Two events, separated by 12 hours, representing opposite ends of the same problem.

On Tuesday night I was privileged to address the Pensions Management Institute’s AGM. The topic was “Shift Happens; Millennials & Pensions, now what?”

I spoke of how millennials are at risk of becoming the first ever generation to record lower lifetime earnings than their predecessors, so it was great to have the opportunity to discuss with the industry the very real challenges they face.

Even as young people try to get on the property ladder and pay off their student debt, all the while planning for an uncertain job market, a long working life (likely well into their 70’s) and contemplating a life expectancy of 103 – retirement is on the minds of a surprising number of them.

Many students (84% by our latest survey) realise that if they are to avoid a later-in-life choice between heating and eating they better start planning way earlier than their parents.

The Bridging the Young Adults Pension Gap report from YouGov last month found that 40% of 18-34 year olds say they have no pension provision, and 27% say they simply didn’t understand the system. Couple that with the fact that most young people would rather have a root canal than speak to a financial expert and it becomes very clear that we are facing a very real, and potentially catastrophic, problem.

Sensationalist headlines about “Russian Roulette” care homes further exacerbates the urgency of helping young people understand, and act upon, knowledge. As such the suggestions I made, and conversations I encouraged, centred on three elements: education, collaboration and innovation to raise confidence, knowledge and skills.

Today I sit and write from Brighton at the end of day one of AMOSSHE, the annual get together of the managers of student services of higher education institutions across the UK. The title of conference is ‘360 Degree Thinking’, reflecting the need to embrace a more holistic view of student support.

Increased student fees, the newly minted Teaching Excellence Framework and students’ evolving ideas of work and employment prospects have created a perfect storm of heightened student expectations in turn leading to a rush, by universities, to consider how they can best support students while maintaining excellence and fiscal sensibility.

For student service professionals and their universities, rising to the challenge can only happen through innovation, education and collaboration.

Technology has a role to play in both as it has long become the lens through which young people view the world. Technology has yet to spread through pensions (and education) as it has in society in general and this poses a great opportunity to spread the message of financial education and capability to millions, with (relative!) ease.

Abraham Lincoln once said that the best way to predict your future is to create it – this holds true for the pensions industry, it holds true for education and it holds true for you. What kind of future do you want and what are you prepared to do to make it real?

Vivi Friedgut

Founder & CEO of Blackbullion

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