January 02, 2005

Death planning and resistance

What better way to start the New Year than planning your death?

For about 30 years I have bought (literally) into a personal future plan believing the wisdom that saving for the future was a vital part of your life, your future security. Unbelievably now, at 18 I started an endowment Life Insurance Policy! And believing each time they trotted out the next scare about the future, I bought what was required of me.

Anyway, back to my subject: much as they would like the respond-to-fear financial planning advice to sustain pension expenditure, no-one believes any more that any sort of pension will save you. Even the apparently secure final salary pensions of government workers are under the attack of the ‘hard choices’ of invading the next country on the list as against looking after the old.

The next illusion offered was: invest in property. Pensions could be replaced by capital investment and anyone who could joined the rush to own. The financial industry of course only recently and still in a quiet voice have commented that property was not likely to be enough. Darkly the Chancellor has said we have a choice: save more for our retirement or he will be forced to introduce some sort of compulsory pension tax. The government are fond of choice – it will be up there with fear as the major planks of their election platform – like so many managers or American presidents though the choice amounts to do as we say or we will make you. Of course the logical respond to this choice should be to spend as much as you can now since pension saving is ludicrous but they are going to force us to do it anyway soon. Presumably when the pension tax is being collected they will be able to afford more weapons of mass destruction to protect us in our old age. The final scare is the ‘work-til-you-drop’ threat; if you haven’t saved enough, and of course we all live so long now, you won’t be able to retire, you’ll have to work beyond retirement.

What strategy could be adopted in the face of the pension crisis and our enslavement to it? This is the one I have adopted: Instead of planning for retirement, plan for death. Death is most likely to be preceded by ill health and poverty. See it doesn’t matter how big a pension I have, at the end I will be poor and ill. It also doesn’t matter about planning for retirement because I am in an age-range which will be caught in the phenomenon of a moving or abolished retirement age. Property also won’t help. How liberating it is to brush away the illusory fears and accept the reality: poverty, illness, death. With these as the standard, working til you drop is not a threat. I am suddenly much richer to live my life now while I can enjoy it. A small resistance be every little helps.

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