Personal Finance for the Over 50s

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JFK funeralAllegedly there’s an old Chinese curse that says: “May you always live in interesting times.” If that’s true, the ancient Chinese certainly knew how to put a lot of meaning into a few words…

Recently we’ve witnessed the deaths of two famous left wing poster boys of their respective generations: Tony Benn MP and union leader Bob Crow. Both genuine losses to their families & friends of course, but they were also highly divisive figures: heroes of the left, but favourite bêtes noir for those on the right.

Alternatively we could look to the deaths of Hollywood actor Philip Seymour Hoffman and fashion designer L’Wren Scott, the girlfriend of Mick Jagger. Two deaths made tragic because they were ultimately avoidable. Yet in both cases their deaths were still afforded a final, thin veneer of glamour because they happened in the bright lights of New York City.

In contrast, the death of Peaches Geldof offered us a parable of our times: the death of a twenty five year-old mother of two small children was instantly eclipsed by the media’s obsession with her background as the precocious offspring of celebrity parents. Unfortunately, her parents are already defined as much by sadness and loss as by their show business careers. The media must’ve thought all their Christmases came at once with a story like that.
 
Over-arching all of it is the ongoing tragedy of Flight MH370. An airliner with over 200 hundred people on board disappears into thin air – an event which not only redefines the concept of air disaster as we know it, but also forces us to face one of mankind’s most ancient fears - that of the unburied, restless dead.

But what’s it like to be professionally involved with a high profile death? To begin with, “high profile” either means the death of an ordinary person who’s died in extraordinary circumstances – certain murder victims for example; or it will involve the death of a celebrity. There isn’t a funeral director in the land who might not one day be engaged to perform the funeral of a high profile person and because of that death in the UK is remarkably democratic.

 

The central London funeral firm who arranged Margaret Thatcher’s funeral had also buried two former leaders of the Labour Party too (Hugh Gaitskell in 1963 & Michael Foot in 2010). Death truly is the great leveller!


It’s a very peculiar situation, being the funeral director at the centre of a high profile funeral. There can be the media to deal with – everything from the local press wanting us to ask the family whether they’d be willing to be interviewed for a tribute article, right through to guarding against the cunning wiles of the national media, whose aims are rarely so benign. Often there’s a need to create strategies to ensure high profile families can have the same degree of privacy that any other family might naturally expect to have.

Then while all of that’s going on there’s still a funeral to be arranged. If it’s a private ceremony that’s one thing; but if it’s a large public event there’s all the extra planning to be done: parking, seating, staff resources, together with all the liaison between various parties ranging from the clergy through to the police. There’s only one chance to get a funeral right at the best of times, so imagine what it’s like when not only is it likely to be a huge affair anyway, but it might also be covered by newspapers and television too.

The other thing to remember is that you rarely, if ever, get any warning. I’ve been involved with a number of funerals concerning nationally known figures and more recently one internationally famous figure. Without exception these funerals all appeared out of the blue.

 

On one occasion we didn’t even realise whose funeral we’d been asked to arrange until we heard the media announce the person’s death on the radio in our office. My colleague slid the “first call form” across the desk to show me and we both just sat there in stunned silence for a moment or two.

 

That was a Tuesday morning we won’t forget in a hurry!  

 

James Baker owns and runs Fred Stevens Funeral Directors of Nailsworth, Glos.




randel and hopkirkI’ve come to realise that it is not just Claire, my dog Hugo and I that live in our house; something else moved in a few years ago that I sense has become a permanent fixture. Don’t worry, I haven’t gone all spiritualistic on you; I’m not talking ghosts, I’m talking about the ‘C’ word – I’m talking about the legacy of prostate cancer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that it dominates my life in any way and increasingly I go for long periods without giving it a thought but there is always a presence lurking that makes you realise things will never be the same.

Having cancer made me revaluate life; get a better perspective on what really matters, so in a way a tremendous amount of good has come from it, which I believe happens with a lot of people. It’s just a shame it takes a scare like that for most of us to realise.

My life is good; I have a lot to be thankful for; a beautiful supportive family, my own business which I love and I live in Cornwall, what’s not to love! I’m also thankful that I was able to benefit from the amazing skill of my genius surgeon Christopher Eden to whom I will forever be eternally grateful. My prostate removed along with all the ‘badness’ (hopefully), I’m now nearly 4 years down the line and things are looking good.

But that’s it in a nutshell; I struggle to talk about cancer in a positive way for fear that I will tempt fate and the horror will return. All of a sudden I’ve become superstitious, touching wood and thinking carefully about how I phrase things for fear that it will conjure up all things bad! Even typing the words prostate cancer causes an involuntary twitch – see there it goes again!

‘Things are looking good’ is about as positive as I get, which for me is really strange as I have always thought of myself as a ‘glass half full’ kind of guy!  

Having cancer is a bit like joining a club. All of a sudden you have a much deeper understanding of the effect it has on people’s lives. When you talk to other people who have been in a similar situation it feels like there is some kind of invisible bond; a so called kindred spirit.

It makes you more aware of life and death; not necessarily a bad thing; just different!

So will my lodger ever leave? I guess as the years and the regular test results go by he will start to fade but the changes in my life I feel will always remain, which I’m happy about.

Having more awareness of the disease and its impact on people’s lives isn’t a bad thing, especially if you can raise that awareness in others. Just look at all the thousands of people running the London Marathon for charity on Sunday. Can you get a more positive story than that?

Good luck to you all.  


funeral plansWith funeral costs rising by an alarming rate every year, it’s not surprising that an increasing number of people are looking at the various options available to help with funeral costs; but with prepaid funeral plans and over 50 life insurance to choose from, how do you know which is the best option?

This really depends on 3 things:

 

•    Do you want to arrange the funeral yourself?
•    Would you prefer to leave money for your family to arrange everything?
•    What’s your budget?

Consider your needs

A prepaid funeral plan gives you the option to arrange everything in advance and save money by paying for your funeral services at today’s prices, so your family won’t need to worry about it when the time comes.

 

An over 50s life insurance plan pays out a fixed cash lump sum when you die that your family can use in a way they choose, which in the majority of cases is to help with funeral costs.

If you want certainty that the funeral services will be covered, then a funeral plan may be worth considering.

If you think your family would prefer the money so they have the flexibility to make the decisions, then over 50s life insurance may be more suitable. Do keep in mind that the cash lump sum paid out on many over 50 plans is fixed, so inflation will reduce its value over time. With funeral inflation running at around 7% a year, it makes sense to think about the impact this will have on the cash sum paid out when the time comes.

Also most over 50 life insurance plans these days offer a funeral benefit option which gives you the opportunity to take advantage of additional free cover in return for agreeing for the cash sum to be paid directly to a funeral director to help pay towards the cost of a funeral. This will also give you the chance to specify any wishes you may have regarding the funeral arrangements.

Think about the long term cost

As far as budget is concerned there are a number of options available.

Funeral plans can be paid for with a single payment of between £3,000 to £4,000 depending on your chosen level of service, or by monthly instalments of between 12 and 60 months.

The 12 month option usually costs the same as the single payment method however instalments paid over 12 months will incur additional administration fees.

Some companies such as Golden Charter and Golden Leaves now also offer a fixed monthly payment option which provides funeral services after an initial period of between 6 months and 2 years and has lower premiums starting from around £23 that are payable for life or until your 90th birthday.

Over 50 life insurance plans range from around £7 to £50 a month depending on how much you want to pay and how much cover you want. Payments are made either until you die or until your 90th birthday so there is a chance you could pay more in premiums than the cash sum paid out. It all depends on how long you live.

Can you get more for your money?
If you are thinking of going down the life insurance route, another option available to you if you are in good health and happy to answer health and lifestyle questions is regular whole of life insurance. It works in a similar way to the better known guaranteed over 50 life insurance plan however acceptance is not guaranteed as your application is assessed. If you are accepted, you could get at least 40% more cover for your money; in some cases 80% to 90% more so it could be worth comparing both options.

Last but certainly not least - compare to get the best plan at the right price.

As with most things, once you have researched the options available, compare plans to be sure you choose the best option. Taking time to compare funeral plans or compare over 50 life insurance doesn’t take long and could save you money in the long term so is certainly worth doing.


salt n pepaThere’s something we all have in common; yes every single one of us. Something that impacts the lives of those we care about, sometimes with devastating effect, which is why we must start talking.  

 

Guessed it yet? Yep that’s right; we’re all going to die.

Don’t stop reading just because I got all serious and mentioned the ‘D’ word. The conversation I’m talking about is a positive one; one that may appear difficult at first but will make everyone’s life so much easier in the long term.

In the immortal words of salt ‘n’ pepa (if you don’t remember, google it) – ‘Let’s talk about death baby’.

Ok so, the words maybe a little different but you can’t blame a guy for trying to grab your attention; let’s face it ‘Let’s talk about sex baby’ does sound so much more interesting.

So what am I talking about? Well in a nutshell I’m talking about the 8 steps that will prepare you and your family for whatever life and death throws your way.

1.    Consider your health
We all like to hope we are going to lead long and healthy lives however sadly for some, this is not always the case. It’s therefore worthwhile thinking about how you would want to be cared for if you became sick; what medical support you would choose, whether you would want any life prolonging treatment and essentially, where you prefer to die.

2.    Organise a Lasting Power of Attorney
A Lasting Power of Attorney is a relative, friend or solicitor you nominate to make decisions on your behalf about your finances, property and other assets if you become too ill to do it yourself.   

3.    Make a Will
One of the kindest things you can do. We all tend to lead fairly complicated lives these days so don’t leave things to chance. A Will is the only way you can be certain the people you care about are protected and your wishes are met.

4.    Mitigate the impact of inheritance tax
Depending on the size of your estate, it may be worth getting financial advice to reduce the impact of inheritance tax. Take a look at the rules on inheritance tax to establish whether this is something you need to consider.

5.    Share your final wishes
Telling your family about the type of funeral service you want may help them immensely when the time comes; removing the difficult decision making process from them and making the occasion a more personal one.

6.    Think about funeral costs
Funerals aren’t cheap so it is worth considering how you’re family will cope financially. A prepaid funeral plan will give you the opportunity to arrange everything in advance and pay for your funeral service at today’s prices therefore avoiding the impact of future inflation. Alternatively a whole of life insurance plan will ensure your family are left with a cash lump sum to use in a way that best suits them.

7.    Become an organ donor
Would you like to help others live healthy lives by becoming an organ or tissue donor? If so, register by visiting the NHS organ donation website and most importantly, make sure you tell your family.

8.    Be open about your affairs
Trying to make sense of someone’s finances once they have died can be difficult to say the least, so help your family by keeping a secure record of everything. Age UKs ‘Lifebook’ will help you prepare.

As you can see, talking about dying needn’t be morbid, it just makes sense so what are you waiting for - Let’s talk about death baby. You know you’ll be singing it for the rest of the day! 


golden charter funeral plansThe 1st April 2014 marked another day when one of the big funeral plan providers ‘Golden Charter’ increases the price of its funeral plans.

 

Their Standard, Select and Premier Funeral Plans are all rising, falling in line with the majority of other companies who have already gone through their annual price increase.


From now on, a Golden Charter Standard Funeral Plan will cost £3,285; their mid-range Select Funeral Plan will be £3,665 and if you choose their Premier Funeral Plan you should expect to pay £3,999; or should you?

 

The great news is that we are freezing the price of Golden Charter funeral plans sold through our website for one month, a saving of up to £309; so you pay 2013 prices.

For a limited period only, Golden Charter Funeral Plans bought through Over50choices will cost the following:

•    Golden Charter Standard Funeral Plan - £3,085 – a saving of £200
•    Golden Charter Select Funeral Plan - £3,365 – a saving of £300
•    Golden Charter Premier Funeral Plan - £3,690 – a saving of £309

And on top of that you will still get the choice of either a free professionally written Will or £50 gift voucher for M&S, Argos or Amazon.

We are only able to offer this deal over the phone or via paper application so to take advantage before the end of the month, either call us on freephone 0800 133 7656 and we will take your application over the phone or if you prefer, send you an application form in the post, or email  us for more details.

Of course there are other payment options available if you are more comfortable spreading the cost; take a look at our website for more details or call us on the 0800 number and we can go through everything with you.


ashley shepherd

Ashley Shepherd is an Over 50s Personal Finance Expert

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