This weekend marks a century since the Titanic went down on its maiden voyage to America. The anniversary has dominated the mainstream media for the past week; one enterprising merchant has even launched a commemorative whisky. Faced with this outpouring of sentimentality, the rather more mundane topic of pensions has struggled to get much air time.
That's a pity, because the concept of a 'defined ambition' pension trailed by pensions minister Steve Webb is not a bad one. It's the first sign of some fresh and original thinking in a debate that has often looked - well, like rearranging the deckchairs on a certain White Star Line vessel.
Pensions in the private sector are, like the Titanic, holed beneath the waterline. The tip of the iceberg was Gordon Brown's infamous dividend tax raid. But beneath the surface, the significant increases in life expectancy over the past few decades are what really did the damage. And as in 1912, there aren't enough lifeboats; between a quarter and a third of over-50s have no retirement savings, according to some surveys.
We know what the solution is not. It's not final salary pensions, because these load all the risk onto the employer. Final salary schemes were probably not sustainable before 2005, but once accounting standards, introduced in full that year, required pension fund deficits to be shown on company balance sheets, their demise was virtually assured.
Nor are 'money purchase' or 'defined contribution' schemes the answer. These load all the risks onto the employee. Many workers in their twenties struggle to see the point of a product that locks their money away until they are in the fifties with no guarantee of anything to show for it.
'Defined ambition' pensions fall somewhere in between these two extremes. The details are sketchy, but the broad idea is to give employees a degree of certainty while not encumbering employers with open-ended liabilities. If companies and individuals can be persuaded to adopt them, then another element of the pension puzzle would fall into place: we'd have a flat-rate (hopefully untaxed) state pension as the safety net for all, auto-enrolment into Nest or a company scheme for lower-paid workers, the 'defined ambition' scheme for middle earners, then Sipps and other forms of personal pension for wealthier workers, the self-employed or those with more complex financial affairs.
All of which makes perfect sense. But it will only work if the other big problem with pensions is fixed: contribution levels. Yes, share prices have been volatile and gilt yields are miserable. But the unpalatable truth is that most people are just not saving enough to support themselves - and that's one thing we can't blame on governments or markets.
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