Pension problems?

Amanda looks at the state of her pension – and it’s not too good…


I’m getting slightly panicky about pensions. The papers are full of talk about freeing up pensions and recycling pensions.

I don’t pretend to understand it all, but I’m determined to find out before I wake up one day and discover not only that I haven’t got one, but that it’s too late to start saving for one. I’ve never been one of those superior types who rolls her eyes at the very mention of pensions, because, as my dad used to say, there are plenty of things that are more boring than pensions, and two of them are being old and poor.

So, with that in mind I am going to face my demons, and go through my post and my emails. According to a recent survey, 13% of us not only ignore brown envelopes but have adapted to ignoring emails and texts from the bank too. I fear I am firmly in that 13 per cent, burying my virtual head in the virtual sand.

Next I’m going to take my courage in my hand and ring The Pensions Advisory Service to find out whether I can or should top up my pension contributions by the end of the tax year on April 5. I’m also going to check with HM Revenue and Customs to find out whether there are any embarrassing gaps in my National Insurance contributions. Although I don’t think I have ever really stopped working for more than a couple of months since I was pregnant with our first baby, Ella, 22 years ago, I’m not sure whether my National Insurance contributions are up to date. I’ve also got a funny feeling that I opted out of SERPs (the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme) years ago – I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t understand it now, but once I’ve spoken to the Pension Advisory Service perhaps I will, and if so I will report back.

At the moment I pay into one private pension and one work pension and I have two dormant work pensions which between them will give me about £500 a year. It’s all a bit depressing, but I know that it will be even more depressing in a few years time, when everyone else is cashing in their pensions to buy a Jag and mine won’t even cover the cost of a motorised unicycle to enable me to embarrass my grandchildren on the school run.

Amanda Blinkhorn is a freelance journalist who has been writing about money, family life and everything in between since she was 19.

She blogs here almost every day and writes the Money Matters finance column in Candis magazine as well as for The Sunday Times and other newspapers and magazines. She lives in London with her four children aged between 8 and 19. She has almost finished training to be an adult literacy teacher and will qualify this summer, if she ever finishes those pesky essays.

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