Monday, 3 April 2017

About pensions and such!

Well, as midday approached today we still had water. So the promised "suspensiĆ³n de suministro" obviously did not happen to schedule. They must be planning to lull us into a false sense of security. Then, just when we feel that it is safe to take a shower, set the washing machine going or clean the windows, the water supply will disappear. So it goes!

Fortunately we are not held to any strict schedule, being fortunate pensioners.

I have been reading quite a lot lately about how long people are going to have to work before they will be able to collect their pension - if such a thing exists by then. Nostalgia politics, with its longing for grammar schools, good, old-fashioned values, bobbies on the beat (I'm not sure that's really on the list), and (pretty soon) doctors who send you a bill for treatment, will have people back to working until they are 80 and then going off to a public workhouse. Laurie Lee country, here we come.

Some things in the reporting surprise me a was a young man in his early thirties, a young man with a young family, bemoaning the fact was just managing to make ends meet. He had no chance of saving money for the future. Now, I can remember when we were in our early thirties, with a young family, just scraping by, juggling money to get to the end of the month. It wasn't until later, when I was able to get back into full-time employment, that we could start saving again and put money into pension schemes. Mainly, we just didn't expect to go on expensive holidays or to run a fancy car and certainly not two cars.

But, yes, we were in a more secure situation than some young families find themselves in nowadays. We had managed to save for a mortgage before we had children and we knew that we could both count on a professional pension (once I got back into full-time work) as well as the state pension. And that was one of the things that struck me in my reading: as always, those with a professional qualification are still more likely to have a pension scheme set up. Although how long that will continue to be the case is perhaps debatable. As well as that, if you have to work until you are eighty, it will be much easier to do so if you have a fulfilling job that interests you.

Here's an idea that cropped up in my reading: a "slow retirement". It's not a new idea but something called the New Economics Foundation is arguing for a scheme where employees give up an hour of work per week every year from the age of 35. The idea is that older workers will release more of their work time to younger ones, which will allow a steady handover of retained wisdom. A universal basic income, whereby everyone receives a set sum from the state each year, regardless of how much they do or don’t work, might have a similar effect, enabling people to move to part-time work as they age. It seems like a good idea to me but maybe I am just a bit idealistic. Because, of course, there would need to be an agreement about that universal basic income. And there will always be those who do not want to relinquish the perceived "power" of their professional position by even a little move towards retirement. Perhaps we also need another look at those programmes which advise people on how to enjoy retirement, something I have not had problem with!

Another fortunate member of our generation I was reading about the other day is Prince Charles. The article was all about his hugging a young boy in Romania. It turns out that this child is the son of a close friend of the heir to the British throne. He is quite used to being hugged by the prince when the latter visits Romania, which apparently he does quite regularly.

Young Valentin Blacker is the child of an old Etonian and a Romanian gypsy. (Make of that what you will!) he lives mostly n a remote village in Transylvania but once a year he spends a month in a Church of England school in the UK. His father commented, “Valentin is well travelled but when he’s in Romania he is the same as all the other boys at school. He doesn’t get any special treatment. He just mucks in. I have taught him all the important things, which are speaking English, playing tennis and swimming."

It's reassuring to see that his old Etonian father knows what the important things in life are!

Two questions spring to mind:

Does Prince Charles receive a state pension? (Indeed, has he paid National Insurance contributions in order to qualify for one?)

And, given that we are leaving the EU, will young Valentin Blacker be able to continue attending school in the UK once a year?

Food for thought!

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