Pensions And The Highway Robber

Jan Leeming

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Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.



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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

PENSIONS - and the Highway Robber!

Date: 18th April 2010

PENSIONS - and the Highway Robber!

I don't take a paper regularly - what I read almost daily about social injustice, dodgy politicians  and welfare spongers just upsets me and makes me angry.  I take The Week regularly and have done for years - it gives a balanced view of both home and world affairs looking at the scenarios from the Left, the Right and the Centre.

I did buy the Mail on Saturday yesterday (17th April)  because I like the the layout of their Weekend Magazine and can easily pick my way around the generally dismal array of TV programmes.  And now I finally understand about Gordon Brown's plundering of the Private Pensions thanks to an excellent article by Alex Brummer.  Yes, I know that the Mail is very right wing but Mr. Brummer also admits that the Conservatives weren't entirely innocent in that under the Chancellor Norman Lamont, tax credits were reduced on Pension fund dividends, but Brown abolished them entirely.  This was done in secrecy and if Mr. Brummer has his facts correct, even Tony Blair was unaware of the true impact of this 'highway robbery'.

Private Pension schemes were able to plough back their dividends into the Pension funds thus making them more viable especially as the world has changed so dramatically in the last few decades with most of us expecting to live for an average of 20 years after retirement instead of the few years anticipated in the 1950's.

The whole Pensions matter is complex but if you can get hold of Saturday's Mail or even find Alex Brummer's article on line, you will understand it fully.

Let me tell you why I am so interested.  I have to smile when I hear many of today's youth declaring that they want to be 'famous' and many of them equate it with wealth.  Let me tell you there is an upside and a downside to being 'famous' and it doesn't always equate with wealth.  I only wanted to do a job I loved and which paid the mortgage - Fame was a side adjunct I did not expect.

I have loved my working life.  I feel blessed that I have always been pleased to go to work and be paid for something I so enjoyed.  Had my fiancée not died in a car crash I would have remained in Australia and continued working in Theatre - my first love.  However fate decreed otherwise and on returning to the UK my path went in a different direction and that was the 'almost' fledgling television.  I have had great experiences through my life associated with TV.  I've been invited to attend great functions, met and interviewed fascinating people - I've also had the downside of the Press attention which has always attended my unfortunate love life!

But WEALTH - certainly not.  I own a very nice but modest flat in Kent and I don't owe anyone any money.  I actually hope that I do not have the longevity of my family - my father is now 95 and still in relatively good health and with all his mental faculties - my mother is 90 next month and, sadly, is sliding into the twilight world of senile dementia.

I don't want longevity because, unless my beloved son becomes rich (and my family don't seem to have the Midas touch) and can look after me, I would be extremely worried about the long term future.

I didn't choose to be Freelance but the Television Industry does not want Presenters and Front of Camera workers to be on staff.  If they are Freelance then they can be thrown out with the bathwater if the ratings drop or the New Producer wishes to install a Presenter of their own choosing.

For over twenty of my working years I worked on yearly Contracts - this meant that I paid all the PAYE required of me but was not on any Company pension scheme - nor could I claim allowances for genuine working expenses.  I am a cautious Capricornian and knew that I must make allowances for a pension but it wasn't until the early 80's that I actually earned enough to pay the mortgage, the bills and have anything over for putting into a Pension.  Even when I was a National Newsreader for the BBC in 1980 my salary was £10,000 and only rose to £23,500 seven years later.  Hardly a fortune but the big problem was the pension.  I invested in a very nice house in Buckinghamshire and saw my mortgage interest rise to 15% at one stage.  But that house was meant to be a very large chunk of my pension - it had to go when work fell off  in the mid 90's along with the departure of my beloved husband.

However, I did pick up some lucrative Corporate work for several years after leaving the BBC and I saved like mad.   I was persuaded to put my hard-earned savings into the Equitable and over a period of 21 years amassed a 'fortune' of £169,000!  Then in 2001 the Equitable almost collapsed - much of it to do with dear Mr. Brown's abolishing of the tax credits on pensions.  My pension would have been modest in any case but I fought for my rights for seven years and finally my case went to the Ombudsman who ruled in my favour due to mis-selling.  In other words, I didn't understand what I was signing up to nor was the salesman explaining the full implications of everything to do with my pension.   This is all very over-simplified and had I not found a superb Pensions advisor in Nigel Markham in Canterbury, I probably would have given up the fight.  It did cost me and in the end we were both fighting for justice as much as the money. 

And just look at the appalling way in which this Government is dealing with the Equitable Case even though EMAG (the Equitable Members' Action Group) has won in the High Court it's case for compensation.  Even Mr. Cameron has not given his support and an interesting and sad fact is that since the debacle nearly a decade ago approximately 15 would be pensioners have died daily - I was never brilliant at maths but if you take nine years of 365 days and 15 pensioners dying daily, then there are 49,125 people who have never been able to take their full pension rates and what has that saved the Equitable!  (And over the years the Equitable has handed out ridiculously large sums to Non-Executive Directors)

I was finally awarded the maximum sum which the Ombudsman could allow and that was £100,000 which had to go into an Annuity with Canada Life and I now have just over £7,000 a year for life instead of the guaranteed £10 - 12,000 that I should have looked forward to.  I receive a small State Pension and it is far less than many people claim on benefit!!!!

Why am I being so honest with you?  Because I want you not to be swayed by Nick Clegg's apparent charm and vacuous policies, definitely not to vote for the Labour party and to hand the sadly 'poisoned chalice' to the Conservatives. 

I can't wait for next week's instalment from Alex Brummer on the Scandal of the Fat Cat Public Sector Pensions.    No wonder Mr. Brown trebled the number of Public Sector employees - he was engaging the services of yet more people he knows will vote for the Labour Party.  And who is paying for those Public Sector Pensions - you are and I am.

We have a Pensions Time Bomb - I hope I'm not around when it goes off.

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