Teri Harman of Choice magazine shares her readers’ views on the ups and downs of retirement
In my role as Editor of Your Money & Your Rights at popular over 50’s magazine Choice, I’ve seen hundreds of letters from readers and written a huge host of articles on a wide range of retirement-related subjects.
When it comes to financial matters, what makes retirees see red? Conversely, what it is about retirement that retirees seem to most enjoy? Here are some of the greatest retirement joys and frustrations that they’ve reported. Do any strike a chord with you?
People tend to have a keen sense of fair play, accompanied by an understandable reluctance to pay more than they have to.
While anxious to remain within the law, many Choice readers’ top priority is to minimising their tax liability and many take great pleasure in organising their money.
Whether it’s moving tax-free ISAs regularly to get the best rates, something which they have more time for, or looking at ways to reduce a potential Inheritance Tax (IHT) bill, we’ve seen that our readers are on the ball and aware of opportunities to protect their hard-earned cash.
While we know readers understand the basic IHT rules we do see a lot of confusion over what is required for record-keeping and planning in general.
There is definitely a demand for anything that can help break down jargon and simplify financial processes.
It may be a natural tendency to be trusting that causes normally savvy older investors to fall victim to scams. One reader fell for the infamous ‘Spanish lottery’ scam - a fraudster claims you have won the lottery and requests your bank details for ‘facilitating payments’.
He wrote in with the unrealistic expectation that I might persuade his bank to reimburse him after he had freely transferred thousands of pounds to the fraudsters in the naïve belief that he would receive back millions of euros in prize money.
Another 86 year-old lady had been taken in by the far more plausible ‘courier fraud’ scam where criminals target people by phone pretending to be police officers and persuading them to hand over cash or transfer large sums of money.
Though embarrassed, almost ashamed even of her vulnerability, she shared her story as a warning to other readers and was rewarded when in a generous gesture of goodwill, her bank did refund all the money she had lost.
We see dozens of letters from people who resent having to pay for long term care, especially in a nursing home as they would vastly prefer to remain in their own homes.
They are unhappy with the system, feeling they have paid in all their lives and should receive help when they most need it. Equally they are confused over fees, and what is perceived as a ‘postcode lottery’ when it comes to Local Authority funding.
For those who are savvy enough to know how the system works, a desire to protect their assets from the means test is a huge priority and something we get many letters about.
Ageism in financial services
Older people pay more for health, travel and motor insurance. Motor insurance and attitudes to older people driving in general can get many people frustrated.
Experiences of our readers tell us that it can be hard to get a mortgage or personal loan even though they may have good reliable pension incomes. This sometimes forces them into expensive equity release, which often appears to be an ‘option’ pushed at them - but many don’t fully understand the implications of this and find themselves trapped in a situation they did not foresee.
While many people prefer to write to complain we do share many stories of retirement joy! There are several advantages to getting older, most of which stem from no longer having to work.
The joys of travel
Many retirees are adventurous travellers, and ‘gap years’ for seniors are a growing phenomenon. One 59 year-old self-employed reader embarked on a six month trip from Mexico to India, via several countries, meeting up with his wife for a romantic Christmas in Sri Lanka.
Another City worker took early retirement to spend three months volunteering at a game lodge in Botswana.
Spending time with grandkids
From our letters, we know that on the whole providing childcare for grandkids is no hardship for grandparents and they get huge joy from helping out their families and playing an active part in the next generation’s development. However, it can be costly. Skipton’s research found grandparents typically spend £82 over the summer holidays entertaining grandchildren.
One reader living in the North West was commuting to the Home Counties, leaving at 6 in the morning, and three days later reversing the journey so she could look after her grandson while her daughter-in-law worked part time.
While her son paid her travel costs, she had cut her own paid work from three to two days a week, and confessed to finding it all pretty exhausting.
Giving back and getting social
Our readers seem to love volunteering. The Royal Voluntary Service estimates 20% of all retired people in Britain - around 2.3 million individuals - regularly undertake volunteer work, often at more than one charity. A CAB survey found that for 9 out of 10 people volunteering increased their self-esteem.
Freedom on wheels
Another thing our readers love is their wheels! When Choice did what we thought was a well-balanced feature on the safety of elderly motorists, it produced such a flood of angry letters defending their driving capabilities that we devoted the whole letters section to them.
The fury that we had the temerity to suggest that the over 50s weren’t better drivers than youngsters taught us to not venture there again!
Retirement presents new challenges but a wealth of opportunities too. I feel privileged that through my job I have gained an insight into what today’s retirees worry about and enjoy most.
I’d encourage anyone planning their retirement to take inspiration as I have done from older friends and family who have tips on getting the most out of life which they are all willing to share. Our readers enjoy the solidarity of sharing stories with each other, that’s for sure.
This article has been commissioned by retiresavvy and any opinions voiced are the author's own.