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Saving for old age – is it worth it?

Oliver Fortune on the vagaries of life

There is an interesting article by John Bingham, its social affairs editor, appear on the website of the Daily Telegraph today.

It reports upon a survey conducted by the charity Age UK, demonstrating that an estimated 3.2 million people over the age of fifty have now effectively given up saving for their old age, primarily because of their assumption that any savings they do amass will eventually have to be applied for their own care when they reach their dotage. Age UK has pointed out that the government’s long-overdue reform of strategy for dealing with elderly care is based upon the theory that those with sufficient means will contribute towards their own care up to a cap of £72,000.

See the full article here – DAILY TELEGRAPH

This is a situation which, it seems to me, highlights the sometimes complex opposing attitudes towards the vexed issue of ‘social engineering’.

toffsIn ballpark terms, those who oppose wealth and privilege – or rather, the supposed ‘unfairness’ of the fact that, via genetics or random chance, some are born into well-to-do families, whilst others are not – are grounded in the logic that all are (or should be) born equal … but then progress in life according to their talents and/or effort.

Their essential gripe with the randomness of life-start chances is that those not born into supposed wealth and privilege have the odds – and life opportunity obstacles – stacked heavily against them.

They make the case that, in such circumstances, it is right and proper that politicians, and other in a similar position of power to prompt change, should take what measures they can to ensure that those from ‘disadvantaged’ backgrounds should have ‘level playing field’ access to all the benefits of education and networking that the ‘toffs’ have access to naturally, i.e. by birth and upbringing.

On the face of it, perhaps, nothing too contentious there.

However, pushing back the other way is the approach to life of those at the privileged end of the scale. Whether justified in their view or not, they tend to regard themselves as examples of self-help, rather than privilege.

An example would be my father, who lost his own male parent at the age of sixteen. As a result, his family was ‘down upon its uppers’ during and after WW2, albeit they enjoyed a degree of ‘society’ position which gave them potentially-useful networking opportunities. He joined a profession and worked very hard – often at weekends and/or abroad for weeks at a time on business. He paid all his taxes and regularly gave his spare time to charitable organisations for no reward.

If asked, he would probably have given his prime motivation – leaving ‘opportunity to enjoy life’ to one side – as the desire give his descendants the opportunities in life that he never had. To those who oppose the concept of private education on principle, he would have countered with the line that – through his taxes – he had already paid his contribution to the state and, if he wished to spent part of his net income to educate his offspring privately, or to buy himself private health insurance, what business was it of anyone else?

fingersMy father used to resent on principle any suggestion, or indeed government policy, that people like himself should be ‘penalised’ by death duties, mansion taxes and/or other means –  just because he had amassed the trappings of wealth. As regards elderly care, he regarded it as illogical and unfair that he should have to pay for it (just because he could), whereas those who had nothing, or saved nothing – or who originally did have the wherewithal, but chose to fritter it away on booze, fags, consumer goods and family holidays – would have theirs for free.

I’m not suggesting that one side or the other is right, or indeed holds the moral high ground over the other. However, there is a gap between what, intellectually, what one can accept is the logic of seeking to give every man or woman an equal starting-chance in life … and the naturally instinctive desire of human beings to improve their descendants life-chances.

Some right-wingers delight in the apparent hypocrisy of Labour politicians who, on the one hand, give firebrand speeches attacking those who appear to have wealth and privilege and yet, on the other, are then later discovered to be buying a private education for their own kids.

Personally, however, I would never condemn them. Trying to do the best for your children is a human instinct – get over it, chaps!

My own ‘forward planning’, such as it is, is firmly grounded in the human instinct that I wouldn’t ever want to be a burden to my kids. That’s why it involves me passing on to them such of my capital as I can afford; then living another seven years so that the impact of gift tax is avoided; and finally, just as the last of my money runs out, getting myself admitted to the nearest council-run care home I can find which is possessed of a communal high-definition television boasting a Sky Sports/BT sports package subscription!



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About Oliver Fortune

A doctor formerly specialising in sexual health, Oliver has written widely on matters relating to sex, relationships and counselling. He is divorced and has one daughter. He is a keen skier and mountain biker. More Posts