributions of those still in work.