Money advice for the Over 50's

At a time like now, it is particularly important that people take steps to keep on top of their finances.

Our financial needs change at every stage in our lives, so it is important to understand what financial help is available to us when we reach a certain age.

Here, we will take a look at some of the financial help available to senior citizens.

Basic State Pension

According to the Directgov website, the basic State Pension 'is a government- administered pension. It is based on the number of qualifying years gained through National Insurance contributions (NICs) you've paid, are treated as having paid or have been credited with throughout your working life'.

The website states that if you are eligible for the basic State Pension, you can start receiving it when you reach State Pension age. This is 65 for men born on or before 5th April 1959 and 60 for women born on or before 5th April 1950.

The State Pension age for women born on or after 6th April 1950 but before 6th April 1955 is rising from 60 to 65 sometime between 2010 and 2020.

The State Pension age for women born on or after 6th April 1955 but before 6th April 1959 is 65.

The State Pension age will rise from 65 to 68 for both men and women between 2024 and 2046.

How much is the basic State Pension?

For 2009-2010, the full basic State Pension is 95.25 a week for a single person and 152.30 a week for a couple. It is important to note, however, that your individual circumstances may have an effect on the amount you are eligible for.

If you aren't eligible for a full basic State Pension, but you have at least 25% of the 'qualifying years', then you will receive a weekly basic State Pension between the minimum (23.81 in 2009-2010) and the maximum (95.25 in 2009- 2010).

You should be sent a claim form - and further information regarding your pension - by the Pension Service four months before you reach state pension age.

Benefits in retirement

When you retire, you may find that your income reduces - but to help you manage, there's a variety of benefits available that you could receive alongside your State Pension.

For example:

Pension Credit

If you are over the age of 60, you may qualify for Pension Credit. Pension Credit is basically extra money to 'top up' your income.

It consists of two things - the 'Guarantee Credit' element and the 'Savings Credit' element.

The age at which you can receive Pension Credit will gradually increase from 6th April 2010 onwards, up to 5th April 2020. It currently stands at 60, and will move in line with the changes to the State Pension age.

Winter Fuel Payment

Covering the cost of your fuel bills can be particularly difficult after retirement, and many people end up taking on debt to afford them.

If you are over 60 years of age, you may be eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment to help you afford your fuel bills.

Cold Weather Payment

You may qualify for a Cold Weather Payment to help cover the cost of heating your home during cold winter months. You won't be required to claim for this one, as payments are made automatically to people who qualify.

Community Care Grants

If your finances are strained and you need financial support to live on your own in the community or to ease 'exceptional pressure' on you or your family, then you may be able to receive a Community Care Grant, which you wouldn't need to pay back.

More Resources:

For more information on what help is available to people struggling with their finances, you could take a look at the following useful resources:

http://www .direct.gov.uk/en/Pensionsandretirementplanning/index.htm

http://www.thinkmoney.com