My thoughts on Pensions

In the newspapers recently there was an article which reckoned that we are the “lucky generation” the ones that could buy our own house and all mod cons and go on holiday and anyone under 40 will be worse off and have to work until they are 81 but there are things the article doesn’t take into consideration. As a postwar 50’s child I do consider myself very lucky that travelling has been my life, however growing up in the 50’s and 60’s in a working class home with just my mum was hardly a bed of roses. We lived in one tiny room in a multi occupied house with a minimal selection of second hand furniture, just a radio, no TV, a few books and hardly any toys. We had no carpet, just lino so I had to learn to be seen and not heard most of the time. Women like me didn’t get the chance of further education, we were expected to work in a low or semi skilled jobs, get married young and have babies which was exactly what I did. We still grew up in a generation believing that a job was for life, that the man was the breadwinner and that if we worked hard we would be rewarded in our old age with a state pension. I was fortunate that I was bright, enterprising and creative so although I was poor I was a hard worker and from the age of 15 I had a holiday job in a bakers at £7.77 a week, yes a whole week, not just one hour.  I was expected to hand over most of my wages for my keep. When I first worked as a travel consultant I supplemented my meagre wage by working in a bar in the evening for £4 a night so 3 days a week I worked from 9am – 12pm. I got married young, took a few years break and then went back to work part time. My husband was a decorator for most of his life but grew up in very similar circumstances to myself with one parent, in one room in the few places that didn’t have a notice in the window “No Blacks, No Irish and No Dogs”. He had the same attitude to school as I did and frequently got into trouble so any opportunity for a decent career was completely lost on him.

The 80’s and 90’s child by contrast according to this report won’t be able to buy a house, they have to work until they die and their selfish parents won’t leave them anything. OK let’s get the record straight here. We weren’t well off by any means and have always lived in social housing and the children’s clothes were often second hand or from the market, but I knew how important education was and all the reasons we hated school, corporal punishment, boring subjects that had no relevance in life and teachers who gave us no self worth or belief. I didn’t want my children to hate school as well so I wanted to take an interest in their education from the start and I tried my best to make learning interesting at home as well as at school.  My dad used to pick up books from boot fairs and jumble sales so they developed a love of books from a really early age. I worked part time which meant only getting one day off in the school holidays so sadly I did have to dump them into play schemes in the holidays but I always made sure that my day off wasn’t wasted. We would always go out somewhere and every year we took them abroad. I wanted to make sure that my children had the right opportunities for a well grounded education and the chance to follow their dreams. They all went to university, my two daughters are married and own their own houses, my son rents a nice flat in the North of England and he has his own business. He works really hard but unlike myself who had a holiday job at 15, his first job apart from the odd bit of work experience was when he left university at 23, a full 8 years later than his mum and probably 10 or 11 years later than his dad who did all sorts of jobs virtually from childhood including working in a scrap yard.

As a woman working part time I did not have the option of paying into a pension until the law changed in 1996. I never realised how useful this would prove to be as I was led to believe that I would get a pension at 60. I was then notified at the age of 57 1/2 that my pension would be deferred for 6 years. Obviously their are thousands of us that have been affected by this and find themselves working in jobs that are too physically demanding for them but they cannot afford to retire as there is no pension for them for 6 years. The carrot was dangled in front of me since I was 15, 43 years of my life juggling work and 3 children waiting for a pension but I am one of the lucky ones. I am self employed and have a work pension. Many women do not have that luxury, maybe they are carers, maybe they took early retirement thinking they would only have to wait a few short years for a pension, maybe they are too ill or disabled to work. At least I have a choice. I think most of us are quite realistic and fully accept that generally women live longer and that if we want equality, we should expect a pension at the same age and that is fair, however it should have been phased in gradually year by year with sufficient notice to make the right plans for our future.

Having a better start in life has at least given at least my own next generation a chance in life, having completely new and exciting job opportunities and a chance to earn a decent wage. Technology has been very much a part of the lives and they have embraced the opportunity to create their own individual niches, so without a doubt they will have to prepare for their futures, but they they have been give over 20 years to prepare for their futures and to be fair their jobs are mentally rather than physically demanding so they can adapt and tweak their ways of working to suit themselves however, the prospect of working until they are 80 is also unrealistic, They simply are not enough jobs for the over 50’s. It is laughable that working for life is seen by this government as their path to the future. I don’t think I’m past it, far from it but the workforce needs to have a balance, not be run by decrepit 80-year olds that are forced to work. What hope does an 18 year old in a soul destroying job have? Prison perhaps? We need to create exciting opportunities for the under 25’s, a proper pension plan for and hope for the future for men and women and those from disadavantaged backgrounds.

This government have not just robbed me of £35,000 worth of pension that I was promised for over 40 years, they have also destroyed hope for future generations. Well done David Cameron, you can guess where my vote’s going.

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