University of Birmingham (Centre on Household Assets and Savings Management)

New pension rules, choices people make






February 2021 – February 2022

Grant Awarded



Project summary

Greater insights into decision making experiences following recent changes to pensions legislation. Investigate the effectiveness of current consumer protection strategies and make recommendations for improving customer outcomes.


Older people’s ability to maximise their pension income is essential at a time when responsibility and risk for financial wellbeing is increasingly individualised. The Pension Schemes Act 2015, along with the Taxation of Pensions Act 2014, have given people more flexibility and choice over how they access their Defined Contribution (DC) pension savings. Some have benefited from these changes but others are facing significant threats to their retirement security. Evidence suggests many people are not making informed decisions and face the risk of buying unsuitable products, paying too much in fees, charges and tax, and/or running out of money.

A growing body of evidence quantifies what people are doing. However, there remains limited insight into the subjective experience and little is known about the effectiveness of current consumer protection strategies. As more people with DC pensions reach retirement age, the potential for harm (i.e. loss of income) will increase if the consequences of these reforms are not properly understood and adequately addressed.

Project overview

This research project will improve understanding of individuals’ pension decision making in practice, and provide policy and practice recommendations for producing better consumer outcomes.

The research team will:

  • Conduct individual interviews with 50 people (aged 55+) at different stages in the pension decumulation journey, to understand the nature of their decisions and the decision-making process in depth;
  • Conduct two focus groups with 20 participants involved in the first fieldwork phase to allow for exploratory research on the effectiveness of advice, guidance and other tools designed to help people achieve optimal outcomes. These will include discussions on existing support mechanisms, such as FCA’s ‘wake-up packs’ and retirement risk warnings, as well as alternative ideas;
  • Hold two stakeholder workshops before and after the main fieldwork phase, to elicit a range of relevant perspectives on the risks and challenges for consumers and those seeking to support them.


New pension rules, choices people make - May 2022