Published On: Sat, May 2nd, 2020

Retirement and me: Frugal lifestyle leaves pensioner, 63, unable to claim Universal Credit | Personal Finance | Finance

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought much of the UK to a standstill, with Britons being urged to stay at home except for exceptional circumstances, in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Sadly, more than 27,500 people have now lost their life in the UK after being infected with COVID-19, with the global death toll now in excess of 200,000. The outbreak was something of great concern for Joan, 63, whose name has been changed.

Most recently in her career, Joan – who turns 64 this month – had been working on the checkout in a UK supermarket, as well as topping up her income with field sales marketing, something which she does on a zero-hours contract.

She also receives around £60 a week via a private pension, having taken a 25 percent lump sum at the age of 60.

However, in March, she became ill, and health and safety fears meant she found herself unable to return to work.

During an exclusive interview with, Joan recalls her distress.

“I thought, ‘I can’t go back. I don’t want to work on the frontline. I don’t want to put my life at risk,'” she explains.

READ MORE: Universal Credit UK: Claimants may be able to get bonus of more than £1,000 

Joan, who lives alone, adds: “I thought, if I can’t get out of bed in the morning, there’s no one going to help me, so what do I do?”

It was something which was having an impact on her health, she explains. “I was getting panic attacks. It just frightened me, I thought, ‘No I can’t go back’.”

Joan made the decision to resign from the role, and looked into whether she could claim Universal Credit during the crisis.

However, eligibilty rules surrounding savings mean that she isn’t eligible.

Rather than having spent her lump sum from her pension in recent years, Joan made the decision to save the money in the bank for the future – taking her over the £16,000 savings limit for getting Universal Credit.


“I put it away and I haven’t touched the little pot. I wasn’t intending to give up work just yet, but doing the work I was doing, I just felt it was a bit of a threat to my life.”

Joan had been saving the money for when she does come to retire full-time, and had made an effort to not spend the funds for that very reason.

“I needed a new car a couple of years ago because mine got smashed into. But instead of going out and buying a new car, I bought myself a little old banger,” she says. “Which serves me well, but I could have spent my money on other things, like things that needed doing in my home.

“But because I’d hung on to the money – hung on to the cash – and I’d been honest and declared it, I shot myself in the foot with regards to getting any help.”

Joan says she’s lucky to have the funds, and points out that others don’t have any financial reserves. But, that doesn’t stop it being a very worrying time for her.

“I’ve got to pay my Council Tax, my bills and my living expenses. That means I’m going to have to really tighten my belt and spend the bare minimum really,” she says.

“It is a worry because I’ve never really had to worry about it before because I’ve always worked, I’ve always had an income.

“Although I’ve always been independent and I’ve learnt to live within my means, it’s just it’s all now come to a big full stop.

“And being 64, I mean what’s my place in the future work? Will I be able to find a job? I doubt it at my age.

“There’ll be a lot of people out there unemployed. So I’m thinking maybe this is it, I’m being forced into early retirement because of the situation.”

Having worked for more than 40 years, Joan paid into a private pension for 20, and will get the full state pension once she reaches state pension age – something she’ll reach in September 2022.

She doesn’t remember being told that the state pension age had changed, but thinks she became aware of it once she was “getting near to 60”.

Joan adds that she doesn’t think she had known in her “younger days”, adding: “Otherwise I probably would have made better provisions.

“Luckily I did pay into a pension, a work pension, so that’s why I’ve got a little bit behind me, but [it’s] not a lifelong pension.”

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