"With the retirement incomes being delivered by personal pensions and annuities significantly below the 2008 financial crisis levels, there is an urgent need for greater education and engagement"
While the total amount of money being saved into personal pensions has surpassed the pre-financial crisis high, the retirement incomes that are being delivered are still 27% lower than in 2008, according to Moneyfacts research.
New 2015/16 estimates from HMRC show that personal pension contributions have now surpassed their 2007/08 peak, while personal pension membership is also at a record high.
However, the Moneyfacts data shows that today’s retirees are still receiving significantly less retirement income than similar individuals who retired at the height of the financial crisis in October 2008.
The average retirement income based on a male contributing £100 per month into the average pension fund over a 20-year period and retiring at the age of 65 with a standard level without guarantee annuity fell for the second consecutive quarter, from £2,229 in Q2 2017 to £2,202 in Q3 2017. This is 27% lower than the equivalent retirement income of £3,004 in October 2008 at the height of the financial crisis.
The report also found that pension fund growth continued to slow during Q3 2017, with the average pension fund delivering returns of just 0.9%. This compares with average growth of 4% in Q1 2017 and 1.4% in Q2 2017. Returns for Q3 2017 would have been higher but for a difficult September 2017, in which the average pension fund fell by 1.5%. Highlighting the more challenging economic conditions faced by pension funds is the fact that a third of the surveyed funds (33%) failed to deliver growth in Q3 2017, up from 29% in Q2 2017.
Moneyfacts added that annuities are "verging on the inadequate". Across all annuity types the average annual annuity income based on a 65-year-old fell by 0.2% at the £10K purchase price but increased by 1% at the higher £50K purchase price.
Richard Eagling, Head of Pensions at Moneyfacts, said: “Although some of the headline figures recently released by HMRC paint a picture of a reinvigorated personal pension market, they mask two major concerns: low individual pension contributions and subdued retirement incomes. With the retirement incomes being delivered by personal pensions and annuities significantly below the 2008 financial crisis levels, there is an urgent need for greater education and engagement to encourage individuals to make greater private pension provision.
“One of the key questions that the Work and Pensions Committee is seeking to address in its recently announced pension freedoms inquiry is whether an adequate annuity market is being sustained. It is still too early to say whether competition in the annuity market is now inadequate, but there are signs that it has weakened to such an extent that providers are reluctant to price themselves too far ahead of their rivals.
"In Q3 2017, the difference in the income payable between the most competitive and least competitive open market annuity narrowed markedly, from 13.9% to just 8%. This is the lowest level that we have ever recorded, surpassing the previous low of 8.3% at the time of the switch to gender neutral pricing in December 2012 which forced annuity providers to adopt ultra-cautious pricing.”