Hard choices

on Apr 01 in Is it my crisis? , My pension is fine tagged by

In the style of Family Fortunes, if we asked 100 people to name something they don’t do – but should do – what would come top of the list?

  • the garden?
  • exercise more?
  • eat less?
  • read?
  • visit relatives more?
  • spend less?

We all have a long list like this. We can call them resolutions or regrets. But really they are just choices. We might say we have no time to read, but really we just prefer to watch East Enders. Or we might harbour a perpetual notion to exercise more but really we are choosing to put it off even though we know that will lead to health problems and the rest. An odd choice then, but still a choice. If we were prepared to face up to these things as choices we might, possibly, make better decisions.

Take spending. Granted, at low income levels there’s not much choice and at enormous income levels it doesn’t much matter. But for middle Britain, it’s all about choices.  The big choice is how much not to spend.  The really big choice is how much not to spend over the long term. By and large we make another odd choice here – we decide not to spend not very much.  Yet we know, surely, that this is going to end in tears. We know that if we keep not saving very much we will find ourselves tired of working or too old, lots of spare time and too little money.  So, back to choices – for middle Britain, whatever that is, the choice is between a good family holiday and a sensible retirement plan.  Or between a second car and a half decent pension. The detail is a matter for the individual.

The more uncomfortable sounding the choice – who would scrap the family holiday with indifference? –  the more real it’s likely to be.  So, in the style of those hard hitting anti smoking commercials which make it clear that in the eyes of a child the smoking parent is choosing death over the child, maybe we need to see the long term savings choice in similarly stark terms, (A) or (B):

(A)  Each year put 20% of your income into long term savings, or
(B) face an embarrassing retirement?

(A) Fund that 20% by eating out less, drinking less, scaling down the holidays, or
(B) carry on and accept that retirement will be grim?

Brendan Llewellyn

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