We know that jargon gets in the way of pensions engagement. Perhaps Love Island has the answer, writes Sara Benwell
In the pensions industry, we talk a lot about jargon. About how it’s a barrier to engagement, investment and even trust in the whole process.
Experts wax lyrical about how young people or women or lower-income earners are confounded by buzzwords such diversification and risk appetite, which then turns them off from investing in the first place.
Yet although we’ve all been saying it for years, very little seems to have changed.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
But it struck me, as I was watching Love Island (a show you’ll surely have heard of, even if you’ve never seen it), that we’re doing consumers a disservice.
Yes – jargon creates a barrier to savings and investments – but that’s on us, not them. It’s the words we use rather than the concepts we’re describing that are the problem.
In the programme – a nightly show where young people couple up in the hopes of finding love, and anyone not picked is unceremoniously booted out of the villa – a common saying is: ‘I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket.’
In the Love Island context, what they mean is: ‘I quite like Adam, but if he decides he prefers Megan, I’ll be left high and dry, so I’d better invest some time into getting to know Alex and Wes too.’ It’s not terribly romantic, but there is £50,000, the rest of your holiday and a TV career at stake.
From a pensions perspective, what this shows is that ordinary people are more than capable of understanding ‘diversification of assets’ as long as we don’t call it that. For, at heart, there’s really no difference between the two. Both are about minimising the risk of one asset class (or good looking bloke) behaving badly.
Of course, it’s not just Love Island lingo that can help people get better engaged. One issue we face is that it’s hard to get people to save for the future when it seems so far away.
But since FOMO (fear of missing out) was added into the dictionary in 2016, it seems there’s a behavioural trick that might help people visualise their retirement better.
If we ask someone how they would feel if - when they’re 60 - all their mates are going on around the world cruises and they have to stay behind because they can’t afford it, you can bet they won’t be thrilled at the prospect.
It’s not just the terminology that helps us here – FOMO was less of an acronym and more of a way of life – it’s the behaviour and psychology of the people we’re trying to engage.
Don’t get mugged off
Another issue we’re all grappling with is how to make people aware of scams. The problem, I think, is partly with the word ‘scam’ itself.
When we hear it, we think of vulnerable people or people who are less smart than us getting taken in by con artists.
Much campaigning to date has focused around trying to change that misconception. After all, smart, young, clever people get taken in by scammers all the time. The data is undeniable.
But perhaps it might be easier if we started using different terminology. Most people believe they’ll never be scammed, but everyone has been ‘mugged off’ [again common on Love Island, when someone pretends to be one thing, to get you to do something, and then it turns out you’ve been deceived] at one time or another.
The muggiest scams and how to avoid them”
Maybe by changing the way we talk about scams and the words we use, we can stop people thinking it’s something that’ll never happen to them and we’ll find it far easier to then educate them on how to avoid being ripped off.
The point here is not that everyone should go and watch Love Island. Nor that every pensions campaign should be couched in Love Island jargon (although you can have: ‘Don’t pie off your pension’, ‘The muggiest scams and how to avoid them’ and ‘A pension that’s not just perfect on paper’ for free).
The point is that it’s not good enough for us all to keep saying industry jargon is bad, only to replace it with yet more industry jargon, or even worse do nothing.
Everyone is capable of understanding the concepts we’re describing, most of them aren’t rocket science. But perhaps it’s time for us to start thinking about how we learn from popular culture and use it to engage people better.
After all, if you want people to understand something, it helps if you speak their language.