Meet generation SKI: those spending the kids’ inheritance
‘Let me tell you about my parents
They’re spending money like water
Goa, the Maldives or Azerbaijan
With never a thought of their daughter.
I showed them a lovely Twilight Home
And some sheltered accommodation
But they say they can’t stand elderly people
And they’re happy to die on vacation.’
So sing my cabaret colleagues, the perennially Fascinating Aïda. They, and I, have been in the game a long time and, appallingly, are about to hit what is perhaps the most privileged generation of pensioners that there’s ever been. Our parents, frugally raised on nettles and the ration book, husbanded their resources and fended off Inheritance Tax. We benefited from the explosion in property values during the 1980s, either because our family homes realised undreamt-of amounts, which trickled down to us, or because we ourselves had been lucky enough to catch the wave.
In 2008, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a pensioner’s budget was 10% below the working-age equivalent: ‘Pensioners did insist that you need to go out, go on holiday and be able to make yourself and your home presentable in order to have an acceptable living standard. However, they specified, for example, a slightly smaller clothing budget and less money for eating out.’
That has shifted. Today, the size of the minimum basket of goods and services is identical either side of pension age. True, that basket will contain fewer clothes and more Sanatogen, but Britain’s silver-plated generation, fit as a fiddle after advances in medicine and on-board Zumba classes (and still capable of and thirsty for work, however last-year’s-model we are perceived to be) has time on its hands, va-va in its voom, an extra life expectancy of nearly a decade and if it takes advantage of recent shifts in pension laws allowing us to cash in sooner a wad in its wallet.
The urge to go SKI-ing is undeniable. Not actual skiing – osteoporosis has waved goodbye to all that—but Spending the Kids’ Inheritance: SKI-ing. There are salmon in Novosibirsk that won’t catch themselves. John Lobb Bootmaker would be more than happy to fashion a really, really comfortable pair of handmade shoes around those bunions. You battled for years with the gearbox on that ancient Volvo—you deserve a Mercedes two-seater automatic. And just look at those curtains! The 1980s revival may be in full swing in Haggerston E2, but it will never, never include pie-crust pelmets.
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The long-dreamt-of tennis court may, now, be redundant, what with your knees, but how about a nice heated indoor pool and, perhaps, a steam-room for the joints? After all, one has to provide amusement for the children and (God help us) grandchildren, who suddenly appear to be unusually attentive.
After all, we’ve earned it. Why not blow it? It keeps the wheels of the economy oiled. There are young, possibly good-looking, language tutors, gillies and golfing pros with mouths to feed. Those afflicted by any conscience at all will realise that our material comfort has come at the cost of our children’s ability to get onto the property ladder as easily as we did. Salving it is easy. Downsize, bung a few thousand in their direction and head for the nearest shooting syndicate.
Even better, sell up completely. There are little old ladies permanently afloat, you know, only popping into Bridgetown or Las Palmas for their Gaviscon. There are the slightly unsettling snowbirds of America, and increasingly of the UK, gently losing their marbles as they lurch between San Diego and Fort Lauderdale in pursuit of the sun. The enormous motorhomes they drive are far bigger and more comfortable than the Wandsworth maisonettes into which their descendants are crammed.
I will confess: I’m not quite ready for it yet. The great thing about being a cabaret singer is that there’s no compulsory retirement age. Indeed, one has only to look at Marlene Dietrich, George Melly or Humphrey Lyttelton to realise that the more decrepit that we become, the more the audience loves us. I trust that I, and Fascinating Aïda, will carry on warbling well into our nineties.
‘Mamma, don’t spend the inheritance
Papa, oh why can’t you see?
You’re living in style while I have to rough it
Can’t you have the good grace to snuff it?
Please, please, please save something for me.’