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Pensions and savings: What do people really want?

At this year's PLSA conference four members of the public shared thoughts on pensions and savings

General living expenses is the biggest financial commitment limiting people's ability to save, beating mortgages, student loans and childcare, according to a report from Willis Towers Watson.

While 32% of respondents struggled with mortgages and 13% needed to pay off student debts, 49% of those polled in the Savings Psyche of the UK report struggled to save because of general living expenses. Twelve per cent said childcare came above everything else, while 28% needed to pay off credit cards before saving.

When it came to the reasons for saving, only 47% of those surveyed cited funding their retirement.

These figures were presented and explored by Willis Towers Watson's Minh Tran at a session at this year's PLSA annual conference, chaired by HR magazine's deputy editor Jenny Roper. The session also featured four members of the public who shared insights into their own savings goals and thoughts on pensions.

Alice Farkas, a recent graduate, spoke on being one of the first students to pay university fees of £9,000 per year. "I came out of uni with a £55,000 bill," she said. "Now I'm trying to save towards buying a house. Later life seems very far away, and being bombarded with student debt and high rent makes it hard to think about. However, at my new workplace I have been put into a pension scheme, which I have not opted out of."

She believes there should be better pensions education available. "We should have lessons in school or uni about this," she said.

Adam Maxwell, aged 32, talked about saving towards his first mortgage. "I think when I have a house sorted I will start to look at pension options," he said. "But for now it's not my main priority." He reported, however, feeling overwhelmed with pension information and choices. "There's just too much out there," he said.

IT support engineer and new dad Olamide Opayemi is also saving for a house. "I am about 70% of the way to getting my deposit saved up," he said, adding that he doesn't tend to save the same amount each month, but what he can based on his and his new family's needs. "When it comes to saving I try to see how much I get each month, and save what I can," he said.

At 61, fourth panelist Andy Masterman said he'd recently paid off his mortgage and is saving for retirement. "My wife and I are 100% focused on building up our pension pot now," he said. "My pension provider lets me see how much money I will have depending on what age I retire, so we can check how well off we'll be." He said he would consider drawing down 25% of his money, either in a financial emergency before he retires or to allow him to retire earlier.