Notes from Lapta, Cyprus – “Every Little Helps!” by Ken Dunn

After my wife and I retired the State Pensions arrived and a second, modest one has been paid to me every month from my time in education. This Teacher’s Pension together with our State Pensions were very welcome. The situation of neither of us having a sensible salary every month has been covered, albeit not completely, by these. But then, having been fortunate enough to have paid off the mortgage and with a small investment portfolio we’ve been able to get by without sliding into penury.

So, about a year after I retired a letter from the Department of Works and Pensions arrived. I hate those brown envelopes they use as they always, before opening them, seem to threaten financial doom. Not on this occasion. This was a communication from them telling me a company had contacted them in the hope of being able to trace me. They explained that they were not permitted, under any circumstances, to release any information to anyone regarding our address, telephone number, et al. If I wished I could contact them myself.

Enclosed was a copy of the request from this company of which I had no knowledge at all. It was a financial outfit based in the midlands and my ‘suspicious’ antennae raised themselves to full height. I was well aware of the several financial scams which had been inflicted on many unsuspecting folk via telephone ‘cold calling’, emails and dubious letters but this was slightly different. Coming from the W&P it might be genuine but, at the same time, it might have been an audacious attempt to con me completely.

I left it festering for a day or so but then, tidying up my study, I almost dispatched it into the bin. I thought again and decided to call them using the number on the letter heading. It couldn’t do any harm and there was no way I was going to give them any information before I found out why they had wanted to contact me for in the first place. So, I tapped in the number and waited.

My call was answered after a couple of rings and, for once, I didn’t have to wade through the ‘options’ nonsense you often get. Dial 1 for this, dial 2 for that and so on for minutes at a time. A bright and breezy voice asked how she could help, I gave her the reference number on the letter and a few seconds later another female voice greeted me with, ‘Oh, Mr Dunn! Thank you for contacting us. I’ve been trying to find you for such a long time! I’d only been able to trace you to your last address in London but then I had to contact the Works and Pensions people to help.’

Was this my lucky day or was it part of a sophisticated scam? The conversation between us eased my suspicions. The company worked for Newcastle upon Tyne University, advising, organising and operating as the agent for pensions for all previous and retired staff who had worked there. Back in the last century (Wow! How often do you get to say that?) between 1969 and 1974 I had worked as a graphic and exhibition designer in a natural history museum known as the ‘Hancock’. This was part of the University of Newcastle and, being still on their records, I was due a pension from them when I had reached 65!

Anyway, she took me through the details and said there were two options open to me. I could either have the full pension, paid on my birthday every month, or take a lump sum based on the duration of my employment with the University via the museum. If I decided to take the lump sum the pension would be slightly reduced. She promised to send me all the paperwork and would be happy to wait until I’d made up my mind which option to take.

It sounded ‘kosha’ and true to her word the documents arrived a couple of days later. In the meantime I’d been able to determine the bona-fide credentials of the company via a little ‘surfing’ on the net. So, I decided to go for the lump sum, completed the necessary documentation, sent it off with a first class stamp and, as it was two weeks before my birthday, I waited.

A statement duly arrived stamped with the Universities logo and that confirmed the lump sum had been paid into my bank account and this new pension had, and would be, paid on the 10th of every month. I was a trifle grumpy that approximately 18% had already been taken in tax but, hey, this was number three pension, totally unexpected!

I phoned the lady I had talked to and thanked her for her trouble in tracking me down and for her efficiency in handling things. She was delighted to have found me as she’d been trying to do so for months! I thanked her again and she then said, ‘Try not to spend it all at once.’ Now, that could have been taken the wrong way but I didn’t stop laughing at her remark for a long time.

Just before I tell you the reason for my laughter let me say that, due to HM’s Infernal Revenue’s recent changes to retired income I now have had that 18% tax removed so I now have the full pension amount every month. And what is that, I hear you ask? Well, when taxed it was £3.70. It’s now a huge £4.50 every single month! Wow!!

I often wonder how much it has cost not only to track me down but to process the pension every month!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments are closed.