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Steve Bee: Make way for the next generation of Waspi women

Mishandling of the recent rapid increases in the state pension age have had a devastating effect on many women

There are three main ways to provide ourselves with income when we reach later life. We can invest into a pension scheme ahead of time while at work, we can rely on future taxpayers in the form of the state pension, or we can simply carry on working for the time we are fit and able to do so.

It is dangerous to rely on just one of these types of income provision, so a mixture of all three is the ideal strategy.

The problem we have in the UK is that, for more than half a century, just half of our working population has ever been given access to company pension schemes. As a result, half the population has ended up relying entirely on the state pension if they want to give up working later in life.

While it is true those without company pension schemes available to them could have deferred income and invested it in a personal pension, it is equally the case that, in company schemes, it has been contributions by employers, not employees, that have made up the bulk of the money invested.

Steve Bee: Coping with the 21st century retirement crisis

Deferring income through not being given access to it in the first place is clearly a more effective way of maximising long-term pension savings.

So, half the population has always earned two forms of money while at work: ready money they could spend on day-to-day living and pension scheme money they could not spend until they were older.

These people have been lucky enough to reach old age with many options available to them in terms of income and security. They have both their private pensions and their entitlement to the state pension, and they still retain the option of continuing to work to earn a further income stream.

The other half of the working population that has not had the benefit of their employers investing substantial amounts of deferred income on their behalf have been dangerously dependent on the state pension or their own ability to carry on working.

Steve Bee: Our pensions system has lost its purpose

That is why the mishandling of the recent rapid increases in the state pension age have had such a devastating effect on so many women. It is women who have been (and will be) most severely affected by the equalisation of state retirement age with men and the subsequent increases in that common state retirement age.

It is hardly surprising that the Women Against State Pension Inequality protest movement formed as a result of such fundamental but poorly communicated and hurried reforms.

That movement will not be going away any day soon, as the next decade will see those born in the sixties affected, with many of those also finding they will need to work until their late-60s before they can retire on the state pension.

One long-standing problem remains: we are content to see half the working population reach retirement with so few options available to them.

Steve Bee is director at Jargonfree Benefits



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There are 21 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. I must admit I am curious as to exactly what the “devastating effect” is that you and the WASPI women talk about?

    Yes communication was poor, yes it was relatively short notice, however simply out, I fail to see what is devastating.

    So you may have to work a few years longer than you thought. i.e instead of retiring at 60, you might have to work to 66.

    Nobody seems to be suggesting that these women can’t work or can’t find jobs.

    Yet I fail to see anyone protesting about the “poor men”, who despite living shorter lives had to work 5 years longer than these women for over 60 years, so that women could enjoy on average 8-9 years more retirement than men.

    I don’t see anyone complaining for the women like my mother who did work as well as raise kids and collected her pension for a total of 3 years till my father reached age 65.

    As such I can only assume that these women are part of the “me brigade” and don’t honestly care about the fact that they voted for the politicians making unreasonable promises.

    No, now they instead subscribe to the idea of a magic money tree, and utterly fail to realise that what they are actually demanding is that their children and grandchildren should be saddled by even more debt, so that they can sit around for an extra 5 or 6 years, simply because a charlatan politician made a “promise” that was as usual unrealistic.

    In simple terms, they are complaining about the fact that they are going to live longer and expect their kids to pay for it..

    Sorry Steve, but as a “responsible finance person” you should not be perpetuating these myths, and sympathising with people that are thinking only of themselves, you should be explaining why these changes have to happen and the implications of their complaints…

    • I don’t know how old you are, Duncan, but let’s assume you are fifty five and have made all your plans to allow you to retire at sixty and let’s assume your pension is coming from one, single, source (it doesn’t matter where it comes from because you have contributed to it, one way or the other). You are not in great health, maybe you have arthritis, or asthma, an injured back or some other minor disability that is getting worse year by year.
      Let’s assume you have been diligent about your finances, over the years, worked hard in a job that you don’t find rewarding and, although you were in a fairly low paid semi manual job (say £20,000 per year) you have managed to accumulate £12,000 in other savings, which are on deposit and you have just about paid off your mortgage on your modest terraced house and have given your children some money towards the cost of their weddings or for deposits on a flat that they are going to rent (it being unlikely that they will be able to buy).
      Basically you are not in great shape and really looking forward to your retirement, in five years time, when you are still young enough to, hopefully, enjoy yourself before your health, inevitably deteriorates too much more.
      Then you get a letter from your pension provider telling you all your plans are up the swanee. Sorry mate, we know we promised you could retire at sixty but it ain’t gonna happen. Don’t bother to complain because that’s it. Done deal. Tough luck.
      And you would just say “Oh well, never mind” would you?
      If you did I would call you an idiot; but you wouldn’t would you?
      Maybe you just lack a bit of empathy for other people.
      And don’t come back with the assertion that it is not right to place more of a burden on your children because it won’t wash. It is not the fault of the many people who are in such a position that others (in government) who are supposed to be a lot cleverer than them have mishandled the situation for the vast majority of people in this country, including the waspi women.

      • Sorry Patrick, I’m not being unsympathetic, but I would pick a few holes in your comments.

        1.) No woman was given 5 years notice of a major increase in their state pension age, at worst they were told they might have to work an extra year at relatively short notice. Anyone going to suffer an increase of more than a year or 2, was given at least 10 years notice.
        2.) If they are in that bad health, then they qualify for state benefits right now. If their health isn’t bad enough to qualify, then them carrying on doing some work enough to “earn” circa £8kpa even in a job paying minimum wage (£7.83ph for 2018), means they need to work a sum total of 1021hrs a year (i.e less than 20 hrs a week). Which isn’t exactly a lot of work now is it. If they are unemployed, then they continue to get their unemployment benefits.

        So fundamentally, your point boils down to “they were promised it” by lying politicians. So the country (i.e their children and grandchildren) need to cough up the dosh, even the country is flat broke and up to it’s eyeballs in debt.

        For information, I’m one who has just been told I won’t get my pension till 68, I started working full time at 15, spent 15 years doing hard manual labour and have already paid 30 years worth of NI and will have to carry on paying NI for another 22 years at least.

        In addition to working nearly full time in this industry, I am also primary carer to my disabled wife and autistic son, so in effect work about 80 hrs a week. I fully expect to work myself into an early grave.

        Pray tell me, why me and my son (when he gets old enough) should have to pay more tax, simply so that some people can avoid having to work 20 hrs a week, doing an easy job when they are perfectly capable of doing so, but don’t want to?

        I can only assume that like Jeremy Corbyn, you believe in the magic money tree….

        • Wrong again. I am 63 and was NEVER written to telling me my pension would not be paid until I was 66! I only found out because I wrote for a forecast at the age of 59 and was told I would be waiting another 7years! I had been looking after my grandson from him being a baby, as well as working, since I was 55 and at age 60 I got cancer and because of all my treatment had to give up my job. We do not object to the age being equalised, it was the way it was done to affect only women born between certain years when we have paid in all our lives in spite of,providing care to our own children and now grandchildren (which saves the government paying for childcare) I never got chance of a private pension as men do but paid national insurance from age 16.

          • Well said, Carolyn. I didn’t know until fairly recently, either. It frustrates me no end that some people think we are being selfish, or that we have no cause for complaint or that we think there is a magic money tree… I honestly don’t know what the answer is, though…

  2. I agree with Steve that the focus will start to shift towards women born in the early 60s. However, I disagree with the suggestion that this will strengthen the WASPI campaign (including all 50s campaign groups within that broad heading).

    A large part of the WASPI myth is built on the notion that 1950s women were “targeted” and that they have been the most affected. This doesn’t hold any water as the early 60s women have had more increases (3 compared to 2), and a higher state pension age (67 to maximum of 66).

    Rather than adding to the support, it will probably dilute it due to the inevitable infighting over who has been most affected and who deserves compensation. The £77bn figures for “resolving” the issue start to look like more like £200bn. The dubious notion that any of these campaign groups “support equalisation” starts to look more ridiculous as the issue becomes longer-term about a wider group of women rather than a ring-fenced cohort.

    As with many things, amidst all the myths and distortions there are some genuine issues regarding the state pension that need tackling. As the WASPI campaign becomes increasingly marginalised there can hopefully be proper focus on these issues rather than the noise created by self-interest groups.

    • I understand some of the points you are making, Mick, but I think the use of the word “myth” is harsh. This is one of the “genuine issues” you have referred to their being regarding the state pension and calling the waspi women a self interest group is, as it seems you are doing, is a belittling sneer that they don’t deserve. Of course the are interested in their financial well being. I imagine you are interested in yours as well.

      • It is a myth that 1950s women have been “targeted”. As I’ve posted above, women born in the 1960s have had their state pension age increased on more occasions, and have a longer wait from the state pension age they expected when they started work.

        Rather than this being an issue affecting a narrow cohort of women, in reality every woman born after 1950 and every man born after 1953 has had their state pension age increased. WASPI on the other hand campaign exclusively for women born upto 31st December 1959.

        When you take a universal issue and try to take ownership of it, and then campaign for a solution for yourselves only, that is the dictionary definition of “self-interest”. If pointing out the glaringly obvious is “sneering” then so be it, but it does seem that campaigners are more interested in MPs massaging their egos than they are in hearing anything constructive.

        They’ve been following the same path for the last two and a half years without getting anywhere. Back in 2011, campaigners got a £1.1bn concession within months by having clear, realistic goals that didn’t alienate everyone else.

        Surely the penny has to drop at some point?

        • I stand by my comment that myth is an undeserved term. Saying that a section of the public has been targeted does not mean, by definition, that no other section has been targeted as well, so I don’t see your point there.If 1960’s born women (or men) want to protest their situation they can do so, can’t they? I would probably give them my backing, as well, if I believed the changes were unfair and did not give enough time to prepare for them.

          This country pays lower pensions compared to many others, in Europe, whilst being the fifth or sixth biggest economy in the world (although possibly slipping, somewhat, due to brexit). Let’s face it, the wealthy people in this country keep on getting wealthier and statistics continuously bear that out. It is also clear that the less well off are getting poorer, in real terms. If you think that is the right way to run a rich country then I wonder why.

          • “This country pays lower pensions compared to many others, in Europe, whilst being the fifth or sixth biggest economy in the world (although possibly slipping, somewhat, due to brexit).”

            This has absolutely nothing to do with the generosity of the UK taxpayer towards pensioners. It is because most state pension schemes in Europe are earnings-linked, as the UK one was briefly in the SERPS / S2P era.

            The UK has however rejected the concept of having the rich get better State Pensions than the poor. We save into private pensions instead.

            On a point of information, the UK was the 5th largest economy before it joined the EU and subsequently slipped to 6th. It then moved back up a place in the last couple of decades not because of soaring prosperity, but because of the breakup of the Soviet Union. Where it will go now, who knows. But GDP tables, whether nominal or per capita, have virtually no connection to national wellbeing.

          • @ Patrick

            Waspi claim to have been “singled out”, “unfairly prejudiced” and “hit particularly hard”. This bears no resemblance to reality, hence why it is a myth.

            “Start your own campaign” is a stock Waspi response, which is fair enough if they want to ignore the obvious flaws in their logic and don’t care what anyone else thinks of them.

            As above, they would probably be wise to look at the smaller 2011 group, who achieved far more with far less resource within a far shorter timeframe.

  3. I read the comments from Mr Gafney and Mr Hudson with interest. I am no financial whiz kid but would like to reply from my point of view as a fifties woman. When I started work the small insurance stamp for women was still an option and displays how little regard the government had for women who worked. I did try to save for my later years as the government wanted, bearing in mind that I was forbidden to join a company pension scheme until the late eighties. So for me and most women like me to be told roughly seven years later that my pension date was being delayed, it was devastating. Unusual for a fifties woman, I was aware of the changes, but it was not the DWP who informed me and I suspect I would still be waiting for the DWP to contact me if I wanted clarity regarding my state pension since none of the letters sent stated the recipient’s pension date. The communication was very one sided and obtaining clear information was akin to extracting hen’s teeth. Like Mr Gafney’s mother I worked and raised kids, and in addition I helped my family care for my ageing and infirm parents. Now I look after grandchildren to allow their parents to work because I can see that this generation needs to work to ensure the sustainability of the state pension. So perhaps you can see why women born in the fifties feel that they have been targeted. It is not having to work longer which angers women but the lack or absence of notice. The magic money tree makes its appearance time and time again when government feels it is required but not to alleviate the suffering of female citizens. After George Osborne stated that raising women’s pension age ‘saved more money than anything’ it seemed to confirm to me that women in general and fifties women specifically were targeted. I do not deny that improvements are needed to make the state pension sustainable but successive governments have ignored pleas for compassion from women approaching later life with little or no income. I feel the WASPI campaign will continue with sixties women. I have tried to answer both writers and hope I have succeeded in explaining the issues mentioned by them.

    • Surveys conducted in 2004 by the DWP indicated that 73% of women were aware that state pension age increase. Surveys are just surveys, so if anyone has something more substantive to go on I’m happy to look at that, but in the absence of that we can probably assume that most women were aware and that it certainly wasn’t “unusual”.

      The reference to Osborne underlines the point I’ve been making. He referred to half a trillion savings over 50 years, the majority of which would be at the expense of men and women born in the 60s, 70s and 80s. For some inexplicable reason, some 1950s women are claiming that this is evidence that they were “targeted”.

      I take the point that women are more likely to be the dependent on the state pension for income, and agree that more should be done to help those who are struggling (regardless of age or gender). However, that isn’t what the WASPI campaign is about. They do not prioritise those in need, and have “rejected” affordable suggestions from MPs such as extending pension credit.

      Why would 1960s women come on board when WASPI has specifically excluded them, and repeatedly told them to start their own campaign instead? If 1960s women do indeed “join” WASPI, then surely it becomes less about notice and more about simply not agreeing with equalisation of pension ages?

  4. On the one hand the WASPI campaigners support equalisation, yet are calling for a “bridging pension” to SPA, then full State Pension after that. This is unequal and is simply not going to happen, otherwise the 1960s ladies would be entitled to exactly the same and costs would snowball.

    As a nation we are living longer, retirements lasting decades paid for by the State are completely unaffordable and do not represent the NI contributions paid in, even for those who began work aged 15. The sooner everyone grasps this instead of clinging to the false hope that there will be “compensation” of a monetary amount representing pension that would have been received had SPA remained at age 60, the better for all concerned.

  5. What a load of rubbish I have never heard so much crap in my thirty years of giving financial advice, Retirement income planning , is about maximising your own earnings and investing yourself in various assets upon which you can draw down from as and when required, What stupid comment to make “Its the Employers Contribution” Rubbish, the DB schemes are defunked and corrupt, please explain why do the Public Sector complain about their levels of income so much, pay a proper wage to an employee and let them decide on what they want to invest in. Or are you implying that most of us are unable to look after our own financial affairs. Jargon Free Benefits indeed, you have my name

    • Robert, if you are an IFA I would expect you to have realised that a large proportion of the population are unable to look after their own financial affairs and I don’t think there is any arrogance in my saying that. Unfortunately I have known several advisers that are not even capable of doing so.

  6. Back in the late nineties I attended a meeting at the then regulator on behalf of a national newspaper.

    I suggested that longevity and investment risk should be their sole focus in educating the public – but they chose to continue to be product focussed with publications that had next to zero effect.

    People rarely read or worse comprehend changes such as SPA increases.
    However had they been more attuned to longevity risk then heir receptiveness to changes would most certainly have been heightened.

    Regulators failing to look at matters from the perspective of the people they are expected to protect is at the root of this issue as is the DWPs inability when it mattered to provide the why as well as the what.

    • I agree with you, Robert, as might be surmised from my reply to Robert Milligan. The education, on financial matters and retirement provision, is pathetic in this country and it is no good assuming the every person has the inbuilt capability of working it all out, and it is also unfair to discard those that will never have the capacity to look after themselves. Why do so many people seem to lack compassion for their fellow countrymen and women?

    • Very well said, Patrick. I am a fifties-born woman who will have to wait until I am 66 for my SP, and I was never informed by the DWP and had no idea until quite recently. I have long thought that one of the core subjects in our curriculum should be ‘life skills’ – banking, budgeting, pensions, mortgages, voting, savings, wills, tax… all those essential things we will need to know as we go through life, but which so many of us are indeed woefully unable to get a handle on, for many different and valid reasons. The education system seems to say ‘ we’ll teach you to read and write and do a few sums… if you can afford it you can go to university and learn a bit more (because even with the help/millstone of a student loan it costs money to send your child to university – I speak from experience) – but we won’t teach you about managing money, so good luck with all that!”

  7. I wonder if Mr Barber had any idea of the consequences his claim against GRE would result in? A case determined by the ECJ in 1991 and enforceable on all European member states. Yet the decision was ( as pension was classed as deferred pay) simply about equalisation of retirement ages and not the age itself. It took a while to determine implementation but the UK government understandably used the opportunity to raise the state retirement age (for women) but that was not necessarily followed by occupational schemes, they just needed to equalise. The Government’s failure to communicate the reasoning behind their decision AND lack of fair (minimum 20 years) notice is at the heart of the problem. Of course if this had arisen after 29th March 2019 and not 1991… might there have been a different outcome? As unfit for purpose our current retirement regime may be the last time I looked the private sector pension provision in the UK was double the rest of EU countries combined! Clearly there is an even greater dependence on state pension provision in the EU than here in the UK. How might this play out in the EU’s finances in years to come? Maybe a good enough reason to be leaving the EU in itself?

  8. Were the changes any worse communicated than other fundamental changes to state pensions, for example the move (in several phases) to a flat-rate pension, and the effective abolition of an earnings-related component to state pensions?

    No they weren’t.

    That isn’t to say the changes were well communicated, but to single them out as particularly poorly communicated (as many do), is factually wrong.

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