How to cash in on  the financial treats of turning 60

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I resisted, by Jove I did, but in the end it was inevitable. I have now officially joined the ranks of the ‘young-old’ – the growing segment of the population aged between 60 and 75, but who in the main are active, healthy and stupendously productive.

When it came, the birthday celebration was a little muted, nothing like my 21st, or for that matter my 50th when I danced the night away at the Bel Air Night Club and Lounge, part of the Belfry Hotel golf resort in Sutton Coldfield, surrounded by footballers and their wives (or possibly mistresses).

This time around, it was a trip up to the top of the Shard in London (scarily open-air and well worth a visit) followed by a night in a jazz club in swanky Belgravia where the live music was somewhat spoilt by a noisy Russian who was obviously having serious matrimonial problems.

 ‘Young-old’: Jeff Prestridge has turned 60

My companion for the night, always up for a challenge, tried to get him to quieten down at one stage, but he wasn’t having any of it. Thankfully, he eventually stormed off to the Cigar Terrace where no doubt he fumed away profusely.

So, do I feel any different as a result of hitting 60? A little more ancient and creaky at the knees? Not really. A couple of weeks after my landmark birthday, I still managed to run the London Marathon, albeit rather badly – race winner Eliud Kipchoge could have run the course twice and still been home before me.

But as my dad (rest in peace) always used to tell me, it’s the participation, not the winning, that counts. I’ve already put my name in the ballot for the London Marathon 2020 while my 2019 medal is currently pride of place in my lounge at home so that visitors cannot possibly miss it.

I followed the 26.2-mile slog around London with a lovely 10km run six days ago along the Bluebell route in Watford’s Cassiobury Park. I felt good – and the bluebells were out in force.

Even two vicious hills didn’t deter me from ending with a Sebastian Coe-style sprint to the finish line. Two fingers to age.

Jeff gets reduced fares on the Thames Clipper

Jeff gets reduced fares on the Thames Clipper

Young-old? Not really, just a little more middle-aged than I previously was although I wouldn’t be averse to taking the occasional anti-ageing pill when they come along – Harvard Medical school biologist Dr David Sinclair has already managed to reverse the ageing process in the tissues and muscles of elderly mice. Maybe next, on an elderly Prestridge.

Although I’m now a little more reluctant to reveal my age than I used to be as a result of a six rather than a five being the first digit – and I accept I am closer to the ‘end’ than the ‘beginning’ – it’s not all bad news. Especially when it comes to personal finance.

While my State pension will not be kick-started into payment for another six years – and a range of other freebies and allowances are out of my grasp until I hit 65 – I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the financial treats I am now eligible for, even though I’ve stumbled upon some of them more by accident than design.

The first ‘treat’ I latched on to was discounted train travel. As a passionate football supporter (West Bromwich Albion is my team), I spend most Saturdays during the season sitting on a train either travelling up to The Hawthorns (home of WBA FC) or watching Sheffield United (newly promoted to the Premiership) where my eldest son is head of sports science. It costs a small fortune but from now on, it is going to cost a little less – a result of the purchase of a ‘senior railcard’ costing £30 a year.

He also gets cheaper season ticket at The Hawthorns

He also gets cheaper season ticket at The Hawthorns

Eye tests to bus rides… some of the benefits for over-60s

At 60

Senior Railcard – a third off train travel costs. senior-railcard.co.uk.

Free bus travel – for those living in Scotland/Northern Ireland/Wales and London (also eligible for free tube and train travel). gov.uk/apply-for-elderly-person-bus-pass.

Free eye tests (free for all ages in Scotland).

Free NHS prescriptions, normally costing £9 (free for all those living in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland – irrespective of age). Details at services.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/check-for-help-paying-nhs-costs/start.

Free dental check-ups (Wales and Scotland).

Senior Coachcard from National Express – a third off fares plus discounted fares on some midweek travel. £15 per year (including postage). Details at nationalexpress.com.

Interrail – unlimited travel across Europe via train (myinterrail.co.uk). A one-month pass costs £524 (a 28 to 59-year-old pays £582).

At 65

Reduced prices for membership to English Heritage – £51 annual (compared to £60 for under-65s). Joint membership for two seniors £78. Monuments include Stonehenge and Tintagel Castle.

Free flu jab – details at: nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/who-should-have-flu-vaccine/

Winter fuel payment – paid annually.

Senior 65+ SmartPass (Northern Ireland) – free public transport all over Ireland. Details at: nidirect.gov.uk/articles/60senior-smartpass.

Simple to buy, the card – complete with pre-60 mugshot – now sits on my iPhone and is resulting in a third off my travel costs. A trip to see Sheffield’s last home game of the season – against Ipswich – cost £56.65 return, compared to the usual £84.50 (I usually opt for weekend first). A month in and I have already recouped the card’s cost.

Of course, no one – Trainline for example – prompts you to buy the discounted travel card. So if you are approaching 60 and use the trains regularly, make a note to purchase one soonest so you can take full advantage straightaway – you can apply at senior-railcard.co.uk.

For the record, I wasn’t as prompt as I should have been, resulting in a couple of tickets purchased at full price when I was eligible to get them discounted. An expensive mistake.

It wasn’t until I had got into a 60s mind-set and bought my senior railcard that I realised I might then have missed a trick with my season ticket at The Hawthorns.

Keen to renew promptly for the 2019/2020 season, thereby taking advantage of ‘early bird’ prices and ensuring I could keep my seat next to the lovely Tricia (a delightful retired accountant), I failed to realise that I was now eligible for an over-60s reduced priced ticket. The result was that I forked out £429 when I should only have paid £339 (some would say that is still too much to pay for watching WBA).

Thankfully, Lee in the club’s ticket office sorted out the matter promptly – resulting in a £90 refund being paid into my bank account. West Bromwich is not unique in offering discounted tickets to ‘seniors’. Most clubs do irrespective of what division they are in.

For example, Northampton Town, a lovely but lowly League Two club, is offering seniors the opportunity to buy a season ticket in its main West Stand for £280 if they purchase before May 25. This compares to £380 for a standard adult ticket.

At Premier League club Burnley, its senior prices are only available to those aged 65 and over, although the discounts are generous.

The other big over-60s win is my 60-plus London Oyster photocard that entitles me to free travel in London, whether by tube, tram or rail. A card, that when it arrives (hurry up, Mr Postman), will save me a small fortune in fares (at least £100 a month). It even offers a 50 per cent reduction on the Thames Clipper that ferries travellers to and from London (both west and east) via the river.

A perfect way to start and finish the day, especially if the sun is rising or setting, there’s not a whiff of rain in the air, and you can sit outside and enjoy the breeze.

Jeff is now eligible for a free eye test as a result of hitting age 60

Jeff is now eligible for a free eye test as a result of hitting age 60

All it costs to set up the card is £20 and I qualify because I live in London. Similar free or heavily discounted public transport passes exist for people who live elsewhere – for example the 60+SmartPass card is available for residents of Northern Ireland (providing free travel across Northern Ireland) while the National Entitlement card runs in Scotland.

Is it fair that the ‘young-old’ are given freebies? 

Of course, some readers will balk at the idea of over-60s continuing to receive financial discounts or freebies – especially those ‘young-old’ like me who are employed, financially comfortable and relatively healthy.

Last month, a House of Lords committee on ‘intergenerational fairness and provision’ called on the Government to better accommodate the financial needs of the young, many of whom are priced out of the housing market.

As part of this rebalancing exercise, it recommended that the triple lock for the State pension be abolished. Currently, this ensures the pension rises by at least 2.5 per cent – more if either average earnings growth or inflation are higher. It wants instead increases to be linked just to average earnings.

It also said age-related free TV licences – currently available to those 75 and over – should be phased out while free bus passes and the annual winter fuel payment (ranging between £100 and £300 and typically available to the over-65s) should only be available five years after someone becomes eligible for the State pension.

So in my case, no free bus pass until age 71.

Finally, the House of Lords committee called for workers over State pension age to start paying National Insurance – which they currently don’t do.

 

In Wales, you can get a free bus pass at age 60 while in England, you get a free one when you reach the female State pension age (yes, female, not male). To check your eligibility, visit gov.uk/apply-for-elderly-person-bus-pass. For the record, I am not entitled to a free national bus pass until 2025.

Some over-60s special deals I thought I might get are no longer available, or come with too many strings attached to qualify.

So, a 10 per cent price discount on selected garden items bought at B&Q on a Wednesday is no longer available for 60-plus newbies because the company has closed its associated Diamond Card scheme to new applicants.

Despite my love of bulbs, seeds and plants (anything I can put in a container) it’s not a big loss given it would have been nigh on impossible to pop down to the nearest branch (Wandsworth, South London) some four miles away without my absence from work being noted.

A 25 per cent discount on National Trust membership is also beyond my grasp because I haven’t been a member for at least five of the past ten years to qualify. The Ramblers Association – I love a good romp in the mountains – won’t play ball because I have yet to hit State pension age (and I would only then qualify if I was dependent upon the pension).

Yet I am now eligible for a free eye test as a result of hitting age 60. So, time to head to Boots, get new spectacles (with 25 per cent off) and receive a hatful of points on my Advantage store card (courtesy of the fact that I’m eligible for additional over-60s rewards).

Armed with enhanced vision, I will then enjoy free coffee and biscuits at my local Picturehouse cinema as part of the benefits available under its silver-screen membership scheme for the over-60s. All consumed while watching Amazing, a documentary about the late great Aretha Franklin, with a discounted film ticket.

I estimate I will save some £2,500 over the next year. Over 60? It’s all rather amazing.



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