Coronavirus anxiety is contagious

With pensions taking a pummelling in the wake of the pandemic, Faith Glasgow shares some advice with older workers.

Early in January, I came across a tweeted witticism that ran along these lines:
1 January: 2020 off to a good start!
2 January: Australia on fire
3 January: WWIII declared

Fast forward two and a half months, and Australia’s fires and the US/Iran stand-off have been followed by further extensive floods and storms for the UK, a plague of locusts in East Africa, and now the Covid-19 pandemic. These days I wouldn’t turn a hair if I came across the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse bulk-buying loo rolls and pasta in Sainsbury’s.

Like most people at this stage in the coronavirus’s progression through the UK, I am healthy and don’t know anyone who has the disease. Yesterday, Sunday 15 March, 11 people had tested positive in the London borough where I live, which equates to one in 25,000 people. On paper it doesn’t read like cause for national emergency.

But, like everyone, it’s touching my life in multiple ways. How do we best support my elderly mum and parents-in-law? Will my daughter’s hard-earned gap-year travels be able to go ahead? How will we manage the publication of this magazine when we’re working from home?

Eight steps any investor can take when markets fall
Coronavirus: will markets fall further, and should I buy, hold or sell?

Pension pummelling

And then there’s my pension. As I realised to my cost yesterday, checking your Sipp at such a time is absolutely the worst thing you can do. Mine was down 20%-plus, and I’m under no illusion that this is the end of market volatility – yet I don’t have decades available for it to recover.

Again, there are many people in this boat, including some who transferred out of their final salary pension on the say-so of a commission-driven financial adviser, swapping the cast-iron security of an income for life for the flexibility of a generous lump sum and a life subject to the vagaries of the stock markets. I imagine the majority now wish heartily they could turn the clock back.

The current situation really hammers home how much people have lost with the demise of final salary schemes,  which are in terminal decline. New data from the Office for National Statistics shows that in 2019 the proportion of employees with a investment-based pension rose above the proportion with a final salary pension for the first time, as companies have set up occupational schemes to cater for employees needing to be auto-enrolled.

Sense of perspective

Luckily, much of the largest growth in workplace pension membership has been among the youngest employees, those in their 20s. Since auto-enrolment began in 2012, take-up for this age group has skyrocketed from 31% to 80%. They have little need to fret about the impact of Covid-19 led global recession on their pensions, as they’re unlikely to be accessing their investment for several decades yet.

But for older workers, now facing the prospect of working additional years to rebuild their pension pot, these are painful times. It is easy to feel like a rabbit in the headlights, unsure whether to sell up and cut losses or try to steel your nerve and wait for recovery.

I took some comfort from a comment I saw on Black Thursday – the day the FTSE 100 index dropped 10% – from Darius McDermott, managing director at Chelsea Financial Services. He advised investors: “Remember that a diversified portfolio won’t have fallen as much as the headlines they are reading [suggest]. Many bond, absolute return and mixed-asset funds have fallen a lot less than equities and not all equity funds have fallen as much as the market. For long-term investors, hard as it may be, I think now is the time to stop looking at your investments. It won’t be pretty. But eventually they will recover.”

I slipped up yesterday when I took a peek, but in these strange times I think his advice is as good as any.

Please note that at the moment, despite our best efforts, information in Money Observer magazine is likely to be out of date by the time it is published. Please visit the website for current market updates and analysis.

moneyobserver.ed@moneyobserver.com

Subscribe to Money Observer Magazine

Be the first to receive expert investment news and analysis of shares, funds, regions and strategies we expect to deliver top returns, plus free access to the digital issues on your desktop or via the Money Observer App.

Subscribe now

Comments

corona virus affect my stock and pension investment

With the outbreak of corona virus that affect my stock investment to go down, shall I transact to sell my stock share and also withdraw my pension. Perhaps, as long as the disease has not been contained with high rise of patients in NHS and and some passed away. The economy has been affected when business is not doing good because most of them are closed to protect their customers and staff. So, there is no money in the market since customers will stay at home because of the virus. I appreciate very much your advise on this critical period when stock trading has been affected.

Add new comment