The prickly subject of pensions has reared its ugly head yet again as it becomes as much a political football as education and the N.H.S. I mentioned three weeks ago that I’d applied for a pension forecast and the alarming figures thrown up for my uneducated perusal. Throughout my forty odd years at work I’ve tried to supplement my retirement income by saving in various company or private schemes as this was seen as the preferred recommendation from those whose guidance I’d sought. Well, that ‘professional’ advice along with the endowment promises given at the time has all turned to fairy dust without any penalty being imposed on the various financial institutions or individuals for their gross mismanagement. Though one would be forgiven for thinking that all was well when one looks at the total various pension funds available. These figures are impressive and it’s to these amounts that I find myself intensely focussed. My understanding is that one is not allowed access these amounts other than in the form of a pension: understandable. Yet since so many goal-posts have shifted as far as pension expectations and the mismanagement of said funds are concerned, I think its time that the pension companies should allow us all to access the entire fund immediately, which would pass the management of said funds back to you and me, giving us the wherewithal to manage our own financial future: much as it is! For example, one of my pensions, by the time I reach 65, is estimated to be worth £62,000, which will give me a staggeringly unimpressive annual pension of around £167. This will just about pay for my car tax. I would rather not entrust the continued maintenance of this fund to people who have lost my faith. Consequently, I’d rather have the £62,000 on retirement, or, better still, whatever the fund is now I want it. However, they tell me that because it’s all tied up bonds and guilt’s, Euro growth trusts, UK growth trusts and US growth trusts my idea of releasing the funds now would not be possible. No, I don’t understand it either, and I think that’s where the financial industry wins every time: a heavy reliance on ignorance. I just can’t help but feel as if someone somewhere is having a laugh at my expense. Under the same policy, should I die my next of kin would get £82,000. What? Being worth more dead than alive is so depressing, and this is just one of many of my tiny stupid pension policies. Incidentally, I was once sold an endowment policy in the belief that when it matured after 25 years it would be worth in the region of £24,000: it actually realised £14,000. The ombudsman wasn’t interested. I have a sneaky suspicion that my pensions are going the same way. Surely there must be something that we, as consumers, can do? Just be careful: there’s always another sales pitch waiting to ensnare you just around the corner.