Yes, that is one of the elements that are now in play, life without pension, work until death. Did you consider this danger when you woke up this morning? It does not matter whether you are 55+ and awaiting your first months on a pension, or perhaps you are a decade younger and you are setting the stage for your house, your family and your future to be decently secure. Perhaps you are young and you do not care yet on how you celebrate your golden years. Yet what happens when you are becoming aware that this will never be the life you can embrace?
For me it is not really a concern, I have always been a workaholic.
Yet the picture I am painting is slowly becoming a reality. I made mention somewhere in 2018 that there would be noise on renewing, or not cancelling the entire stimulus program. I was initially pleasantly surprised that this was exactly what happened. It did not take long, a mere 8 weeks later we see: ‘Dutch central banker calls on ECB to pause plan to ditch stimulus‘ (at https://www.ft.com/content/d42d5c12-2def-11e9-8744-e7016697f225). Here we see: “The European Central Bank should pause plans to ditch its crisis-era stimulus, the governor of the Dutch central bank has said, in a sign that concerns over disappointing economic growth have spread to the eurozone’s most hawkish circles“, In addition we see: “the central bank needed to gauge how badly the economy was faring before pressing ahead with plans to normalise monetary policy“. This is merely one part where we see that the economy is a jester and we are all playing the same card whilst the protected few get the entire deck, an economy that requires $3 trillion and counting to run through invested support is not running, plain and simple and that debt is with us, the tax payers. The idea to runt that bill up higher should outrage us all, no matter what excuses we get to hear. So when we see “he has moved into line with Mr Draghi and the majority on the ECB governing council. It shows the steep deterioration in eurozone sentiment“, I merely see that not only was Brexit the better idea, we need to get out as quick as we can, with exit deal or not.
What do you think will happen when this blows up in their faces? It will; I personally believe that there is close to zero doubt on this. The Wall Street Journal gave us two days ago: “the ECB could raise interest rates this year. If it doesn’t, the bank might turn to new stimulus measures. It has few tools left“, I will go one step further, it has no moves left other than to tap unused resources for short term gains and that is when someone will give the audience assurances with some small ‘extremely unlikely‘ or some ‘failure is too small a factor to see it as any threat‘ mention and soon thereafter that one thing happens and the pensions will be gone. The Dutch Telegraaf reported on that less than 10 hours ago where the reader gets: “De EU-landen willen volgende maand de knoop doorhakken. De PEPP moet het makkelijker maken geld opzij te zetten voor de oude dag door een einde te maken aan de lappendeken van regels in de Unie“, which translates to: “The EU countries want to make a decision next month. The PEPP should make it easier to set aside money for the old age by putting an end to the patchwork of rules in the Union“. Critical viewers see the danger as the mandatory part comes into question. So not only do we see places like Carillion (UK) with their “pension fund deficit of £800 million” a mere week ago. So what happens when this ends up being the impact on a European scale? What happens when the Dutch and Swedish systems (which are among the safest and most secure pensions) collapse? That is not fictive, that is not academic, that is a realistic danger of the PEPP, when those schemes start banking on the wrong bonds and investments there will be no pension left. Good luck getting by with that March Hare menu. The fact that this is getting pushed by more and more marketing, complete with ‘How a US firm pushed for EU €2.1 trn pension fund‘. It makes me extremely cautious. In the age where we see new stimulus replace another, whist there is no economic good to be found, we see more and more debt, the moment the ECB gets there fingers on that PEPP option the fences move and the entire herd of economic protection levels gets squashed, like grapes in a wine barrel, to be diminished to the status of vinegar. So there goes your pension that was initially a decent chardonnay at $15 per 700ml, and is now no more than $2 per gallon, so how does that go over with your planned pension outlook?
The rapid growth of all these international advisors all claiming that the Pan European Personal Pension products (Pepp) are a good idea is making me even less trusting. Having seen the eager needs of hedge funds managers over the decades and their renowned need for greed is making me worried that this will blow up and whilst they walk away with multimillion bonuses, we all end up without a pension. It does not get any better soon. That part is seen through the paper by Paul Cox, Lecturer at the Birmingham Business School (at https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/college-social-sciences/social-policy/CHASM/briefing-papers/2018/BP1-2018-Pan-European-Personal-Pension-Paul-Cox.pdf), and the first thing that should worry you is: “Currently there is no specific EU legal framework on the design, provision and distribution of PPs“, so not only is this an international product limited by national law, there is every indication that once outside of the borders a lot of national legislation loses its impact and power, giving rise to all kinds of dangers. Even as we are given: “The PEPP takes the form of a Regulation. A Regulation is directly applicable in each Member State and does not need to be passed in Parliament as a Directive does.” This comes with the added danger that these regulations can be altered at any time, giving the rise to ambiguity as well as adaption to fit the need of the ECB, that same entity that callously handed over $3 trillion in stimulus with nothing to show for it. How does that fit your retirement scheme?
Even as we see: “Transfers into a PEPP from any national Member State PP is allowed but a transfer from a PEPP to a national Member State PP is not allowed” and are given the reasoning of “The aim is to prevent possible tax relief arbitrage where the PEPP tax relief is not as generous as national Member State tax relief.“, the indirect danger will be that the PEPP could face additional taxation (on top of the normal national one).
Yet the bigger danger is in the unspoken part of: “An obligation to provide a financial guarantee might lead to investment in low risk and low returning assets, such as government bonds and money markets, which would go against the CMU’s aim of fostering investment in equity and increasing private sector economic growth. A financial guarantee may also create a significant barrier to entry as only some providers would be able to offer such guarantees“, so not only the loss of optional guarantee, yet the bigger part is the danger of much higher risk investments, apart from the partially visible danger of investing in ECB bonds fuelling more non profitable stimulus, the danger of big risk as people experienced in 2004 and 2008, at that point your pension is gone.
That is a direct danger at present and there is almost zero chance that these dangers will not hit you at some point. The problem is that the closer you are to retirement, the larger the impact will be. Some of my friends were hit with their low risk investments in 2008, resulting in an added 10 year shift to their retirement, so retiring at 75, do you think you will be that lucky?
From my personal point of view, it is not the large players that are the danger, there will always be another Carillion, the danger are the dozen small players where we see people diving into a pool they do not comprehend and set aside the essential protections required, all with the view to strike rich fast. In that view, consider the “the fallout of a $235 billion dirty-money scandal that has engulfed the local branch of Copenhagen-based Danske Bank A/S“, then take “the ABLV, Latvia’s third-largest bank, accused of laundering Russian money and starved it of American dollars, forcing it to close“, add “the closure of Malta’s Pilatus Bank and a 775 million euro fine imposed on Dutch lender ING” and the clear message, given via Reuters by committee chairman Petr Jezek: “The Financial Intelligence Units of many EU member states are ‘clearly not up to the task’“, that is the PEPP picture you could face, all getting in and out quick and ransack EU pensions overnight (and all falling over at the same time). There is too much danger and as we might have some faith in the uber wealthy Larry Fink and his need to grow his $6 trillion empire, the danger of small bank barracuda’s pretending to be great white’s or their version of an all devouring Megaladon (thanks Jason Statham) is too great, there is a lack of protection in place and with pensions that is just too great a risk to face. To translate that in other terms. It is not the one player losing $1oo billion that is the danger, it is the setting that 100 players all lose $1 billion at the same time, the systems are often not ready to deal with such a situation.
I fear that the fraud and pocket filling impact by greed driven persons the next time around will be a lot higher, a lot more devastating. I always figured that I will be working should I pass the 77 mark and still be alive, that is the one benefit of a workaholic, is that the view you are having for your retirement at 40+?