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The antiques no-show

Press release: 13/08/2013

Retirees helping to fund lifestyles by selling off long held family valuables – to the tune of £729 million

‘Keep it in the family’. In days gone by this was a mantra generally adhered to by Brits when valuable family items and heirlooms were passed down to them.

However, need often outweighs sentimentality, and new research from retirement specialist LV= shows how over 550,000 retirees have sold off valuable family items and keepsakes in the last five years, with a combined total value of at least £729 million , to help fund their lifestyles and supplement their pensions. As the figures suggest, these are far from low value trinkets and titbits – the average value of items parted with by cash-conscious retirees is a hefty £1,309.

This may make pleasant reading for antiques dealers and auctioneers across the country, but news that one in 20 pensioners has already sold off a valuable item raises interesting questions about how people are funding their twilight years. With more people looking to boost their retirement income, whether that be to pay for living essentials or cover more extravagant purchases, the issue looks set to become even more pronounced in the decades to come.

Of those approaching retirement – people aged 50 to 64 – 15 per cent admit to having already sold off a high value item (with an average worth of a colossal £2,667) while a further 57 per cent say it’s something they’re giving serious thought to. What’s more, looking further into the future, 48 per cent of ‘grown up children’ say they’re expecting to inherit a high value keepsake from within their family that they could well sell on to increase their personal funds.

So, whilst it’s one of the BBC’s most popular and longest running Sunday night shows, there’s a fair argument to say British pensioners won’t have anything to bring along to the regional Antiques Roadshow fairs before too long if this trend continues.

When it comes to the types of valuables being privately traded right now, it appears as if everything’s up for grabs. More specialist pieces such as sets of collectible toys and stamps, old war medals and sports shirts feature in the top 10 list, but the five biggest sellers are perhaps as expected. Necklaces and bracelets come in at number one (39 per cent), followed by ‘classic antiques’ such as vases and silverware (22 per cent), watches or timepieces (20 per cent), crockery (15 per cent) and brooches (14 per cent).

Whilst over two thirds of all items sold by retirees in the last five years were identified as family heirlooms (and that 57 per cent would have been handed down to a younger family member had they not been ‘moved on’), almost half of entrepreneurial pensioners (44 per cent) didn’t feel an ounce of sentimentality about the sale. When you consider that the heirlooms in question had been in families for an average of 84 years, this really shows the need for cash.

Commenting on the findings, Ray Chinn, LV= Head of Pensions, said: “The research highlights one of the less conventional methods being used by people to help fund their retirements. Of course, we understand that as retirement approaches people may find they have inadequate provisions to support the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed, and selling off valuable items and family keepsakes can provide a short-term boost to a seemingly inadequate pension pot. But, it’s a stopgap measure and not a viable, long-term solution to the problem.

“It’ll come as a surprise to some people, but you can actually build up a pretty sizeable pension pot in under 20 years and by taking professional financial advice you can make this money work harder. Also selecting the right type of retirement income product, be it enhanced, fixed term or investment linked annuities, income drawdown, can make a significant difference. So with a sensible savings and retirement plan in place you can keep those family valuables where they belong, in the family.”

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Notes to editors
All figures used in this release are taken from research produced by OnePoll in July 2013. The survey research was carried out with three custom samples:
*1,000 retirees from across the UK that have, or have had, an heirloom
*750 50 to 64 year olds from across the UK, planning to retire at 65, that have, or have had, an heirloom
*750 ‘grown up children’ (aged 18 to 49), from across the UK that have at least one parent still alive.

Screener question from OnePoll research revealed that 50.5% of retirees are, or have been, in possession of an heirloom. Working to the supposition that a ‘retiree’ can be classified as someone over 65, ONS population estimates from 2010 show that there were 10,305,000 retirees in the UK at that time. The OnePoll data showed that 10.7% of retirees, had, in the last 5 years, sold off a high value item to fund their retirement.
*So, 10,305,000 divided by 100 = 103,050. 103,050 x 50.5 = 5,204,025.
*5,204,025 divided by 100 = 52,040.25. 52,040.25 x 10.7 = 556,831
*556,831 x £1,309 (the average value of high value items sold) = £728.89 million.