Fatties sought for a special pension

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Throw away the bathroom scales and tuck into huge bags of chips and six pints of beer a night instead - you could be in for a bigger pension when you retire.

That was the message to Britain's fatties yesterday by one insurance company, which is offering special rates to those who are obese, diabetic and have high blood pressure or raised cholesterol levels.

The deal, by Stalwart Assurance, would give a person with a mixture of these conditions an increase in their annual retirement pay of up to 10 per cent.

For a 60-year-old man with a retirement pot of pounds 50,000, the pension payout would be pounds 5,661 a year, giving an extra income of about pounds 8 a week compared to Stalwart's nearest competitor.

The snag is that the only reason why the company is prepared to pay more to those with weight-related problems is because they are likely to die sooner than their fit counterparts.

Stalwart's new pension for the overweight follows hard on the heels of a similar one it launched for smokers last year, in which they too were offered an uplift in their payouts if they were confirmed addicts of the demon weed.

Since the smokers' scheme was rolled out in September, the Dorking-based company has recorded a four-fold increase in new business.

Mike Fuller, managing director at Stalwart, said he expected substantial growth in the wake of its new initiative.

Mr Fuller rejected suggestions that offering a pension to obese people might remove the incentive to get fitter and encourage them to remain as they were.

In most instances, applicants were overweight for genuine medical reasons, he said, and were unlikely to become slimmer whatever the potential health benefits.

"We are simply reversing the principle that people with lifestyles that may reduce their life expectancy have to pay higher premiums for life assurance," he said.

"There is no reason why this same group of people should not have this taken into account when they buy their pension.

"If, on average, they are likely to have a slightly shorter life expectancy, it follows they should receive a higher pension each year to compensate."

To qualify for this increased annuity, or annual retirement income, applicants must be at least 25 per cent over the average weight for their height and have other predisposing conditions which could shorten their lives.

Typically, a woman who is 5ft 4ins tall would be expected to carry about 35lbs more than the 10 stone usually cited as being at the upper limit of "normal" weight. A 6ft man would have to weigh about 45lbs more than a normal 13 stone.

Further joys are in sight for the terminally unfit.

Within the next few months, Stalwart is planning to combine its two schemes, so that overweight cigarette smokers gain from a doubled up-rating of their pensions.

Even more benefits could soon follow for those whose very poor health makes them likely candidates for an extremely short retirement, Mr Fuller added.