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Provided by Mae Stewart, Editor UNISON Retired members Newsletter, Dundee, Perth and Angus.
Please note that this is not definitive information about benefits but will provide a signpost as to where to get up to date information. Please check the sources first. UNISON Scotland can take no responsibility for information that may be outdated or inaccurate.

Issue 55 October 2014

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Pension Changes and Keeping Warm in Winter

The pensions landscape is undergoing radical changes following the Chancellor’s 2014 Budget announcements.

Age UK has broadly welcomed the changes, but additional measures are needed to ensure the reforms work effectively for everyone. This includes a challenge to the financial services industry to develop better financial products and services to help people make the most of their retirement savings throughout later life.

From next April, anyone aged 55 or over with a Defined Contribution (DC) pension will be able to access their pension flexibly. There will no longer be an obligation to buy an annuity. Accompanying this will be a guidance guarantee to help people navigate their retirement income options before they make any decisions.

The flipside of greater freedom of choice is greater responsibility. People will need to make decisions about their retirement options that will impact the financial security of the rest of their lives. This is likely to require higher levels of financial capability.

As well as thinking about what retirement lifestyle can be afforded, those retiring with DC pensions may need to navigate more complex decisions based on their risk appetite. This will include knowing which retirement income products or combination of products will be suitable, associated tax implications and when to make these decisions. Anyone needing to make decisions in 2015 is likely to find it particularly difficult as the pensions market will be evolving.

The success of the guidance guarantee will be crucial to equipping people with the skills and knowledge to make complex financial decisions, and bolster their financial resilience. It will also require clear signposting and referrals to more specialist help, for example if people have debts. In addition, to protect those not in a position to proactively manage their retirement savings well, we are interested in how defaults could be built into products and services to prevent significantly adverse financial outcomes.
In June 2014, Age UK launched Financial resilience in later life, our report setting out Age UK’s roadmap for industry, government and regulators to improve the financial resilience of our ageing society.

The report’s conclusions are especially timely given the impending pension reforms. It is the culmination of our Financial Services Commission, jointly chaired by the Chief Executives of Age UK and the Chartered Insurance Institute. We ran a series of summit events to engage senior leaders from the financial services industry, the government, consumer groups and regulators to discuss the key issues facing older people and money, and to develop potential solutions.

Among the report’s recommendations, are calls for ‘u-shaped’ products and services that support our longer, more complex lives and variable spending patterns. To ensure that product innovation works in the interests of consumers, especially in light of the reforms, the report calls for financial services to be more honest and transparent about products, particularly around investment returns. It’s equally important that any associated guidance or advice highlights the potential longevity of retirement and spending patterns over time.

Post-2015, Age UK recommends a cross-government-commissioned review into the long-term savings and pension income market to develop a more coherent retirement policy. This would also serve as an opportunity to review the impact of the pension reforms on industry behaviour and assess whether the reforms protect consumer interests.

The Government, society and individuals all need to play their part in preparing for and maintaining a decent standard of living in later life. The financial services industry has a pivotal role to play in engaging with individuals and delivering solutions that enable people to build up and maintain their financial resilience throughout later life.

Keeping Warm in Winter

Make yourself warmer

Wear several thin layers, rather than one thick layer. This is because they trap warm air close to the body.

Go for clothes made from wool, cotton or fleecy fabrics, if possible
Draw your curtains, as soon as it gets dark to stop the heat escaping and the draughts coming in

Keep any windows and internal doors closed when it’s cold – this will keep heat inside, where you most need it

Your body keeps warm by burning food you've eaten, so make sure you have regular hot meals that contain carbs, such as potatoes, pasta, bread and rice. Try porridge with hot milk for breakfast and soups and stews for lunch and dinner.

If you’re sitting down, a shawl or blanket will provide extra warmth. You should also try to keep your feet up, because air is cooler at ground level.
Wear warm clothes in bed. When it’s really cold, wear thermal underwear, bed socks and even a hat. 

Some longer-term things you can do to help ward off the winter chill
Have your heating system serviced and chimney swept
Check your water stopcock is working properly
Get a keyhole cover – it should only cost a couple of pounds and will help keep the draughts out in cold weather.
Fit thermal linings to your curtains if you can – this will also help to keep the heat in

Check out the benefits and grants available to help with insulation and energy efficiency, such as cavity wall insulation
Find out more about help you could get with heating costs

Other ways to keep the fuel bills down
Turn off lights when you’re not in the room
Don’t leave electrical items, like the TV and DVD player, on standby – switch them off.
Only boil as much water in a kettle as you need.
Use a 30°C programme on your washing machine
Turn off any electrical chargers once your appliance is at full power, such as a laptop or mobile phone.
Don’t block your radiators – it cuts the heat they give out
If you have a dishwasher, fill it fully before using it, so it’s more energy efficient.

What to stock up on:

If you can afford it, you’ll feel more relaxed if you stock up for the winter months. Try to have a store of these, in case you have trouble getting out of the house.
Batteries for your smoke alarm
Salt or sand for icy steps and pathways
Tinned fruit and veg – it’s just as nutritious as the fresh kind
Cold and flu medicines, as well as any repeat prescriptions
Pasta and rice will last through the winter months, so stock up now.

If in doubt call Age UK Advice for free advice on any of the above on:
0800 169 65 65

Most information given in this newsletter is, in the main, provided by Age Scotland, and Age UK; who covers Ireland Wales; England; and Scotland.
However some information given by Age UK can vary in Scotland.
If in doubt I would suggest you call Age Scotland first; to see whether a particular service is applicable to you.
You can contact Age Scotland on:

Age Scotland General Enquiries:   0845 833 0200
Causewayside House, 160 Causewayside, Edinburgh. EH9 1PR


www.ageuk.org.uk/scotland or www.ageuk.org.uk
(Apologies to Age Scotland for any mis-quotes in this information) 
Mae Stewart


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