HEARING the word “pension” doesn’t exactly get most people’s pulses pounding.
It is reminiscent of paperwork, pen-pushing and arithmetic and has a deadening effect on a conversation.
But for many in Flintshire and Wrexham, pensions are something we do need to discuss, particularly in light of recent evidence that many people have no idea when they will be able to retire.
At the last census in 2011, there were 22,851 people in Wrexham County over the age of 65, and 26,836 in Flintshire – all of whom still need to pay for life essentials like food, heating, clothes and accommodation.
Last week, a survey by Barings Asset Management revealed that, of those asked, 34 per cent of people aged 55 to 64 had no retirement plans in place.
Many past traditional retirement age (once set at 65 but older ages are now being phased in) find they have to keep working, either to fund their lifestyle or sometimes simply to survive.
For those with their state pension in sight, it seems the UK Government keeps changing the goalposts.
A “single tier” system will begin in 2015, which means anyone who has contributed 35 qualifying years of National Insurance will receive £144 a week.
This sounds all very well, but the maximum age you can reach before you can claim state pension has, over the years, has been inching up to 68.
There are no guarantees that won’t move even higher up in the future.
Adjustments to your working life, going part-time or taking extended leave due to illness or disability, could also affect your state pension.
Ruth Jones of Wrexham told us: “I have worked full time for years in different jobs.
About 10 years ago I went part time and I still am working. I’m coming up 58 in October and I’ve had a letter saying I can’t take my state pension until I’m 66.”
Some are worried how they will cope when they reach what used to be retirement age.
Sharon Lloyd, of Greenfield, told the Leader she was worried by an online calculator which told her she could only stop working at 71.
She said: “There is no chance of my being physically able to do my job at that age, I am struggling now with a bad back.”
It isn’t just older people who need to think about the issue.
I’m 28, and, due to my age, a Government pensions calculator told me I would retire at 68 – so that’s 40 more years in harness.
More worryingly, a survey by NOW: Pensions, released yesterday, revealed that half of “Generation Y” - people between 18 and 31, a bracket I slot into nicely, don’t save regularly.
Two thirds of those questioned thought the baby boomer generation might be the last to retire with enough savings to remain comfortable, and more than half of us are expected to work into our old age to make up the difference.
Very recently, I was auto-enrolled into a workplace pension scheme, which should hopefully top up my state pension.
Anyone aged 22 and above, who works in the UK and earns more than £9,440 a year, will find themselves enrolled some time by 2018.
As it is a private pension, however, it is subject to market forces.
If there’s another credit crunch further down the line, I might end up receiving less than I put in.
Inevitably, some will go for the lowest possible contribution, or simply opt out all together because they simply can’t spare any more, something Morten Nilsson, chief executive of NOW: Pensions acknowledged.
He said: “Sky high rents, the rising cost of living and stagnant wages have all made saving for the future near mission impossible for Generation Y.
“Automatic enrolment into workplace pensions will help those that are struggling to save to get into the savings habit but it’s important that employers and pension providers drive home the importance of staying in the scheme.”
For many of my peers, and even those a little older than me, things are so tight they haven’t considered taking money out of their pay packet and squirreling it away, and they are not alone.
Owain Bevan, 38, of Holywell, said: “I don’t have pension provision at the moment. I work at a furniture factory in Holywell and my family and I essentially live hand to mouth – there isn’t a lot of money left over at the end of the month.
“I feel I’m still young enough that it hasn’t become a pressing concern, so it might be the case I haven’t thought about it enough.”
Mr Bevan suspects that, by the time he retires, the welfare system might be unrecognisable.
Currently, public pensions funding is the single biggest government outgoing – more than the cost of the NHS and more than the defence and state education budgets combined.
He said: “A lot of countries don’t have the state provision we do. I have a relative who is 68-years-old who still has to work full time as an au pair in Italy.
“It could be that by the time I hit state pension age there may not be a state pension at all. We aren’t paying NI for our future. We are paying it to fund the pensions that are being drawn now.
“There needs to be a change, but I’m not sure there’s the political will to do so.”
Put simply, people are living longer, so they are drawing pensions for longer.
Meanwhile wages in many sectors are stalling and the cost of living is on the up.
I certainly don’t have the answer – but for the moment, I am not going to opt out of the auto-enrolment scheme any time soon.