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Government pension proposals get resounding endorsement of public

-28% of those who would prefer to own their own home say they will never be able to afford one, according to Aviva Family Finance - 2018

Tuesday 3rd July: A majority of workers without a private pension would remain enrolled in the Government’s proposed auto-enrolment pensions savings plan, new research by Aviva has found.  By a ratio of 3:1, respondents with no private pension said they would remain enrolled in the planned scheme which, as proposed,  would allow workers to opt out after 9 months.*

The proposal, outlined by the government last February, has the overwhelming and almost universal support of the public with 3 out of 4 supporting the mooted reforms and only 7% against. These are among the findings of Aviva’s Family Finances Report 2018, the research for which was conducted online by Red C in mid-May and based on a nationally representative sample of 1,292 adults.

In the survey, Aviva also asked respondents, who said they would like to own their own home, when they expected to be able to buy.  Half said they plan to buy in the next five years. Of the remaining half, 40% do not expect to buy until 2028, at the earliest, while over a quarter believe they will never be able to buy their own home.  Over the last two years, Aviva’s Family Finance research has consistently found that over 90% would prefer to own their own home.

In a separate question on pensions, the Report found that fewer1 in 4 (23%) of workers who have a private pension have acted to increase their contributions over the last five years. Ann O’Keeffe, Head of Personal Pensions and Investments, says this finding is in line with Aviva’s own experience. “We know that about a quarter of our private pension policyholders are making efforts to increase their savings now that the economy is growing again. But the big problem in pensions in Ireland is the fact that 65% of private sector workers have no retirement savings plan at all.”

Under the proposed Auto-Enrolment Pensions Savings Scheme, as outlined by the government, private sector workers would be automatically enrolled in an occupational pensions’ scheme to which employers and government would also contribute. The suggested rate is a 6% contribution by workers, a matching contribution from employers and a further 2% government contribution. The government has committed that enrolment to the scheme will begin in 2022.

Commenting on the survey findings on the scheme, Ann O’Keeffe said: “We are pleasantly surprised that the support is so high across all age groups, and highest among those who are already retired and who know the value of having an adequate savings plan.  We are also impressed by the numbers who say they would remain enrolled. Although the proposed reforms are only in an early stage of development, we believe these findings should embolden the Government to be ambitious in the level of contributions it sets in the final plan.”

Before the introduction of auto-enrolment in the UK in 2012, surveys showed that 28% said they would opt out. The latest research shows that just 9% have done so and the number of occupational pension savers has grown by 9 million since 2012.

“There is still a long way to go with the reforms.  Substantial issues remain to be sorted out, including the capacity of SMEs to contribute, the element of tax relief, and how the scheme interacts with existing incentives.  However, the response to our survey is encouraging and we can learn from the experience of our nearest neighbour so that it provides private sector workers in Ireland with an adequate income in their retirement,” adds Ms O’Keeffe.

Elsewhere in the national survey, Aviva’s Family Finances Report found that 41% of those who rent say they are struggling financially, up 7 points in the last 12 months.  Only 15% of renters say they are comfortable financially.  Most renters (64%) are aged 25 – 44.  In an indication of a gender gap in personal finances that emerges throughout the survey, women are more likely to live in rented accommodation than men: 55% to 45%.

Overall, our Report found increased optimism about the outlook for the economy and for households. But there were two noteworthy trends. While those who say they are living comfortably remain substantially better off financially, strugglers have become less pessimistic in outlook. Their belief in economic recovery has risen by 12 points and their confidence about their employment prospects has grown by 5 points. Over a third of this group say they are in control of their finances.

On the other hand, those who are comfortable have become more negative on most measures including job security and pay with the numbers expecting a salary increase down 8 points year on year.

“Our latest research shows a number of trends that could have a lasting socio-economic impact, particularly in relation to renters and home ownership. For half of those who have yet to buy, home ownership has become a dearly held but distant aspiration rather than a plan. This could be the beginnings of a long-term change in the pattern of home ownership in Ireland,” concludes Ann O’Keeffe.

For more information, Aviva Family Finance - 2018.

For media queries, please contact Cathy Herbert on 0872395393

Note to the editor:
* The information given to respondents about the government’s proposed auto-enrolment scheme before asking them whether they were likely to opt out of the government’s is below in italics. All respondent to this question workers without a private pension.

From 2022, employees without private pensions will be enrolled automatically in a retirement savings scheme, under new pension reforms announced by the government. The current suggestion is that workers will contribute 6% of their wages, their employers will also contribute 6% and the government will add a further 2%. Workers will be allowed to opt out if they wish.

Other findings in Aviva’s Fourth Family Finances Report

  • Those under 34 are most optimistic about their job prospects and their expectation of an increase in disposable income over the next six months.
  • The 35-44 cohort are the most financially stressed group with 39% of them saying they are struggling to make ends meet, up 11 points since May 2017.
  • More than 2 in 5 of those who rent say struggling financially, up 7 points since May 2017. Most renters (64%) are aged 25-44.  Just 1 in 4 of renters expect their disposable income to rise in the near term, down 6 points year on year.
  • The position of the 45-54 cohort – the squeezed middle of May 2017 - has eased somewhat over the year with the numbers who say they are struggling down 5 points while the percentage who say they are getting by has increased by 7 points to 47%.
  • The number of 18-24-year olds who say they are financially comfortable has increased by 13 points year on year to 42%. Only over the over 65s fare better with just under half (49%) considering themselves comfortable, up 5 points since May 2017.
  • Just a fifth of those in the struggling category say they are feeling less stressed about work – but that’s a 5 point improvement on last year. Meanwhile the percentage of those in the comfortable category who say they are less stressed has gone down by 7 points to 42%.
  • Nearly a third (31%) of 18-34 year olds have acted to increase their contributions to their private pensions over the last 5 years, while only 10% of over 55s have done so.

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