Money Makes Change Programme Manager, Rosie Venner, reflects on the questions we need to ask about our pensions.
I will be honest and say that I hadn’t given my pension much thought until recently. I’d been paying into it for over 10 years but hadn’t asked the question about what that money was doing. Coming to work for ECCR and joining the dots between my faith and all my finances (not just the money I give away or try to spend ethically) inspired me to take a closer look.
If we do talk about pensions in society, it’s framed in language about ‘the future’. We are encouraged to save for later in life. If we are prompted by pension providers to ask questions about our pensions, it’s often about what I personally want my standard of life to be, in the future.
And yet, the money in my pension is not just sitting there, waiting to be accessed. It is being used, right now, to invest in companies. Those companies are shaping the world around us, now.
Collectively, we are talking about vast sums of money. The global pensions industry accounts for half of all of the money in the world – £32 trillion.
If I only ask questions about how I want my retirement to look, how does this fit with the core Christian teaching to love my neighbour as myself?
So, what are the other questions I started to ask about my pension?
- What if my pension is invested in companies that are harming people and the environment?
- What if the money I pay in each month is funding fossil fuel companies that are driving the climate crisis? Am I investing in nuclear weapons, cluster munitions or landmines?
- Given the choice, what would I choose to invest in? Who is working to build the kind of world I want my children’s generation to live in 30 years from now?
It was time to take action, and it was surprisingly simple! I have two workplace pension pots, so I logged on to the accounts and read about the different funds. Fortunately, both my pension providers offer ethical funds. These are not the default funds, so you have to decide to put your money into them.
When I was confident it was the right decision, I clicked a button and requested that my money be transferred to an ethical fund. It was that easy! (You may want to consider talking to a financial adviser before making any major decisions with your pension.)
It’s not the end of the road. The ethical funds I’ve switched to do not address all the issues I care about, so I need to join with others and engage pension providers in a conversation.
Pension providers have power. They can divest from companies causing harm and choose to invest in companies doing good. They can also influence companies through their voice as shareholders. It’s our money that gives them that power – so let’s ensure they use that money for a fairer, greener world!
Want to take action? There are some brilliant tools out there to help you.
The Good Guide to Pensions – an easy to read introduction to doing good with your pension
Investing in Change – campaign and report on banks, pensions and nuclear weapons. They also have fantastic e-mail and letter templates to write to your pension providers about divesting from nuclear weapons.
ShareAction – what world is your pension building?
Make My Money Matter – useful information and ways to get involved with the #PensionswithIntention campaign
And finally, if you want to get people in your church or community talking about pensions, then take a look at our interactive workshop resource. One of the themed conversations is all about Pensions!