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COLIN CAMPBELL: Pie-in-the-sky claims on OAPs’ comfort and ‘need’

By Colin Campbell

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Colin Campbell
Colin Campbell

I may be misreading my fellow passengers when I catch the bus down town but I doubt if very many of the pension age people who board it have £2600 as a monthly income, if they’re single, or nearly £3500 if they’re part of a married couple.

But according to a new report these are the amounts needed to maintain a “moderate” lifestyle in retirement these days. That’s only moderate mind you, half a crown or so above “basic”. For a “comfortable” lifestyle a single person needs £43,000-a-year, and a couple need £59,000.

If these figures had been produced by some cold caller firm of pension spivs they would have received little or no attention. But they come from the reputable Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, which must at least be afforded some credibility. Although with these kind of estimations I’d say they’ve pretty much blown it.

Their definition of “comfortable” does not include an annual holiday in Barbados or a balcony cabin on a luxury cruise around the Med.

To many pensioners getting by on an awful lot less than £59,000 they will seem highly inflated, if not completely absurd.

But they’re indicative of other notable claims about money and “need” we’ve seen in recent times.

We are still in the era of the “cost-of-living crisis” and there’s no doubt some people are struggling.

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But this time last year, when it appeared this crisis was at its peak, we were regularly being told by various charities and pressure groups that food banks were essential not only for those on low incomes, but for people such as fully qualified nurses, police officers and teachers. It seemed no one could cope with rising fuel bills and food costs, no matter how much over £30,000-a-year they earned.

Was there any truth in these claims? They were presumably intended to evoke sympathy. I thought at the time that anyone failing to budget on a very decent income and needing to use a food bank deserved no sympathy at all. They were in fact scrounging away scarce resources from those who were genuinely in need.

Following a 10 per cent increase last year, the state pension again will increase in May to a maximum of over £10,000. That’s scarcely a huge amount.

But even a modest additional top-up of a private or work pension would still leave most people thousands upon thousands short of what’s needed for a “comfortable” lifestyle, apparently.

Dangling the absurd claim that a pensioner living alone needs in excess of £40,000 to achieve that misses one key point.

The mindset among many older folk does not place a priority on what they supposedly need and must have in this age of ever-more alluring invitations to spend, whether on foreign holidays, stupendously expensive mobile phones or the very latest ultra hi-def 60 inch television, only to then be left wondering how on earth to pay for it all.

We were to an extent fortunate to advance in years in different and less materialistic times, and thus are aware of the very old fashioned need to know first and foremost what you can actually afford, and then tailor your budget, your lifestyle and your requirements to fit. That outlook may not afford instant gratification, but it remains the best way to achieve “comfortable” peace of mind.

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