Penalised for Raising Children; A New Report Says the Baby-Boom Generation Is Worried about Its Pensions. Jane Hall Reports

The Birmingham Post (England), April 15, 2006 | Go to article overview

Penalised for Raising Children; A New Report Says the Baby-Boom Generation Is Worried about Its Pensions. Jane Hall Reports


Byline: Jane Hall

Ann Willers is a fully signed up member of the last generation that will enjoy a fruitful old age.

A former primary school teacher, the 58-year-old took early retirement two years ago and is enjoying reaping the benefits of her occupational pension scheme.

Or so the headlines would have us believe. For while the mother of three and her husband Stephan, also 58, a retired chartered accountant, are indeed enjoying having escaped the rat race, Ann's Teachers' Pension Scheme is failing to live up to expectations.

And the reason is simple. While Ann started teaching at the age of 22, like many women in the 1970s and 1980s, she gave up work to raise her children - Catherine, now 30, James, 29, and Helen, 25.

Altogether - taking her early retirement into account, a period spent teaching abroad and the time she devoted to being a stay-at-home mother - she has lost 21 years of paying towards both her state and personal pension.

Thanks to her husband's pension, Ann says: "We are not on the breadline, we are comfortable."

But she feels she could be in a better position financially, and believes her children - despite the current concerns about Britain's ailing pensions system and how well it will be able to meet the needs of today's young people in the future - will enjoy a better standard of living than her and Stephan in their twilight years.

"I have been penalised for not working, for when the kids were small, and that really annoys me," Ann says. "You think you are doing the right thing staying at home and looking after your children, but then you find you have lost out on your pension.

"But 30 years ago that is what women did, they didn't go back to work as women do now. I do feel very strongly, however, that women now are missing out on their kids early life. The current economic climate forces woman back to work."

Ann will qualify for her state pension next year "and my bus pass," she adds with a laugh.

She believes her generation has suffered all their lives from being the so-called "baby boomers" born after the Second World War.

"There are so many of us, and if we do go on and live for a long time there is going to be a problem with our pensions being able to keep us.

"On the one hand, we have benefited from being the first generation to inherit our parents' estate. Before that families had little to pass on. But we have benefited from inherited wealth.

"Similarly, our children's generation will hopefully benefit in the same way.

"But our children are also growing up in an age where pensions are very high profile. All my kids have already started funding pensions, which we didn't do with such serious intentions at their age.

"In our day you just assumed you would be taken care of in old age. But things have changed. I think my kids are going to have to work longer, which I think is terribly unfair, but I do believe they are going to have a more financially secure retirement."

Ann's views are mirrored in a new report from Alliance Trust Savings, which reveals young people are nearly twice as likely to think they will have a good standard of living when they stop work as those approaching retirement.

Nearly two-thirds of people of working age said they thought their retired relatives were well off, while 57 per cent expected their own standard of living during retirement to be the same or better.

But while 71 per cent of people under 35 thought they would equal their retired relatives' standard of living, just 38 per cent of baby-boomers over 55 felt the same way.

Hyman Wolanski, head of pensions at Alliance Trust Savings, says: "Economists have long predicted that the baby-boomers will be one of the most comfortably off generations in recent history, but this sunny outlook has clearly not filtered through to those approaching retirement.

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