Pensions ‘time bomb’ leaves retirees in limbo

The pensions ‘ticking time-bomb’ facing the country has been highlighted by a Galway senator.

Oranmore-based Independent senator Fidelma Healy Eames has urged Government to address concerns of soon-to-be retirees who are being left in limbo by changes to retirement age.

Ms Healy Eames, who is contesting the upcoming General Election, said many people who are approaching retirement haven’t been given enough time to plan for the extra year between 65 and 66.

The retirement age will subsequently increase to 67, and the former Fine Gael politician said this needs to be properly planned for.

She said that the Government has acknowledged there is a problem but she wants action to address it to assuage the fears of those approaching retirement.

“A Galway family has brought this issue to my attention. They are a husband and wife aged approximately 60. The family has made the valid point to me which is there was insufficient notice for people as old as 59 or 60 to plan for their retirement when the pension age was moved to 67,” she said.

Senator Healy Eames said the Government made a mistake when it “introduced measures to move the age to 67 for people that were over 50 or 55 years of age.”

“Now they are in trouble. As this man and his wife said to me, they will lose at least €40,000 if they live the average life expectancy,” she said.

Senator Healy Eames called on Government to at a minimum extend the transition pension to include the second year after retirement between 66 and 67.

She was speaking in the Seanad on the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2015, and addressed her concerns to Minister of State, Kevin Humphreys.

Deputy Humphreys acknowledged there was an issue and pledge that the next Government would address it.

Deputy Humphreys said: “On many occasions over the past number of years, people have approached me with complaints about being forced to retire. This issue must be addressed. People should not be forced to retire at 65 or 66 years of age when they want to continue to actively contribute. Forced retirement is in many ways ageism at its worst. Such people are fully engaged in the workforce, their communities and the network, and we must seriously consider the matter.

“Senator Healy Eames asked about the relationship between having to retire at 66 rather than later at 67 years. These matters need to be addressed and will be addressed within the coming weeks. The issue has been flagged and the ages have been increased. The age between 66 and 67 years will be addressed in the coming weeks. All short-term social welfare schemes, including jobseeker schemes, are payable up to the age of 66. Jobseekers whose benefit expires in their 65th year will continue to be paid benefits up until they reach 66 years.

“The Senator talked about people who are now in their 60s and will retire on reaching 67 years. Currently, the mechanisms that are in place take a person up to the age of 66. I will give the Senator a note on the matter but I repeat that all short-term social welfare schemes, including jobseeker schemes, are payable up to the age of 66. Jobseekers whose benefits expire in their 65th year will continue to be paid benefits up until the age of 66. Therefore, the couple that the Senator mentioned are dealt with up to the age of 66. We will have to see how the retirement age of 67, which applies to me and possibly the Senator, will be dealt with.”

The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011 made a number of changes to the qualifying age for State pensions. The qualifying age will rise to 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028.

According to the department: if you were born on or after 1 January 1955 the minimum qualifying State pension age will be 67; if you were born on or after 1 January 1961 the minimum qualifying State pension age will be 68.