Women and the rise of the State Pension age
All women my age (66 this year - 2019) will have been devastated by the disgraceful raising of their state pension age by over 5 years. After a lifetime of paying into the system we were then scolded "Didn't you realise you were paying for your Mum's pension not yours?” Fortunately for me I'm one of the lucky ones. Despite losing my much-loved husband in 2010 aged 57, and a local authority job I enjoyed after it was put out to contract to 'save money' - skilfully achieved by laying-off half the staff - at least I was fit and healthy, living in my own property, I had no debts and modest savings.
Receiving ‘The Letter’
So, after receiving 'The Letter' in 2012 informing me my state pension date (plus all the add-ons of bus pass, fuel allowance, concessions etc.) had been moved from 2013 to 2019, I rang the number given assuming it to be an error.
The guy who answered didn't seem to know: " oh no, it should've been 2017 I'll go check". I waited thinking '2017 - that's an extra 4 years'! - " No, sorry, it IS 2019 - March".
I went into overdrive and wrote to everyone I could think of - all the Pensions' Ministers of all the main political Parties, media, Age UK, and sent copies of each to my (Conservative) MP together with his own personal letter asking why exactly he and his party thought the solution to youth unemployment was to make OLD people work longer? I received many positive replies (and even a phone call from Glenda Jackson who at the time was pension Minister for the Opposition), plus an invitation to be interviewed on Radio 4's Today programme by Eddie Mair no less. Less constructive were letters from the Head of Department for Work and Pensions, and the then Pensions Minister stating that no woman's pension date had been moved more than 18 months as a result of the new legislation.
Onwards and Upwards
But I'm an optimist by nature and I'd already decided I was going to enjoy life at work and play, and to carry on ticking my to-do list. At the very top was a visit to the Grand Canyon which had fascinated me since childhood, so I spent a large chunk of savings doing just that. Shame I didn't have anyone to share the experience but my husband was a real 'home bird' and I'd chosen a child-free life many years previously so I'd have gone on my own anyway. Next was more self-indulgence getting my eyes lasered to correct short-sightedness which my husband said I should have done years ago but I felt we couldn't afford it.
Meanwhile I was also trying to find suitable employment to top up my work pension, this was paid from when I was 60 – as contracted!
I had lots of interviews but who's going to employ an over-60s female wanting 'pin' money when so many half her age need jobs to maintain a mortgage and a young family?
I had my own business for a while helping older people remain in their homes longer by doing their more physical chores and taxiing them to the doctor's or shopping.
Another of my to-do boxes was to visit a horse racing venue, and while scanning a jobsite I saw vacancies for litter-pickers at my local racecourse which only required a phone call -none of this 'download your CV' nonsense. Although it was only August when I rang I was immediately asked if I'd work Boxing Day! At last - my kind-of job - physical but no responsibility, just turn up, do what you're told, then leave it all behind at the end of the day. But interesting too with the opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes and after the race-goers have gone home. Also to engage with all levels of society on a superficial basis. The job has taken me to several other racecourses including Newmarket, and now I've finally got my state pension I can afford to extend several days of work into a mini holiday exploring the area.
I've spent the last 5 years spending my 'retirement savings' including the equity on my property as I've no one to benefit, fitting many visits to historic sites in Greece and Italy, and Australia around work, ticking my final to-do box in 2018 with a walk through the ancient streets of Pompeii.
I appreciate not everyone has the physical or mental capacity to do what I've done - or even wants to - but your life is YOUR life to enjoy and make the most of the short time we're all here. Just do it!
Have you been affected by any of these issues?
This blog represents one individual’s experience; personal circumstances differ – if you have been affected by any the issues in this blog and want some advice about your own situation please contact Independent Age’s Helpline on 0800 319 6789.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Independent Age