Recent 2024 abrdn research underlines how property is seen as the gateway to financial freedom but pensions, another significant financial asset, are often overlooked. Imagine the impact on people’s long-term financial resilience, not to mention the wider economy and UK capital markets if we could match the enthusiasm for the property ladder with a similar culture around a Savings Ladder.

If we can encourage more people to get on the Savings Ladder, and start climbing, then that will be good news for everyone

stephen bird, ceo, abrdn

Our research shows that nearly half of the UK population (48%) think that property is a better long-term investment strategy than a pension. Of those surveyed, only one in six people (16%) thought that pensions were a better investment option, with the rest undecided or not persuaded on either.

Those even more likely to favour property over pensions are the young aged 18-34 (53%), those living in London (56%), those on higher incomes of £50k+ (53%), and those that own their own home (53%).

Making saving easier

Property and investments are not mutually exclusive, but the tendency to favour property over pensions presents a collective industry and policy challenge. This preference is not simply down to savers’ attitudes. abrdn is calling on the UK government to make saving easier and more accessible, starting with the simplification of ISAs.

Beyond pensions, abrdn argues that the ISA brand has been stretched too far, with several different types of ISA potentially causing confusion. This is a barrier to engagement and getting started, with only around a fifth of the British public holding shares outside of their pension, and four in 10 of these not holding them in an ISA, according to abrdn research. That extrapolates to 3.4 million retail shareholders, at a time when dividend and capital gains tax allowances halve again in April.

Additionally, investing in UK shares and trusts should also be encouraged through the removal of stamp duty. Its removal could be the single biggest boost to UK share ownership.

Building a culture of saving

Not all change can be driven by government policy or the financial services industry. To foster a culture of saving in the UK, we need a society where people see the value in starting early, building their savings pot, and investing to grow it. Two of abrdn’s key policy proposals centre on driving this broader cultural shift. abrdn wants the government to start a national conversation around the benefits of saving and investing beyond the NatWest share sale, while also boosting and measuring the nation’s financial literacy. The latter would help identify policy measures to more effectively target and fund financial literacy at scale.

Ultimately, abrdn’s Savings Ladder Manifesto looks to broaden the horizons of the UK’s investing public. Owning a home and building your pension should not be mutually exclusive, and through a collective effort between government, the financial services industry, and as a society, the opportunity is there to deliver the pension savings that Britons will need for the retirements they deserve. 

The development of a greater saving and investing culture in the UK, and having more straightforward ways to save and invest, are critical to people up and down this country securing the futures they want for themselves and their families

Julia Hoggett, CEO, London Stock Exchange

abrdn commissioned Opinium to conduct research on its behalf from 29 December 2023 to 3 January 2024 amongst a nationally representative sample of 2,000 UK adults. You can read abrdn’s full manifesto and recommendations here.