If you're over 50, or about to get there, your money world goes through some big changes. So sort your finances now - the older you get, the more your cash needs to look after you.
Income may fall, but freebies are more available. Whether you plan to work, retire, or travel the world on a unicycle, this is a treasure trove of 50 crucial tips for MoneySaving in your 50s and beyond.
In this guide
Pensions and retirement
Two of the most important issues are when you'll retire, and where your cash is going to come from when you do. Tackle them as soon as possible - you'll be glad you did.
When must I retire?
Plan ahead to safeguard your income
While the default retirement age was previously 65 for both men and women, it's now being scrapped.
Providing you weren't given notice before 6 April 2011, your employer can't make you retire at any age, so it's your decision if and when you choose to stop working.
When do I get the state pension?
Use the State Pension Calculator to find when yours is due
When you'll get the state pension depends on when you were born:
Men qualify for the state pension at 65.
Women born before 6 April 1950 qualify at 60.
Women's state pension age is gradually increasing to match men's state pension age. For women born after the threshold above, your state pension age will vary depending on your date of birth. The younger you are, the later the pension age.
The state pension age is set to gradually rise to 66 for both men
and women by April 2020. Use the government's online
State Pension Calculator to check when yours is due.
Don't forget, you only qualify for the full state pension if you've got enough years of National Insurance contributions. If you've got a private pension, you may be able to keep working and take it later, so check with your provider.
How much will my state pension be?
Find out how much you can get and when it increases
Though the system's complex, it's vital to understand where you fit in to ensure you won't be living on less than you have to.
How much is the full Basic State Pension?
£110.15 a week for individuals.
£176.15 for couples where only one person qualifies for the full state pension and the other gets a reduced pension (otherwise you both get the single person amount).
It isn't means tested, so it doesn't matter what you've earned or saved. Yet to get the full amount you'll need to have been in employment and paid National Insurance (or had National Insurance credits) for 30 years. It increases every April by the greater of 2.5%, the consumer prices index (CPI) inflation measure, or average earnings. See the State Pension guide.
What's the Second State Pension? You also qualify for this at official retirement age, but it works differently. Only some are entitled to it, and you'll need to have been employed, rather than self-employed, to get it. Yet changes are afoot:
A huge pension shake-up's planned that could see a £155-a-week flat rate state pension from 2015 or 2016, with basic and second state pensions merged.
Pension credit: ensure you don't miss out
Up to 1.5m pensioners are - so check now
On top of the Basic State Pension, Pension Credit's an extra payment to help top up your pocket. If you're over the qualifying age and you've an income of under £145.40 a week, or £222.05 for couples, you may be able to get it.
The qualifying age for Pension Credit's gradually increasing to 66 for both men and women, in line with the increase in women's state pension age.
Check if you're entitled. Call 0800 99 1234, and spread the word if you know someone who may be. It's aimed at people with low incomes, but it's still worth finding out if you're eligible even if you've a second pension, have some savings or own your house. To help, we've a nifty Benefits Check-Up tool to checks your entitlement for this 'n' more.
Saved for retirement? If you're 65 or over and you have an income of up to £189 per week including your pension (£277 for a couple) you may be still be eligible for the Savings Credit element of the payment. Use the Government calculator to check, or see 'What's Pension Credit?'
Boost your pension with extra years
You may be able to increase it by £1,000s
Don't assume your state pension is a fixed sum that you have no power over. There are ways to increase it.
If you get less than the full amount, consider boosting it.
In some cases, paying a few hundred pounds to make up for missed National Insurance payments can add up to many thousands in your pocket over the years.
Depending on your circumstances, this is well worth looking into if you can afford it. To help, we've built a tool to quickly help you find out if it's worth it for you - see the State Pension Boosting guide for more.
Defer your pension & earn more later
Effectively earn 10.4% more on your pension over a year
This is worth considering if you don't need your state pension immediately, particularly if you're still employed. You can either:
Get a bigger pension later. For every five weeks you defer, your future weekly allowance increases by 1%. Delay claiming for a year and you'd get the full pension plus 10.4% extra.
Or, get a lump sum. Delay for at least a year and you can get the deferred amount with 2% interest above the base rate. After collecting this, you'd then get your standard state pension.
You can defer your pension before you've started claiming, or if you're already receiving it, though you can only do it once. It depends on individual circumstances as to whether it'll be best for you; the longer you live, the more beneficial it becomes. Yet never defer unless you can afford to. For more info, see 'Should I delay taking my pension?'.
Don't buy an annuity from your pension provider
You could be missing out by £1,000+ every year if you do
If you've got a private pension you may want to buy a retirement income, known as an annuity.
This contract guarantees an annual payment for the rest of your life. You can't change your mind once you've bought one, so choose carefully.
Never just accept your pension company's deal.
More than half of annuity buyers stick with their provider's deal. However, you have a legal right to go elsewhere, and you can gain thousands a year by finding a better deal. There are several different types to choose from - see the free printable Annuities Guide for full info.
Get what you're entitled to
£1,000s energy grants for your home
Save an average of £200 a year & increase property value
A mass of Government funding's available to reduce your impact on the environment, while utility companies are bound by energy efficiency targets.
The result? Loads of lovely grants that'll help increase your home's value, warmth and economy.
- Free insulation: There are several companies offering free loft and cavity wall insulation to make your home toasty for nowt. Find full info and how to apply in the Free Insulation guide.
Search for grants: The Government, energy suppliers and local authorities provide grants to help you implement energy saving measures. The Energy Saving Trust has an advice and information helpline, call 0300 123 1234 (more info for Scotland and Northern Ireland).
- Heating and insulation: If you're in England, Warm Front gives up to £3,500 to homeowners or those who rent from a private landlord and get certain benefits. In Scotland, the scheme's the Energy Assistance Package, and in Northern Ireland it's Warm Homes. In Wales it's the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (do note that the HEES website's been having some problems, so if it's down when you click, try again later).
Though grants may not cover the full amount of the item or repair you need, they're almost always completely free.
£1,000s free cash for your home
Millions available in grants for home improvements
There are loads of organisations offering free cash to use on your home, whether to improve safety or do essential repairs, but sadly many UK grants go unclaimed.
Here's a rundown of the top home grants - get claiming!
Search for grants: Charity-run Turn2us has a grant search to check for charities that can help with things like furniture, decorating or bills. The grants usually depend on an individual's circumstances, illnesses, nationality, occupation, age or income.
Help in the home: If you're elderly, disabled or on a low income, your local Home Improvement Agency (HIA) can help repair, maintain or adapt your home, from putting up furniture to looking after your garden. If you're in England, you can find your nearest at Foundations (or Care and Repair Cymru in Wales).
Home safety: Age UK's free Handy Van scheme is for over-60s with under £20,000 in savings, and is aimed at helping you feel safer at home. This includes installing security equipment, changing locks, and fitting smoke alarms. It runs in 18 UK areas. For info call 0845 026 1055 or send an email.
Fire safety check: Many fire stations give free Home Fire Risk Assessments to check for risks and help you plan what to do if there's a fire. You'll usually get a free smoke alarm if you don't already have one. Find info at Fireservice (or call your local fire service to check it's participating).
Help with utility arrears: Some utility companies also offer grants to help if you have large arrears on your gas, electricity or water bills. You'll usually need to be a customer of the company, but if yours isn't listed it's worth contacting it to see if it has a similar scheme.
For full info on these and more, see the Home and Energy Grants article.
Check for further benefits
You may be missing out on £100s of extra cash
Quickly find out what you're entitled to. Do a Five Minute Benefits Check Up to find out if you qualify for extra help.
This'll help you to check your eligibility for all the main benefits, including council tax, pension credit, and housing.
Around five billion pounds worth of benefits go unclaimed by over-60s every year, according to Age UK.
If you'd like more information and advice on what you may be entitled to contact the Age UK Advice line on 0800 169 6565.
Claim winter fuel payments
Get a lump sum of up to £300 to help with winter bills
Most households are entitled to extra help with energy costs in winter if they have an occupant of qualifying age. This used to be 60 but now depends on when you were born, rising in line with the women's state pension age.
For winter 2012/2013, you need to have been born on or before 5 July 1951 to qualify.
Entitlement in winter 2012/13 is £200 for households with someone who's reached women’s state pension age and is under 80, or £300 for households with someone aged 80 or above.
How do I get it? If you've had it before, get the state pension or are on certain benefits you needn't do anything - most payments will be made automatically before Christmas. If not, download Gov.UK's form, or call 0845 9151515 (also see Gov.UK for exclusions). Payment can take a few months, so apply early.
Claim backdated payments. You can claim these for 1997 – 2000, though you can't claim them for 2001 onwards. Claims must be received no later than 31 March for the previous winter. See Cheap Gas and Electricity to make sure you aren't paying more than you need to.
Cold weather payments. In addition, if you're on Pension Credit (or on Income Support, income based Jobseekers' Allowance or income related Employment and Support Allowance and fit additional criteria), you'll get an extra £25 per 7 consecutive days the temperature's below 0°C between 1 November and 31 March.
For this to apply, the average temperature where you live needs to be recorded as, or forecast to be, 0°C or below.
You don't need to apply for cold weather payments. If you're in receipt of certain benefits such as Pension Credit, as you should be paid it within 14 days of each cold period in your area. See Gov.UK for the full list of eligible benefits, and see the winter fuel and cold weather payment news story for more info.
Get free cash to study
Fund your learning with grants and free short courses
Study is not just for spotty teenagers. Whether you want to get a degree, learn a new language or just brush up on your core skills, there may be a grant or free course to help.
- Scholarship search: The Scholarship Search site lists a few specific results for mature students, whilst Studentcashpoint also searches for bursaries, scholarships and award funding.
- Studying for a degree: If you don't already have a degree and started an undergraduate course before 31 Aug 2012, there are grants to help. They apply to all part time courses, including the Open University if you'd like to study at home. See the OU eligibility checker for info.
The new student fees system, which started from 1 Sept 2012, means you won't have to repay a student loan if you never earn over £21,000 - perfect if you're retired! See the Student Loans guide.
- Free numeracy and literacy courses: Virtually every college in the country has free courses to help improve maths and English skills, from basic literacy and numeracy up to GCSE level. See Learndirect and Hotcourses for local classes, or try this online quiz from Move On to see if you could improve your skills.
- Learn a language for free: There's lots of free websites and online tools to make it easy to pick up a new language - see Learn a language for free.
As grants are dependent on individual circumstances, it's worth noting it may not be easy to get one, though there's no harm in trying. Find full info in the Education Grants article.
Dealing with death
Nobody likes thinking about when they're going to die, but it's best to be practical and give it some thought. A few changes now could save thousands for those you care about. See the Death Happens - Plan For It guide for the full checklist, but here are a few to start:
Sort your will & inheritance tax
Act now to secure future cash for your loved ones
It's all too easy to put these off, but they're well worth tackling as soon as possible - both for your beneficiaries and for your own peace of mind:
Where there's a will ... Don't leave a financial nightmare for your loved ones - make sure you've an up-to-date will. Solicitor-drafted wills can be cheap or even free to make or amend. Find info on all the options in Free and cheap wills.
Plan for inheritance tax. When you die, the Government assesses the worth of your estate, from cash and investments to property and business. If this exceeds the inheritance tax threshold, you'll pay tax on 40% of the extra when you die.
It may not be easy, but tackle this now with your relatives -
there are plenty of legal ways to reduce the bill.
If the only certainties in life are death and taxes, this affects everyone on both counts. Dealing with it is one of the single biggest MoneySaving things you can do, yet many ignore it. See Inheritance Tax Planning to find how much you'll pay and what you can do about it.
Consider setting up a power of attorney
Hope for the best, but plan for the worst
Thinking and talking about what would happen if our faculties deserted us is uncomfortable. Yet you need to consider how much worse the situation would be if you became incapacitated through a stroke, accident, dementia (eg, Alzheimer's) without sorting it first.
To help, a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document where someone (while they still have mental capacity) nominates a trusted friend or relative to look after their affairs if they lose mental capacity.
It's best to do this whilst you're in good health, as the financial and legal complications can be huge if you want to do this after your health has deteriorated. See the Power of Attorney guide for full help.
Regardless of health, everyone should stop for a moment to think about whether to do this — don't wait until it's too late.
Do debts die with you?
Your estate will be used to cover what you owe
It's often said that "when you die, your debts die with you". But it's a little more complicated than that. When you die, anything you owe has to be paid first, before any assets can go to your beneficiaries.
So if you owe more than your assets are worth, your debts do die with you. Your beneficiaries will get nothing, but they won't be asked to pay the rest of the debt.
But if your inheritors are jointly responsible for the debts, your debts don't die with you as they'll have to make up the shortfall. If you're concerned about the impact this may have, contact the Citizens Advice Bureau or consult a lawyer.
Have the 'unpleasant issues' chat
Don't put it off - talk with loved ones about your wishes
Some things aren't best avoided. Hopefully once you've hit 50 or beyond, you've still got several dozen years of fit body and mind ahead, but there's a chance you might not.
The mental incapacity or death of a loved one is hard enough to deal with, but often the financial complications can add a huge unnecessary blow to the pain of it all.
Whether it's you who wants to avoid the subject, or your loved ones who'd rather not face it, it's not something to put off.
Difficult as it is, it's better to deal with it head on than face the consequences of having not considered it.
One solution is to simply have a day when you discuss with your partner and / or dependants what you want, and how things should be organised. Doing it in one go makes it easier – it shouldn't be morbid – and it's best to be open and practical. As well as equity release and wills, issues worth considering include:
A financial factsheet. Are you the only person who knows the details of your bank accounts, pension, gas and electricity provider or more? When someone passes away, often merely the process of finding out these facts can be painful. Putting all the crucial info somewhere secure so it can be taken over by someone else can be very helpful.
If not, some of your hard-earned savings may be lost. The safest thing to do is simply to list the providers with a rough indication of the product, but don't list your passwords. Age UK's free LifeBook is a handy resource to help keep track of this info, and can be sent in booklet form or via email.
- Inheritance tax planning. This needs doing early. If your estate's likely to have inheritance tax issues (joint assets, including property, of over £650,000), the sooner you tackle it the better. Many ways to mitigate it involve giving assets away at least seven years before someone dies. See Inheritance Tax Planning.
- In case your faculties fade. It's a thorny issue, but if you had difficulties that meant you couldn't make decisions for yourself any more, who would you want to take over your finances?
It's far easier to arrange the potential for a power of attorney while you're still fully aware and able to take the decisions yourself – even doing this 20 years in advance isn't a problem. See the power of attorney box.
Are you in the right house? The family home in which you've lived and brought up children in may not be the right place in later life. It could be that the stairs become difficult, or simply the size of it makes it tough to heat and look after.
Not deciding what to do early could hasten a need to move into long term care if your accommodation becomes unsuitable later. Plus do remember that while many in their sixties have good intentions for downsizing later, there's the chance that by the time you need to, you may not feel up to it.
Whose money is it? Perhaps not one for a discussion, but it's worth thinking about yourself. Far too many people deprive themselves in their last years, trying to retain some money for their children's inheritance. Thinking through how to balance this early is certainly worthwhile.
Remember: you too have a right to live as well as you can in your old age.
Please share your tips on how to broach this subject and what to talk about in the unpleasant issues chat forum discussion.
Sort out your cash
Save over £300 on gas & electricity bills
Plus cashback or wine when you switch
You can save hundreds on your fuel bills by changing gas and electricity providers, plus get cashback or a case of wine on top. The easiest way to find out which is cheapest for you is to use a comparison site. Our top picks:
Energyhelpline* pays £15 cashback (once) per switch, and has good reliability and feedback.
MoneySupermarket* pays £30 cashback for dual fuel (getting both gas and electricity from one provider).
uSwitch* gives a crate of wine (worth about £35-£40) for dual fuel.
Plus there's loads more you can do to hammer down costs, from switching to monthly direct debit payments to taking a meter reading every time you get your bill. Find full info on these and loads more in the Cheap Gas and Electricity guide.
Save £100s on car & home insurance
Don't fall for over-50s policies - often they're beatable
Age is often a factor in certain types of insurance. For example, with home insurance, the older you are the less likely you are to claim, which makes premiums lower. But with life insurance, being older can increase the price.
Is Saga worth it?
Companies such as Saga, Rias, Castlecover, Staysure and AgeUK provide services aimed at those aged 50 or 60 and over, offering a range of financial products, including insurance, targeted at older people.
Don't assume that these will be always be the cheapest.
Often, they're not the cheapest - all insurers use risk-based price assessments so this'll be factored in already. The so-called 'special price' for older customers may still be broken by a non-age-targeted quote from elsewhere, so always check first.
How to get the cheapest car insurance - a 60-second summary:
- Step 1: Lower your risk category. Start by choosing your cover, then ensure you're as low a risk as possible. Fully comprehensive cover can be cheaper than third party, so always check. Use the Car Insurance Job Picker tool - tweaking your job description could nudge you into a lower risk band and save cash.
- Step 2: Combine comparison sites correctly. Comparison sites don't always compare the same insurers, so check the top four to get the maximum number of quotes in the minimum amount of time: GoCompare*, Confused*, MoneySupermarket* and TescoCompare.
- Step 3: Grab hidden cashback and haggle. Check cashback websites to see if you can get paid for taking out your insurance, plus make sure you check for special deals not mentioned on comparison sites. Once you've got your overall cheapest price, get on the phone and see if you can haggle it down further.
Step 4: Bookmark next year's renewal. Diarise a warning at least eight weeks before your renewal date to give yourself plenty of time to find a new provider, and maybe lock in a cheap price before your renewal arrives. Alternatively, use our free Tart Alert reminder service, which'll let you know by text or email when the time comes.
Should I release the equity in my home?
If there's no alternative, it can be a quick way to free up cash
Many older people find themselves asset rich and cash poor - with low incomes but valuable homes. Equity release is commonly marketed as a way to spend a home's value while still living in it, either by taking a loan or selling part.
Yet while rates don't sound much higher than ordinary mortgages, they often cost much more. No repayments are made until you die, so the interest compounds rapidly.
For example: Borrow £20,000 aged 65 at 6.5% on a £120,000 home and live 25 years, and when you die £100,000 needs repaying. Though house price rises can offset this.
We're no fans of these deals, but for some there's no alternative. Make sure you read these key points first ...
It's less of an issue if you've no dependants. If you've no one to leave the property to, you lose nowt as the debt's repaid from your estate when you die.
It can affect your benefits. Having cash rather than a property can hit those eligible for benefits such as pension credit.
Explore downsizing instead. For many, a cheaper way to release equity is to downsize - sell and move to a smaller home. So explore this, but do it sooner - anecdotally, while many still feel up to moving in their sixties, as they get older the disinclination to move sets in so it's much tougher.
You typically have to be 60 to do it. Plus the younger you are, the less you can usually borrow.
Ensure the company's a member of SHIP. This trade body's members all guarantee your estate will never owe more than your home is worth.
Wait as long as you can. As a rule of thumb, at a rate of 7% the amount you owe doubles every ten years. Therefore the longer you wait, and the less you borrow, the lower the impact on your estate.
Don't think "I may as well do it in one go". For example, if you think you may need £40,000 from your house to cover ten years, see if it's possible to get £20,000 now and the rest in five years. It'll usually work out much cheaper, plus you may need more cash later for long term care.
Speak to an independent mortgage broker. If you're seriously considering this, speak to an independent mortgage broker or financial adviser with an equity release speciality to find the best deal. See the mortgage broker finding guide.
Are you in the wrong council tax band?
Check now - you could save £1,000s by lowering your band
Many homes are in the wrong council tax band, and have been since 1993. Yet in ten minutes you can check ‘n' challenge it.
Thousands have already tried this and many succeeded in getting £1,000s back. One MoneySaver reports:
Last week got the letter from VOA saying we were being reduced to [band] E effective from when we moved in in August 2000.
Next day got the letter from the Council stating the same and that the refund was £2369. Money was paid into my account yesterday. Total time less than 4 weeks.
It won't cost you a penny to check your band; plus it could cut what you pay now and get you a backdated payout if you've overpaid. For full info, see the Council Tax Rebanding guide.
Get lost Tesco Clubcard vouchers back
Check your account online - you may be owed over £100 worth
If you've ever lost or misplaced vouchers you can access the codes online for instant redemption, or get the vouchers re-issued.
Some MoneySavers have found over £100 of vouchers they didn't know they had! One reports:
Thanks to your article, we found that we had nearly £150 of unclaimed Tesco vouchers! We have already used them to double the vouchers value online, which has been incredibly useful for Christmas.
It's fast and free to check your account - see the Get back lost Tesco vouchers guide for a full how-to.
Give yourself a full money makeover
Make yourself £1,000s better off in just one day
It's likely you'll be living off less cash than you had before in retirement, so it's crucial to make sure you're budgeting correctly. First, use the free Budget Planner tool and guide to help work out exactly where your cash is going.
Don't ask "What's the cheapest way?",
ask "What can I afford?"
Next, give yourself a full Money Makeover. This guide overhauls your finances, taking you through everything you can cut costs on, from debts to utilities. It'll take time to work through, but it's time well invested - some end up thousands better off in a single day.
If you still find it difficult to keep cash in your pocket, see the Stop Spending guide.
Boost your savings interest
Always compare over-50s accounts with standard rates
With interest rates at horrendous lows, the only way to get a decent amount is to treat your savings a bit like a job. You need to put the time in to maintain the best rates, especially if you want to live off the interest.
Don't leave it sitting in a high street bank. This is the easiest way to earn a paltry amount.
Most accounts only stay competitive for a year or so, then the rate plummets. Though it may've been a golden deal once, if you haven't switched in a while you're almost certainly earning nowt.
Don't stick it in NS&I just because it's 'safe'. The Government backed NS&I is 100% safe, yet not many of its products pay decent rates - so beware.
Remember, these days all UK regulated savings accounts are Government guaranteed up to £85,000 per person. Though for full safety, don't save more than this with any one banking group. See Safe Savings for more.
How to find the best rates. The highest rate currently available is AA Saving's Internet Extra (issue 4) paying 2.8% AER, on balances over £1, and allows unlimited withdrawals. It includes a big 2.3% bonus for a year so ensure you diarise to ditch and switch at that time.
If you prefer a 'clean' rate, with no short-term bonus, the Aldermore Easy Access account pays 2.6% variable AER on deposits of at least £1,000. The variable rate means a provider can change it willy-nilly, so you'll need to keep an eye on it but, as an added bonus, it's guaranteed to be at least 1.7% above base rate until 1 Nov 2013.
Over-50s savings don't automatically mean better rates. Some banks offer special accounts for over-50s or 60s, such as Saga's Internet Saver account. Sadly, these don't tend to offer anything unusual and can often be beaten elsewhere.
Accounts for over-50s are often just marketed differently to target a specific part of the population - so always compare rates with standard accounts first.
Pay off debts before saving
Forget old logic - debts cost more than savings earn
This quick tip will drastically improve the health of your finances. If you have both debts and savings you're seriously overspending, as debts usually cost more than savings earn.
So pay off your debts before you start to save and you should be better off in the long run. For full info on how this works, see the full Pay Off Debts With Savings guide.
Transfer old cash ISAs
Instantly boost your interest further
If you've been saving money in tax-free cash ISAs, don't assume you can't touch them.
Cash ISAs are some of the worst offenders when it comes to paying paltry rates, as the banks offering them know that once opened, many people believe they're a done deal.
This isn't the case - you have a right to transfer your cash ISA, which can instantly boost the interest you earn. However, a quick warning: don't simply take the money out. To do this, you need to set up an account with a new provider and ask it to transfer the cash across for you. For full info and the current best rates see Top Cash ISA Transfers.
Find lost accounts
Billions of pounds go unclaimed - find yours now
Sadly, billions of pounds lie unclaimed in old bank accounts, pensions, life assurance and investments.
You're unlikely to know if you've got one, as accounts are declared dormant if the bank is unable to track you down through your last known address.
The good news? Most are easy to reclaim. It's well worth a ten minute search to see if you're entitled to any hidden cash. See Reclaim Forgotten Cash for full info and tips on how to find yours.
How to live off fixed rate savings
Use interest as a valuable income stream
Often some of the best interest rates available are for fixed rate savings (also known as savings bonds) where you need to lock your cash away for a set period.
For many over-50s, the whole point of saving is to use the interest as an income stream - but fixed rates don't usually pay interest by the month.
There's a way around this. Here's an example (using easy percentages and ignoring tax for ease of explanation):
The situation: You've £100,000, and can get 5% in a 1-year fixed account and 3% in an instant access account. You'd like roughly £5,000 of interest from these savings to supplement your income.
The solution: Put £95,000 in the fixed account, and £5,000 in the instant access. Then spend the instant access money over the year, knowing the £4,750 interest earned in the fixed account will make up for it. Then you're effectively getting the high rate and spending the interest.
This way you can grab the higher fixed rate accounts, but retain access to enough cash in the meantime. However, if there's a chance you might need to get at the whole lump sum within the fixed term, this trick won't help, so fixed rates may not be for you.
Avoid prepayment meters if you can
Try to switch to a billed meter for gas and electricity if possible
While a push from the government means it's getting better, those on prepayment meters are still pretty hard done by, certainly compared to those who pay by direct debit. If possible you should try to switch to a billed meter. You may have to pay to get one, but the savings are usually worth it.
Often they won't let you though, due to credit score or income difficulties. For full info on how to ditch a prepayment meter for a credit meter, or if you can't, save on a prepay meter, see the full Cheap Prepaid Gas & Elec guide.
Over-50s travel insurance - get it for less
Save £100s a year by choosing the right cover for you
Though some travel insurance best buys are available for over 50s, the game changes if you're 65 and over. This is primarily because insurers' risk charts predict more claims are likely, so sadly even those in perfect health pay more.
Age 50-64: For Europe, the cheapest individual cover starts at £23.33 if you're 50, increasing to £25.67 if 56 or over, with HolidaySafe*. Worldwide cover prices range from £36.64 to £40.31, also with HolidaySafe*, again depending where you fit into the age bracket.
Cover for a couple or family in Europe ranges from £42 up to £46.20, with HolidaySafe*. The worldwide premium is £58 with Diamond for this age group. Sometimes these policies can be undercut if you're prepared to do MoneySupermarket's* full comparison to get its exclusives.
Age 65-69: For Europe, EHIC Plus* is the cheapest at £35.64 for individuals and £58.80 for a couple (all policyholders need a free EHIC card too, or you're likely to not be covered for medical costs).
If going further afield, Elect Travel Insurance* is £74.19 for an individual. For couples, Elect Travel Insurance* is the cheapest again at £125.05. Make sure you use the discount code 'save5now' to obtain the reduced Elect Travel Insurance rate.
Age 70-74: The cheapest by some distance is annual insurance from EHIC Plus* at £57.26 for individuals and £94.49 for a couple.
If you're travelling further afield, Elect Travel Insurance* is competitive. For individuals, worldwide cover is £91.49. For couples, this increases to £154.22. Make sure you use the discount code 'save5now' to obtain the reduced Elect Travel Insurance rate.
Age 75-79: In Europe, the cheapest is annual insurance from EHIC Plus* at £62.24 for individuals and £102.71 for a couple. For individual worldwide cover, Planet Earth* charges £205.95 (individual) but increases it to £365.95 for couples.
80 to 85: This is where it gets really pricey. Castle Cover* gives online quotations. For an individual, it ranges from £232.24 for European cover to £348.42 for worldwide cover. For couples, you get a combined discount, meaning the price per person is £197.45 for cover in Europe, or £278.96 (per person) for worldwide cover.
- Last updated 16 Oct 2012 - see Cheap Travel Insurance for full info including details on what happens if your insurer were to go bust mid policy.
Looking for the cheapest way to spend overseas? Debit cards can be the worst way to spend, but the right credit card can mean you get perfect exchange rates that beat even the best bureau. Never change money at the airport; use the Travel Money Maximiser tool to find the best deal. See Cheap Travel Money for full info.
Cut the cost of your water bill
Switching to a meter could save you £200 a year
For some in England and Wales, switching to a water meter could save hundreds. A quick tip can help you work out if you could be better off with a meter:
Sadly, in Scotland it isn't free to have a water meter installed (it's actually quite expensive) so, unless you live alone in a manor-type property, you should stick to billed payment. For full info on meters vs standard billing, see the Cut Water Bills article.
Boost your income
Make £100s from car boots, cashback, comping ...
Reaching the big 5-0 doesn't have to mean a future of retirement homes and cold baked beans nowadays.
Whether you want to pay off debts or just spend more time with your family, there's a huge amount you can do to maximise your money.
Find scores of easy ways to bring in extra cash. See the Boost Your Income guide to find a wealth of ideas, from renting out your parking space to recycling your old mobiles.
Also check out eBay Selling Tricks for how to easily declutter your home and make money at the same time, whilst the Gold Selling guide has a full run down of the best ways to turn old jewellery into extra cash. The Silver Savers and Old Style forums are also excellent places to ask questions and get tips.
Save on health bills with a cashplan
Cover medical & dental costs for a few pounds a month
If you often have medical, optical, dental or alternative treatment bills it could be worth taking out a healthcare cashplan.
Whether you're with the NHS or get private treatment, you can potentially use a cashplan to cover the cost of hundreds of pounds of treatment.
Does age matter? Though most of the top-paying cashplans have a maximum joining age of 64, there are still plenty of options if you're looking to join after this. See Healthcare Cashplans for full info.
Freebies and discounts
One of the best things about getting older is there are loads of extra freebies and discounts to make the most of, particularly once you reach 60. They're often hidden, so spread the word if you've found a good 'un.
Grab a free bus pass
Save £100s with free local travel if you're 60+
England: You can get free off-peak local bus travel anywhere in England once you reach the eligible age, currently 60 if you were born before 6 April 1950.
If you were born after this, your qualifying date will be the same as the state pension age for a woman born on the same date as you, whether you're male or female. The entitlement age will gradually rise to 66 by 2020. See Gov.UK.
Scotland: If aged 60 or over you can get free bus travel. You'll need a free National Entitlement Card for this, see TransportScotland.
Wales: If you're aged 60 or over you can also get free local bus travel. Just contact your local council to get your bus pass.
Northern Ireland: You can get free travel on nearly all public buses and trains within NI if you're 60 or over. You'll need a free 60+ SmartPass for this, or a Senior Citizen SmartPass if you're 65 or over. What's more, the 65+ Senior Citizen SmartPass is also usable in ROI as part of the All Ireland Concessionary Fares scheme.
It's also worth checking with your local council for regional discounts. For example, the Freedom Pass gives older Londoners free travel on almost all London public transport.
As the qualifying age for this varies depending when you were born, if you're aged 60 or over and live in London you can get a 60+ London Oyster photocard for free travel on bus, tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services in London.
There's a £10 application fee, but you can use it as many times as you like until you become eligible for the Freedom Pass (it expires then). To get it, apply on the TfL site.
Get a free TV licence at 75
Save £145, plus it covers other household members
If you're 75 or over you can get a free TV licence, a great little freebie as they're usually £145.50 at full price. What's more, it also covers other household members living at the same address, and is UK-wide.
How to apply: Apply online or phone 0300 790 6073. You'll need to give your name, address, date of birth and National Insurance number.
If you're 74, you can also apply for a short-term licence, which will be valid until the end of the month before you turn 75. See the TV Licensing website for more info.
Get free prescriptions
Save up to £7.85 per batch of meds if you're over 60
If you're over 60 you can save masses on medication, depending on where you live:
England: You can get free prescriptions and NHS sight tests if you're 60 or over. Just complete and sign the back of the prescription form, or tell your optician and ask for form GOS1.
Your date of birth will needed to be printed on the prescription, or otherwise just show proof of age. See NHS Choices for information about help with prescription costs and eye tests.
Scotland: Everyone in Scotland gets free prescriptions, plus the NHS Minor Ailment Service entitles over-60s to free medication for minor illnesses too, available from about 1,200 community pharmacies. See Scotland.gov.
Wales: Prescriptions are free regardless of your age if you have a Welsh GP and get your prescription from a Welsh pharmacist, or if you're a Welsh patient with an English GP and an accompanying entitlement card. These patients also have to have their prescriptions dispensed at a Welsh pharmacist. See Wales.gov.
Northern Ireland: Prescriptions are free for all. No registration's needed, as there's simply no charge. See NIDirect.gov.
Nab extra discounts at 100+ pubs
Free Diamond Club card gets meal deals or 25% off for over-50s
If you're aged 50 or over, the free Diamond Club card gets you and a guest also aged 50+ a range of discounts on food at over 100 pubs and carveries. Discounts are generally valid Monday - Friday (excluding Bank Holidays) and on Saturdays until 3pm at some venues, so check before you go.
Discounts vary, but will typically be for a two course set menu deal or 25% off food. To give you an idea of the savings available, one of the set menus for a typical pub comes up at £5 cheaper using the card - though of course, it'll vary depending on where you are.
To get one, just sign up online or by phone and it'll be sent to you within 28 days, or apply at a participating venue to get your card there and then. It's valid indefinitely, and can't be used with other offers. See the full Restaurant Vouchers page for full listings of the latest discounts.
Get 10% off at B&Q for over-60s
Plus nab extra discounts at garden centres
If you're spending more time improving your home and garden, use these discounts to get your goodies for less:
B&Q offers a free B&Q Diamond Card* for over-60s, valid nationwide for 10% off on Wednesdays. To get one, print an application form online or ask in store, then hand in to a B&Q staff member with proof of age.
The Garden Centre Group's Gardening Club is free to join and gets you 5% of your total spend back in vouchers, plus over-60s get double points on Tuesdays.
MoneySavers have reported special seniors' discounts on everything from car insurance to gyms, so always ask. Share ideas on the What discounts can I get? forum, or see Discount Vouchers, DIY, home & garden deals, Supermarket Coupons and High Street Sales for more savings.
Find cheap glucosamine
Make big savings on health supplements
If you take widely-used health supplements like Glucosamine it can be far cheaper over the counter than by prescription, so always check before you buy (though there's much debate over the efficacy of this supplement).
The Glucosamine forum discussion is also a handy place to find and share news of discounts and bargains, and is well worth a look too.
See Cheap Prescriptions and Medicine for more info on how to save on meds.
Get 25% off at Specsavers
Nab extra over-60s discounts on weekdays
Glasses are an unavoidable expense for many, so use discounts where you can to bring costs down.
High street optician Specsavers gives over-60s 25% off all glasses and lenses from Mon-Fri if you buy any single pair of glasses from its £69 range or above. The deal isn't valid with other offers.
Yet often you can do it much cheaper - check out the Cheap Glasses guide for more info on where to find the best prices for basic lenses and designer glasses, as well as a rundown of the cheapest online retailers.
Get extra points & discounts at Boots
Sign up if you're 60+ for discounts on glasses 'n' more
Members of the Boots 'More treats for over-60s' club can get 10 Advantage Card points for every £1 spent in store on Boots' own brand products, as well as 25% off glasses when spending £79 or more at its opticians. It's free to join and you'll need to be aged 60 and over, and a UK resident.
Members also get 15% off hearing aids at Boots Hearingcare. You'll need its Advantage Card to sign up to the scheme. See the Boots website for info.
Get a free passport
Save £70 on your passport if you're 83 or over
If you're a British national born on or before 2 September 1929, you can get a free 10-year passport. They're usually £72.50 at full price, so this is a great saving for globe-trotters.
How to get it: You'll need to fill in an application form. You can either do this online, or request one from the Identity and Passport Service (IPS), Post Office or Passport Adviceline on 0300 222 0000. See Gov.UK for full info.
Extra discounts at Odeon, Vue & Cineworld
Save £s on a night at the movies if you're over 60
If you're a keen cinema-goer, getting older means there are a raft of extra discounts to make the most of:
Odeon cinemas provide discounted tickets, plus free tea and coffee, at Senior Screen film showings. It's aimed at the over-60s, though no ID's required. It's on at over 50 cinemas, and you'll save about £3 per ticket.
Vue offers discounted screenings via its Seniors Club if you're 60 and over. The discount varies by area at these selected screenings, but you'll also get a free cup of tea and a biscuit.
You'll need to show proof of age, and it's on at participating cinemas about once a week - just check online or pop in to your local. Senior discounts are also available for standard Vue screenings, though discounts vary.
Cineworld offers nationwide discounts on all films at Cineworld cinemas for senior citizens (it doesn't specify an age). Prices vary by region, but you'll save about 50-70p on standard rates. You'll need ID to get it - just show a Senior Card or bus pass, London Freedom Pass or state pension letter.
Also see the Cheap Cinema Tickets page for more discounts and deals.
Free internet & computer courses
Brush up on your web skills for nowt
If you're not online, you're missing out (we're presuming someone's printed this guide for you) - most deals are quite simply more expensive away from the intenet.
UK Online Centres has launched Online Basics, a free short course to do at home or at a local UK online centre. It's great if you want to know more about using a computer, or introduce the internet to friends or family.
Over 8 million in the UK have never used the internet - these are mostly the over-65s or those out of work.
If you're web-savvy already, why not help spread the word? Government campaign Go ON aims to get friends, family and neighbours to help each other, with handy tips if you'd like to help someone get started. Find more free ways to learn in Education Grants.
Find hidden over-50s theatre tix discounts
Local venues may give big reductions - check with yours
There are masses of reports in the MSE forums that theatres can give good discounts for seniors.
However, as with many concession rates, sadly these often aren't advertised. To check, just call or drop in to your local theatre and ask about any senior concessionary ticket prices.
One forumer reports getting a £60 ticket for £19.50 by doing this - saving over £40 on the standard price.
Plus check out the Cheap Days Out guide for more theatre ticket discounts.
Save £s at historic sites, footie clubs & more
Get out more & spend less with over-60s ticket discounts
One of the best things about retirement is that you'll have more time to do the things you love. And if you can keep more cash in your stash while doing it, so much the better:
English Heritage offers over-60s discounted memberships of £37 for a single membership or £58 for couples, reduced from £48/£84 respectively. See English Heritage.
National Trust also offers those aged 60+ reduced membership, but you'll have to have been a National Trust member for a total of five out of the last 10 years.
If you're eligible, call 0844 800 1895 to join and check the latest rates. National Trust membership gets the holder free entry to most of its public sites, plus free parking at its car parks, when you show your membership card.
If you're a sports fan, MSE's forumers report football clubs and race tracks often give concessionary rates to seniors, so it's worth checking with the club first.
Always bring proof of age, and when you're out, check if any further discounts apply - these often aren't advertised.
There's also masses of entertainment discounts in Cheap Days Out and Cheap Zoos. If you're ending the day with a meal out, make sure you bring your Restaurant Vouchers! Also see Free Museums and Galleries for activity ideas that won't cost a penny.
Bowl for less at Hollywood Bowl & AMF
Over-60s can use special deals to bag cheap games
Hollywood Bowl and AMF Bowling offer concessionary rates for over-60s. Prices vary by location, so check at your local venue.
Proof of age may be needed, so don't forget your ID. Check with your nearest AMF Bowling or Hollywood Bowl centre for more details.
Nab reduced rates at your local gym
Extra discounts aren't always advertised, so do check
Canny forumers have reported that some gyms give extra discounts on their standard membership rates for seniors. Yet these reduced rates often aren't advertised, so you may have to ask to get the cheaper prices (and don't be afraid to haggle!)
If you've got the gym bug, it's well worth checking out the Free Gym Trials guide for the full listing of the free gym passes currently available.
Get a third off train travel for over-60s
Spend over £84 a year on tickets? Grab a Senior Railcard
A Senior Railcard can be a good investment if you're 60 or over and often travel by train. It costs £28, but the card gets you a third off most standard and first class rail fares across Britain for a year.
This means that if you'd usually spend over £84 on train tickets in a year - even just in a single trip - it'd be worth it, as you'd save more than the cost of the railcard. What's more, some local councils give discounts on this card, so it's worth checking before you buy. See the Senior Railcard website for full info.
Keep your eyes peeled for further travel concessions.
Other services can offer reduced rates or discount cards, such as the National Express Senior Coachcard, so it's well worth asking before you buy. Also see the Cheap Train & Coach Deals page for more travel discounts.
Shave £s off your haircut costs
Look out for seniors' reductions & discount days
Depending on your 'do, haircuts can easily cost £20 or more, so it's well worth using your 50+ status to see if you can get this down.
Keep your eyes peeled for senior citizens' discounts or reduced-rate pensioners' days at your local hairdresser. Not all offer reduced rates, but if you find one that does, it can be a handy way to shave off a few pounds.
MSE's forumers have reported this can be a good way to get your hair done for less, particularly if you're happy to go on a weekday when the shop's less busy.
Fill yer boots with freebies
Get free household goodies, beauty products & more
The best things in life are freebies! Use the Freebies guide to get loads of everyday items for free at the click of a mouse, from tea and tissues to perfume and pet food.
If you're after something bigger, the Freecycle guide explains how to make the most of giveaway sites. These are great if you're looking for free furniture, electricals, garden gear and more, and they're also handy if you're having a clearout.