Can property help our pensions and our high street?

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Closing down sale Once full of bustling shoppers with cash to spare; now many of our nation's high streets are little more than ghost towns advertising the tightening of our purse strings.

The fallout from the financial crisis has seen a proliferation of pound shops and cash converters, and the bookies still seem to being doing a good trade.



Research by AXA Wealth shows that more of us are frequenting the pound shops; 41% of people who see their finances as 'stretched' are using these cheap-as-chips outlets and even 11% of 'affluent' people are snapping up bargains.

Britain's high streets have undoubtedly got it tough but help might be underway in the form of pensions. Hidden away in the Budget notes on HM Revenue & Customs' website was details about the government looking at allowing some residential property to be held as a pension investment.

For those who remember A-Day and then chancellor Gordon Brown's last minute U-turn on allowing residential property to be help in Sipps will no doubt take this latest announcement with a pinch of salt, but this time the plan is slightly different.

Details are scant but the premise is that residential property will be allowed into Sipps if it has been converted into a liveable home from a commercial property, such as a shop.

I can see three major benefits to this new concept. The first would be that allowing residential property into pensions would make pensions a whole lot more attractive. There's nothing Brits like more than property and hopefully that popularity could rub off on pensions.

The second is obvious, it would help to revive the high street and get rid of some of those 'closing down' signs, building communities where empty shops sit.

The third positive would be that it would introduce new property stock to the market, particularly important when we have first-time buyers struggling to get on the ladder and a lack of social housing.

There is also a major downside, and one that is already concerning pension experts, and that is that property typically makes up a large proportion of a person's assets, if they own their own home, and they don't need to be encouraged to hold any more.

I understand the concern and property is a particularly illiquid asset but if it entices people to save into a pension then it's still a positive.

When an idea serves so many purposes, it deserves a fair airing and hopefully it will make it out of Budget notes and into the mainstream.

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