Oldies are pampered. We should offer a new deal to the young | Patrick Collinson | Money

At the lovely Meyrick hotel in Galway, I had my first experience of a freebie solely because I had just tipped over 55 years old. The hotel pointed out I could now benefit from their “golden years” package, knocking quite a bit off the price. Meanwhile at my gym, I now qualify for a low-cost deal because I’m over 55. And in a few years’ time I get the big one: the TfL pass giving free 24-hour travel over the city’s entire transport network.

I shall continue to benefit from sizeable tax relief on my pension contributions – worth far more to older people like me on higher salaries, as I obtain 40% tax relief, while young people on smaller salaries get just 20% relief. I also benefit from Isa tax relief as I can afford to save when young people can’t. Then there is the juiciest of all tax reliefs: no capital gains tax when I sell my home – while Generation Rent grimly hand half or more of their take-home pay to landlords.

What do young adults get starting out in life today? Depressed wages. Absurd college debts. Ridiculous house prices and rents. Yes, they have help-to-buy, but that has largely helped housebuilders push up prices and pocket big bonuses. Oh, there’s also the new 26-30 Railcard, giving them one third off most off-peak train fares. Generous, aren’t we?

Our How I Spend It case study this week proves that not all young adults have been dealt a bad hand. And of course there are plenty of pensioners who are poorly off. But it’s beyond question that far too many young adults today are getting an incredibly raw deal.

How can we rectify the situation? We could start with aligning free travel passes with the state pension age and shift the benefit to the young. We could introduce free travel on public transport for the under-30s. Outlandish? Luxembourg has gone even further, and has just introduced free public transport for everyone. The amount young people have to spend travelling to work when their income is low and rents high is unforgivable.

Pension experts have long recognised that tax reliefs are wildly imbalanced, but nothing has been done as politicians fret about the grey vote. Listen to the howls of protest (not from young people) at the merest suggestion that rents be stabilised or capped. Raise inheritance tax? Unthinkable. Introduce a wealth tax? A non-starter. Ask high-income pensioners (there are lots of them) to pay national insurance to fund better care? Outrageous. Pass the bill to the working young.

We’re used to the young telling adults “you’ve ruined my life”. For millennials, they may just be right.

The most extraordinary financial event happened last Friday. The underfloor heating broke down in my home. After an hour of ringing round, I found an emergency plumber. He spent about 40 minutes on actuators, manifolds and other words I barely knew existed.

How much will that be, I asked, warily. I’d taken out £200 in cash, but secretly hoped I’d get away with something like £100. He waved at me and said, no, don’t worry. What?

This is a true story. I called out an emergency plumber – and he charged me nothing. Has this ever happened before in history?

This week I had a problem with Ryanair. I’d entered the wrong day into a booking. On their customer chat service, I asked to change it, anticipating an idiotic fee. Khalid came online, looked at my request, and changed the flight. How much will that be, then, I asked. Oh, that’s nothing, he said. What?

It turns out you can make changes to flights within 24 hours and pay just the fare difference and avoid their usual hideous penalties. There was a fare difference, though it was only £3. I asked Khalid how I should pay the £3. He said don’t worry.

Last Sunday I began my tax return. I mentally prepared for hours of anguish, digging out old bank statements, P60s, P11Ds and the rest. But now the return is pre-populated with most figures, and all correct. In little more than 15 minutes I was finished. What?

Life just goes right sometimes. But if you want the number for that plumber, forget it, he’s mine. He has won a customer for life.

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