£40bn growth in gold-plated pension scheme deficit in August

The gaping hole in gold-plated company pension schemes widened by £40 billion last month, according to research.

The PwC Skyval Index showed the deficit in defined benefit (DB) pension funds ballooned by 10% to £460 billion month-on-month in August.

The health check on DB schemes, which guarantees a retirement income linked to final salaries, is based on data from around 5,800 funds.

It found that assets stood at £1,570 billion, with a liability target of £2,030 billion, leaving a shortfall of £460 billion.

Steven Dicker, PwC's chief actuary, said: "August saw a small decrease in long-term real interest rates (interest rates relative to inflation) as measured by Government bond yields, which has led to a £60 billion increase in liabilities.

"In contrast, assets have only grown very modestly by £20 billion. Consequently, deficit has increased by £40 billion.

"The deficit calculation is based on a 'gilts+' approach and is sensitive to even modest market movements.

"Compounding with the uncertain economic and political climate, the deficits calculated on this basis are likely to remain volatile."

It comes after the deficit for DB schemes - known as the "Rolls-Royce" of pensions - jumped by £90 billion last year to stand at £560 billion by the end of 2016, according to PwC.

The data released in January showed the EU referendum alone sparked an £80 billion shortfall within just 24 hours, with the deficit rising from £510 billion to £590 billion between June 23 and June 24.

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How we spend our pensions

Figures from Saga show that the over 50s now account for the majority of money spent by Brits on travel and tourism. They have the time to spare, the money, and they are healthy enough to take on the world.

A poll from Abta found that in the wake of pension freedoms, 35% of people were considering cashing in at least part of their pension to travel. A separate study by Senior Railcard found that pensioners take an average of three holidays a year, plus two weekends away, and 17 day trips.

Research from Senior Railcard found that retirees eat out an average of three times a month. However, one in ten do so more than twice a week, and one in three people said that one of the first things they did when they retired was to go out for lunch with their friends.

Of course, just because retirees want to enjoy themselves, it doesn't mean they are happy to throw money away. The vast majority are keen to eat at lunchtimes, when a fixed lunch menu tends to be cheaper, and canny retirees are skilled at tracking down pensioner special offers too.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that on average nearly a fifth of the money spent by people aged 65-74 is on leisure. This includes everything from the cinema and theatre to golfing and gardening. They spent more on this than on food, energy bills and transport.

A report by Canada Life found that retirees are spending £4,279 a year on having fun - that’s more than £1,000 more than they spend on boring essentials, and is a 74% increase over the past ten years. It went on to predict that this trend was set to continue, and that pension freedoms would encourage people to spoil themselves a bit more in retirement

Pensioner property wealth is now over £850 billion, and all these family homes don’t look after themselves. The Senior Railcard survey put home renovations in the top 20 activities people got stuck into on retirement, and figures from ABTA found that almost a third of people who were considering raiding their pension pots under the new pension freedoms planned to spend the cash on their home. This seems like an eminently sensible investment - looking after what is undoubtedly their most valuable asset.

Unsurprisingly, while some pensioners are very well off indeed, others are struggling with debt. Figures from Key Retirement found that the average retiree has £34,000 of debt.

Most of this is mortgage borrowing - in many cases driven up by the number of people who unwittingly signed up to an interest-only mortgage. However, credit cards, overdrafts, and loans are also common. It’s why so many pensioners have used pension freedoms to access enough cash to pay their debts.

The day to day basics are swallowing up their fair share of pensioner cash too. On average, people aged 65-74 spend a third of their weekly income on essentials like food and bills - which is hardly living the high life.
The bank of gran and grandad has become an increasingly vital source of cash for families. According to Key Retirement, of those who release equity from their property, 21% of them use the cash to treat their children and grandchildren. This includes an average of £33,350 to help children get onto the property ladder, £6,000 to buy them a new car, £11,000 on family weddings, and £24,780 giving grandchildren a helping hand.

While retirees are quite rightly spending what they need to enjoy retirement, they are hardly all throwing caution to the wind, buying flash cars and spending the kids' inheritance.

Most expect to have something left over to pass onto their family after their death. Some 69% expect to leave property in their wills, and 75% expect to leave cash - according to Unbiased.co.uk - because while baby boomers know how to have fun - they also know how to save for the future.

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