Pension is still “something to worry about later”

That was the gist of the headline published by Dutch media outlet NOS in an article about the Pensioen3daagse pension awareness event held across the Netherlands. It’s hardly surprising that pension awareness is something that needs to be worked on. It used to be much easier “in the old days”. You worked more than 30 years for one and the same company, you accrued pension entitlements under a final salary scheme or, at worst, an average salary scheme, and the state pension was not being undermined. If you owned your home, the mortgage had been paid off and your equity was high. Divorce did happen, but then, as breadwinner, the ex-husband would still be the source of income for the ex-wife, even when it came to pensions. In short, the world was easy to understand, and people were not faced with many choices. They didn’t have to decide whether to be insured under national healthcare or private, whether to stick with the traditional power company or switch to one of the new ones, nor did they need to worry whether to have a company other than PTT provide their telephone service. Not PTT? That would be practically unimaginable in those days. And then there’s the retail sector. As a retailer, the worst that could happen to you 20 years ago would be that a rival set up shop on the same street and you had to fight to keep your customers. Who would have thought then that 20 years on we would all be ordering each item one by one every day, having them packed and delivered to our doorstep?

Pensions now—in 2016

What I mean to say with all of this is that the idea that pensions, too, are becoming something that we as citizens, consumers or individuals can (or rather, must) do something about, is a relatively new one. And making sure we, as individuals, can afford life as we grow older (older than ever before possible thanks to good healthcare) means that we all have to get used to thinking more about how we can have income to sustain us after our working days are well and truly done. I think the terminology will also change: the word pension is also outdated; in their radio ads, insurer Nationale-Nederlanden uses “income for later”, for example. Financial life planning—it doesn’t sound very attractive when you’re 25—but in time the millennials will find the right words and phrases. In any case, this new generation is tech-savvy to the core. They will search online for relevant information and, to gain the information they need, they will insist on connecting to their discussion partner (pension fund, insurer, financial intermediary) on their device whenever and wherever they like. In the coming years, online collaboration will make further inroads in the area of pensions too, just has it has done with our customers in the mortgage industry.