Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Hit from behind

On Monday night our car was hit from behind at speed. Fortunately we are all OK (with some painful whiplash - but it could have been worse). The car. Less so.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Some good news on pensions?

Current retirees are living on, on average, 72% of pre-retirement family income, according to wave five of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) launched last week. The study highlights how the poorest income quartile saw a 105% replacement rate post retirement. Those in the highest income quartile saw a 61% rate.

ELSA also provides us with some evidence that gradual retirement, something ILC-UK has been supporting for many years, may be becoming a reality. The research shows that drawing a private pension income is not synonymous with leaving the labour market. In 2010-2011, 47% of men and 31% women aged 60-64 who were in receipt of an income from a private pension, were still in work.

The likelihood that we will continue in work after beginning to draw our private pension has increased overtime according to ELSA researchers. But women are more likely than men to leave work at the point they start drawing their private pension.

ELSA also highlights a number of other interesting facts. For example, 83% of men and 61% of women aged 52 and over have at some point accrued rights to a pension payment.

But whilst the researchers found that w the proportion of individuals contributing to a private pension increases in the years immediately before retirement, average pension contributions do not generally increase over this period.

On the surface, the replacement rate looks very positive. But we should wary of getting too excited about the redistribution towards the poorest pensioners. Those living in the bottom quartile continue to live on very low incomes compared with the richest.

The figures above do not take account of for example, housing wealth, which could be decumulated. It is interesting in this context to note that while pension wealth is decumulated through retirement, ELSA reveals that other forms of family wealth do not, on average decline with age.

Looking ahead, it is hard to be optimistic that future generations might see the same replacement rates as today’s older people. Some would argue that makes a case for a redistribution of resources to the young. Yet younger people today should be wary of campaigning for poorer old age/pension benefits for older people. After all, we all hope to reach old age one day. And whilst auto enrolment may play a part in increasing savings rates among younger people, current levels are clearly inadequate to provide a decent income in retirement.

In some ways it is surprising that individuals are not choosing to invest more in their pension in the years just before retirement. At this stage, older people may have paid off a mortgage and children may have left the home or finished studying. The 25% tax free incentive should be proving attractive for people who could realise this advantage quickly.

The fact that other forms of family wealth are not on average being decumulated in old age is surprising. Older people should increasingly look to housing and other non-pension wealth to help support their needs for income in retirement.

The new wave of ELSA will undoubtedly offer significant opportunities for better understanding the current wellbeing of the older population. This wave paints a pretty rosy picture in terms of average replacement rates today. But it is hard to be confident that future generations will see similar returns. Auto-enrolment is a good step forward. But will we need to move towards compulsory saving sooner rather than later?
First published at

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Mallowstreet Awards

I was recently a judge at the Mallowstreet Awards. As these things do, it included a dinner. In Vinopolis.

No, I don't know why either?

And I'm not really sure what these were supposed to be.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Making Sunday Roast

Are you thinking about making a Sunday Roast? This is what I do.

Put a bit of meat in the oven. Lamb this time. Pop a bit of rosemary and garlic in and cook slowly on a low heat (shoulder)

Put some celery and carrot ends into a pot of boiling water to make a stock (for the gravy).

Peel some potatoes.

Boil the potatoes for about 5 minutes.

Make some batter for yorkshire pudding. I tend to use a different recipe each time I do it.

Put the batter in the fridge for a while. Then after everything else is almost ready, I put it in hot fat in a hot oven for about 20 minutes.

Add a few herbs to my stock. Which I then use to make gravy using the juice from the meat and a little flour.

Put the par-boiled potatoes in a colander and put some flour or polenta on them.

Give them a shake. Then put them in hot fat in the oven.

Cut the carrots then put them in the a pan of boiling water (or steam them).

Put the food waste in the compost.

 And. All done.

The Hotel, Brussels

Most of the time in Brussels I get to stay in small shabby hotels. Last May I got to stay in "The Hotel" which was a quite nice, modern hotel.

I got to stay on a very high floor with some amazing views.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Cinnamon Club Breakfast

My office is less than a minute away from the Cinnamon Club. I have written about it once before. I haven't actually been back for lunch in a couple of years but I have eaten breakfast there probably 10 times. The staff can be ever so slightly grumpy and I think the breakfast isn't as good as it used to be. But its still pretty good.

One of my favorites is still the Bombay Scrambled Egg. mmmm.

Holiday Inn, Stratford Upon Avon

The hotel is a short walking distance from the centre of town. And it's about a 10-15 minute walk from the train station.

The breakfast was a better than average buffet and the service was pretty good.

The room had an uninteresting view of a roof. But there were plenty of power points.

The room/hotel was clean but the corridors could do with a bit of decoration.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Social Exclusion

My presentation from the Foundations Conference this week has been put on slideshare. I spoke about social exclusion and older people.

Writing quiz questions

One thing which @shellsinclair does is write quiz questions for TV. Amongst others, she has written them for The Weakest Link, Wogan's Perfect Recall, Postcode Challenge, Shafted (yes the one which features every now and then on Have I Got News For You) and of course, Only Connect.

She rarely takes my wise counsel and accepts my fantastic quiz ideas but she does occasionally get a mention.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Nantcol Waterfalls Campsite

In April 2011 we went camping. We haven't been as a family since then but I still hold high hopes that I will convince Michelle back under canvas.

We stayed for the long Royal Wedding weekend at Nantcol Waterfalls Campsite. It's probably the nicest campsite I've ever been to. You could have a fire, there was a pretty stream and waterfall. There were lots of kids to play with George. And the facilities were clean and modern.

It started so well.

But then, at around 3 in the morning. The tent completely collapsed. It was very windy. Two solid poles actually snapped. We had to drag George (asleep) out of the tent whilst trying to grab things which were blowing away and anchor down the tent with a gas bottle. We sat in the car for a couple of hours in the dark before first light which allowed us to literally throw everything in the boot before heading on the 5 hour journey back.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Two days at the abbey

During the summer, we had a week's holiday in London. We stayed at the Premier Inn in Islington (which is pretty good).

While we were there, Westminster Abbey were hosting a couple of activity sessions for kids. One was Medieval Olympics. I forget what they called the other session.

But George enjoyed them both.

Chichester Half Marathon

Despite coming in the last 20 finishers I was very pleased with my time for the Chischester half.

Yes, it was my slowest competitve half mile run this year but (here come the excuses):
1) It was my first off road run
2) Most of the runners were club runners (I am not)
3) I've been struggling with two injuries since mid July.
4) Because of my injuries, I've only been out for a couple of runs since the Great North Run.
5) The first half was pretty tough, particularly the 2 mile (steep) uphill just before the halfway point.

But it was a good event. It was well organised and the route attractive. I hope I can do it again next year.

Prezzo Chichester

I visited in October 2012 after doing the hilly Chichester 1/2 marathon.

I had Calamari to start and a large (VIPizza) as a main. The Calamari was hot but nothing special. I'm not sure the VIPizza is any bigger than the classic - and I thought it was slightly bland.

The kids activity sheet was enjoyed by our five year old. The staff were good and the decor nice.

This was my first visit to a Prezzo. And I enjoyed it. But given a future choice between Pezzo and Pizza Express, I think I'd choose the latter.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Why I had the flu jab

Today I popped into Superdrug and had a seasonal flu vaccination.

These are my four reasons why:

1) It only cost £9.99. A bargain if it saves me from 2 weeks missed work, should I get the flu.
2) It will reduce the likelihood that I will get the flu. The vaccine is normally 50-60% effective.
3) It will reduce the chances that I will pass the flu to others. Others who may be much more vulnerable to the flu than I. The more people vaccinated, the more difficult it will be to spread quickly.
4) I do some work on adult immunisation and wanted to see how easy it was. Very.

Location:Bognor Regis,United Kingdom

Friday, 12 October 2012

A day at the barracks

We were lucky enough to get some tickets for the Royal Artillary Barracks (RAB) during the Paralympics. Our tickets allowed us to see the shooting and archery. I'd spent a few days at RAB during the Olympics so I was glad to be back to see it as a punter.

I loved the buildings.

We got to see a bit of shooting, some practicing and a final in the finals hall. Shooting is not really a spectator sport.

And we got to see some Archery. Including a British Paralympian.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Archery at the Paralympics

In the summer we spent a day at the Royal Artillary Barracks watching the Paralympic Shooting and Archery.

We got to have a go at the Archery. It was fun.