WASPI women march on Parliament

Hundreds of women are planning to travel to Westminster today to complain to the government and their MPs about unfair changes to their state pensions. Major changes made through successive Pensions Acts in past years mean that women born in the 1950s have seen several changes to the date at which they will receive their pensions. These changes mean that the date a woman can start to claim her pension may be quite different from that of a woman who is just a little bit older or younger. These women could legitimately think government policy on pensions is unfair and the way the changes have been communicated to them has been a shambles. Continue reading “WASPI women march on Parliament”

Building a savings culture

Photo credit: Images_of_Money (Flickr Creative Commons)

Last month Age UK held a small discussion event with Pensions Minister Ros Altmann, hosted by the think tank Reform. The purpose of the meeting was to have a frank conversation with representatives from the pensions industry, consumer groups and trade unions about the need for more people to save more for their retirements.  Continue reading “Building a savings culture”

Older people are still living in poverty and with growing inequality in later life

Our first blog post of the week looks at the findings from Age UK’s latest Chief Economist report. It focuses on the key economic aspects in the lives of many older people in the UK: inequality and poverty, and benefit take-up. 

Almost 60 years ago, Peter Townsend studied the lives of older people in East London and wrote:

The object of national assistance is largely to make up income, on test of means, to a subsistence level… A general definition of need is incorporated in its scale rates, and these are applied to individual circumstances, with certain discretionary disregards and allowances. The sums are intended to cover food, fuel and light, clothing, and household sundries, beside rent, and sometimes, after investigation, small additions are made for laundry, domestic help, or special diet. This definition of ‘subsistence’, on such evidence as exists, appears to be completely unrealistic.

You would be forgiven if, after reading Age UK’s latest Chief Economist Report, you concluded that not much has changed over all those years. Because, though the material aspects of the lives of older people in the country, whether in East London or East Belfast, have undeniably improved since then – thanks in a great part to the way initially ploughed by Eleanor Rathbone MP and the Old People’s Welfare Committee, Age UK’s predecessor, the current state of poverty among older people still looks dismal and grim as much as what it was like in Bethnal Green in yesteryear. Continue reading “Older people are still living in poverty and with growing inequality in later life”

General Election Series: We want a world where everyone in later life has enough money

Photo credit: Philip Taylor (Flickr Creative Commons)
Photo credit: Philip Taylor (Flickr Creative Commons)

This week’s blog from our General Election Series looks at why ensuring that everyone in later life has enough money is a key part of our ambition for the next Parliament.

While Age UK celebrates the fact that being older is no longer synonymous with being poor, sadly this is still the reality for too many. That is why ensuring that people have enough money is a key part of Age UK’s ambition for the next Parliament and the first of our blogs looking at our five priorities.

There are still 1.6 million older people living in poverty and many others living just above the poverty line. We know this can’t be changed overnight but we believe all politicians should commit to at least halving the numbers in poverty by the end of the next Parliament.

We have highlighted two ways to help achieve this. Firstly let’s ensure there is a decent State Pension that recognises years of work and caring. The full amount of the new State Pension being introduced on 6 April 2016 will be more than £150 a week and will provide a boost for many low earners and women who have spent many years caring or in part-time low paid work. Continue reading “General Election Series: We want a world where everyone in later life has enough money”

New UK annuity reforms – lessons from the US

Photo credit: Linus Bohman (Flickr Creative Commons)
Photo credit: Linus Bohman (Flickr Creative Commons)

This week’s guest blog is from across the Atlantic. David C. John is a senior strategic policy advisor at the AARP Public Policy Institute. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million older people across the USA.

 American experience strongly suggests that the coming UK pension freedoms sound better in theory than they will work in practice.  After nearly a decade where the UK has been the gold standard for retirement savings policy, it is about to take a step that it may regret.

As annuity purchases are not required, very few Americans buy them, feeling that they are spending a great deal of money for a comparatively small monthly income.  Even those in traditional DB pension plans usually take a lump sum if they are allowed to do so.  As a result, many US retirees spend unwisely, trust the wrong financial advisor, or make other financial mistakes.

Many people greatly overestimate how long their savings will last.  Most others assume (often wrongly) that they can manage their own money as well as anyone else or that they can live comfortably on Social Security alone.  US Social Security pays a benefit that depends on the retirees’ individual income history.  The average annual amount is about $13,000 (GBP 8,700).

One survey found that in West Virginia, a state with a relatively low average income, 78% of those near retirement and 67% of those at retirement would likely outlive their financial assets.  Workers with lower incomes are most at risk.  A recent national study found that by the 20th year of retirement, more than 81% of Americans with incomes up to $27,000 would run short of money, as would 38% of those earning up to $42,000, and 19% of those with incomes up to $65,000.  Even 8% of those with the highest incomes could not meet their expenses. Continue reading “New UK annuity reforms – lessons from the US”

Pension Schemes Bill entering final stages

Scrabble pieces spelling the work 'pension'

The Pension Schemes Bill has nearly completed its passage through Parliament, taking a step closer this week as Peers considered the Bill at its Report Stage in the Lords. As you’d expect, Age UK has taken a keen interest in this Bill, which is part of the Government’s wider ranging reforms to pensions announced by the Chancellor in the Budget last spring – the most significant changes to private pensions for over a generation.

From this April, there will be great flexibility, and greater choice for older people to access their retirement savings but with greater choice comes more responsibility, and potential complexity and risks, for older people making these important choices. Generally speaking, the pension reforms are a really welcome move giving those with pension savings approaching retirement freedom and greater options about how to access their money. However, with greater flexibility can also come greater risks for consumers. Continue reading “Pension Schemes Bill entering final stages”

Pension reforms – opportunity and risk

 

Pound coins - Photo: Flickr user hitthatswitch
Photo credit: hitthatswitch, Flickr Creative Commons 

April 2015 will represent a landmark day for pensions, with an end to the requirement to use a pensions ‘pot’ to buy an annuity. For better or for worse, people at point of retirement will hold their own futures in their hands, with decisions taken at this time having implications that can be felt for many years to come.

Age UK has welcomed greater flexibility, but it’s clear that the rapid speed of change has led to significant challenges ahead for the government and the industry, as well as – most importantly – ordinary pension savers.

Disengaged savers

Age UK recently published an independently-written report, Dashboards and Jam-jars, which looked at some of the main issues facing people with average-sized pension pots. It highlighted some of the main problems that could arise – for example paying too much tax or running out of money – and suggests what can be done to mitigate these. Continue reading “Pension reforms – opportunity and risk”