LOW levels of savings will condemn many to finance problems, reports Jeff Salway
One in six Scots will fall below the poverty line after they have retired, according to a report detailing increased dependency on the state pension north of the Border.
Low levels of savings will condemn many pensioners in Scotland to a retirement blighted by financial difficulties, a leading insurer has warned after revealing the alarming results of an annual benchmark survey.
One in ten Scots approaching retirement has no private pension to fall back on, the Prudential’s Class of 2013 research found. The lack of savings means that the state pension will account for more than a third of retirement income for those Scots ending their working lives in 2013. One in seven will rely entirely on the state pension, Prudential estimated.
Many believe the state pension is more generous than it really is. More than one in six Scots quizzed by the insurer admitted they didn’t know how much the state pension was worth, even though they were on the brink of retirement, while more than a fifth overstated it by an average of £600 a year.
The basic state pension is currently £110.15 a week (£176.15 a week for couples) and can be topped up with pension credits. That system will be replaced in 2016 by a universal flat rate pension worth around £144 a week.
The change comes alongside reforms to the state pension age that mean millions will have to work for longer before they can claim their pension. The state pension age is already increasing for women, who are three times more likely than men to retire without any private savings, the research found.
The reforms will come too late for many Scots who will reach their state pension age this year with little or no pension provision.
The Prudential estimated that 16 per cent of Scots retiring in 2013 will have an income that is below the poverty line, defined by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation as being less than £8,254 a year for a single pensioner.
Vince Smith-Hughes, retirement income expert at Prudential, said: “Against a backdrop of rising living costs, the basic state pension alone is not nearly enough to provide a comfortable standard of living. While it’s a very valuable source of additional income for millions of pensioners, the state pension should ideally only represent a part of someone’s retirement income, not all of it.”
The study was published days after Smart Money reported that pensioners in Scotland owe almost £20 billion in mortgages, credit cards, loans and other debts. Four in ten retirees north of the Border are in debt by an average of £17,900, according to research by MGM Advantage.
And the outlook for pensioners in Scotland will only become more bleak without a dramatic shift in attitudes, warned Carl Melvin, director and chartered financial planner at Affluent Financial Planning in Paisley.
“The UK Government has to disavow people of the notion that the state pension will be enough to live on – we need straight talking from the Government and no punches pulled,” he said.
“Tell the public the truth and hit them between the eyes, otherwise people will not act. There needs to be a catalyst.”