At the End of the Day

Nobody’s future is what it used to be

I’ve spent much of the day listening to various examples of – and opinions about – what a ‘decent’ pension is. Quotes have been forthcoming about teachers, nurses, dinner ladies and all the other folks that the Ed Miller Band think are so hard done by.

For me, this is the bottom line from what I heard: only a nurse’s pension was lower than mine. And even then, by a mere £870 per annum.

Because I spent roughly 40% of my working life being an entrepreneur (with my house on the line, but still two kids to educate and a whopping mortgage to pay off) my pension got neglected. I never trusted company pensions, because I worked for the likes of the Saatchi brothers. I had friends who, after 23 years service, had to start all over again thanks to the Maxwell House of Cards.

What this meant was that I had only a private pension to which I contributed as and when there were funds available.

At the age of 44, my wife ran off with another bloke, and took half of that pension in a lump sum…as was her right.

My income outside this meagre pension now consists of lump sums I made by being successful in business, and choosing cheap areas in which to buy properties that, over time, increased in value…partly because I worked at improving them most weekends.

In 2001, I retired from full-time work with the help of an Income Bond mis-sold to me by Scottish Widows. That cost me £50,000 – a quarter of its value – with no redress. Since then, my second wife and I have suffered zero interest rates, increasingly censorious DSS rules about how much pension I can draw, and a rising rate of inflation.

Neither of us can afford private health care any more.

We have to devote several hours a week to finding investments that will give some kind of return. Some of these have done well for us….but a guaranteed index-linked public sector annuity pension (and banks paying interest) would’ve been much better, and a lot less brain-ache.

Of course we are better off than most. But this didn’t happen because I took a teaching job aged 22, and never had to worry again about the results of my efforts, or where the pension was coming from. And to be frank here, I’m a lot brighter and more use to the economy than the average dinner lady. (Nurses are an entirely different matter: I have nothing but admiration for the good ones).

But were you to ask me if, sometimes, I feel f**ked over by the public sector, feminist ideas of unqualified entitlement, financial services sharks, government waste, investment banker lunacy, and Union leaders destined to retire on £40,000 a year, then the answer is yes. Not all the time, but sometimes.

This isn’t how I feel about senior Whitehall mandarins, who illegally awarded themselves (with no elected body’s approval) an eye-popping £1.3 trillion in additional pension emoluments between 2005 and 2009. Them, I feel f**ked over by 24/7.

In the next 18 months, I’ll be getting the State pension. It won’t be life-changing, but I’ll be grateful for it. It will, however, be 13% lower than I was led to expect, thanks to Iain Duncan-Smith’s pension reforms, and the desire to give people who only came to this country twenty years ago more than I will get. (ID-S has done a wonderful job under onerous circumstances: this isn’t his fault. He has tried to be fair, and largely succeeded.)

So no, I didn’t support the strike today. Great teachers like my late friend Linda and my sister-in-law deserve every penny in pension they got, dealing as they did with the dysfunctional offspring of feckless pillocks who will get exactly the same pension payments at 65 as I will: such is the nature of Labour ‘equality’. But did I have sympathy with these cosseted fluffies waltzing up and down bearing their mindless banners and illiterate placards while singing ‘Solidarity Forever’? No, I didn’t. I suspect that, by and large, they have had a financial peace of mind others would’ve killed for over the last five decades.

What most of these demonstrating strikers are being asked to do is contribute some more to their pensions. How wonderful it would be if the cafe waitresses, secretaries, delivery drivers, forecourt attendants, supermarket shelf-stackers, small shopkeepers, garage mechanics, lavatory cleaners, receptionists, sales forces, call centre drones and unemployed students had only that to worry about.