News Column

G2: A certain age

July 22, 2014

Michele Hanson

The elderly are to be "empowered" by our chancellor. From April 2015, we will be able to take out our entire pension pot to fritter on whatever we fancy and will no longer have to buy an annuity. I smell a rat. I suspect that he means: "Go away and sort out your own pension problems. I can't be fagged. Yours, G Osborne."

But who do we turn to? Not bankers. They're nearly all crooks, and none of them have ended up in the slammer, so they're still out there somewhere, waiting to rip us all off again. How do we know which ones are the rogues? And then there's Osborne's offer of free financial advice to pensioners. But the financial advisers are no better, in my experience. How else did my weedy investment in low-risk shares end up high risk and down the drain? I swear I never signed for that. I never do anything high risk. And Rosemary's adviser smelled of Brylcreem. Almost fainting from the stench, she asked if she might invest in an ethical company. The adviser took a deep breath. "Which one did you have in mind?" he asked wearily. Rosemary hadn't a clue. She asked her brother-in-law instead.

"Scatter it," said he. So she did. It's in little diddly bits everywhere. Neither of us took out an annuity after leaving teaching. We couldn't work them out. Which one should we have chosen: single life, joint life, escalating, enhanced, investment, flexible or fixed term? I hear of "consumers" and "financial firms tailoring products," and it makes me rather nervous, although ministers think we'll make sensible decisions. How do we do that, ministers? How? A baby born today should have started saving at the average rate 30 years ago, if it wants a half-way decent pension.

Perhaps the chancellor hasn't been able to work it out properly either. Hordes of us don't seem to have as much money as he says we have, his 21%/20% corporation tax wheeze isn't working out too well either, the Pfizer bid for AstraZeneca made him look a bit of a pillock, and if he can't get his sums right, how does he expect us to?

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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