Voices from Accenture Public Service


Like many people, I find that hindsight can be a wonderful thing. When it comes to planning for retirement, I’ve learned some lessons that, looking back, it would have been useful to know at the time. And as we each pass through distinct stages of life, from starting a career in our twenties to getting closer to retirement and beyond, there are some key points along the way that we all need to pay more attention to.

It strikes me that of all the socially reinforced expectations we have (such as go to college, learn to drive and so on) one that is missing is the need to start saving early and often. It was only when I started working on pensions systems, that I realized I hadn’t saved enough and would have to do more if I wanted to provide for a reasonably comfortable retirement.

Now, when I meet new joiners at Accenture, I make sure to tell them they need to save much more than they might think. And it’s always surprising to meet very smart people fresh out of college – savvy professionals– who know so little about why they need to save now for their retirement. It’s unfortunate that so many of them are not concerned about it. Research explains that some people find it easier to contemplate the future than others. Some are more impulsive personalities, living for the moment, others are ‘planners’ who think and act ahead. These personality traits cross all demographics, education levels, genders, etc.

But the inability to plan effectively for retirement could have a highly negative impact on business productivity. One recent survey in the UK reveals “that 20% of employees think their work has been affected as a result of financial worries, while a third have lost sleep because of them”. More than three-quarters of the people surveyed believe improved financial education at work would significantly help them address life issues such as planning for retirement.

Educating and encouraging people to understand what they need to do in preparation for retirement should be a high priority for all of us. It can help individuals take control of their financial futures and it can help organizations avoid the threat to productivity that employees’ worries may cause. What’s more, employees are likely to start demanding more help and support.

Today, digital technologies offer many opportunities to create smart tools to coach and give new ways to save. That’s what services such as Betterment and Digits are doing through innovative approaches that offer an easier way to build up savings – I wish I’d had access to them in my twenties. Betterment is a digital investment platform that helps enable people to gather their savings accounts in one place, with an easy to use online digital interface. Digits is a service that monitors customers’ spending patterns and automatically transfers spare cash into a savings account based on likely expenditure and cashflow.

Smart digital technologies like these can make it easy and simple to save more. But overall, we all (public and private sector organizations) need to come together and take the current lack of financial literacy seriously. Looking ahead, I know that, like lots of people, I’m in a race against time to have enough savings to support a comfortable lifestyle by the time I retire. Any help and advice I might have received earlier in my life would have been valuable.

I’d be very interested to hear what you think: would you welcome more support to prepare for the future?

For more related thinking and content click here

See this post on LinkedIn: Retirement planning: we can and should do better.