Boring when we’re young, but pensions are really important

Pensions are boring! That is how many of us think when fit, healthy and able to earn a living. But for those feeling the pinch, growing old and getting more frail, pensions are certainly not boring. Pension security should be for all. Remember this for United Nations’ International Day for Older Persons on October 1st.

Let’s scotch the myth that old people are a burden and doing well. Old and young, it is the poor that bear the brunt of austerity measures. A new report produced by the TUC entitled ‘Young versus Old?’ identified reasons for hardship amongst the young; these included increased university tuition fees, unemployment, poorer job opportunities, lower pay and high housing costs. Their falling economic long-term prospects were not down to older people hoarding all the wealth.

Admittedly some pensioners are wealthy; there are wide variations in income within age groups and 6% of over 75s are in the top income bracket – but an equal proportion are amongst the very poorest.

Look at the facts recently highlighted by the National Pensioners Convention (NPC). Should we not be ashamed that the UK state pension is ranked 36th out of 37 OECD countries at £115.95 a week? Compare this with £314.50 for a 40 hour week at the current Living Wage hourly rate (£7.80). Even at the minimum wage rate (£6.70) weekly pay would be £268.00. Could you manage on the current basic state pension?

Low pensions have led to over 6 million living on a yearly income of less than £10,500, 1.9 million below the poverty line. The poorest pensioners tend to be women, single people and the over 80s, many of whom do not get a full pension. In order to bring pensioners out of poverty the NPC is calling for a living state pension of £192 a week, that is £10,000 per year, to give people dignity and financial security in in retirement.

The prospects for future pensioners are bleak; those retiring on the new state pension from April 2016 will work longer and get less. Employment patterns are changing; many do not have secure regular employment, fewer workers can contribute to an occupational pension and the auto-enrolment schemes may not be good value. A good state pension will become even more important in the future. So younger people beware! Get hold of the NPC booklet ‘For what it’s worth: Understanding the new State Pension’.

Hornsey Pensioners Action Group welcome anyone over 50 to our group meetings that combine sociability with serious talk. Come and help us improve the lot of older people.

At our next meeting on October 20th we shall consider how we can stop the dismantling of the NHS. You can find out more about us at www.hornseypensionersactiongroup.org.uk .

by Janet Shapiro