More choice for pension savers, but will the products follow?

Scrabble pieces spelling 'ANNUITY'Last week George Osborne confirmed the Government’s intention to implement the surprise tax changes he announced in the Budget in March. At the same time the Government and the Financial Conduct Authority have set out more detail on what guidance will be available to people to help them make their choices at retirement.

Continue reading “More choice for pension savers, but will the products follow?”

Financial resilience as we approach retirement

This guest blog was contributed by Keith Richards, Chief Executive of the Personal Finance Society 

Pound coinsI have been involved in a series of consumer focused strategy meetings which formed part of a Financial Services Commission which was set up to examine how to improve financial resilience in later life – jointly chaired by Tom Wright, CEO of Age UK and Dr Alexander Scott CEO of the Chartered Insurance Institute.

Industry, consumer and regulatory leaders embraced the opportunity to debate and consider solutions to key later life financial challenges which included the dynamics of planning for later life, encouraging savings, changing public perception of industry trust, the development of good value and flexible financial products and increasing access to information and advice.

Continue reading “Financial resilience as we approach retirement”

Re-grouping for a fresh offensive

Heaven knows we need a fresh start. With every tweak of the programmes, with every refinement of the strategy, the prospects of a convincing victory on the core front just get more remote.   The fuel poor get to make harder and harder choices, the old and the young suffer health setbacks, the misery piles up. Words like national disgrace, scandal, heating or eating, become devalued.

We’ve ended up with a totally perverse delivery system. The general consensus is that an area-based, whole-house approach works best: what we’ve got is market-driven, bench-marked by cost-effectiveness, and funded by the energy companies who can’t deliver at scale because of the impact on consumer bills. We have programmes delivering the least satisfactory outcomes. A Written Parliamentary Answer at the end of January says it all.   Citing the latest figures (21 November), it reported the achievements of the Energy Company and Green Deal in 2013.   471,766 measures had been installed in 403,000 houses (an average of 1.17 measures per house – hardly amounting to a whole-house make-over).   394,370 of those measures had been funded by ECO, and 8,485 by householders getting a Green Deal survey then claiming the cashback offer in the scheme. Only 458 had gone ahead with the Green Deal package, including finance. Continue reading “Re-grouping for a fresh offensive”

Age UK establishes commission on financial services

We are “woefully underprepared” for our ageing society. That was the conclusion of the House of Lords Select Committee chaired by Lord Filkin earlier in the year.

Central to that is the fact that people just aren’t saving enough for retirement and their later life.   New polling Age UK commissioned found that just under a quarter of people aged 50-64  –  those rapidly approaching state pension age  –  think there’s no point  saving.  Worryingly, that’s not because the majority have

Tom Wright, Chief Executive of Age UK and Co-Chair of the Financial Services Commission
Tom Wright, Chief Executive of Age UK and Co-Chair of the Financial Services Commission

already made provision for their future.  More than a quarter said they were worried about having enough to live on. Only 15 per cent thought they had saved enough already.

We also frequently hear from older people about the problems they face with money matters, and the lack of solutions that really work for older people. While auto-enrolment is a massive step forward, it will not have time to reap its full benefits for people close to retirement.

That’s why we’re launching the Financial Services Commission – which will be co-chaired by Tom Wright CEO of Age UK and Dr Alexander Scott of the Chartered Insurance Institute. Launching on December 5th, it will be take the form of a series of three summits in which we will work with key industry leaders and consumer experts to examine how to improve the “financial resilience” of older people – their ability to weather the challenges that might lie ahead. It will culminate in June next year with the publication of a roadmap of actions that regulators, government and industry need to take to help keep future and current pensioners financially resilient. Continue reading “Age UK establishes commission on financial services”

Green Deal performing poorly

At the heart of Age UK’s Warm Homes Campaign lies the conviction that the best way to insulate people from remorseless increases in energy costs and the health risks posed by cold homes is a major house refurbishment programme. The Green Deal was intended to drive that work – and upgrade 4m homes by 2020 – but the six month figures for the scheme are hapless, and we see no room for optimism any time soon.

As of mid-October, there are 219 Green Deal schemes in operation. True, there is a upstream pipeline of house surveys completed and Green Deal plans in preparation, but older householders seem rather underwhelmed. Whilst one in ten say their homes were not warm enough last winter and they would benefit from improved energy efficiency measures, 70% said they would not want a550x280_thermostat_lady Green Deal. The most frequently cited reasons were aversion to debt, and seeing the ‘loan’ repayment scheme as too expensive.   Continue reading “Green Deal performing poorly”

Who are the older digitally excluded?

This blog was contributed by David Mortimer, Head of Digital Inclusion, at Age Age UK.

For many years, local and national organisations have been working to support individuals learn how to use computers. Despite many good initiatives and easier to use technology, new approaches are needed to reach and support those at risk of being increasingly cut off from the public and commercial service offers which assume both access and the skills to use their products.

That this remains primarily an older person’s issue is no surprise, but most older people have joined the digital age and many are competent. Those who have been left out, or have chosen to be left out, are not a homogenous group with one catch-all solution.440x210-two-men-laughing-computer

The traditional approach of marketing the benefits of being online has a role, but will continue to miss the mark for the majority of ‘digitally excluded’ older people. With so many simply not seeing any relevance of engaging with technology to them, the benefits should be seamed through everyday interventions and social activities so that older people can make choices based on a better knowledge of how this technology can enhance their unique combination of interests and circumstances. Continue reading “Who are the older digitally excluded?”

Equal access to services

Unlikely as it sounds, a recent 153 page legal decision about VAT returns could  prove to be a turning point in the campaign to get recognition of the needs of many older people when it comes to using online services.

In what’s being hailed as a significant  and closely watched decision,  a judge has upheld the right of three small business owners not to file their VAT returns on line. Two of those who brought the court case have disabilities. The other lives in a remote part of the country without reliable broadband access.200x160_hand-uses-mouse

In her ruling, the judge said it is a breach of the human rights act to require VAT forms to be filed online without exemption for older people, those with disabilities or who live in isolated parts of the country.

For Age UK, the decision is very welcome. Equal access to services not just for older people but everyone, has long been one of our core campaigning goals. Continue reading “Equal access to services”