UK pensioners selling family valuables to fund retirement

13th August 2013

Hundreds of thousands of UK retirees are resorting to selling their family heirlooms in a bid to fund their lifestyles writes Philip Scott.

With the need often outweighing sentimentality, research from retirement specialist LV= has found that more than 550,000 retirees have sold off at least £729m worth of valuables family items and keepsakes in the past five years to help supplement their pensions.

One in 20 pensioners has already sold off a valuable item and the survey found that the average value of items parted with by cash-conscious retirees was a hefty £1,309. The heirlooms in question had been in families for an average of 84 years but with more people looking to boost their retirement income, LV= expects the trend to continue in the decades to come.

The research found that of those approaching retirement – people aged 50 to 64 – some 15 per cent admit to having already parted with a high value item, with an average worth of a colossal £2,667, while a further 57 per cent say it is something they are giving serious thought to. Looking further ahead, some 48 per cent of ‘grown up children’ say they anticipate to inherit a high value keepsake from within their family that they could well sell on to increase their personal funds.

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When it comes to what pensioners are selling it appears as if everything’s up for grabs. More specialist pieces such as sets of collectible toys and stamps, old war medals and sports shirts feature in the top 10 list but the five biggest sellers are perhaps as expected. Necklaces and bracelets come in at number one, at 39 per cent, followed by ‘classic antiques’ such as vases and silverware, at 22 per cent and watches or timepieces at 20 per cent. Crockery and brooches came in at 15 per cent and 14 per cent respectively.

Whilst over two thirds of all items sold by retirees in the past five years were identified as family heirlooms – and that 57 per cent would have been handed down to a younger family member had they not been moved on – almost half of entrepreneurial pensioners, at 44 per cent did not feel an ounce of sentimentality about the sale.

Commenting on the findings, Ray Chinn, LV= head of pensions, says: “The research highlights one of the less conventional methods being used by people to help fund their retirements. Of course, we understand that as retirement approaches people may find they have inadequate provisions to support the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed and selling off valuable items and family keepsakes can provide a short-term boost to a seemingly inadequate pension pot. But, it is a stopgap measure and not a viable, long-term solution to the problem.

“It will come as a surprise to some people but you can actually build up a pretty sizeable pension pot in under 20 years and by taking professional financial advice you can make this money work harder. Also selecting the right type of retirement income product, be it enhanced, fixed term or investment linked annuities, income drawdown can make a significant difference. So with a sensible savings and retirement plan in place you can keep those family valuables where they belong, in the family.”

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