Live to work or work to live? Norfolk works beyond state pension age

Joan and Norman Fletcher of Stonehouse Stores. 
Picture: Steve Parsons. Joan and Norman Fletcher of Stonehouse Stores. Picture: Steve Parsons.

Saturday, August 16, 2014
12:15 PM

Whether you are living to work, or working to live, thousands more people in our region are still toiling well beyond the state pension age.

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Ian Warren, lead board member for Norfolk KnowledgeIan Warren, lead board member for Norfolk Knowledge

Last year, in the East of England, 121,000 people over the age of 65 were working.

Far from retiring early in the East, the number of people between the age of 50 and 64 who are working is the highest in the UK, at 72.2%.

Insurance firm LV=, which has done its own survey showing that working for longer was becoming the norm, said it was clear from its study that many people were now taking a more gradual approach to retirement, slowly cutting back on their working hours rather than stopping altogether.

Only around a third of those at state retirement age were not working at all, with many others working part-time or taking on consultancy or voluntary work, it found.

Still working at 83

Norman Fletcher starts work at 4am each morning when the Eastern Daily Press arrives at Fletchers newsagent in Ormesby St Margaret.

And he sometimes doesn’t finish work until 6.30pm.

He has been running his business with his wife, Joan, for 47 years, and said that he had to continue working – the competition from others selling newspapers in the village means that his businesses does not have the custom it used to.

“We do not make enough money for us to retire. We own our premises, but that is not enough to keep me going,” he said.

If he were to retire, he is not sure what he would do with the extra time.

“I have always known working seven days a week,” he added. “I am quite happy though,” he said.

YOUR RIGHTS

• You might decide that you don’t want to stop working when you reach State Pension age. If you do, you’ll no longer have to pay National Insurance.

• The law protects you against discrimination if you’re over State Pension age and want to stay in your job or get a new one.

‘I hated every moment of my three weeks in retirement’

Ian Warren, who is the lead board member of Norfolk Knowledge, moved up to the country three years ago to retire after a career as a chartered accountant.

“I spent three weeks in retirement and I hated every moment of it. You still have an active mind and an active personality and there was no one to interact with.”

The 67-year-old also said that we had to think about what impact our longer lives would have on the pensions and benefits set up.

“My main motivation, and the motivation of my colleagues is that we do not want to act old. We want to pass on our experience and challenges. We have all made mistakes. It would be nice to try and stop others going through the same pain.”

There are about 30 senior business professionals who are retired, semi-retired, or who have time available who choose to help small to medium businesses, as well as third sector organisations through the various challenges that they may face.

• There is no official retirement age and you usually have the right to work as long as you want to.

• There are, however, some circumstances when employers may have the right to set a compulsory retirement age that they choose.

• Your employer can’t make you redundant because of your age.

• When applying for a new job you don’t have to give your date of birth if you don’t want to and employers can’t ask you to give this information.

• Employers also can’t set an age limit for a job, unless they can justify it (eg because of certain physical abilities) or it’s a limit set by law (eg for the fire service).

This increased work could partly be down to huge advances in medicine over the last few decades.

According to official projections around one in three babies born in 2013 will live to celebrate its 100th birthday.

The total number of centenarians is projected to rise from 14,000 in 2013 to 111,000 in 2037.

And almost 85,000 people, (31,000 men and 54,000 women) aged 65 in 2013 are expected to celebrate their 100th birthday in 2048.

Tracey Howard, international trade director at Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said that while there was always a strong emphasis on young people getting into work, especially at this time of year with the GCSE and A Levels results coming out, some of the traditional manufacturing businesses that she dealt with had a diverse age range of staff working for them.

“The experienced staff reaching their state retirement age do not always want to leave as soon as they’ve reached that point, and are more than happy to stay on for as long as it takes, whilst they fully train younger staff to take over the role.

“I also know people who are taking slightly early retirement to begin their own consultancy firms,” she said.

“In Norfolk, we often hear about the lack of skilled people, but with so many businesses now looking for young apprentices, it makes sense that these youngsters learn the skills from the older generation who have a wealth of knowledge and experience, as they will learn so much more than any training course can teach them.”

But staff at Age UK Norfolk suggested it was not always a positive choice.

Lin Mathews, information and advice manager, said, “We are seeing an increase in the number of older people contacting our advice line as they are having to continue working after retirement age because they cannot afford to retire.

“This may be because their pension is not worth as much as they had anticipated or the high cost of living. They want to know how working beyond retirement age will affect their pensions or benefit entitlements and we are able to assist them with that.”

Labour peer Baroness Hollis, a former work and pensions minister, said it was essentially the “wealthy and unhealthy” who retired before 65 – the wealthy because they could, and the disabled older people because they must.

The former Norwich City Council leader said: “Those men who do work past retirement age, seldom work for more than a year or 18 months longer. It should be about choice, what works for each individual or couple and that depends on their health and their personal and financial circumstances.

“But what is clear is that employers must continue to invest in training for older staff if people are to continue working longer.”

She said women often kept working until their husband was 65, and they retired together, but women were much more likely than men to be working part time, so could often (and want to) continue this level of work for longer.

She also said people who were self-employed were more likely to continue to work beyond state pension age, people in heavy manual labour often retired, and needed to, earlier, and they also died early.

• What do you think? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk

5 comments

  • Harry. Yes Gordon Brown did mess up big time but unfortunately final salary schemes have come to an end because they are unaffordable. People are living much longer in retirement than final salary schemes were ever designed for. Hence they have nearly all been withdrawn or for those that continue to exist the percentage that employees are having to pay into their schemes is becoming extortionate. Fireman for example will in future be paying I believe 14% of their gross pay and they won`t be able to take their pensions until they are 60. We do however have the ludicrous situation with many pensioners who have not provided for their retirement getting all sorts of top ups and benefits that leave them better off than someone who has retired with a small private pension which together with their state means they do not get any help. Life is not fair, but there is little we can do about it.

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    BG

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