Dalriada’s Chris Roberts wonders whether now is the best time for tinkeringWhen considering the monumental changes to UK defined contribution pensions due to take effect in April 2015, I find myself wondering whether we’re heading towards one change too many. However ground-breaking the proposals set out by pensions minister Steve Webb are, is this going to engage the masses? Or is this simply a case of more tinkering with pensions at a time when a period of continuity is what is really needed?The numerous legislative changes introduced in the relatively short time frame of my own career within this industry put things into perspective. I began working in pensions in 2000, and, while other financial industries have continued with relative continuity in overriding rules and regulations in that time, pensions have been subjected to constant changes and reforms. The timeline produced by the Pensions Advisory Service (tPAS), highlighting the ongoing alterations and amendments to legislation between 2006 and 2014, really underlines this point – change has become the status quo.Successive governments have tinkered frequently with normal pension age and the state pension to the point that I would question whether anyone under the age of 50 has any confidence in the level of state pension provision they will receive. Anyone my age or younger would be forgiven for thinking they won’t qualify for a state pension until they are 90, if at all. The state pension was historically your base before deciding your own pension portfolio. However, if this continues to be eroded, many people may re-consider whether they want to build a retirement plan based predominately in pensions.While changes to the state pension impact on lower to medium earners, maximising benefits and tax relief are of greater importance to higher earners. In the space of six years, we have watched the lifetime allowance system change dramatically to restrict the ability of this group to accrue pension entitlement. The relief on the contributions being paid has also reduced. These tandem developments could also diminish the faith of higher earners when it comes to placing significant funds into pensions.While a lot of the legislation changes have been developed to discourage pension saving among higher earners, many rule changes have also been implemented to encourage lower earners to join workplace pension schemes. As an industry, we have watched two attempts at workplace reform with the introduction of stakeholder pensions and auto-enrolment. The former has clearly failed the test of time, while the jury is still out on the latter. But the key question is whether this is the end for workplace pension reform, at least for the time being. Will the contribution requirement increase? Will the auto-enrolment vehicles develop? Will lifetime contributors at the minimum level find themselves sorely disappointed at normal pension age?These reforms are not aided by the current public perception of pensions, where incidents such as the Maxwell scandal, wind-up losses and pension liberation fraud have all found traction in the mainstream media. Meanwhile, the Pension Protection Fund, auto-enrolment and other positive developments within the industry tend to receive less publicity, compared with the negative issues that often make a better news story. When planning for retirement, people want a degree of certainty and stability. But there are so many questions hanging over the future of pensions. This creates a real danger that consumers will switch off from pensions and look at alternatives such as investing in the stock market or buying property, both of which are far from risk-free options.Pensions have become a political pawn in the UK, an easy target for amendment and sensationalist spin, but this needs to stop. We need a time-out from further regulation changes. Both the current and future governments need to let existing reforms bed in, so we can restore a level of public confidence in pensions. While it is important for the pensions industry to remain dynamic in terms of its product offering, it is equally important for consumers to know where they stand so they can make decisions about planning for their retirement with clarity. Further tinkering will be counterproductive and could result in fewer people making long-term provision for what should be their golden years. Chris Roberts is a trustee representative at Dalriada Trustees
Congratulations to the Kansas City Royals, the 2015 World Series Champs! The Royals used their experience of being in the World Series last year to defeat the New York Mets 4-1 in the series. The New York Mets were not able to hold leads in 3 of their 4 losses. It was very unusual because the Mets had one of the best relief pitchers in baseball this year.As I said in a previous Huddle Up, the Royals have the ability to extend at-bats by fouling off pitches until they wear a pitcher down. The Mets starting pitching was very dominant but in the case of starting pitching today they go to the bull pen and the Mets relievers were no match for their Kansas City counterparts. As in the case of many sporting events, experience won over youth again.
“Goal Line Stand” runs Fridays. To comment on this story, email Michael Katz at [email protected] or visit dailytrojan.com. If nothing else, USC head coach Lane Kiffin provides for some solid sound bites. He didn’t disappoint on Wednesday.Quoted in an ESPN L.A. article, Kiffin discussed quarterback Matt Barkley’s draft status. Barkley took a tumble down the draft boards this season, and it’s possible he falls out of the first round. Kiffin said Barkley is a great player and emphasized it with the following:“If Matt Barkley had the defense that Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer had, Matt Barkley would have won the Heisman Trophy just like they did,” Kiffin said. “He would have had the winning records they had.”Here we go again.Now, don’t get me wrong. The Trojans’ defense was not very good this season. It took a lot of blame for the team’s 7-6 record and deservedly so. Giving up 62 points to Oregon? Not going to get it done. Ever. Unless you’re West Virginia playing against Baylor.Players who were expected to play big roles didn’t come through on defense. And Lane’s dad ended up resigning because of it. A team that gives up 24.3 points per game is not going to win many national titles, even if the team was ranked No. 1 in nearly all the preseason polls. And as far as Heismans are concerned? They always go to teams that win around 10 games. That’s why Marqise Lee didn’t get an invite to New York this year. Lane is not wrong in his analysis.But it sure doesn’t mean it was the right thing to say.In making the aforementioned comments, Kiffin is once again shedding blame for a disastrous season. For someone who recently accepted responsibility for the entire season in another ESPN interview, this seems like a giant step backwards The defense wasn’t great, but the offense wasn’t setting the world on fire, either.Plays were predictable. There were too many bubble screens. They didn’t run the ball enough. First and second down were gimmes which led to third and long frequently. They turned the ball over. The list goes on and on.Matt Barkley’s numbers suffered because of playcalling and a lack of efficiency from the offensive coordinator. Who was that again? Ah, yes. The head coach himself.Kiffin is a good offensive coordinator in general. But the offense he led didn’t really hold up its end of the bargain. That’s fine. Teams don’t always play the way we expect them to. But to not accept that blame and to put it on the defense? That seems irresponsible.Oh, and about that defense: As head coach, Kiffin has to take some responsibility too. A coach oversees the entire operation: He can’t just pick and choose what he wants to take credit for. And in calling out his defense from this past season, he’s burning bridges. There are at least seven starters returning from the 2012 squad. How are they going to feel about supposedly being the reason Barkley is falling down draft boards? Probably not the best way to handle the situation, all things considered.I support Barkley. I always have and always will. I love what he’s done for this university, especially in the wake of crippling sanctions. I think he has the chance to be an NFL starter. But he had a tough 2012 season. It’s a fact. There’s no way around it. Kiffin needs to acknowledge it. It’s OK if Barkley struggled. Players struggle all the time.But to blame your defense for being the reason he took such a tumble? It’s in poor taste. Kiffin has a team to command in 2013 — a potentially excellent team at that. He cannot play favorites because he wants to see Barkley succeed. You win as a team and you certainly lose as a team. And he has to coach — he’s not Barkley’s public relations manager.