With only five to ten more years to figure out how to connect to my retirement plan, I have to move on.
Fidelity’s website is so impenetrable for someone like me that at 50, I’m afraid I ran out of time to access “planviewer” at 65, let alone 55.
They write to me all the time, asking me to verify this or that by scanning a QR code and entering a reference, along with my national insurance number, but it never works.
‘Sorry, we are unable to find your details in our system. Make sure you have entered all your information correctly. If the problem persists, please call us at…’
Persists? It never stops. It’s been bugging me for years. When I send an email to tell them I can’t log in, they send back an encrypted email, so I have to log in to see their response on why I can’t log in.
When I ring the bell, I wait a moment before a nice Irishman looks at my map and says, “Ah, here it is.”
“You mean you can connect to my boarding house?” I asked the last time I did that. “Yes, I am.” “Well, would it be too much to ask for me to come in too?” Because while listening to him watch my pension was reassuring, it wasn’t as good as me watching it.
I read him the reference code I always get sent, which could be seen as starting with C, then O or it could be C, then zero. That, in itself, could have kept me locked out for a good five years.
He confirmed it was C zero and we moved on to my NI number. I said what I thought it was, from memory, and he left to “check something out with my supervisor.” When he came back he said they were wrong.
“Oh my God,” I said. ‘Now wait. Are you wrong or am I wrong? And I said it again, just a little bit different because I never know if it’s 55 twice or 75 twice in the middle.
I tried both ways but it said neither of those were on their system. I scratched my head. The problem with the theoretical approach to retirement age and the need to examine your pension account is that you have never been so ill-equipped to do such a thing.
I said, ‘Can you wait while I try to find something with my NI number on it?’
I had held out for half an hour listening to the same five bars of Richard Clayderman’s piano music repeated over and over, so I begged, “Never leave me, will you?”
He promised he wouldn’t. I opened all the drawers and cupboards in my office and started pulling out papers. ‘Are you still there?’ I called the phone on speakerphone while I tore up unopened envelopes and flipped through old tax returns.
I ransacked every folder full of papers until my whole existence was thrown all over the floor, then an age-old letter fell out of a bundle and there it was, “I’ve got it!” I read it, and it was exactly as I first said from memory.
“That’s not what we have,” he said, “so we’ll have to change that. It will take five working days.
I made so many failed login attempts, hung up on the phone for so long, and sent so many emails, that I dared not dream that the problem was finally fixed with such a prosaic solution. .
So I said, “Can we just do some of the things your last letter is asking me to do now, over the phone, like update my contact information?” He said he would. “And it also says that I have to designate my beneficiaries.”
He said he couldn’t do that. I should log in to ‘planviewer’ in five days. But he could email me the documents and I could mail them back if I preferred. I said yes.
‘Cause now it says I didn’t name a beneficiary, it’s just a chance I get run over by a bus before the system lets me in.
I’m determined that whatever it takes, even if it has to happen from beyond the grave, with the builder buddy logging on by pressing the buttons on his iPhone with a finger, and even if the economy crashes totally, and there’s nothing in it but two shillings and an old button, I’m not going to be frozen out of my pension by some damn computer system.
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