Our research asked why the baby boomer generation is choosing to holiday in the UK this summer - has the pension crunch really taken it’s toll?
84% of us have changed holiday plans this year
One in four are taking more holidays in the UK as its cheaper than going abroad
We are online savvy and use the internet to plan ahead, save money and prevent arguments!
According to our recent survey 84% of us have changed our holiday plans this year, 30% are taking mini breaks instead of holidays and one in four are taking more holidays at home.
The weakening pound means that holidays in Europe are increasingly expensive so millions of people in the UK are cutting holiday costs by taking staycations, mini-breaks or day trips this summer rather than going abroad.
It is a sad fact that over the past four years, the pound has fallen by more than 20 per cent against the Euro, pushing up the cost of our favourite sunshine holidays to destinations such as Spain, France and Italy.
According to you guys, the top six reasons for holidaying in the UK are; it is easy to organise (60%), it is easy to travel (59%), the beautiful scenery (55%), the historic sites (46%), the internet allows us to research and plan our trips easily (44%) and going back to places which remind us of happy childhood holidays (26%).
Over three-quarters of you online savvy peops use the internet to plan ahead and nearly half (46%) look up money off vouchers or find directions - perhaps to avoid arguments!
The UK’s 21 million over 50s have been some of the hardest hit during the recession and 20% of us are watching what we spend due to inflation or worries about our pension. It’s no wonder that we are choosing to cut back on holidays, opting for mini-breaks and holidaying at off peak times in the UK. What do you think - is the pension squeeze the only reason you are choosing to stay in the UK ? Is the pension squeeze effecting you in other areas? Join our forum today and post your views on this subject…..
An increasing number of the over 60s are picking up extra income by renting out a room in their house. This can make a lot of sense if, for example, children have left home (although they do seem to return!) yet you do not want to down-size or move. We have previously looked at ways of raising money on one’s home, by various mortgage schemes and equity release, but renting out a room may be less onerous. This scheme allows one to earn a tax-free income, even if you yourself are renting your home.
If you do rent out a room in your home, you can get up to £4,250 tax free income. A government scheme called Rent A Room was specifically designed to encourage people to take in lodgers. The basic rules are:
· You let out a room or part of your main property (it can be more than one room but not a self-contained flat).
· It must be furnished, an unfurnished room or rooms don’t qualify.
· You don’t have to own your home, if you have your landlord’s consent you can take advantage of the scheme as a tenant.
· If you don’t normally fill out a tax return and the income from letting is below £4,250 (around £350 a month) you don’t even have to do anything, the tax exemption is automatic.
· If the amount you earn from the let is above £4,250, just let your tax office know.
If you usually fill out a tax return then the scheme may not benefit you. You cannot offset any of the expenses of renting the room against the income, so wear and tear, insurance costs, any furnishing or decoration cannot be deducted from the income.
There are several websites which specifically deal with finding rooms and tenants under this scheme, or of course you could try the local paper or a more general community website.
With the collapse of savings interest rates putting pressure on the over 50s and their finances, OscarUK.co.uk has revealed that the UK’s over 50s could be saving a staggering £26 billion* a year.
The fall of savings interest rates to as little as 0.25 per cent has stranded many of the UK’s 21 million over 50s, with a shortfall in income putting a strain on everyday spending, from holidays and luxuries, to eating out and general household expenditure.
To help, a free, one-stop, online, consumer service called OscarUK has been launched. The concessions site estimates that by signing up for free membership and taking advantage of a wide range of offers and benefits open to the over 50s, they could be saving an estimated £1,250 each yearly.
The new site will provide a central online database of discounts, concessions and information dedicated to the over 50’s in a wide range of areas, including holidays, days out, eating out, transport and finance. OscarUK aims to bring together essential information for the over 50s in one place, so it is easy for older people of varying web knowledge to take advantage of everything available to them.
OscarUK has searched out over 3,000 offers and concessions specifically available to seniors from a huge range of sources. Many of these are difficult to find, and often come from unexpected sources. Discounts range from membership of associations and £10 shopping vouchers with Littlewoods Direct, to football league season tickets and National Express half price fares.
The current top ten savings from OscarUK are:
* Up to 50 per cent off fares with National Express coaches
* Save up to £350 a year on utilities with Energylinx
* £10 free when signing up as a new customer with Littlewoods Direct
* 20 per cent off food and drink at railway stations with The Bite Discount Card
* A 10 per cent discount on PatientChoice insurance policies
* Free swimming sessions for the over 60s at local council leisure centres
* A senior railcard (£24) giving over 60s up to a third off the cost of fares
* The Diamond Club card provides exclusive meal offers and discounts in at least 80 pubs and carveries across the UK
* Odeon ‘Senior Screen’ gives over 60s discounted entry into cinemas, with free tea and coffee
* Worldhotels Senior gives over 60s up to 25 per cent off 500 hotels in more than 300 locations in 70 countries worldwide, often with extra perks and amenities
David Douce, OscarUK’s editor, said: “Every 40 seconds another person in the UK turns 50. In the current economic conditions, it is often the over 50s that are hit hardest by falling interest rates and stock market threats to pensions. This is the right moment to make these discounts available to as wide an audience as possible.
“Our aim over the next year is to go further and increase the number of offers to 10,000. At the same time we will be fighting for the over 50s across a range of issues and offering free information about their benefits and entitlements.”
“OscarUK may seem like a wise old owl, but will be a ruthless hunter seeking out opportunities and deals for the over 50s.”
One suggestion for repaying the massive debt we now have as a nation is to increase the retirement age to 70. I am still trying to figure out where all that money went - I thought that if we lent it to the banks, then maybe we could expect to get it back. Or maybe that only works when the banks lend us money. I don’t suppose we would get much back if we took possession of Canary Wharf and then sold it at auction.
Still, the prospect of continuing to work until 70 can be a bit chilling. It is quite amazing how things have turned round on retirement age. I have a friend who worked for BT, and was offered retirement while still in his 40s. He and a whole cohort of highly skilled workers are now driving around in their caravans, being paid £30 or more by BT.
Extending retirement to 70 obviously takes a large group of people out of state pensions, so that saves the government money. They will earn income, so pay tax and N.I., which again adds to the state’s income. One difficult calculation must be - will they die younger as a result of the stresses of work, or will they live longer as a result of being kept active? I hope Mr. Darling has factored in the risk of us living longer.
An alternative: drop the idea that 50% of the nation’s youth should go to university. Return to something more like the 5-10% who went to university in the 60s, and let the rest learn and develop at work. They will then be paying tax and N.I. from a much earlier age, and not be subsidised to any extent by the state. Rather a lot of university teachers would be liberated to do they things which, at present, they only talk about. They might even be able to finance a few of the evening classes which have been closed down lately.
This would cut down on binge drinking - a student speciality - and so save the NHS a fortune. They would not do a gap year of traveling, so saving enormous CO2 output from their air travel. They might also grow up a bit quicker, and not return to live with their parents late into their 20s, as happens at present.
So, Darling, forget about later retirement, think about earlier working.It just makes more sense.
The collapse of interest rates has stranded many older people who were relying on income from their savings to boost pensions. The drop from up to 7% return a couple of years ago down to a miserly 0.25% for many accounts is a massive loss of income for many people.
There have been suggestions about getting rid of income tax on earnings from savings for older people, but frankly this would make little difference - the income is so low that making it tax-free is hardly worth the effort.
The oddity is that the over 50s hold the great bulk of savings in the UK, and one might have thought that the banks and building societies would be keen to get their hands on this money. Talking to older people, it seems that quite a number of them have decided that it makes more sense to take their savings and to pass them on to their children, in the form of deposits for house purchase. Buying a property at what might be the bottom of the market probably offers a better return than a savings account in the long run - but does little to help those who have relied on the income from savings in the short run. I think it was Maynard Keynes who said that, in the long run, we are all dead. If it wasn’t, then it should have been.
Just looking at returns on general savings accounts today (23rd March 2009), then some of the best rates for instant access are 3.0% (Abbey, and Alliance and Leicester, both part of Santander), 3.0% at Sainsburys (Bank of Scotland handle this) 2.85% from Egg (Citibank) and 2.5% from ING. If you are happy to tie up money for a period, then you can get 4.1% from ICICI for two years, or 3.75% from the AA for one year, or 3.5% with a 90 day notice from Firstsave.
Turn to the offerings for the over 50s, and SAGA offer 3.45% for two years, 3.2% for one year, then Coventry Building Society are at 2.75% but with some conditions, while for instant access without conditions, Vernon Building Society offer 2.5%. No, I hadn’t heard of them either, and this is a branch account, so not much use unless you live around the Stockport area. A bonus with this account is the offer of a free bouncy castle for any charitable event you are involved in. That’s what I call a bonus.
One point which you should notice with many of these accounts - some contain a bonus other than the bouncy castle, which means that after a certain period the account will drop down to a basic variable rate. This can be a serious drop, and you need to be alert to the end of the bonus period, and think about switching the account then.
But basically, don’t look for over 50s accounts, just look for the best rates you can get, regardless of the label on the account.
So, you can generally do better than using an account which describes itself as being for the over 50s. It is an odd concept that the over 50s should get less than the optimum interest on their savings, instead of getting the best rates around.
Oscaruk aims to bring you as many age-related discounts as we can find. However, as well as those specifically intended for the age groups we cover, there are some general discount tricks we can all use. In the current economic climate, there are sales and discounts all over the place, but there are a couple of extra discounts routes you can use to save money.
Voucher codes offer discounts which you can find on-line, and use either for internet or high street shopping. They are usually just a code which you can print off and take to the store, or put into your on-line order. Try Vouchercodes.co.uk, Myvouchercodes.co.uk and Latestdiscountvouchers.co.uk - there is a lot of duplication between these sites, and the names perhaps lack imagination, but the discounts can be real and valuable. Codes tend to apply for limited time periods, but some real bargains appear on these sites.
Another set of websites offers cashback deals. These mostly require you to join the site, and cashback tends to be paid after a variable period, depending upon the particular retailer involved. Many of the deals are 3-10% back, and can be really worthwhile, especially if they combine with vouchers. As with the vouchers, many big name retailers are included on these sites. For example, you can get 5% cashback from M & S on none-food purchases , 5% off your first food delivery from Tesco, or £65 off sign-up to Virgin Media packages made through Cashbackkings.com. Also try Quidco.com, rpoints.com or Greasypalm.co.uk.
Do be wary of cashback credit cards, unless you are able to set up a direct debit to pay them off fully each month - interest on these cards can easily outweigh the cashback, if you are not careful.
Interesting to see that the Government is attempting to take seriously the challenges of an ageing population, by building a network of forums across the UK to involve older people in decisions. The Rt Hon Rosie Winterton, who has the glorious title of Minister for Pensions and the Ageing Society, has put forward a plan to allow us all to influence government.
I suspect that I am not alone in feeling that the principle here seems absolutely right - we are a democracy, and why would older people not be involved in government? I actually thought that we already were, I recall seeing some statistics that older people are far more likely to vote in elections, so we should already be influencing government.
Looking at the reports and documents on the proposals, and trying to figure out what the hard proposals actually are, one gets that odd feeling of trying to herd cats. Lots of consultations with innumerable bodies, no doubt masses of conferences and days out for civil servants, yet quite what the end result is is very difficult to pin down.
The obvious reaction to anything like this nowadays is to search for the website. The government report devotes a whole page to acronyms, and the relevant one is BGOP (Better Government for Older People, if you’re wondering). Google it, and none of the links work - there is no website. Presumably there is a steering group holding consultations leading to a proposal which may lead to the adoption of a plan going forward with clear targets, but best not to hold your breath. “Yes, Minister” was remarkably prescient.
All pensioners over 60 should take a moment to check if they qualify for Pension Credit. Government figures suggest that as many as 1.8 million households in the UK should be claiming pension credit, but are not doing so. There are already 2.7 million who are claiming, but clearly not everyone who could be helped has made a claim.
Essentially, the Pension Credit payment ensures that no pensioner has to live on less than £124.05 per week. If their income is below this figure, then they may well be able to claim from the government to bring it up to this figure.
Unlike many benefit claims, this one is fairly simple and straightforward. It can be claimed by one phone call to 0800 99 1234 (that is a freephone number) and the same call can deal with housing benefit and council tax benefit, if relevant. No forms need to be filled in beforehand. There may also be benefits concerning home insulation and heating, which can also be dealt with at the same time.
Owning your own home, or having savings, does not necessarily disqualify people from claiming these benefits - three quarters of those receiving the benefit have savings, and around half own their own home.
You may know someone less capable than yourself of claiming this help - think about helping them to get the best deal they can from the state.
There are finally, officially, more of us than of them. The bulge in the population caused when the birth rate rose after the war has at last moved up the pension age. Rather like squeezing toothpaste up a tube, most of it is now close to the exit - except that the tube has got longer for most of us, and our expectation of life has grown considerably.
There are now more people in the pension age groups than under sixteen years of age. The pessimistic view is that this causes a mass of problems: the money for pensions has to be found, for more people and for longer than previously: the number of economically active young people, who should be earning the cash to support the pensioners, is reducing: older people have a habit of being ill, and costing the state rather a lot of money: and we hang on to our money for longer, meaning that the fortunate children of richer parents have to wait longer to buy their expensive houses.
While the list of negatives can go on and on, we might also take the half-full glass route. Older people are better at some tasks than are younger people, and if the need is there to earn money, there is no real reason why at least some of the older population cannot be economically productive, which may have the side benefit of keeping them healthier. While the young tend to have minds which work well on fast learning tasks, older people have what is called ‘crystalline’ intelligence, the ability to sort out what is important and build on experience. While younger minds may count all the trees, older brains notice that there is a wood.
If we are really lucky, it may also mean that business notices that there is a big, valuable older market, and starts thinking of producing goods for them. The entertainment industry is massively skewed towards youth. Fashion is equally heavily youth-oriented - personally I’ve nothing against dressing in beige and grey, but it’s just not for me yet. I have had a minor rant about telephones being designed for the young, but what about the logic of designing digital cameras which require you to put on reading glasses each time you want to use them. I keep seeing older users with arms outstretched, squinting hard to try to see what is on the tiny screens on their cameras. If only our arms grew longer as we aged - i have it on good authority that the only part of the human body which keeps on growing well into old age are the ears. Maybe Darwinians and Intelligent Design theorists could explain that one for me.
And if we are really, really lucky, we may not have to hear politicians and old rock stars telling us that ‘children are the future’. For quite a while, older people are the future, and our society and economy will just have to get used to it.
One cheering piece of news - apparently while 10% of all holiday romances end up in marriage, for the over 60s 22% of them result in marriage. Anyone for the 58-70 Club holiday?
We are seeing a lot of discussion at present about the threat of higher inflation, and this means that we see regular estimates of the current rate of inflation. There is a ‘preferred’ rate calculation, which always sounds a bit odd – as if the government statistical office was offered several kinds of inflation in the inflation shop, and said ‘I think I prefer that one, blue doesn’t suit me.’ You can take out mortgage payments or leave them in, but really that is about the only choice.
Thinking about this and our over 50s market, I suspect the real rate of inflation for the over 50s is unlike that experienced by someone in their early 20s, or for a young family.
Price rises are happening at quite different rates in different markets. I have just filled up our house heating-oil tank – seven years ago this cost me just over £300, this week it has cost me £1,260. Yet if I wanted to buy a computer, or a flat screen TV, I would be paying far less than a few years ago. Most electronics have come down in price appreciably, while they have become better and faster over the same time.
I live in the country, with no access to mains gas, and a need to use a car to travel to most places – on a sunny day I might use a bicycle, but the opportunity to be squashed by a 4X4 up from London for the weekend does not always appeal. I already have all the furniture I could want, and am pretty content without a flat-screen HD television. Food, heating and basics take up most of my spending. As a consequence, my personal rate of inflation is almost certainly way above the level given by official statistics. If I were a 20 year old, living with parents, and spending on alcoholic drinks, entertainment, clothes and electronic gadgets, I would probably be experiencing virtually nil inflation (except perhaps the waistline). I might even be eying up the property market just now, waiting for the cost of a new home to reduce enough for me to buy it, and then to fill it with low-priced furniture.
What has happened is that the ‘basics’ such as fuel and food have been hit very hard by increased demand, much of it ironically from the countries who are pushing out the cheap electronics, clothing etc. which are dropping in price in our market. Falls in house prices, which can be seen as good news for the first time buyer, are potentially very bad news for older people who may have been counting on recouping some or all of the capital value of their (often mortgage-free) homes to help in their retirement. So, while they are facing a high rate of inflation for the basics of life, their capital base is actually shrinking.
This means that an inflation rate which is an average across the whole range of ages and situations in the country means little for an individual.
The reality of the current situation is that the less you spend, the higher your personal rate of inflation is likely to be. If you were in the market for a luxury power boat, apparently you could get a discount from the £1million price tag this month. Handy, but the mixed corn I feed my hens has gone up by 50% lately, so I’ll probably forego the boat. If one only spent on food, energy suppliers, and council tax, then one could be looking at a rate of inflation way over 25% per annum.
The point of all this is that when the government next comes to review pension levels, it really means very little to many seniors to know what the overall rate of inflation is. Far more important is the rate of inflation in their spending pattern, and changes in state pension ought to reflect their experience rather than an overall average.
Have a think about your own rate of inflation, and let us know what you calculate it to be, and perhaps we can start a more realistic debate on this subject.