George Osborne is set to bring good news for pensioners in this weeks' Budget. Perhaps its no surprise that pensioners (the Conservative Party's most reliable voters) have escaped much of the pain in previous Budgets. However, this Budget could actually bring good news for this group.
The overhauling of the pension and care systems are going to be more generous, and are going to come far sooner than was expected.
The shake-up to pensions was already on the cards. The introduction of the flat-rate state pension in 2017 has been widely publicised - along with plans for the years spent raising a family to be counted when calculating whether individuals have earned a full state pension.
However, over the weekend, Osborne told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that this would be brought forward to 2016. This will mean that 400,000 more people are going to benefit from the change - receiving roughly £144 -a-week.
It is seen as a major advance for those who are not currently entitled to the state second pension - who will receive more under the new system. It will also benefit couples - who will now receive two sets of the flat-rate pension - rather than a lower couples rate such as the one that operates in the current system.
He told the programme: "That's a generous pension for pensioners. It's a huge boost for people who want to save for their retirement."
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Changes to the way we pay for care in old age are also widely expected. The government recently announced that it would follow recommendations and bring in a cap on the total any individual could be expected to pay for care. Unfortunately at the time there was widespread disappointment that the cap would be set at £75,000.
Now Osborne has told the programme that the cap would be slightly lower - at £72.000. It will also come in sooner than expected - in 2016.
The reaction has been muted. Michelle Mitchell, the director-general of the charity Age UK, told the Independent that the move was: "welcome but modest". The National Pensioners Convention is not convinced that anything short of merging health and social care - and funding it all through taxation - will make the slightest difference.
It says: "The government needs to be much braver and bolder if it is really going to sort out the problems – otherwise in a few years' time we'll be back again having another look at the issue."
The Arbuthnot banking group has also predicted that the Budget will see another increase in the basic rate income tax threshold - which will be a boost for pensioners - especially those on lower incomes.
So what do you think? Is this Budget a game-changer for pensioners, or are we just seeing tinkering round the edges? Let us know in the comments.
Seven retirement nightmares
Pension boost for thousands to be fast-tracked in Budget
Figures from charity Age UK show that 29% of those over 60 feel uncertain or negative about their current financial situation - with millions facing poverty and hardship. Even though saving for retirement is not much fun, the message is therefore that having to rely on dwindling state benefits in retirement is even less so. To avoid ending up in this situation, adviser Hargreaves Lansdown recommends saving a proportion of your salary equal to half your age at the time of starting a pension. In other words, if you are 30 when you start a pension, you should put in 15% throughout your working life. If you start at 24, saving 12% of your salary a year should produce a similar return.
Many older couples rely on the pension income of one person - often the man. Should that person die first, the other person can therefore be left in a difficult position financially.
One way to prevent financial hardship for the surviving person is to take out a joint life annuity that will continue to pay out up to 67% of the original payments to the surviving partner should one of them die.
The disadvantage of this approach, however, is that the rate you receive will be lower. Again, the Pensions Advisory Service on 0845 601 2923 is a useful first port of call if you are unsure what to do.
Around 427,000 households in the over-70 age groups are either three months behind with a debt repayment or subject to some form of debt action such as insolvency, according to the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS).
Its figures also show that those aged 60 or older who came to the CCCS for help last year owed an average of £22,330. Whether you are retired or not, the best way to tackle debt problems is head on.
Free counselling services from the likes of CCCS and Citizens Advice can help with budgeting and dealing with creditors.
Importantly, they can also conduct a welfare benefits check to make sure you are receiving the pension credit, housing and council tax benefits, attendance and disability living allowances you are entitled to.
The average UK pensioner household faces a £111,400 tax bill in retirement as increasing longevity means pensioners are living on average up to 19 years past the age of 65, according to figures from MetLife. And every year in retirement adds an extra £5,864 in direct and indirect taxes based on current tax rates to the costs for the average pensioner household. You can be forced to go bankrupt if you fail to pay your taxes, so it is vital to factor these costs into your retirement planning.It is also important to check that you are receiving all the benefits and tax breaks you are entitled to if you want to make the most of your retirement cash.
The cost of a room in a care home in many parts of the country is now over £30,000 a year, according to figures from Prestige Nursing and Care. So even if the prime minister announces a cap on care costs - last year the economist Andrew Dilnot called for a new system of funding which would mean that no one would pay more than £35,000 for lifetime care - families will still face huge accommodation costs. Ways to cut this cost include opting for home care rather than a care home. Jonathan Bruce, managing director of Prestige Nursing and Care, said: "For older people who may need care in the shorter term, home care is an option which allows people to maintain their independence for longer while living in their own home and should be included in the cap." However, the only other answer is to save more while you can.
Older Britons are often targeted by unscrupulous criminals - especially if they have a bit of money put away. For example, many over 50s were victims of the so-called courier scam that tricked into keying their pin numbers into their phones and handing their cards to "couriers" who visited their homes. It parted consumers from £1.5 million in under two years. Detective Chief Inspector Paul Barnard, head of the bank sponsored dedicated cheque and plastic crime unit (DCPCU), said: "Many of us feel confident that we can spot fraudsters, but this type of crime can be sophisticated and could happen to anyone." The same is true of boiler room scams that target wealthier Britons with money to invest, offering "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunities to snap up shares at bargain prices. Tactics to watch out for include cold calling, putting you under pressure to pay up or lose the opportunity for good, and claiming to have insider information that they are prepared to share with you.