After three years of unremitting headlines about pension troubles and scandals it is hard to find a 35-year-old who believes in pensions. Those that do mostly work in the public sector and cling to the belief that the unions will hold the line and that the taxpayers will wear it. Others grossly under-estimate the kind of capital sum they are likely to need in, say 30 years' time to buy an income of half their previous salary for the rest of their working lives.
For the rest, those who bought their first homes while a first-time buyer on an average income could still get started, take it almost for granted that owning a place outright with the mortgage paid off will see them through their old age. They have more faith in the housing market than in the stock market.
Who is to say they are wrong? Well, a lot of today's pensioners, perhaps.
Daren Carter at Norwich Union says home-owners aged over 65 are sitting on housing wealth of £1,100 billion.
Many have limited pensions. But only one per cent of them have taken out an equity release scheme to use the inflated value of their homes to boost their pensions. Even then, surveys suggest an astonishing number of those that do put the money straight back into the house, spending it on an improvement or just plain maintenance.
You can only guess at the reasons for this reluctance. Fear of losing your home is surely a factor. It did happen 15 years ago, notoriously with schemes where the proceeds of the mortgage were invested in the stock market hopefully leaving the borrower with an adequate income after paying the mortgage interest. Then the stock market went down as interest rates went up and it ended in disaster.
That really need not happen now. It is not hard to find an equity release mortgage that comes with a guarantee that you can stay in your home for the rest of your days (or until you go into long-term care) even if the rolled up interest makes the loan more than the value of the house.
The risk has been shifted to the lender, along with the chance that the borrower may live much longer than the actuaries expect. This makes equity release mortgages expensive enough to deter many elderly home-owners -or their heirs. One hear of pensioners mysteriously withdrawing applications for home-income plans. Their children hear what is happening and hurriedly promise to help out financially rather than see the property they hoped to inherit hocked to an insurance company.
This morning the Social Market Foundation urges the Government to set up a central agency to run equity release schemes in the hope that official backing and economies of scale can get the cost down to a bearable level.
It would probably need a Government guarantee to work, in which case the life companies would object to unfair competition.
Meantime, the people who really believe property will provide them with a pension have become buy-to-let landlords buying flats that would otherwise have gone to first-time buyers.