Andrew Bailey, new head of the Financial Conduct Authority, has spotlighted the problems posed by pensions and retirement savings, calling it one of the biggest concerns faced by society and the regulator.
In his first speech since being appointed in July, Bailey told the Pensions and Savings Symposium in Gleneagles last week that declining annual growth across developed economies would continue to keep interest rates low while at the same time drive up the cost of home ownership and levels of consumer indebtedness, eating into pensions and long-term retirement swings.
Bailey said he did not think using housing assets to help pay for retirement is the right way forward.
"I don't subscribe to this argument because given the scale of uncertainty over long-run real returns on assets, I would not favour over-weighing to any one asset class. In the FPC we have been concerned about increasing levels of household indebtedness. If the effect of increasing the demand for housing as an asset to own is to push up the cost of ownership, an increase in holdings of housing as pension assets will tend to increase the real cost, and thus household indebtedness."
Bailey's views on home owners downsizing to fund their retirement put him at odds with Andy Haldane, chief economist at the Bank of England, who recently said that investing in property was probably a better approach than other pension options.
Describing retirement saving and pensions as "one of the largest issues we face", Bailey said: "There are some very big issues at stake here: the balance of who takes the risk, between the state, employers and individuals, with the balance shifting to individuals; the potential for large inter-generational shifts in income and wealth; the impact of heightened macroeconomic uncertainty on the ability to write long-term financial contracts which embed assumptions on future returns; and the appropriate balance of public policy between positive descriptions of the issue - retirement savings and pension provision - and more normative prescription from public authorities to individuals."