Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Grey benefits

One of the more positive aspects of reaching 60 in July will be the financial entitlements I'll get at that point, or progressively thereafter.

The ones that will chiefly affect me are:

# Free NHS prescriptions. Which in my case means that Instead of buying an annual Prepayment Certificate for £104, I pay nothing. This doesn't sound a lot, but it pays for ten nights' site charges if away in the caravan, at an average cost of £10 per night. Or two weeks' diesel for Fiona, if simply pottering around Sussex. That's well worth having.

# I can apply for an annual Senior Railcard, which costs £28. This is is valid nationwide, and gives me one third off rail fares on most trains except early-morning commuter trains in south-east England. The snag here is that I live in south-east England, and so lower-cost access to the only likely destination - London - is denied, unless I accept a late-morning arrival there, which restricts what I might wish to do on a day visit. Another thing: I always buy a Day Travelcard, and one third off that would be about £7. So I'd need to make four trips to London in twelve months just to break even. Looking ahead, only two essential trips are on the horizon. And while I enjoy cultural events and exhibitions, I find London tiring and expensive, and so I'm rarely tempted to visit the place if I don't have to. Anywhere else, I vastly prefer to drive. As was the case when I visited Cambridge for the day early last year. So buying a Senior railcard not only wouldn't make me any better off compared to now: it might actually turn out to be a waste of money.

# When my State Pension begins in November 2014 - wheeeee, it's now less than three years ahead! - I can apply for a free bus pass, and travel on local buses anywhere in England for nothing. But then, I hardly ever use buses, partly because I have to walk over a mile to take an hourly express bus into Brighton, and the only other hourly bus easily available trundles between places that I can reach in the car in a fraction of the time. So there's no day-to-day saving here. Buses are no good if you have a heavy shopping basket or two, or want to get somewhere and back again during the evening. They're all right for city dwellers, but we country folk need our own wheels. But I will apply for a bus pass, just for the odd occasion, such as popping into central Brighton when Fiona has her annual service at Portslade. Or if bussing out to some place that I'm walking back from, for the sake of exercise.

# When I'm aged 65 in July 2017 - still a long way off - there's an Income Tax advantage: my tax-free personal allowance increases by about £3,000, meaning that I will pay £600 less tax a year. £12 a week. All my annual caravanning site costs covered, and a bit in hand! Not bad at all.

All said, though, I won't be getting many useful perks!

The State Pension, when I get it, won't be any kind of freebee. It was paid for. A few years back, when I retired, I worked out that from 1970 to 2005 I'd paid about £170,000 in Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions - which is worth something like £250,000 if each year's involuntary donation is adjusted to 2012 values. Plus interest, if the government invested this wisely. A nice little pot from which to dole out a few medicines on the NHS, because that's all I ever took in those 35 working years. OK, I'd also helped to support the entire cost of a civilised society, and stumped up for a few wars, and funded bungled computer schemes, and handouts to businesses who took the money and ran. So I suppose there might not be be all that much of my £250,000 left. But you take my point: this is no free gift from the government. And it's 34 months away. forgotten about for the present.

Then there's another thing entirely. Do I really want to admit that I've got a Senior Railcard when some forty-something person comes up to me and is plainly attracted?

God. Two dilemmas now. One: admitting that I'm trans, or not. Two: admitting that I'm old enough to be his or her mother, or not.



  1. So no need to bring my bus pass whenever I come to visit...

    Interesting how people react when you are receiving some service provided by government funds as off you are stealing it from the general population when as you have pointed out it can be a very small proportion of the contributions you have already made!

  2. They may seem like handouts to be sure but like you say, we've earn ed them! I was entitled to get a bus/rail pass six years ago but didn't bother until three years ago and I am glad I did. I seldom use the train and less so the bus and although they cannot be used before 9.30 in the morning they can still be useful. I am presently
    buying my ticket to get to Liverpool for my jury service and I use the card pass for the return journey but in this case all my expenses are paid for anyway. If I want to go to Liverpool for a day out it then becomes an advantage having one. Remember that when I finally hand in my drivers licence (hopefully not for a long while yet), the pass, if it is still available will be very useful should I wish to travel. I was very fortunate to receive all my benefits when I became 60, six years ago but the Government in their infinite wisdom have moved the goalposts trying to save money and now some of those, if not all of those benefits cannot be received until one is older. I say get what you can out of the system whilst you still are able.

    Shirley Anne xxx


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