Golden Girls: Do Mention The Pension

First published: GuySpy, August 2013.

As the British nation prepares itself for the first ever gay marriages in 2014, chances are that thousands of gay men are reaching for retirement at the same time.

Of course, there are many who have already retired, but most would have lived partly in a sheltered gay, but mostly straight-’acting’ environment. After all, gay sex was only decriminalised in 1967 and anyone born after the second would war could have lived most of their adult life openly gay, without the risk of imprisonment – although discrimination has only been gradually eroded in this century.

What’s significant about this is that these men (and women) are part of the first generation of openly gay people to retire. This raises a number of issues.

Anyone, gay or straight, reaching retirement age is entitled to a pension from the state. We all know this isn’t sufficient to keep a “girl” going, but at least with the new Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, homosexualists will be able to transfer their benefits to a partner, which hasn’t been possible under the existing Civil Partnership legislation.

However most gay men of my generation never expected complete equality in law and had already started to make provision elsewhere. Which is good news – either through company pensions, personal pensions or, like so many people in Britain do, in residential property. I don’t know if this was the influence of their oldies or the “let’s make lots of money” Thatcher years (thank you, PSB), but I’ve also found that at least some of them have diversified their portfolios a little.

However, a large number of gay guys have relied on the appreciation of the property market and are now sitting on a significant asset in their home (ahem). The problem now is that they can’t get an income from it because they need to live somewhere themselves. So what are they going to do? The clever (or lucky ones) have bought more than one property and can live on rental income if they find good tenants.

Typically, I meet many gay men, with or without partners, who rely almost totally on some limited cash savings and the income from a number of properties that are difficult to shift as they grow older. So what should they do? If you’re approaching midlife it doesn’t have to be a crisis, but there are a few financial issues that you should start to take seriously.

Firstly, if you live with your partner, make sure the ownership of your house is dealt with according to your personal circumstances, your needs and wishes. Secondly, if your income isn’t adequate for your needs over the next 20-30 years, perhaps you should consider selling some properties and moving into other investments such as fixed interest or even commercial, rather than residential property.

If your home is your largest asset, perhaps you should look into some kind of equity release or even, if you’ve already retired, some home reversion plans. You could also look at Long-Term Care policies to cover the cost of care when you need it.

As usual, financial planning is not all straightforward, and everyone is different, but a good financial health check as you get closer to retirement can be the best move you ever make. Opportunities, opportunities, opportunities!