You don’t know what’s around the corner, so it’s tricky to plan for every eventuality as you get older. But there are a few things you can start thinking about in advance to ensure that later life isn’t more expensive than it needs to be.
We take a look at some simple steps older people can take to save money, from tracking down lost bank accounts to getting clued up about future care options.
1. Carry out a mini audit
There’s nothing more satisfying than saving money without having to make any sacrifices. One almost effortless way of ensuring there’s extra cash in your account is checking you’re on the best deals for utilities, such as energy and broadband. At the same time, check any direct debits to make sure you aren’t paying for services you’re not using.
Being seriously thrifty does require a little organisation, though. In a safe place, keep a list of all your accounts, including savings, investments and pensions. It’s never been easier to trace lost assets, such as dormant bank accounts. Tools such as mylostaccount.org.uk or uar.co.uk can help you to get back money you never knew you’d lost.
If you’re in a couple, consider splitting a joint bank account to clarify who owns what. This way, if one partner is later financially assessed for later life care, only their income will be taken into account.
2. Check if you’re eligible for any benefits
Know what you’re entitled to. Older people are able to receive a range of government benefits. It means you might be able to save money on things like heating your home or travelling by public transport. Some of these benefits depend on your age or your specific circumstances, but make sure you’re getting everything you’re eligible for.
- Attendance Allowance is for those over pension age who could benefit from extra help with washing, dressing or eating, because of illness or disability. You could qualify for up to £89.15 a week.
- Pension Credit tops up your weekly income to a guaranteed amount if you’re on a low income.
- Free TV licences are currently available for all over-75s, but from August 2020 you’ll need to receive Pension Credit to qualify.
- Free prescriptions are available for over-60s.
- Winter Fuel Payment is a tax-free annual payment of between £100 and £300 to help with your heating bills.
Read our guide to benefits for older people for a full breakdown of what you might be entitled to.
3. Can you get funding for home adaptations?
You may not need a care home or domiciliary help, but if you could benefit from some extra support, look into home adaptations. Even small changes to a house can give older people the confidence to continue living independently. You can arrange a free occupational therapy (OT) home assessment with your local authority. If it’s decided you need minor adaptations, the council should provide these if they cost less than £1,000.
Remember, not all home adaptations need to break the bank. Simple personal alarms that cost around £10 a month can summon help in an emergency, for instance. Check if your local authority subsidises personal alarm services. You could then combine this with motion-detection lighting to prevent falls.
- Before you make a purchase, read our guide to financing home adaptations
4. Get a needs assessment
If you or an older relative might benefit from extra support or specialised equipment, you can request a free needs assessment from the local authority, regardless of your income or savings. This is often a vital first step in choosing the right care in later life. It can also establish your eligibility for practical or financial assistance from the council.
A needs assessment is crucial to getting the care support you need. You have a right to this assessment, and it’s free of charge. Read our guidance for how to get one.
5. Explore your care options
If you need extra help with personal care (such as washing, dressing and getting out of bed), look into home care. Domiciliary care agencies provide professional carers to help older people. While it might seem cheaper than a care home at first, hourly costs for carers can be high (often £22 or more outside London). It can be far more expensive at weekends or outside of normal working hours.
Arranging private carers can save on agency fees, but be aware you may have to take on the responsibilities of an employer. Combining private carers for a few hours a week – to help someone get up, cook and shop – with family help and support from local community organisations can be an affordable way to create a support network for an older person.
- Read the pros and cons to see if home care is right for you.
6. Get clued up about funding for care
Once you’ve determined which care option might be right for you, the next step is to explore how much it might cost. Later life care (whether that’s in your own home or a care home) is rarely free, but you may be eligible for local authority help.
If, after the needs assessment, you’re assessed as having ‘eligible needs’, the council will then carry out a financial assessment to work out how much you should contribute to the cost of your care.
There are thresholds for savings and assets, above which you will need to pay for care. In England, this is £23,250. In Scotland and Wales, the limits are different and depend on the type of care that needs funding.
The NHS Continuing Healthcare scheme in England pays care-home fees for people with more complex physical or mental needs. Eligibility is based on an assessment, and assets are not taken into account.
- Find out who can get NHS Continuing Healthcare and how the assessment process works.
If you don’t qualify for this scheme, and your eligible capital from all sources goes above the thresholds in your country, you will be a self-funder.
Some people sell their homes to pay for care, but you might not need to. A deferred payment scheme could be useful if you have savings less than £23,250 but you own your home. The council will pay for your care and you repay it later when you choose to sell your home, or after your death.