Which soap star will you be like when you retire?

Would you like to live like a character in a soap opera when you are retired? I still wonder how Coronation Street’s Ken Barlow does so well for himself when he “cashed in” his teacher’s pension in 1998 to pay the legal fees of his wife, Deirdre, “the Weatherfield One”, who was in a spot of jailtime bother that year.

Apart from pioneering pensions freedoms more than a decade-and-a half-before the Government invented them, and, moreover, driving a coach and horses through the rules as they still apply to final salary schemes, our Ken seems to live pretty well in his later years despite having handed over his accumulated retirement savings to m’learned friends.

Yet if Ken is managing pretty well, the same cannot be said for other soap icons.

New research from Scottish Widows has forecast the financial future of the UK’s TV families to highlight those who could enjoy the most comfortable later life.

It found that while the infamous Mitchells of EastEnders are probably the wealthiest family in soap land (with numerous business interests), dodgy deals put their future incomes at risk.

Back in Corrie the financially savvy Platt family come out on top thanks to a shrewd business sense and steady long-term savings. Tipping the scale on the other end, Emmerdale’s Dingle family’s retirement future is not as well placed as their onscreen competitors – with years of involvement in ill thought out business deals – unless they start putting aside more for retirement.

Top spot for Audrey

Coronation Street’s young at heart Audrey Roberts sets the best example of all the pensioners, with a predicted pension pot of around £100,000, achieved through many years of hard work and steady saving. She also seems the most realistically portrayed pensioner, with pension savings not much above the predicted average. Audrey is set to enjoy a rosy retirement – she can maintain a comfortable lifestyle through pensions and cashing in her investments.

Benefits street

The study showed EastEnders’ Dot Branning and Emmerdale’s Zak Dingle at the other end of the spectrum. Dot has been a work-horse all her life, working most notably in the local launderette. Considering that her son Nick has tried on several occasions to con her out of money, it’s plausible that she has some savings. However, as she was taken to court for failing to keep up with her rent payments in 2013, it’s unlikely to be substantial.

As a result, Dot is likely to only be surviving on around £151 per week basic state pension and pension credit. Dot owns no significant assets and had to keep working well beyond typical retirement age in order to keep afloat. In real life she would have been priced out of her area a long time ago too and certainly wouldn’t be able to afford her home in Albert Square – worth approximately £1.3 million and with an estimated monthly rental value of £2,687.

Zak Dingle on the other hand will have little more than the low income he received as a gamekeeper at Home Farm. The likelihood of Zak having savings, investments or pensions is negligible, not least because of his criminal activity. Luckily, this doesn’t square with pensioners in the real world – 55% of Brits 65+ feel confident that their cash savings will help ensure they have a reasonable standard of living during retirement (vs. 43% average) and 47% feel the same about their personal pensions (vs. 35% average).

Soap operas can teach us some valuable lessons about finance. And not just the more obvious ones such as the fact that gambling debts can ruin your business (Corrie’s Carla Connor), and burying a body under the granny annexe is unlikely to increase the value of your property (Corrie’s Platts).

Anything that focuses our attention on saving and providing for ourselves is all to the good. Just remember, however, that if you are using a financial adviser, do find a reputable one from a personal recommendation or via a search website such as www.unbiased.co.uk. You don’t want to find yourself driven into the canal by the murderous Richard Hillman.


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