We need to take action to weed out scamming if we want people to get engaged with pensions

Online scams, pensions liberation and dodgy companies have made investment a bit of a dirty word. So dirty that Pensions Insight’s own newsletter software flags it up as a spam phrase if it’s used in a newsletter headline.

This often leaves us in a bit of quandary newsletter-wise, but more worryingly it makes it abundantly clear that if we are to get people engaged with pensions we need to reclaim the word “investment”.

Four dirty words according to the spam filter

  1. Investment
  2. Investment decision
  3. Financial freedom
  4. Money


Rejigging the language won’t be enough. It would be nigh on impossible to write about pensions without talking about investment. Not least because a pension is just a set of investments that are ring-fenced for retirement.

In fact, in the defined contribution (DC) world, investment strategy is the bedrock of making sure that people have enough money to retire on.

So it’s crucial that we can still talk about investment in a meaningful way, without ending up in e-mail quarantine.

Stopping the scammers

In UKIP’s 2015 manifesto one thing that they promised was to make pensions cold calling illegal. It’s not clear whether this would stop the scammers but industry commentators did feel that it would send a message that if you get a call about your pension, it’s probably not to be trusted.

Pensions Minister Ros Altmann has also been vocal on this issue recommending that people ‘Just Hang Up’ if anyone calls them about their pension.


But with the news that more than a quarter of pension savers have been targeted by pension liberation scammers since the introduction of George Osborne’s landmark reforms, according to research by the deVere Group, is it really enough to hope that people will be wary? Or do we need a regulatory crack down?

And it’s not just the scammers that muddy the waters. Lack of transparency around costs and the trust deficit that resulted from the last financial crisis has left a lot of ordinary savers feeling betrayed by bankers and suspicious of the investment industry.

If auto-enrolment is to be successful and we want to create a nation of savers, we need to weed out the chancers who want to rip people off. It’s also important to ensure that the regulated industry has a renewed focus on transparency, value and customer service.

Otherwise before long we’ll see pensions being flagged as a ‘possible spam phrase’ too, and then we’ll really be in trouble.