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Southport Reporter®

Edition No. 227

Date:- 14 November 2005

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DEPTH OF PENSIONER POVERTY REVEALED

A national survey, published this week, reveals the true extent of financial hardship faced by pensioners and the lack of financial support older people receive.  The survey, of 637 people, carried out by national charity IndependentAge in conjunction with leading consumer magazine Yours, reveals that 66% respondents aged 65 and over live on less than £150 per week, with 11% living on less than £100 per week. Shockingly, some respondents said they spent as little as £1 per day on food.

Despite coping with such financial adversity, the survey reveals that a staggering 55% of respondents are not in receipt of benefits. The reasons for this are threefold, with 21% who were unaware that they may well be entitled to them; 13% were hampered by the confusing system; and 21% did not want to go through the means testing process.

Jonathan Powell, Chief Executive of IndependentAge said:- "The results of this survey prove that the current benefits system is failing the people who need it most, as does the £2.9billion in potential benefits that went unclaimed in the 2003/2004 financial year. The system is inaccessible and confusing while older people see it as intrusive and demeaning. An immediate increase in the basic state pension to a level that simply meets people's basic needs, a measure supported by 87% of respondents, would remove the stigma of additional means tested benefits. IndependentAge believes that all older people should have an adequate income to cover essential items and which, in turn, enables them to retain their independence and remain connected with their communities."

Whilst running into debt was not such a concern for respondents who have lived through post war rationing, the fear that their financial independence may be under threat due to rising bills was acute. 76% of respondents aged 70 plus worry about escalating bills such as council tax and heating compared to only 45% who express fear about running into debt.  And the worry and financial burdens do not stop there. Coping with one off costly expenses were also revealed to put an added pressure on respondents, 72% of whom said that financial security was of utmost importance in maintaining their independence as they get older. 71% of respondents aged 65 plus cannot afford to put money aside for "the unexpected" and yet 69% of these people had to cope with the cost of an unexpected large payment in the last 12 months.

Jonathan Powell, Chief Executive of IndependentAge said:- "As a charity that provides financial assistance to older people in need, we are only too aware of the huge stress caused when older people are confronted with an unexpected bill or an unavoidable emergency repair. They are often not in a position to put aside contingency money and any capital is usually tied up in their homes."

Valery McConnell, Editor, Yours said:- "While for many there has never been a better time to be retired, this survey shows that many older people are denying themselves basic necessities such as food, because of their fear of mounting household bills. For whatever reason, help is not reaching many of those on low fixed incomes and redressing this should be a priority."

RESEARCH IDENTIFIES 280,000 MASS AFFLUENT PENSIONERS

ANALYSIS of industry data by Brewin Dolphin Wealth Management (BDWM) reveals that there are some 280,000 ‘SPEARS’ – Senior People Enjoying Affluent Retirements. BDWM, a division of Brewin Dolphin Securities, defines these people as 65 and over and with net wealth of £500,000 or more. Collectively, they are worth around £239.7 billion or £854,137 each and they own around 9.34% of the UK’s personal net wealth.

In terms of how their wealth breaks down, the largest holding – nearly 30% - is in securities such as shares and corporate bonds. Some 23% is in cash and just under 27% in UK property.

WEALTH BREAKDOWN OF SPEARS

Asset Percentage of wealth invested in this asset Value of wealth tied-up in this asset
Securities 29.8% £71.34 billion
Cash 22.9% £54.945 billion
Loans 1.5% £3.613 billion
Insurance 3.4% £8.172 billion
UK property 26.7% £64.055 billion
Other property 7.8% £18.605 billion
Other assets 10.1% £24.257 billion
Mortgages/other debts (2.2%) (£5.288 billion)

Total net capital value £239.699 billion

Martin Smith, Chief Executive of BDWM said:- “There are a large number of mass affluent retired people in the UK. Indeed, we estimate that they account for around 34% of the total number of people with net wealth of £500,000 or more. Many of them are also very active with their investments with around £126.28 billion or £449,981 each in liquid assets. This is more than half their wealth.  Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation earlier this year found that older people are not being excessively frugal in order to leave everything to their children and neither are they being reckless in terms spending their family assets on luxuries. Instead, it suggested that they manage their assets in a balanced way.”

Cancel Christmas? No way!

THIS year more employers than ever are planning to cancel Christmas. According to a survey of 3,500 employers by law firm Peninsula the boozy office Christmas party is becoming outlawed by bosses tired of lewd behaviour, arguments and compensation claims from staff. The survey found that up to 80% of employers
will not be organising a Christmas party this year.

Sue Green, from North West-based charity Real Christmas, thinks this is very sad news. Sue said:- "By banning Christmas we are selling people short of a
wonderful opportunity to connect once again with a message of real hope that will remain with us once the effects of the Christmas party hang-over has worn off. So many people are missing out on the deeper, more meaningful side of Christmas. That's why I really want to encourage people to explore this 'something more' for themselves, by attending a local carol service."


In order to help people to find out about more about carol services in their area the charity is launching a new website on 1 December. It can be found at www.carolservice.co.uk.  Just put in your postcode and it will tell you about a range of carol services in your area. At any of these events you can find a guaranteed welcome, traditional carols and a re-telling of the original
nativity story.

Sue Green added:- "Call off the turkey, turn down Slade and call off the office party if you must, but cancel Christmas? No way!!"

 

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