Sample007 discusses the challenges for dashboards in relation to each pension’s three dates: “Date started”, “Date last updated” and “Date payable from”.
Explaining a pension’s three dates
All of these dates are pretty confusing. I’ve been in pensions for 34 years and I find them confusing.
Is it realistic to expect dashboard users, many of whom won’t really have very much understanding of pensions at all, to get to grips with all of this? In fact, we know from previous research that when people see a pension amount they don’t always consider the date the amount is “as at”.
One of the challenges when trying to understand each of your pensions is that you need to think a bit like a time traveller:
Past: At some point in your past, there was a “Date each of your pensions started to build up” (for example, the date you started work for a particular employer). The pension then built up, both through your active membership of the pension arrangement, and subsequently if you’ve now left that job (through revaluation for DB pensions, or investment returns for DC pensions).
Present: So each pension continues building up to the present, and beyond. But not all pensions held by all pensions administrators are always up-to-date at all times. For example, for deferred DB pensions, there is currently no requirement, or high demand really, for schemes to tell members their updated pension amounts every year.
So we have the concept of “Date last updated”. This could be a historic date (such as my first Prudential pension which was last updated as at 7 Jul 1995, or a date in the last 12 months (such as my Nest pension as at 31 Mar 2021), or it might be right up to date, i.e. today (such as my Centrica pension as at 28 Aug 2021).
Future: And then finally, looking into the uncertain future, there is a “Date (or dates) from which each pension income is normally payable” to you (although it might not actually turn out to be that date if you choose to access your pension earlier or later).
Confused? – think about a DeLorean dashboard
To help explain this past, present and future nature of pensions, I like to think of each pension having a DeLorean dashboard. Nearly everyone’s seen the Back to the Future film trilogy, right? Doc Brown builds a time machine out of a DeLorean car, and his friend Marty McFly travels back in time from the present (1985) to the past (1955). Then in Part II, they travel forward to the future (2015). The time travel is controlled by the DeLorean’s “time circuits”.
Now imagine my Prudential (number 1) and Centrica pensions on the DeLorean’s time circuits:
My Prudential pension started in October 1991, was last updated as at July 1995 (when I left that job) and is payable from August 2027 (although I could take a smaller pension from age 55 in August 2022).
In contrast, my Centrica pension started in 1999, was last updated as at now (August 2021) and is payable from August 2032 (although again I could take a smaller pension from age 55 in August 2022).
What does this mean for pensions dashboards?
When an individual uses a pensions dashboard, all of their pensions will have these three dates, and the dates won’t always be the same across their different pensions (as in my example above). In fact, they will most often be different across their different pensions.
So across my nine pensions, I have 27 dates to think about. That isn’t really possible to understand, is it? We really need to be simplify this for dashboard users.
Beta testing needs to thoroughly explore with users how they can best get to grips with the past, present and uncertain future nature of all their pensions, including what simplifications they can live with in order to get their heads round what they’re seeing.
One way of illustrating the challenges is to display my pensions as a graphical timeline. See Sample008 for an example of this.