James Walker: No shame in confessing a lack of knowledge about your pension

Last year, I wrote a column about financial confessions: admitting to the big money mistakes you've made or the things you don't understand. It got one of the biggest responses I'd ever had.

It can be good to get it off your chest if you are unsure about any aspect of your finances.
It can be good to get it off your chest if you are unsure about any aspect of your finances.

In the spirit of that column, I spoke to the team at Resolver, friends and family and asked them for their confessions about any of the services they use. The results were surprising.

One of my team (who I’m not naming) has worked in customer service for more than 20 years. Last week he called out a broadband engineer after a week without wifi. To his horror, it turns out that the router was unplugged. His flatmate had taken the Christmas lights down and unplugged everything. The shame.

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Another friend of mine runs a big company and is a well respected expert in her field. But she doesn’t know how to work her thermostat and didn’t even know it had batteries in it until she called out a repair person. An expensive reminder to look at the instructions.

A colleague who works in the insurance industry confessed to me that he never checks his bank statements. Which is why (after much badgering from his partner) when he finally did he found he had been paying for four separate mobile phone insurance contracts that his phone provider had added on every time he’d upgraded. He got a hefty refund through Resolver too.

We all had a giggle about the complaints we’d made that turned out to be totally our fault. But there’s a serious point here. There’s no shame in not understanding something. In fact, we could save ourselves time, money and stress by admitting this and asking for help. For example, next month, Resolver is launching a campaign to encourage people to learn more about their pensions, the biggest financial commitment most of us will ever make outside of a mortgage – and something few of us understand. I’d like everyone reading this column to feel that they can contact their pension provider and ask them to explain in simple terms how their pension works, how they can get a better deal and understand what options are available to them. It can be scary to ask questions like this, which is why by admitting we don’t know as much as we’d like, we actually empower ourselves.

Of course, pensions are just the tip of the iceberg. There are loads of things people don’t really understand the ins and outs of. Here’s a short list of a few of the most common ones, to give you a bit of inspiration to tackle the things that puzzle you the most:

 Electricity and gas bills. All those extra sheets of information on the bills don’t make things clearer, do they?

 Bills, for that matter – particularly if you’ve gone paperless and aren’t getting updates.

 How much money you’ve paid off your mortgage, porting your mortgage and applying for new deals as rates go up.

 Insurance premiums, how they’re set, when they renew and how to get a better deal.

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 Why complaint rules are all different, who is regulated, why can some firms get fined and others get away with ignoring complaints.

Admitting that you don’t fully understand how something works is the first step to making things right – and potentially saving a packet too. So get confessing at [email protected]

James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service Resolver.co.uk