Time to rethink non-means-tested benefits for pensioners

Pensioner bonds are effectively another non-means-tested benefit for pensioners. It’s time we rethought the whole lot of them.


Pensioners already have lots of non-means-tested-benefits. Do they really need another?

Pensioner bonds. I wrote about these in my last post,but in thinking about how to explain the problem I see with them on the BBC last night I realised that they effectively represent a non-means-tested benefit for the over 65s.

There is already a conversation going on about whether it is reasonable for us to offer the non-means-tested benefits we already do to legions of able-bodied 65+ year olds.

Winter fuel payments, TV licences, free prescriptions (for the over 60s) and free bus passes for pensioners are all in the firing line. That makes some pensioners angry they feel they have paid in and they should be able to take out.

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But given the parlous financial state of the country it does make some sense: pensioners on average are pretty well off; we have the welfare state to provide for those who are not; and all these freebies cost £5bn-odd a year all in.

My point? That this is a pretty strange background against which to launch what is effectively another non-means-tested benefit for pensioners, and in this case specifically for the better off among them. It's odd.

Merryn Somerset Webb

Merryn Somerset Webb started her career in Tokyo at public broadcaster NHK before becoming a Japanese equity broker at what was then Warburgs. She went on to work at SBC and UBS without moving from her desk in Kamiyacho (it was the age of mergers).

After five years in Japan she returned to work in the UK at Paribas. This soon became BNP Paribas. Again, no desk move was required. On leaving the City, Merryn helped The Week magazine with its City pages before becoming the launch editor of MoneyWeek in 2000 and taking on columns first in the Sunday Times and then in 2009 in the Financial Times

Twenty years on, MoneyWeek is the best-selling financial magazine in the UK. Merryn was its Editor in Chief until 2022. She is now a senior columnist at Bloomberg and host of the Merryn Talks Money podcast -  but still writes for Moneyweek monthly. 

Merryn is also is a non executive director of two investment trusts – BlackRock Throgmorton, and the Murray Income Investment Trust.