On the daftness of pensions

Ah, the great pension, er, awkwardness.

Pensions are, as we all know, something of a problem. Over the last few years the state pension has become less, well, valid, while private pensions have dipped and, in some cases, simply vanished. If you’re unmarried (or unciviled), your partner’s pension has long been out of reach on their death, and we still have to buy an annuity with our funds, even though annuity rates are crap, and skewed towards those who have lived less than abstemiously.

The whole system is so iniquitous as to be risible. The richer you are, the more the taxman gives you when you save. Wealth breeds wealth. Naturally. It was ever thus.

Now public pensions are to be squished.

But pensions take many forms. My father, while he was dying of cancer, moaned at me during one of the few lucid conversations we ever had. (the following is made up, but utterly the spirit of our conversation. It is a poetic translation).

It’s not fair, he said. I put aside all this wine so I could drink good claret in my dotage, and now I’ve got six months if I’m lucky.

Get drinking, I said.

Well, I would, but this bloody disease means I can’t stand the taste.

Now that’s really unfair. It does, however, evidence the different sorts of pensions we can create for ourselves. He wanted, alongside cash and a house and all that shit, to lay down luxury for his old age. Like a cash pension, the wine he laid down accrued value over the years – both financial and gustatory. I have four bottles left. I could have sold my share, but that seemed mealy mouthed. One particular case, for example, would have netted me one hundred and forty bottles of Jacob’s Creek. But by god, it was fine.

Pensions take many forms. We all ought to lay down all manner of stuff for our dotage, as we find possible. In today’s ‘Me! Now! More!’ world, however, many find it hard. My pension provision is pitiful, but then, I’ll never enjoy it anyway, as barring a miracle cure for Parkinson’s, I’ll be a drooling, shuffling idiot long before I would start to receive it. And that’s ignoring the possibility of a one-way ticket to Switzerland …

But there’s one other thing that is astonishingly iniquitous. That is that what we receive in our dotage from the state and from private pensions merely reflects the money we have produced. And there’s no need to point out that those who make the most money contribute the least to our culture. They do balance sheets. cf. Oscar Wilde and accountancy.

The truth of the matter is that the great breadth of culture which supports this country, and provides pleasures for all of us, including the daftly rich, is a product of a lot of people doing stuff for love.

I once taught a man guitar for the princely sum of £500 per day. Nice work. I got it. Sounds great. But that was after years of dedication to my particular art – and much of it was unpaid.

The musicians who play at the weddings of bankers work extremely hard without the rewards of those who hire them.

The poems they read are written by people whose income is often pitiful.

The people who teach their children earn a fraction of those who bleat at them because their spoilt shit of a child can’t be bothered, and they think it’s the teacher’s fault.

Our value to society bears little relationship to our income. And the way we are treated in old age also bears little relationship to the contribution we made during our lives.

Pensions are iniquitous.

They encourage greed, not generosity.

I think I’m going to cash mine in. I’ll use it to fund my trip to Switzerland.