Talking Rubbish

I have come to a startling realisation: it is just incredible how little attention we pay to detail, how imprecise we are, how much rubbish we inadvertently talk. Continue reading

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Smashing Milestones

Today our family celebrates something that nearly everyone seems to call a “milestone” for my dad. To tell the truth, I don’t think he’s that excited about it – the “milestone” thing, I mean, not the family gathering.

Milestones don’t really carry the right connotations. They indicate progress on a journey. If life is a journey, it starts spontaneously – as far as we’re concerned – at birth and ends at the same point, location unknown, for all of us (the bit we don’t like to think about, and nor should we). It’s a journey we are in no hurry to complete and signs of “progress” are profoundly unwelcome. Continue reading

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United States of Europe – a problem shared is a problem denied

The single currency is a Ponzi scheme on steroids. The Eurozone has become hugely bloated and muscle-bound with debt. It’s a highly unstable – and unsustainable – situation. Yet many are advocating debt mutualisation across the Eurozone and a single fiscal policy. It won’t work (despite what The Economist says). All the sophisticated arguments ignore the simple fact that it’s Euro Ponzi to the power of 17.

The heart of the problem is the exponential increase in distance with degrees of separation. As the degrees ratchet up, so does the implicit belief that someone else will pay. At a supra-national level, across an entire squabbling continent, the distance might as well be measured in light years. By the time the “strongest” member of the currency zone, at the bottom of the pyramid, is crushed by the weight of the 16 above it, the implosion of the Euro would be the financial equivalent of colliding galaxies. Continue reading

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How consumers really decide

Appalled by the FSA’s belief that key features illustrations and the requirements set out in its consultation paper CP12/05 (chapter 5 -pension scheme disclosure proposals) will actually help consumers make good decisions, I produced this real-world, personal example of how consumers really make decisions and what actually helps. I could have quoted the work of people such as Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein but I thought this was more fun. It’s the story of how I went about buying a brand new car in 2010.

My first observation, in reflecting on this, is that I did not consciously set out any specific criteria against which to make my decision or have a “scientific” process for making my choice. Looking back, just over 2 years later, I still have the car and remain highly satisfied with my choice. Continue reading

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Technology ate my SIPP!

I’m speaking at the Henry Stewart SIPPs & Retirement Options briefing on 28th March on “Where now for SIPPs” and I can’t resist giving a little taster.

The session essentially asks that I predict the future, something that weather forecasters attempt on a daily basis with an enthusiasm seemingly undimmed by their unerring fallibility. So I looked closely to see if I could pick up any tips and realised that one of their tricks is to spend a good bit of time talking about what the weather was like earlier today – and what it will be like tonight when most won’t notice anyway. So I set off on a mental journey down memory lane, and a very pleasant amble it was, too.

“it’s easy to think of the tiny steps as laughable but … the journey is genuinely awesome”

My journey through the working world of pensions started in 1999 in the then new, frontier-land of SIPPs. I remember when the company’s first website was put up on this new thing called “the internet”. It was a single static page with a few dozen words and a picture of the managing director. Thinking of it now conjures an image of us as toothless simpletons, gawking at this “amazing” spectacle. (I also remember, as an aside, hearing about this new thing called “Google”, thinking what a stupid name it was and disliking even saying such a silly, made-up word!) Continue reading

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Expect important stuff to end up under the carpet

It’s just over 5 weeks since the Sipphound family moved house and I’m feeling the urge to look back, survey the muddle, poke some fun at myself and draw a serious lesson out.

Plenty of people have told me how brave we were to move so close to Christmas. They’re not wrong! How on earth did we manage moving, working, Christmas and much more with two young pups (i.e. children) to boot? Well, it’s amazing what you can do when you have to. And, just as significantly, it’s amazing what you can (and do) put off doing when you have to! Continue reading

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Effect of Charges or Enormous Obstacle to Contributions?

As if it weren’t already hard enough to get people to give up instant gratification to save for their retirement, pension illustrations come with a piece of absolute hocus pocus surely designed to finish the job of putting people off: E.o.C. or Effect of Charges. What other product producers are obliged to try quite so hard to put off their customers – aside perhaps from cigarettes. Pensions, of course, aren’t imbued with powerful addictive properties … Continue reading

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Stop Throwing Stones at Auto-enrolment

There’s something of a pensions apartheid in this country, particularly between the public and private sectors. It’s not just a DB vs DC thing or unfunded vs funded: for millions of workers it’s a pension vs nothing thing. From about a year’s time, auto-enrolment will start putting those people in a pension scheme for the first time. Continue reading

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Rioting or Celebrating?

Last month it was riots, yesterday it was FTSE 100 executives’ pensions. Is our society unfair? And are we doing better or worse in pensions?

Forget the (welfare-abusing) rioters’ distracting talk of expense-claiming politicians or bailed out banksters, here’s a simple way to think about the bigger picture. All you need is your imagination and a couple of minutes. Continue reading

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Do consumers need a kick up the arse?

There’s an awful lot going on in financial services and, a week or so ago, I was contemplating it all. “Aided” by the then warm, humid weather and mandated business attire in an office with no air conditioning or fans, I came to the irritable realisation that, despite all this frenetic activity, something was missing – something much simpler than all
the fancy-pants things being worked on. Let me explain. Continue reading

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