Dr. Ros Altmann of PensionsAndSavings.com is known as a consumer champion and has spent a good part of her career “highlighting financial injustice, helping ordinary members of the public pro bono and explaining complex financial or economic issues for the layperson.” With her vast experience and strong knowledge base, her insight on retirement and investment-related issues, pensions and savings makes her an expert consultant and advocate in the field. She is also a highly sought after writer and media commentator on these issues. took some time to chat with us about her work, the state of retirement and finding fulfillment in life.
How important is it for “older workers” to have an advocate like you?
There is clearly age discrimination in the labor market, and many people want to work in later life but find it so hard to be taken seriously. Yet there are huge advantages to the economy, society and businesses if we can change the traditional ageist views that suggest employing people in their 50s and 60s is not productive. Older workers definitely need representation in order to make the case that will benefit us all in the longer run. This is not about forcing anyone to work; it’s about enabling and encouraging people and making it more the norm.
Please tell us about your role as “Government’s Champion for Older Workers” and what it entails.
I have been asked to get the messages across about the benefits of employing, recruiting, retaining and retraining older workers. Helping to engage with businesses that can pave the way to facilitate longer working lives.
What can and should the government do to help with retirement and pension issues?
Government has already removed the default retirement age and has recently introduced the right to request flexible working for all workers. I would like to see increased emphasis on helping older people back into work, retraining programs and facilitating caring responsibilities for those who want to return to work. Job centers should be asked to ensure they treat older workers as seriously as the young.
Can you share with us a bit about the pro bono work you’ve done?
Much of the work I do is pro bono, because I believe in helping people and money is not the most important thing in my life. All the policy advisory work and research and the consumer advocacy I do is pro bono. I try to help ordinary people who don’t understand finance and put things in language they can understand – that all takes time, but it is so important and can really improve people’s lives. For many years, I ran a huge campaign, totally unpaid, trying to restore pensions to 140,000 people whose company pensions had been taken away from them by flawed legislation. It was a hard fight, but worth it all in the end.
Many people work part-time after age 65 – how does easing into retirement help?
Retirement in the traditional sense is not the best route to a happy later life for many people. Cutting down, rather than suddenly stopping, can improve quality of life as people get used to doing less work, have a better work-life balance, but still stay engaged in the labor market. Survey after survey show this is what most people want. They don’t want to stop altogether, but they reach a point where they want to cut down or retrain to do something different and less stressful.
What do you recommend for those who have newly retired to find challenge and fulfillment?
Find a hobby, do some volunteering, consider even starting your own business or look for a bit of part-time work.
How can people be encouraged to save more for their futures?
Auto-enrollment is a good start, and I’d like to see that followed by auto-escalation schemes, so people automatically think about putting some of any pay rise into long-term savings as well.
Where would you like to see pension and retirement issues go in the future?
I hope that we can rethink the whole idea of retirement – make it a process, not an event – something that happens over many years, not all in one moment. Pensions need to be more flexible, perhaps, so they become a form of lifetime savings that can be used for various purposes, including providing cover for paying for long-term care in later life.
Read Ros’s blog, follow her on Twitter and visit her website.