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Britons reassess retirement as pandemic upends priorities

FILE PHOTO: British five pound banknotes are seen in this picture illustration

(Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 127,000 Britons, is making people rethink their retirement and long-term savings plans, an added boon for money managers who are already benefiting from a record-setting recovery in financial markets.

The death of a loved one, the need to squirrel away funds for emergencies and pandemic-influenced changes in life goals are motivating more people to have conversations about financial planning, British money managers said.

“We have seen three characteristics emerge from this crisis – the early retirees, the retirement delayers and the newly motivated pension planners,” said Rosie Hooper, chartered financial planner at asset manager Quilter Plc.

“This pandemic has just accelerated things, whether out of necessity or desire.”

In the first few months of the pandemic last year, investors were hit hard by a collapse in financial markets. Massive government stimulus, however, has lifted sentiment since then.

While some have used the money for big-ticket purchases like cars and homes, others are salting it away.

A survey by the country’s statistics office (ONS) showed that one in eight workers, or 13%, of people aged 50 years and over said they had changed their retirement plans, with 5% saying that they will retire earlier and 8% planning to retire later.

In any case, people are now talking more about their retirement plans, wealth managers said.

“There are signs it’s helping people make up their mind,” said Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves, which manages 1.5 million clients.

“LEAVE IT ALL BEHIND”

The crisis has also upended priorities: some want to spend more time on pet projects or with family, as many continue to work from home despite vaccination drives and as companies cut real estate footprint.

“For some people, it has opened their eyes to the compromises their working life has forced on them, so they’re keen to leave it all behind as soon as possible,” Coles said.

Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, which has 346,700 customers, said new customers at its investment platform surged by nearly two-thirds in the first three months of this year from a year earlier. A majority of them invested for the long term via savings accounts and pensions.

Overall funds under management in the UK reached a record 1.4 trillion pounds at the end of 2020, while inflows tripled to 31 billion pounds, data https://www.theia.org/media/press-releases/ps52bn-inflows-active-funds-december-second-highest-inflows-record from Britain’s investment industry trade body Investment Association showed.

“Everyone will know someone that very sadly has passed away as a result of COVID … that will make people consider their life plan, their life goals, when do they want to retire,” said Andrew Croft, CEO of blue-chip asset manager St. James’s Place.

“People will be considering that a lot more. If you reach a conclusion that maybe I want to retire earlier than I originally planned, what you are going to do is you are going to find your way to a financial planner.”

Croft, however, added it was too early to call this a trend.

“It could be that in 12 months’ time everyone has forgotten it and they have moved on. That’s why I think it has got some way to play out.”

(Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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