More pension stuff…

Anyone would think I’m getting old, or something, with all this wobbling on about pensions…

But, in this age of uncertainty, it’s not a bad idea to have at least some planned income to help see me through my drooling, later-life infancy as I’m not really confident that the State pension will do the job (if it still exists, of course…).

I’ve just sent in all of the paperwork (well, not exactly ‘paper’ work, as it’s all done online) to have my Barclays pension transferred over to the new Scottish Widows workplace plan.  It’s not a massive amount – it was only worth about £40 p.a. when I left the firm – but added to what I’ll be paying in over the next few years it’ll amount to a tidy sum.  I could take the dosh as a lump (about £20K), leave it as an annuity starting at around £100/mth, or some combination of the two.

The other thing to consider, of course, is exactly when I’ll retire.  State retirement age is now 67 for me, though the other stuff all kicks in at 65.  Or it will if I don’t change it, but I can defer that and keep paying in for an extra couple of years, thus incresing the gross amount.

Just in case anyone does ever read this stuff, I’m not writing it for you.  Getting this down on the page helps me to digest it more fully.  It’s like discussing your plans with someone, but that someone is yourself…

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Revisiting a couple of old posts…

… namely, the Pension? post and the Back to Work one from about 5 years ago, it seems like a bit of deja vu to be writing this one.

Late last year I decided to take the tax-free part of my pension pot as a lump sum payment.  All went well, and the remaining part – the not inconsiderable sum of £10,000 – was placed into a new Self-Invested Pension Plan, or SIPP, with Standard Life. Apparently that is their policy when cashing in a works plan.  Great, I thought, I get to see how it all works, and so I went for the low-risk/low return version of the SIPP.

You can imagine my surprise when it started to lose money…  In fact, after just 3 weeks it had lost nearly £250 in value drops and charges!  Of course, my next move was to cash that in as well, and use the funds raised to clear all of my short term debts.  So by the end of November, my only outstanding debt was the mortgage.  Excellent! Means I won’t have to wait until my mid-90s to get my dosh…

But then…

Just before Christmas I had a stroke.  Nothing massive, I’m not a drooling wreck, dragging one side around, but it was enough to leave me with some life-long issues.

Reading the above-mentioned posts was a bit weird as I have just had about 4 months off work (on full pay) but have not claimed my full holiday entitlement for this year.  In fact, I’ve waived the last 8 days I was due rather than forcing the company into giving me even more time off, unlike those mentioned in the prior post.

The back-to-work interview for this was a bit more straightforward than the last one –

Boss: “So, why were you absent: Stroke.  Pretty much covers it.  Are you now fit for work? No – phased return until fully fit.” and so it went, throughout the form, with me hardly saying anything.

The other thing was the whole thing about spending time at home with Sandi.  The first few weeks were a bit of a trial (for her, I might add – I was too busy panicking over the slightest twinge to worry about that) but she’d just got used to having me at home all day and then suddenly, or not, I was gone all day again.

It’s now approaching 6 months since my attack and all of the results and measurements have come back from the various tests I underwent, with the final verdict being I should live…

I now know that I have a weak heart, but not so bad that it’ll cause me any problems unless I smoke or drink too much…  I need to lose a bit of weight, though fitness isn’t really a problem as I wasn’t exactly unfit beforehand, and I’ll be on various medications for life

One thing though, if you do have any kind of sudden illness like that, DON’T LOOK IT UP ON THE ‘NET!!  According to many sources, for my type of stroke and at my age, less than 50% of victims survive the first year… Scary shit.  My doctor said that was rubbish and not to worry myself into a further, fatal attack.  Fun times, eh?

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Pension?

Pensions is a very strange subject, it seems. As with most working people, I’ve had to go into a works pension scheme of one form or another. I decided that, as it was being forced on me, I’d go for the scheme that made my employer put the most into it, namely the Stakeholder scheme, whereby my employer would pay twice my contribution up to a maximum 10% of my basic salary.
On this basis, I opted for the 5% personal payment so that my employer, bless ’em, would have to pay the maximum allowed – 10%. A further incentive was to make the whole thing payable by the employer by way of the so-called Salary Sacrifice, whereby they pay the entire 15% contribution but deduct my part from my basic salary, thereby making a saving for both parties on National Insurance contributions. So I still get to make full pension payments but get a few quid back by not being taxed on it.

Yeah.

It’s simpler than it looks, written down like this, trust me…

So. My first Annual Statement turns up, detailing my payments, projected final value and what my annual pension would therefore be. This is where it gets interesting (or confusing, depending on your stance)…

By my 65th birthday they say (assuming no major changes) that I’ll have paid in just over £21K
With that figure in mind, my annual pension will be (wait for it)… the princely sum of £669.

That’s right, less than £670 per year.

So I’m paying in £1500 per year to get £670 back.

I’d have to live until I was 96years and 11 months of age to get back what I paid in!!!

I think this calls for a chat with the Pension company…

That company, for those that may have an interest in this kind of thing, is Standard Life.

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A short break in London

As it was my birthday on Sunday, I’d arranged a couple of days off work to go to London. No real plans, apart from seeing if anyone from my old school was around to meet up, and Sandi had arranged to meet one of our Steampunk friends to go mudlarking on the Monday.

The weekend started, after the actual drive to Greenford, with a visit to the Bridge Hotel where we met Mark and Karen Harfield for a nice relaxing couple of hours catching up on things London- and school-related.

Monday was the big day, with the trip to central London and the eastern part of the old city. First up was The Monument. I’d been meanong to climb this tower ever since I’d found out you actually could! Turned out to be really cheap, too: only £4 each to climb the 311 steps to the observation platform with it’s superb views of London and the surrounding counties. We were also pleasantly surprised to be given free certificates afterwards, stating that we’d done the climb!

From there to Wapping, and despite checking the route on the map, it was a longer walk than anticipated. We finally arrived at The Prospect of Whitby pub and from there we climbed down more stairs to the Thames foreshore, where we met Susie Graham. Then followed an hour or so scratching and scraping at the beach to see what we could find. Here, amongst other general stuff, I discovered an old stone cannonball and a rough-cast oriental-style head. We popped into the Prospect for a quick pitstop and drink before heading over to the southern foreshore (via a certain Mr I K Brunel’s tunnel beneath the Thames). There we continued our search for riches! The most common finds were pieces of old clay pipe, probably dating from the 18th century onwards. We didn’t manage to find any complete pipes but did get a couple of incomplete pipe bowls, which made Sandi quite happy, and I found a piece of what appears to be C18 slipware. A fossilised sea urchin, some large animals’ teeth and pieces of pottery and tiles made up the rest of the day’s haul. Surprisingly, we’d spent a few hours searching and then made our way to the Captain Kidd pub for a couple of pints to rehydrate before calling it a day and heading back to Greenford base.

Tuesday’s plan was to visit the country park at Northala Fields on the Northolt/Greenford border. This is a relatively new development and one of the major features is the set of 4 mounds, which rise over the surrounding area and give unprecedented views towards central London and Canary Wharf in the East to the Chilterns in the Northwest and North Downs in the Southeast. A point of interest is that the materials used in the construction of the mounds include a major part of the spoil from the demolition of the old Wembley Stadium, and the arch of the new stadium can be clearly seen from the main viewing area at the top of the highest mound.

Photos of the trip are on my facebook page at:
https://www.facebook.com/LincolnBob/media_set?set=a.10152595245353582.1073741861.703008581&type=3

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Back to work…

As the title of this post suggests I’ve gone back to work after five weeks away, recovering from my injuries. One the one hand, it’s good to be getting back into doing something productive as the time at home (nice as it was spending time with Sandi) has been largely wasted due to my inability to move properly. On the other, I got my timing wrong as I went back just as we were launching into a catalogue run, with about 8,000 mail order catalogues to be sorted and sent out.

I get some immediate overtime out of it, of course, as the shift needs to start a couple of hours earlier each day in order to cope with the extra volume of work, but I could have wished for a more sedate return, to give myself a fighting chance of getting through each day without resorting to massive doses of painkillers. The other thing is that I’ve lost the daytimes as I’ve needed to sleep (or try to, at least) to recover from each shift! Typical, just when the weather’s turning out nice.

Still, four days’ work in three days is not a bad way of getting back into it if you only look at the financial side, and it has got easier to cope each day, so I must be well on the road to full recovery. Also, I have a couple of days holiday booked for next week, which will give me that little bit of extra time to get over my first week back.

As a semi-humourous aside, it was interesting trying to explain the cause of my injury to my boss during my back-to-work interview…
Boss “So when was the last time you were off sick?”
Me “About 18 months ago, December 2012”
Boss “Ah, that’s why there’s no record of you being off in the last 12 months. That’s good. So how did you sustain this injury?”
Me: “I had a fall”
Boss “A fall? At work? In the street?”
Me “No, I was out.”
Boss “Out? Out where?”
Me “At a nightclub.”
Boss “A nightclub!? What were you doing to fall that badly? And don’t you think you’re a bit old for nightclubbing?”
Me “Ha ha, no I don’t. And before you ask, no I wasn’t drunk. Wish I had been, maybe I wouldn’t have been hurt so badly”
Boss “Yeah, OK. Well, that’s gone down as reason for absence, so if you have another nightclub-related incident they (HR and/or senior management) may start to look at your work record more closely.”
Me “So, question: I was meant to be on holiday for one of the weeks I was off. What happens with that?”
Boss “You can claim it back if you want to, just go and see Nick [Site Honcho].”
Me “Not actually that bothered, as I was on full pay anyway, just wondered.”
Boss “Well that’s up to you, but you can claim it back, I have no problem with that. It’s the people that have months off then still want 25 days holday that piss me off, but that’s just me.”
I have to say I agree with him…

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Builders!

This is going to be an interesting couple of months, I reckon.

We’ve just had a visit from the builders that are going to be doing the remedial works on the block flats we live in. They wanted to “have a nosey around” as they put it, to see just how bad the “not-subsidence” on the building is by measuring the shape of the door frames and windows and checking the level of the walls and ceilings.

It was quite a surprise to see just how far out the structure of the building actually is! Two of the doorways had come so far out of true that end of each door frame was almost an inch lower than the other. The drop over the whole flat they think would be approaching 6 inches. But it isn’t subsidence, say the Council, no no no…

Still…
They reckon they’ll be starting work on our block towards the end of August and going on for about 14 weeks, which will be just great for me when I’m on nights.

There are some good things about it though: We get new windows and loft insulation, and as we have had no prior notification of these major works there’ll also be no charge for it. The Council tried to charge the owners of the first lot of flats for their share of the cost (about £16K per flat) but were told to go away in no uncertain terms. Same will be happening here. That level of charging would almost completely wipe out any equity we have in the place.

If that was the case I’d be looking for them to buy the place back at full market value and then keep us on as tenants…

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Britain’s Got Talent?

Further to my post from a couple of weeks back, I’ve now got the chord sequence down, tweaked the lyric to go with the meter and got that down on paper. I’ve also worked out the bass line, though I haven’t written that down yet. I can almost play it from memory, but not yet.

This should, if all goes to plan, be getting its world exclusive first public playing at a friend’s barbecue this weekend…

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