A tale of ups and downs.
“It began as a 1980s government- sponsored pensions revolution: contract out of your company pension to potentially boost returns on your state second pension – a basic pension top-up – by investing in a personal pension. Armies of commission-driven salesmen then went on the rampage to convince the public their valuable final-salary occupational schemes – guaranteeing set sums at retirement – should be ditched in favour of riskier personal pensions based on stockmarket returns. Disaster ensued as vast numbers of people traded generous and safe pensions for riskier alternatives“. From The Guardian June 2009.
Dear reader I was one of those naive people who in 1991 ditched the best pension in the UK, the NHS pension, and signed up with the nice Scottish chap from the Scottish Widows Financial company, who came to visit one day. Eventually it came to light that I was mis-sold the SW pension, and I gave it up and went straight back into the NHS scheme. Apparently you were supposed to get compensation for the mis-selling, but I don’t remember getting any, and it’s a bit late now anyway.
Imagine my surprise, if you can, when earlier this year Scottish Widows tracked me down and asked me to get in touch with them. I did. I had to send my marriage certificate to them to change my last name as I was not with Phil back then, so I did that too.
Imagine my even greater surprise when they sent me a statement telling me what my pension with them is now.
Oh my goodness, some of what I paid in was left behind and hey presto 25 years later I have 38K!! I was a little bit happy as a pig in poo I can tell you! They asked me to think about what to do, take some, take it all, leave it in etc, and Phil and I had some discussions and I decided to take it all out and pay the tax, which would leave me with about 25K and keep it in with our savings, but use half of it to retire at 65 instead of 66. Yipee!!
So I got in touch with them and they organised a phone call with one of their chaps, which duly happened. For 90 minutes! Lots and lots of questions and making sure I knew what I was doing but also information that actually my pension pot was not 38K, but was going to be a wee a bit less,
Oh well, that would still be about 22K in my hand after all the t’s and i’s were crossed and dotted. OK said the guy on the phone, the money will go into your bank in 8 days time.
8 days came, and 8 days went, then the Queen died and the country came to a standstill for 10 days, so I hung on until that went by and phoned to find out what was going on. “I’m sorry all our operators are very busy at this time, you can call back later or stay on hold. The current waiting time for on hold is 40 minutes.’
I held dear reader. Sure enough 47 minutes later I spoke to a nice Scottish lady, explained what was going on and she put me on hold for another 10 minutes while she went to speak to someone else about it. When she came back she told me there’d been some error or somesuch on the amount and someone would give me a call on Monday in office hours between 9 & 5. I told her I’d be at work and not able to answer so leave a message with a number I coud ring back directly on.
Someone rang me on Monday, Tuesday and left a message with the number on. I got round to ringing it today on my day off. “I’m sorry all our operators are very busy at this time, you can call back later or stay on hold. The current waiting time for on hold is 40 minutes.” SIgh.
I held. 47 minutes. Eventually spoke to I think a nice Asian lady, (not Scottish as I’ve got the hang of understanding the Scottish accent now,) who then went off to find me a nice Scottish lady. She then put me on hold for another 5 minutes whilst she went to speak to someone else. It had already struck me after reading an article in The I that maybe something was afoot.
So I’m thinking, hang on, the figures I got, the chat I got with the guy, the 8 days up when the money should be paid in, all happened before the mini-budget when everything changed, they must have known what would happen in the budget so they’ve hung on to mine (and probably others) waiting for this so the payouts could be even less! Greedy corrupt Fat Cats at the top making decisions that stuff the little people.
The nice Scottish lady came back. Yes I’ve got your revise pension pot figures she said, £7,603. Wait what?? I replied. Where’s the rest of it?? Are you telling me this mini budget has wiped £23,000 off my pension?? I didn’t swear dear reader, as it isn’t the nice Scottish ladies fault. But I was quite staggered and informed her of my staggering. Oh no, she said, this is nothing to do with the budget, the initial forecast was a mistake. Someone made a mistake at the outset and I’m very sorry, would you like me to pass it on the complaints department and they’ll get in touch with you? Please just put me through to them I asked, I don’t want to go through the rigmarole of them phoning me to no avail, and me being on hold for another 47 minutes 3 days later getting nowhere. Oh sorry again, the Scottish lady apologised, the complaints department doesn’t have a phone number, we do it all by email. I kid you not dear reader, my staggeredness was off the charts at this point.
I gave up. And now a few hours have passed and I can’t help laughing. This wasn’t down to FatCat sneakybeaks, but to a monumental cock-up by some pesky twit who needs a bloody calculator for Christmas in the add-up-the-numbers-department of Scottish Widows.