Pensioner ‘death forecasts’

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Retirees risk being misled by estimates proposed by Ministers which would tell them when they are expected to die unless this information is regularly reviewed, a leading pensions expert has warned.

Pensions Minister Steve Webb has suggested that giving people who are nearing retirement an idea of how long they might live for would help them make informed financial decisions.

But Ros Altmann, an independent pensions expert and a former Downing Street adviser, said the information could be “not terribly helpful” and “a bit misleading” unless the figures are regularly revised over the course of someone’s retirement to take account of any life changes and backed up by detailed guidance.

She said: “Unless you’ve got some process where you update the figure it becomes a bit meaningless.

“By the time five or 10 years have gone by, things can change by a big amount for lots of people.”

Experts could look at factors such as smoking, eating habits and someone’s social and economic background when determining approximate life expectancy.

The proposed guidance, which could be rolled out in April next year, would form part of a major shake-up of the pensions system outlined in the Budget, which aims to make it easier for people to cash in their pension pots rather than using them to buy a lifetime income called an annuity.

Controversy over annuities has been growing in recent years amid plunging rates and fears that people are not shopping around enough to get the best deal.