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Getting a “sick” pensions education

Jo Bradford | Associate Communications Consultant
December 22 2016, 9:31 am

“I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way”

At my primary school, the final school assembly of each school year was dedicated to the children moving up to “big school” and we would all sing “The Greatest Love of All”. The message was clear and encouraging. It’s also pertinent, when thinking about the future of Lifetime Savings. 

We really need to increase understanding of how pensions and lifetime savings products work to ensure that current and future generations of savers make the best decisions. Understanding how much, how, where and when to save is vital if people are to make the most of Auto Enrolment and employers’ pension schemes. It’s just as important that people know what to do with those savings at retirement. Decisions at retirement can make 1,000’s of pounds worth of difference to the income people receive. 

It seems a lot of people agree that we should start with the children. During the PLSA conference, both teams who took part in the Conference Challenge pointed out that financial education was needed, throughout life, but particularly in schools. In fact, one team member suggested that not only should kids be taught about “lifetime savings”, but that this tuition should harness the effects of peer pressure. Finding a way to make students really get into learning about managing finances and saving for retirement, by making it a competitive activity. We think it’s a fascinating idea.

How to go about it though? It’s not a very trendy subject and it won’t work if it just becomes an extension of Maths or Personal and Social Education lessons. However, one thing we can be fairly sure of is that the majority of teenagers have smartphones, and I’ll bet that most of them play some sort of game on them. So, what we need is “Candy Crush” or “Minecraft” for pensions. A computer game that builds in complexity, level by level, adding to understanding and allowing the player to experience building up their own “lifetime savings” pot that they can eventually use at retirement. Imagine the chatter in the playground, “What level are you at?” “How much have you got in your pot?”

An educational game could really help with overcoming a couple of the big barriers to engagement with lifetime saving. The game can use language that reflects how teenagers speak to each other and, where jargon can’t be avoided, it can form part of the special language of the game. In this way it can hopefully be absorbed without being seen as ‘difficult’. A game could also help to introduce and normalise some of the less attractive aspects of saving for the future, such as going without now in exchange for benefit later. 

Make the game work across multiple platforms so it can be started off as part of a lesson in school and then make it homework to be played on phones or laptops at home. I’m sure it won’t just be the children learning something once they start taking it home with them.