Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Retirement deferred by 11 years.

In another world, I would be retiring this month.  As it is, I still have to work another 11 years and 1 month.

I started paying into the NHS pension scheme in 1983. From 1988 I had ‘mental health officer’ status, which meant I could retire at 55 and have every year over 20 years’ service ‘doubled’. When I moved into education in 1992 I shifted to what is known as special class status, which meant still being able to retire at 55, but without the doubling of years. This also makes provision for up to five years break in service before losing special class status

Maybe this would have compensated for the sarcoidosis I acquired after working with TB patients as a student nurse in 1982 or the chronic back pain I have that is almost certainly as a result of poor lifting technique taught in the 1980’s further exacerbated by being regularly called to other wards to help lift very heavy patients.

In 1996, the NHS College of Health I worked for was integrated into a University.  When I transferred from the NHS pension scheme to the University Superannuation Scheme (USS) I was informed that all my NHS pension benefits, including my special class status, would be preserved by the USS and the terms of appointment deemed me to have had continuous service from 1st September 1983.

I had a break in service to work abroad (two years and eight months) from December 2000 until September 2003, when I then joined another University.

When I telephoned USS to enquire about my status early in 2011, I was informed on the telephone that although I had lost my MHO status, I still had Special Class status and would be able to retire at 55. However, in 2012 when I enquired again, I received written confirmation that I had lost all these benefits.

I returned to the NHS in 2013, to work as a therapist. Stupidly, I transferred my USS pension back into the NHS scheme and because of austerity measures, I now find that my retirement date is in 2026 and I no longer will receive a lump sum. If I’d left my funds with the USS, perhaps I might have had something at 60.

I guess this a salutary lesson in being careful with your pension planning and taking advice before career changes and development, but it speaks of the inherent unfairness in today’s financial climate, too.

I've been putting money into my pension all this time, but discover it isn't really my money if the government needs to subsidise the bankers.