TV No Longer Free ?

A few years ago the Government quietly passed responsibility for “free TV licenses for over 75’s” over to the BBC.    It was announced in the Chancellor’s budget statement, but attracted little comment.  The Government used to foot the bill of over £750m annually for free TV licences for the elderly.  But the BBC now has to start “sharing the cost” and from 2020 take it over in full.   Having thought about this for a while, the BBC has woken up to this impending catastrophe.  Now it seems the chickens are coming home to roost.

The BBC is feeling the pinch.  Its stars are demanding more money.  Hundreds of thousands of pounds are just not enough for reading the news or hosting quiz shows.   Nor are they anywhere near the going rate for chatting about football or swanning about on Strictly on a Saturday night.

Then there are all the behind-the-camera staff toiling away as producers, assistant producers, editors, assistant editors, sub-editors and assistant sub-editors.  And don’t forget sound technicians, lighting technicians, stage managers, and writers and costume designers and set designers and prop purchasers and wardrobe mistresses, and transport managers and logistics aides and outside broadcasters and inside broadcasters.  They obviously need more money for the excellent work they do on our behalf.

The BBC are desparately seeking to pay for all these hard working people.   So now they are looking at the budget for the years ahead and that promised free TV license is in their sights.   Who knows what the next news headlines will be?

It looks like it is Gary Lineker, Claudia Winkleman, Holly Willoughby et al verses the over 75 year olds.


Posted in ELDERLY UK POLICY | 2 Comments

Social Prescribing

We have got a new Health Secretary, Matthew Hancock and he is full of new ideas.   Well they are old ideas really.    SOCIAL PRESCRIBING, remember these two new buzzwords, they are about to revolutionise care of older people in the NHS.   That’s if you believe Matthew Hancock 🙂

Go to see your GP from now on and you won’t get a pill for all ills.   Instead you will be told to go to the cinema and watch the latest blockbuster movie ——- something like Fantastic Beasts 2 or Aqua Man or Oceans 8 —– just the sort of thing that would appeal to older people.    Or your GP might suggest you go for a walk, a very long walk, never mind your poorly feet.   Oh and don’t come back, to the surgery that is.    Or perhaps bingo is your thing, we all know old people like bingo and now your GP might even prescribe it for you.  Or if you can find one, go for a day out on a bus with your free bus pass, which you can now get with your free prescription.   It looks like cinemas, bingo halls and buses will be jammed full of older people before long, all clutching their free prescriptions.

Longer term, maybe just before the next election, Mr Hancock is working on another idea to reduce costs in the NHS and solve the country’s immigration problem, all in one new swoop.   “Happy holidays” on prescription.   Free flights to anywhere in Europe, then you can claim welfare benefits in the country you are staying in.  Oh and you will need a visa to get back into the UK.    There is a 58 page application form online at

You can already tell that Matthew Hancock is brimming with great new ideas for older people.  He must have spent time in the Last Laugh Looney Party 🙂

Posted in HEALTH | Tagged | 4 Comments

Sugar Confusion ?

Don’t go to Chicago if you have got a sweet tooth.  The American Alzheimer’s Association has just declared that consuming two and a half teaspoons of added sugar a day raises the risk of you developing Dementia by 54% !

If you are someone that follows the adage that “ a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”, you may be building up a bigger problem  for yourself.   So I should forget that idea.   There again, if you have already forgotten it, then perhaps it is too late for you.

Confused or what?  Take a pill or get more ill.   You decide.

I’ve been regularly writing about pills since I started this blog, and as long ago as 2011, I wrote a blog called “Sugaring the Pill”.  It seems that not a lot as changed.  (You can find all these posts by clicking on “Pills” in the TAG CLOUD).


Posted in Dementia, HEALTH | Tagged | 4 Comments

Move to the Country – 4

Every year Prudential publishes its Retirement Quality of Life Index for England and Wales.   It is eagerly awaited by thousands of older people because it tells you the best place to live if you want a happy, healthy life.

There is a bit of a problem, however, they keep changing their advice.    In May 2010 Prudential advocated Dorset, but two years later, Somerset was top of their list.     Later in 2017,  Berkshire became the best place to go.     Now, West Sussex heads up the index.  (See other posts on this subject by clicking on “Demographics” in the TAG CLOUD).

This is a blinking nuisance unless you have a mobile home.  What’s more, all that moving every few years can get a bit stressful.  It also costs a fortune in removal fees and all that lifting can’t do your back any good.  Especially with all the clutter we have to move from house to house.

I have a better solution.  The GrumbleSmiles Mass Migration would involve everyone over 65 living in the South of England moving to the North of England !    I know the climate may be a bit cooler and wetter, but the lower property values would allow people to release substantial equity with which to live the high life.


Posted in SMILES | Tagged | 5 Comments

Equity Release Pressure Sales Techniques

This is a follow-up to my post “Equity Release Revisisted” which prompted me to look into the subject again and start a new series of blogs on the subject.  I first wrote about this in 2012 and then again in 2015.  (You can find my earlier posts by clicking on Equity Release in the TAG CLOUD).

If Equity Release is such a good thing, why are Equity Release sales people so shy about giving out information ?   They all portray an image of being open and honest and above-board, but, they won’t give you any hard facts.

Normally when shops display their goods they put the prices on them, it is only exclusive jewellery shops and fashion retailers that don’t have prices in the window and then you know they are going to be very expensive.

Perhaps that the point.  Equity Release sales people know their products are expensive so they won’t tell you the price until you are subjected to the hard-sell interview first.   You cannot get past the TV commercial or newspaper advert without signing up to an interview / interrogation   / intimidation  or as they would say ‘consultation’.

Here are a few examples of these suspect approaches :-

  • AGE PARTNERSHIP.   Claim to be the biggest provider of Equity Release with a logo that has a remarkable resemblance to AGE UK.   Though as far as I know they are not connected at all.   They have a staff team of 500, whose youthful looks don’t leave you thinking they have too many years of experience in life, nor in financial services.   They are the firm who advertise on TV.   But, also are economical about the size of their application fees.
  • DREWBERRY.  They have the usual blurb about the virtues of Equity Release and a ‘free Equity Release calculator’.   But, when you start to put in basic information — age, date of birth etc. —- it asks for a phone number, so that they can contact you and follow-up with the hard sell.   No phone number means you get no information about what loan you could receive !
  • ONE FAMILY.   But, a curious name for an Equity Release company, until you realise they are playing on the idea that the whole family can benefit from the early liberation of your wealth.   And before you know where you are you may have nothing left.    And of course the loan company will have most of it.  And the local agents will have their commission.
  • MORE 2 LIFE.   Same old spiel, although when I downloaded a brochure, it did have a few examples which told you a bit more.   So if you borrow £85,000, after 15 years you will owe £194,000 !    It also has a ‘free calculator’, but, again you have to give them your phone number before they will give you an answer !
  • PURE RETIREMENT.   Sounds good, who wouldn’t want a loan from them, especially when they claim to offer honest, simple solutions? But, when you download their brochure it is no more simple and honest as all the others, full of if’s and maybe’s. They may pay your fees, there again they may not.   Their ‘application and valuation fees are transparent from the start’, but, they won’t tell you how much they are.  That doesn’t sound very transparent to me.

I could go on with many more examples, but, it gets boring after a while trying to find some simple facts about Equity Release.    I guess that is what they all count on.

After hours of research on the internet, over a period of several weeks, I am still not much further on in trying to get some basic facts and figures about the cost of Equity Release.   I’ve ended up with a lot more questions than answers so I’ve got to keep digging.  

Posted in ELDERLY MARKET | Tagged | 3 Comments

Equity Release Alarm Bells !

This is a follow-up to my post “Equity Release Revisisted” which prompted me to look into the subject again and start a new series of blogs on the subject.  I first wrote about this in 2012 and then again in 2015.  (You can find my earlier posts by clicking on Equity Release in the TAG CLOUD).

My research about Equity Release continues and today I stumbled upon a Report commissioned by the Adam Smith Institute, that you would be most unlikely to find, unless it was raining and you had nothing better to do.

It is obliquely called “Asleep at the Wheel: The Prudential Regulation Authority and The Equity Release Sector “.      Sounds like riveting stuff 😀.       Written by Professor Kevin Dowd of Durham University.  It is not exactly bedtime reading, unless you want to go to sleep.

But, it has some interesting facts about Equity Release which I’ve repeated below :-

  • The UK’s Equity Release market nearly trebled in size between 2012 and 2017 and is forecast to grow a further 40% by 2020.
  • Prudential Regulation Authority stress tests in 2017 indicated that a 30% house price fall could lead to losses of between £2 billion and £3 billion.
  • Firms are greatly under-valuing their No Negative Equity Guarantees – guarantees that ensure that borrowers’ debt can never exceed the value of the mortgaged property.
  • We never seem to learn. Equitable Life hit the rocks two decades ago because it under-valued its long-term guarantees. Now the Equity Release sector is in deep trouble for the same reason.  In both cases, the firms involved got into difficulties because they were using voodoo valuation methods that had no scientific validation.  Same causes, same results.

The report was published in August and received quite a lot of attention in the financial press.  But, it did not appear on the national news, nor is it likely to have been seen by the majority of older people.  There has been quite a muted response from the Equity Release providers, who have very much played down the report.

The immediate impact of the report does not affect older people who have taken out Equity Release loans, since they already have their money.   The bigger impact could be to the industry as a whole because if this report is correct, they are seriously under-capitalised.

If this report is anywhere near correct, then the Equity Release market could collapse altogether.

Is this the first warning signs of an Equity Release sector in trouble?  It’s probably going to take someone with more time and skill than I have to get to the bottom of this.  

BUT I’ll keep trying.

Posted in ELDERLY MARKET, Grey Products | Tagged | 3 Comments

Equity Release Sales Patter

This is a follow-up to my post “Equity Release Revisisted” which prompted me to look into the subject again and start a new series of blogs on the subject.  I first wrote about this in 2012 and then again in 2015.  (You can find my earlier posts by clicking on Equity Release in the TAG CLOUD).

I’ve been floundering around for the last few weeks looking for information about Equity Release on the internet.  There’s plenty of it out there but it’s nearly all adverts by agents trying to get you to take out loans.  They claim to be giving you independent advice but it surely has to be biased by the fact that they only get paid if they succeed in getting you to borrow money.   I certainly wouldn’t call that independent !

They all seem to be reading from the same script.   I think by now I could run a training course for Local Agents.  It would go something like this (my scepticism are in italics):-

Learn the following and repeat after me  :—

  • Equity Release is the best thing since sliced bread.
  • Of course, I am not here to sell you anything.
  • There is no fee for my independent advice —– at least not yet.
  • You can borrow a lot and you won’t have to pay back anything —– at least not yet.
  • You don’t even have to pay interest on the loan —– that can be paid after you have gone.
  • What’s not to like about that —– remember to keep smiling 🙂
  • You can use the money to fulfil your dreams.
  • Go on a holiday, give money to your grandchildren, spend it on things you could never afford before —— just make sure you tell them to live for 7 years or the taxman might have something to say about it.
  • Or  make you home more suitable with a stairlift or a wet room or maybe the conservatory you have always wanted.
  • It sounds too good to be true, but why not enjoy your wealth while you can.

There are just a few other things before we can set you on course to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow :-

  • We will have to get your house valued for a small fee.
  • Oh and you will need a solicitor to draw up the legal agreement to put a charge on your house, we know a friendly one.
  • It can all be done in a few weeks if you just sign on the dotted line.
  • Then the money will be all yours 😀😀😀😀
  • By the way there will be a charge that the loan company will make, but that can be deducted from the loan so you don’t need to pay it.
  • My small fee for all this helpful independent advice can be paid that way to.

One last thing you ought to mention …. interest rate.    But, don’t make  too much of this and explaining “compounding” might just confuse them —– don’t worry they probably won’t admit they don’t understand compound interest.

  • There will be interest on the loan, but you can pay it at the end —– or should I say your end.
  • It is a bit higher than a normal mortgage, but is a lot cheaper than credit cards.
  • In fact it is only about 5% or 6%.
  • Yes I know that is about double the mortgage rate, but we are taking all the risks and we won’t get any money back until you die —– or if we are lucky you move into a care home.
  • And the best thing of all is we give you a No Negative Equity Guarantee.  Which means you will never pay more than you house is worth —– even though by then we will have it all.

So now you have it all, go out a sell the happy life.   And remember you get £1500 for every Equity Release Loan you sell !

This is the sort of patter you are likely to encounter if you enquire about Equity Release.  It’s a hard sell wrapped-up in the cotton wool imagery of a luxurious lifestyle in later life.  If you’re going to sell something which is not particularly good value for money to older people who probably have few alternative sources of additional finance, this may well be the option of a last resort. 

BUT, that doesn’t mean that older people should be taken advantage of !

Posted in ELDERLY MARKET, Grey Products | Tagged | 2 Comments