Tony Hazell  

Later life lending is not fit for purpose

Tony Hazell

Tony Hazell

Reading the Council of Mortgage Lenders’ research into what it terms later life borrowers, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the market is no longer fit for purpose. 

I have argued for some time that there needs to be a radical overhaul of borrowing for older people, including the way advice is delivered, the products offered and the general attitude to pensioners with mortgages.

This report suggests that many mortgage lenders including members of the Building Societies Association, which jointly produced the report, feel the same way.

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Once you get past the report’s photo cover, which suggests older people like to garden in totally inappropriate clothing, there is a wealth of information to suggest lenders and advisers need to step up and serve this market much better.

From the advice perspective, the key problem appears to be that one group of lenders and intermediaries concentrates on pre-retirement lending and debt repayment while another regards property as a money vault and concentrates on equity release.

There appears to be little connection between the two and no simple way for a borrower to step from one market to another.

Some smaller building societies are more flexible and will consider loans for older borrowers, but most larger lenders still want to be rid of borrowers by the age of 70 or 75. Many advisers remain wary of equity release either for regulatory reasons or perhaps because the rewards and volume of business are not great enough for the effort involved.

But this segment of the market is growing rapidly. The over-55s own 63 per cent of the property wealth, worth £2.5trn. One in three mortgages taken out by people age under 55 will run beyond state pension age.

That should not be a problem if they have a secure pension income. But there remains a cautious approach to pensioners’ incomes, which can come from many sources including savings and investments.

The amount of mortgage debt held by over-55s households increased by 45 per cent from the 2006 to 2008 period to 2012 to 2014, to stand at £160bn.

There is a need for advice, appropriate products and an approach from lenders, regulators and government that is more helpful and useful to this growing group of borrowers. The CML and BSA have set the ball rolling with this report. Now it is for government, regulators and financial advisers to respond.   

Growing gender gap

Prudential’s latest study into retirement incomes highlights a worrying growth in the gender gap. The research now stretches back 10 years, looking at the income expectations of those retiring each year.

From a starting point of £9,800 in 2008 the difference in expected retirement incomes had narrowed to £4,800 by 2015 with some ups and downs in between. But for the past two years the gap has grown.

While women’s hoped-for retirement income has stagnated at £14,300, men’s has grown to £20,700 increasing the gender gap to £6,400 – a 37 per cent difference. There might be many reasons and career breaks are clearly one. But this does not explain why the gap is growing.