Why is Mr Osborne trusting me with my money?

Good news, apparently: we can all be a bit more reckless in our retirement

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The Independent Online

So, the Chancellor caught us napping. By relaxing the rules on pension pots and effectively removing the requirement to take out an annuity, he’s given “silver savers” the freedom to go on a massive spending binge.

Er, I confess, I’m one of them. For the past few years now I’ve pretended to ignore the promotional literature from developers of retirement homes aimed at the “over-50s”. The idea of living in a complex with a bunch of geriatrics and a warden across the way in case we can’t get out of the bath simply is not me. No thank you.

I’m in denial, of course. I can kid myself as much as I like but I’ve reached that age where the conversation turns to fitness, diet, and, heaven help us, urine flow. It did, recently, in the pub. Two of my tennis-playing pals displayed a  startling fascination with their pee, how strong was the gush, the colour, and how many times they went in the night. What’s more, they  were happy to share this knowledge over a few pints of IPA.

They’re a bit older than me but not by much. I’m 54, and next year I will be able to draw down my pension and spend, spend, spend. I’d already started to think about the future before George Osborne made his Budget speech. Mail had started to arrive persuading me to choose a certain annuity. But I also knew I could take some but not all of my pension in one go, although if I did I would be clobbered for tax.

Then, George says forget all that, you can do what you want. Of course, it was a cynical election ploy, aimed at wooing those middle-aged and elderly (it makes me weep as I write that word, including myself among them) with savings, many of whom Osborne and his advisers will reckon to be natural Tory voters.

The Chancellor provided for them, just as he thought he was doing for the working classes with his cut in bingo tax and a penny off a pint of beer. The fact the latter showed just how out of touch he and his colleagues are with modern Britain (presumably he wanted to give free flat caps, ferrets, pickled eggs and bags of chips for all but was prevented from doing so) does not concern me right now.

Thanks to his decision to try to grab the comfy slippers vote, I find myself facing a critical decision: to play safe or cash in; to stick or twist.

I’m hopeless when it comes to money. The only time in my life when I had a dollop of cash that I could invest or use to splash out, I went and paid off part of my mortgage. Dear reader, I lost my nerve. There I was with thoughts of buying a bolt-hole in the West Country or the South of France, and when push came to shove, I handed it over to the bank.

Yes, I knew that mortgage borrowing was cheap and I was on a good deal, but I did not like the debt hanging over me, so I chose to reduce it. Bonkers, and cowardly. I’ve always been full of admiration for those who can risk everything. Even if they come a cropper, there’s a part of me that continues to applaud them for having a go.

They’re the ones who, when we were kids, would pile up the streets and hotels on the Monopoly board. Meanwhile, I was trying to play safe by hoping to collect the utilities or stations, and invariably failing.

Until this week’s Budget, I did not have to think. I was going to sign up to an annuity, same as everybody else in my position; then moan about it, same as everybody else in my position.


Now, George is forcing me to not only think but worry. Surely, the daftest thing I’ve read it is that he believes it will be okay if we all squander the loot because the Government provision is so much better than it was so we won’t be consigned to miserable poverty in our old age. He can’t be serious about that?

Perhaps he is. In a Britain where one of the two sources of growth – investment and consumer spending – has all but dried up, he does not mind if pensioners go on a splurge. At  least their money will be going somewhere, and will give the economy a kick.

What’s likely to occur is that they opt for items that continue to give them income, at a better rate than  if they stuck with annuities. Top of the list is bound to be buy-to-let. Don’t be surprised, though, if  alternative investment managers come knocking.

From exhorting us to be risk-averse – after all, it was not long ago that the rule came in requiring us to possess annuities because the Government did not trust us with our money – the Chancellor has now gone to the opposite extreme. It’s a bizarre flip, and one he may live to regret if nest-eggs vanish and, despite what he says, many are left with only the state pension to fall back upon.

I’m feeling tense and I’m not even there yet. My heart is thumping, my blood pressure is rising, merely at the thought of having to make up my mind, and getting it wrong.

Still, if it means the chat over the beers is of speculative property deals, landlord and tenant law, rental yields, protected rights, furnished or non-furnished, then I’m up for it – anything is better than streams of wee and  enlarged prostates.