/ Money

Are today’s pensioners really the ‘golden generation’?

Old woman walking into distance

A new report from Age UK has reignited the debate about how easy life is for pensioners. With today’s meagre state pensions, high inflation and rubbish savings interest rates, are pensioners that well off?

The Age UK research, which is part of a campaign to help people access the £5.4 billion in unclaimed pensioner benefits each year, paints a grim picture.

Nearly half of pensioners say they are just ‘getting by’, with one in ten claiming that they’re really struggling.

The majority of pensioners live on low-to-middle incomes and are being squeezed by rising food and energy costs. So if you’re a pensioner, it’s likely that you’re cutting back on your heating, going out less and buying cheaper food.

Easy? You’re having a laugh

Previously we put forward the idea that perhaps ‘pensioners have got it easy’, following the publication of a report by the Institute of Economic Affairs. The report, ‘Sharing the burden – How the older generation should suffer for its share of the cuts’, suggested that older people enjoy a privileged position and shouldn’t be exempt from cuts.

This provoked a strong response from most of you. Many were keen to point out that the current state pension is inadequate, and that you’d already paid your dues over the years, making any free benefits (bus passes or TV licenses) well and truly earned.

Age UK’s findings seem to support this and dispels the notion that today’s retired are some sort of ‘golden generation’. The idea was that people who retired 10 or more years ago were beneficiaries of generous final salary pensions, high annuity rates and buoyant investments.

But although it’s fair to say that many pensioners do have enough money to survive and can even help out their children and grandchildren, most aren’t in such a privileged position.

The moral dilemma

Is there also a moral question here? Many older people will have worked all their lives, paying tax and National Insurance. Yet, in return, they’re receiving one of the lowest state pensions in Europe.

Other European countries have a culture where they cherish and look after their elderly citizens, making them the priority, rather than creating a situation where they are financially excluded and isolated within society.

So, without making generalisations, are pensioners fair game to absorb the many cuts being implemented by the government? Or are they struggling enough already and even require more help from those currently in work?

This latest report would seem to suggest that if you’re a pensioner, you’re probably living on the breadline. So, in my view, we should be doing more to make your later years as comfortable as possible.

evie says:
18 April 2011

Once again, this is a broad generalisation – yes, there are pensioners who struggle to make ends meet, just as there are young singles, parents, middleaged couples who also struggle. Simply being over 60 , or over 65 or any other arbitrary age, should not mean that we are automatically shielded from the cutbacks which will affect all other sections of the population.The older generation may indeed have worked hard, but who is to say that the younger will not be working equally as hard over their lifetimes? Like it or not, we ARE all in this together, and there is little point in comparing one age group with another – comparing one income group with another would make more sense.

Ann says:
19 April 2011

I’d like to see you manage on £95/week state pension. The problem with todays generation is they’ve become selfish and entrapped in a world where materialism means everything. Lets get back to basics and make family the No1 priority.


I am a recently retired 66 and receive my basic state pension of £102.15 per week. I listened to the warnings and made separate pension provisions many years ago. Because of this I was contracted out of additional State Pension I receive only the basic State Pension. Post 65 my tax code rose from 645 to 949 but it was a shock to realise that because the State pension is delivered free of tax the tax code was reduced to 418 to take account of that pension.My code was further reduced to take account of my other pension.
I am now operating with a tax code that is much lower than that which applied when I was in employment.
It is true what they say about death and taxes and the former seems to be the only way to escape the latter


Your tax code has changed, but this doesn’t directly affect the amount of tax you pay. The state pension is taxable, but this tax is deducted from your other private pensions rather than from your state pension. Hence the lower tax code that is applied to other pension income.

What I think is a bigger issue, and blatantly unfair, is the gradual removal of age-related allowance over a certain income (£24,000 in 2011/12). This unfairly penalises many over-65s who have paid into a company or private pension.

Martin Scherer says:
20 April 2011

Spare a thought for the self-employed owners of micro-businesses. Their pensions rely in part on the sale of their business and/or premises on retirement. Many such businesses have been destroyed by recession and property values decimated. Many will now be forced to work on for another ten years or survive on the meagre state pension.

Anyone contemplating self-employment or starting a micro-business should think twice, yet these are the businesses the UK will rely upon to emerge from recession.


The trouble is that pensioners like me have a fixed income and many due to the infirmaty of age do not have the option of seeking work as other age groups have. We are stuck with low income and rising prices with no possible way out,


I am a pensioner, aged 88. Everyone on a tight budget has to cut back on heating, going out less and buy cheaper foof. Why should pensioners not also have to do this?


I’m 80 – and my £102 does not leave me money to cut back without serious hardship I was already below the poverty line – I paid every penny in income tax and National Insurance asked – for a living pension – not a starvation fee.

Larna says:
20 April 2011

A very small percentage increase annually on a very small pension equates to next to nothing, and yet bills and food rise way beyond. Each year a pensioner’s income pays for less.
We do have one of the lowest state pensions in Europe.
Tomorrow’s pensioners will indeed have paid their taxes the same as today’s pensioners, but they will receive much higher pensions from which current pensioners are exempt.
I agree that many of us do not have the option of working to supplement income due to the infirmity of old age.
Pensioners in this Country must be finding it increasingly difficult, and are worried that income is falling behind rising costs. Unless they are amongst the lucky few that have large private pensions as well as savings and investments.