Ladies! We strive for workplace equality… what about in retirement?

Read time: 4 Minutes

Retirement – for some of us it feels like years away, for many others it can’t come soon enough. No matter what stage of your life you are in, if you aren’t already making plans for how you’re going to fund your golden years then perhaps it’s time to start thinking about it.

According to the Irish times, nearly two-thirds of women have found themselves with a much lower pension entitlement than expected. While reasons for this vary and the rule to qualify for a full state pension are complicated, factors such as working abroad, self-employment, being a stay-at-home mother or carer have had a huge impact.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission found the gap between men and women’s pensions currently stands at 38%.  However, the existing gender pay gap, along with the fact that a larger percentage of women work part-time or take career breaks due to family commitments, have resulted in women retiring on average with over a third less than men. These statistics show that many Irish women aren’t adequately prepared for when we do reach retirement.

Taking to the streets of Dublin, we asked women their thoughts on pensions and how they’d like to spend their retirement. Many of those we spoke to said they’d like to travel and enjoy their free time, but hadn’t thought about how they’d pay for this, with some having no savings at all.

 

How can women ensure they have an adequate pension?

From March 2018, the full state pension will be worth €243.30 per week for those under the age of 80 and €253.30 per week for those over 80. To replicate this in the private sector, it is estimated that it would cost somewhere in the region of €250,000.

How do I qualify?

To qualify, you’ll need to have a minimum of 10 years’ PRSI contributions (520 contributions), plus an average of 48 contributions per year if you want to get the full state pension. The average begins from the year of your first PRSI contribution to the year you retire. This is where many women have been disadvantaged by the system.

Those who take a career break, reduced hours or perhaps casual working hours, but return to full-time in employment at a later time, are (on average) at a greater disadvantage of those who began full-time employment later in life – say 40+. And, why is this? Well, because the former has made more PRSI contributions than the latter, but the substantial gap due to reduced working hours cuts their overall average contribution, and therefore what they are entitled to come retirement.

But it’s not great news for stay-at-home mammies.
In 2016, 445,500 women stayed at home to look after their families compared to just 9,200 men.

Fortunately, in 1994 the homemaker scheme was introduced which allows for up to 20 years to be disregarded from the calculations, so your average contributions won’t be negatively affected by this choice. Those claiming child benefit, carer’s allowance/benefit or respite care will be automatically entitled to this.

What if I’ve worked overseas?

If working abroad has caused a gap in your PRSI contributions, reducing your average annual contributions, you could find yourself entitled to a reduced rate of the state pension.  This depends on where you worked and if you made social insurance contributions. These contributions will be considered as part of your eligibility, but only after your Irish contributions.  You must have a minimum of 52 weeks of Irish insurance to be considered, however you still may not be eligible for the full rate.

Freelance work - how does it count for pensions?

What about the part-timers?

At present those who work as little as 4 hours per week on minimum wage are eligible for the full state pension. However, the threshold could change in the near future, requiring you to earn a minimum of €70 per week from part-time employment. From 2020, new entrants to the workforce will be auto-enrolled to the Governments new pension scheme based on total contributions rather than average contributions, which may reduce part-time workers benefits in the future.

…and the self-employed?

You will not be paying the PRSI contributions that will allow you to qualify if you earn less than €5,000 a year. However, those employed on a part-time basis qualify if they are earning just €1,976 per year.

If you do work for yourself, then it can be more difficult to claim state pension than for those working less hours in part-time employment. However, as a self-employed individual, you can opt into paying the PRSI contributions as a “voluntary contributor”, for just €500 per year you will retain your entitlement to a full pension. This threshold may change so it is worth keeping a close eye on to ensure you remain eligible.

Check if you have one!

Although not required, it is common for employers in both the public and private sector to contribute to supplementary pension arrangements.  Depending on the type of pension scheme, your benefits may include a pension linked to your salary and service at the time of retirement. However, the most common approach is to base the pension on the total sum of contributions made by yourself and your employer to your retirement fund.

You will have the option to increase your contributions. Dedicating time to research if your current contributions will be enough for you and your family’s financial security, or if it is in your interests to increase your voluntary contributions is crucial.

Calculating savings and contributions for pension

Is it time for me to invest in a pension?

There are a number of areas of concern and a level of uncertainty about the current state pension system around how it may leave us vulnerable in the future. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has expressed concerns that the law does not adequately protect workers who may face compulsory retirement before the State pension age which continues to increase. The commission also believes that the effectiveness of the state pension has been reduced due to lower electricity and fuel allowances and the rising cost of long-term care.

The government’s new auto-enrolment pension scheme is due to roll out for new entrants to the workplace in 2020.  The new system, designed as a solution to the current situation, moves away from average contributions to total contribution. Industry experts have expressed concern about how this will work.

Only a third of women have a pension,71% are unsure how to start a pension and a staggering 41% of women believe they will still have to work at 70!  The study also shows that men are more likely to have invested in a pension than women.

With the uncertainty surrounding the future of the state pension; what age in the future you will able to avail of it and what it will be worth to you by then, it is advisable to review your finances and work out what you can start saving. Especially if, like many of our interviewees, you intend to retire earlier in life, travel, and maintain your standard of living, a private pension is a worthwhile investment.

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10 Xmas ideas to the keep kids busy over the festive season

Read time: 3 Minutes

The countdown is on, and the wee’uns are bouncing off the walls in great form. It can be exhausting (and highly frustrating) to keep them busy while you get on with your Christmas preparations.

Yes, the Christmas shows are played on the telly 24/7 and as great as sitting in watching Christmas classic after Christmas classic does sound, we’ve composed some fun activities for you and the kids to do over the holidays.

  1. Make your own Christmas cards

Stock up with some paints, glitter, card, glue, cotton balls and colouring pens/crayons. You can create some footprint Reindeer!  Encourage the kids to use things from around the garden, like twigs or leaves.

DYI-Cards.jpg

  1. Visit Santa

We all remember visiting Santa as a child – they are the memories we never forget! Why not visit the Santa Experience at Croke Park?  Take a trip to Santa’s Grotto, through the Ski Patrol Room -which is manned by Santa’s very own elves. Your ticket also includes free admission to the GAA Museum, with two floors of interactive exhibits. Or how about Claregalway Castle in the West of Ireland? Take part in a snowball fight, meet Santa’s pets and enjoy story time with Mrs Clause. They are both popular events, so remember to pre-book as they fill up fast.

christmas-santa.jpg

  1. Paper plate Christmas elves

Another craft idea for the house. Use some paper plates and create a little army of elves! Encourage your children’s creativity by empowering them to make whatever they please. You can even add some string and cut out some holes for eyes and a mouth to make masks!

4. Shoe Box campaign

There are many vulnerable children in the world who will receive no other Christmas gift than the one given to them in the shoebox appeal. Teach your child the gift of giving, and to be aware of how lucky we are by encouraging them to create a box of their own to fill for a child.

5. Christmas Pantos
Why not take a trip to see Polly & the Beanstalk at the Olympia this December? Don’t pretend you don’t enjoy it! Or cheer the goodies and boo the baddies at the Three Musketeers Panto, which is on at the Civic Theatre from the 14th of December until the 7th of January.

  1. Ice Skating

Do you fancy yourself in the 2018 winter Olympics in PyeongChang? Then get your skates on!  If you’re feeling brave, take the kids to the ice rink. It’s a sure way to tire the little ones out. Ice rinks pop up all over Ireland; in Blanchardstown, Dundrum and a few in Cork.

  1. Make your own tree decorations

You can never have too many crafts! Use empty toilet roll holders for the top of the Christmas tree, and create unique angels for the top. Use everyday objects to come up with creative new Christmas decorations for the tree.

crafts with paper plates

  1. Get out for a walk – stay active!

Sure, it’s cold outside. But winter is a beautiful time of year. Ireland is treated to some of the prettiest skies we witness all year round. Remember to encourage an active lifestyle even in these cold months, as tempting as it is to stay in front of the cosy fire with some sweet treats.  It’s a great idea to get on the wellies and take a stroll through the forest and appreciate the lovely scenery, and while you’re out, remember to bring some pinecones home for all those arts and crafts you’re going to do!

  1. Pinecone Christmas trees

Those pinecones collected on your winter stroll will come into good use when it comes to making some pinecone themed Christmas trees! Get your little ones to create their own little Christmas trees.

  1. Spend quality time with granny and grandad

Christmas, it’s family time. Take the kids to see their Gran & Grandad this year. Remember, that Christmas can be a very isolating and lonely time for some elderly folk, and it’s easy to forget with our hectic lifestyles and busy schedules. So, please pay attention to your elderly relatives who would be delighted to have the wee’uns around.

We want to hear what you do to keep your kids entertained over the festive period. Use the hashtag #MyIrishLife on social media to let us know!

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Have a veg-y merry Christmas! Our Top 10 Vegetarian Christmas Dishes

Read time: 4 Minutes

Our Irish culture has always embraced the consumption of meat, but vegetarianism seems to be growing quite popular. According to Harvard Medical School, abstaining from eating meat can eliminate a risk factor for colon cancer, and a risk for type 2 diabetes. So, there doesn’t seem to be much harm in treating to yourself to a meat free meal.

Your son has plucked up the courage to bring his lovely new girlfriend to Christmas dinner this year, but (shock, horror) she doesn’t eat meat! What do you cook for your anti-meat-consuming Christmas dinner party invitee? Look no further, we’ve came up with our top ten vegetarian meals for Christmas day.

1. Baked Camembert with Cranberry Jam

Christmas is the season of cheese boards, and we all love a good camembert. It can be produced at any part of the day and guests can pick at it freely. Simply preheat the oven 180ºC, carve 2 or 3 large slits in the top and scatter garlic and cranberry jam on top. Wrap in tin foil and bake for around 15-20 mins until the cheese is soft and gooey all the way through. Serve immediately with bread, pitta or crackers.

Top Tip: Scoop out a crust bread bap and place your camembert in the center. Guests can rip the bread from the outsides and dip in.

Baked Camembert cheese
Source: Instagram

2. Mustard Mash

Start off by creating the potato mash. Place around 6 scrubbed, skinned and halved potatoes into a saucepan of salted water, bring to boil and simmer until they are tender. Drain and allow to steam before you mix in a large bowl with butter, milk and some salt and pepper.

Next, whip the potatoes until smooth, and add more milk if the potatoes are too dry. Then add around 4-5 tablespoons of whole grain mustard and serve.  Add chives or spring onions on top to flavour.

Mash potatoes

3. Brussel sprouts with Marmite butter (pine nuts, hazel nuts)

Brussel sprouts only seem to make an appearance around Christmas time so why not spice things up this year with a bit of marmite. Start off by beating butter and marmite together before smoothing it into a log on some baking parchment, then roll up and twist the ends. Keep this chilled in the fridge until later (it can stay up to a week in the fridge). Boil your sprouts for 3-4 mins as you usually would, drain and leave to steam-dry. Dry fry your sprouts for 5 mins until they start to blacken on the edges. Take your pan off the head and whack in a chunk of the marmite butter. Sizzle until the butter has melted and shake up to cover the sprouts. Season and taste before serving. Top off with some roast pine and hazelnuts to serve.

Brussels sprouts with Marmite butter

4. Honey Roast Parsnips

We can’t resist some well-done, honey roasted parsnips on Christmas day! All you need is some fresh thyme, a little bit of honey, olive oil and some parsnips.  Scrub and slice your parsnips to start, then parboil in salted water for 10 minutes. Drain well. Pick the thyme leaves and toss your parsnips together in a bowl with thyme, a pinch of sea salt, black pepper and honey. Add a couple of spoonful’s of olive oil (or butter) here too. Arrange these in a roasting tray in one layer and roast for 40 minutes or until nice and golden.

Honey roast parsnips and carrots

5. Sweet potato and Red pepper soup

A good idea for a warm winter dish, other than a potential starter option for our vegetarian Christmas guest.

Start off by melting butter in a lidded saucepan, add onion and garlic whilst shaking the pan from time to time until softened (but not brown). Next stir in some coriander and cook for 5 minutes. Next pour some vegetable stock over, bring to boil and simmer for 20 minutes.  While this is left, cut your sweet potato into thin slices, and heat about 1 cm of vegetable oil in a frying pan to fry the slices until they are brown and crisp. Leave these to dry on a tea towel.  Remove the soup from the heat and leave to cool briefly.  Blend all together with coconut milk and 1½ cups of jarred roasted red bell peppers. Reheat on the hob until ready to serve. Add some crispy sweet potato pieces on top to serve.

Sweet potato and red pepper soup

6. Vol-au-vents – Mushroom and herb

Preheat the oven to 190 ºC. Line up your baking tray with some parchments.  Then roll out your pastry on a floured surface until it is about half a cm thick. Using a small cutter (or wine glass) around 6cm across, cut out around 12 rounds. Place your circles on the baking tray and prick the centre with a fork several times. Beat an egg and egg wash your pastry circles. Bake on the top shelf of the oven for 12 minutes until puffed and golden. Next cut up some parsley, chop up some mushrooms and garlic and, cook with oil together in a pan. Turn the heat off and squeeze in some lemon juice and crème fraiche. Season this well and fold through the parsley. Add some water if it is too dry.

Use a knife to carefully hollow out your pastries, fill with creamy mushrooms and serve. 

Vol au vents with mushrooms
Source: Instagram

7. Roast squash with blue cheese and pickled walnuts

Heat your oven to 200 ºC. Oil and heat a baking tray/casserole dish and place in oven to heat up.

Deseed your butternut squash and chop into 1.5cm pieces. When the oil is hot, place the squash in to season and roast for around an hour (remember to turn) until it is slightly charred. Next, crumble over some stilton, then leave to the oven for 5 minutes to melt your cheese. Sprinkle some parsley and chopped walnuts and salt. Squeeze lemon juice over to serve.

Vegetarian recipes for Christmas - Roast squash with blue cheese and pickled walnuts
Source: Delicious Magazine

8. Broccoli and Cauliflower gratin

Preheat your oven 180ºC and grease your baking dish with butter, add broccoli and cauliflower and roast for around 15 minutes. Melt butter in a saucepan and whisk with flower, and cook on a medium heat for 2 mins.  Turn it off and whisk. Turn the heat on and continue to heat to avoid clumping. Add cheddar, salt and pepper and whisk until cheese is melted.  Take the broccoli and cauliflower from the oven and pour the cheddar mix over the top. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake until golden brown.

Broccoli and Cauliflower gratin

9. Roast Potatoes!

It’s an obvious one, but it wouldn’t be Christmas dinner without them. Remember, always cook more than you think when it comes to roasties, there is always a fight over the last at the end. You can opt to use goose fat or sunflower oil. It’s always a good idea to boil your potatoes first to the point that they are almost falling apart before you leave to cool. We suggest a garnish for the top of garlic, parsley and thyme! If you have any tips for making the perfect roastie, leave a comment!

roast-potatoes.jpg

10. Mac and cheese

It’s a quick fix, but it goes down a treat. Simply, cook your macaroni and leave to drain.  Melt your butter in a saucepan, with a bit of flour to form a roux. Gradually bring in the milk until thickened, then bring in your generous portion of macaroni cheese.  Transfer this to a deep ovenproof dish. Sprinkle parmesan over the top to finish.

Mac and cheese

Any tips for a veg-gy merry Christmas? Dish out your ideas! Leave a comment or use the hashtag #MyIrishLife.

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5 Healthy Meals to cook with your Christmas dinner leftovers

Read time: 4 Minutes

And like that, Christmas is over! But your fridge is full of all those too-good-to-throw-out leftovers that you really can’t let go to waste! But it’s not just about turkey sandwiches, or bubble and squeak. Why not mix things up a little? That’s why we’ve came up with some inspirational (and less guilt ridden) dishes that you can cook up for the week after Christmas.

Spicy vegetable egg fried rice

Spicy vegetable egg fried rice

Checklist:

  • Carrots
  • Sunflower oil
  • Cabbage
  • 2 eggs
  • Spring onions
  • Frozen peas
  • Chillies
  • Soy sauce

Heat up some chillies and garlic with oil, then drain. Add some carrots and stir-fry until tender. Add in your cabbage and cook before throwing in your cooked basmati (or leftover rice if you have some). Push your rice to one side of the pan and add the two eggs into the cleared space to scramble until set. Mix in your onions, peas and a bit of soy sauce. Stir-fry everything until the peas are hot.

Chicken, kale & sprout stir-fry

How to use leftover kale

Checklist:

  • Curly kale (shredded)
  • Sesame oil
  • 25g fresh peeled ginger
  • Handful of brussels sprouts, cut into quarters
  • Lime
  • Soy sauce
  • 2 chicken breasts, skin removed
  • White wine vinegar
  • Soba noodle

Cook the noodles as per the instructions on the package, drain and leave to the side. Heat up your wok or frying pan and add kale with some water to cook until wilted. Cool under water to keep the colour.
Add half the oil and cook the chicken strips until browned. Remove and set to the side. Heat the remaining oil and fry ginger, pepper and sprouts until they have softened. Add in your chicken, kale and noodles. Tip in the soy, vinegar and enough water to create a sauce that clings to the ingredients. Add some lime zest to serve.

Turkey Thai Green Curry

Green curry made with Christmas leftovers

Checklist:

  • 2 tsp of Thai Green Curry paste
  • 400g turkey leftovers
  • 2 peppers
  • Spring onions
  • Fresh coriander
  • Fish sauce
  • Baby sweetcorn & green beans (if they are handy)

Cut up your turkey into bite size chunks and sauté in 1 tbsp of oil. Add in your Thai green curry paste and let sizzle for 1 minute.  Add in some coconut oil (instead of getting reduced fat, add half a can of full fat and mix with water). If you want extra colour, add in 100g of green beans and baby sweetcorn to the dish. If your short on green veg then use some leftover peas. Flavour with some fish sauce. Cut up two peppers and serve on top with chopped coriander.

Vegetable soup

Vegetable soup

This is a straight forward, filling and light option. Throw all those leftover vegetables into a pan with some low salt stock, simmer and blend. Serve as a hearty soup with some wholemeal bread for boxing day lunch or starters.

Turkey Stew

Making turkey stew out of leftovers

Checklist:

  • Some olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 chillies
  • Leftover turkey cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 tbsp of tomato puree
  • Vegetable stock
  • Roast potatoes
  • Carrots

Add a bit of oil to the casserole dish and head the garlic, onion and chillies until they are softened.
Next, add in your turkey pieces until browned slightly (this shouldn’t take too long). Stir in a tbsp of tomato puree and pour in the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer on a low heat. You can add your leftover veg here, or you can serve with leftover potatoes and carrots, or rice if you have any.

A lot of our popular Christmas foods are wholesome, filling and good for you in moderation. Have you ever created any inspirational guilt-free dishes with your Christmas leftovers? We would love to hear about it. Join the conversation at #MyIrishLife or leave a comment.

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