Tag Archives: Retirement

As an election looms

Finally, we get some words on the Labour manifesto, the Guardian has been on top of it and whilst they are presenting a good part, I have a few issues as they went a little light on labour as I personally see it. Again, it is a personal side and as a conservative you should take into consideration that the flaw is on my side, and I would accept it, but let me give you the goods.

The entire review is at https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/16/labour-manifesto-analysis-key-points-pledges, so you have the option to completely disagree and seek your own version of their vision. The first part “a short note on a new £250bn “national transformation fund” implies that these costs will be funded through capital borrowing” shows their intent on rail, which is a quarter of a trillion through borrowing. So off the bat we are considering electing someone who wants to add a quarter of a trillion to a debt that went off the handles due to the Labour party in two previous administrations. How is that ever a good idea? a chunk of all the other parts is supposedly coming by adding a new tax group of 50% for those earning above £123K. A marginal addition for the ‘fat cat’ group. So those making more than that will be charged for the amount above and I have a hard time accepting and believing that this will get them the ‘speculated‘ £6.4 billion. It reads more like wishful thinking in an age where rationalism will not ever get you that amount. Consider, as mentioned before, something that any excel user can check with the numbers the UK tax office (HMRC) offers, the super wealthy, those making well over a million is limited to less than 5000 people. So how is this billion pound extra achieved? Let’s not forget they only get the 5% extra over the amount over £123K, as such the income will not get close, yet after the election they will come with excuses, whilst we already knew that this was never realistic. In addition, how many are close to the threshold? In this those making £123K – £199K, they might feel safer setting apart certain investment reserves into retirement, if they get that done, the £6.4B will drop fast by a lot. In addition, the Guardian gives us: “But recent evidence from the imposition of a 50p rate in 2010 shows that the measure could spark mass avoidance by the individuals affected and raise no extra funds for the exchequer“, so there is that part too! Remember Jeremy Corbyn and his nurses? The 10,000 nurses pledge? When we consider the already announced part “Health and social care reform at a cost of £7.7bn, as part of a package that includes a guarantee of A&E treatment within four hours and the end of the NHS pay cap“, and the “Free lunches for pupils as part of £6.3bn school package“, that’s another 14 billion, where is that coming from? Remember the tax increase part? When we tally, we see that the NHS part is already leaving the tax increase at minus a billion, all the other multi billion pound parts are not even close to being addressed. This is simple tally stuff that many in their final year in primary school can achieve from their calculus lessons and Jeremy Corbyn and his ‘raunchettes’ cannot deliver, a mere exercise in lewd offensive spending. Choices without proper merit and ignoring the consequences of the deep debt they got the UK in in the first place. I am all for some level of social levy, yet any social act requires to consider the impact, something that UK Labour is clearly not doing. It is even more upsetting that simple calculus gets us to a place where this would never have been a reality to begin with. Are you seriously considering voting for such a failed attempt?

When we consider the added Cyber security, and the promise to the security agencies, we see items that are promised without any claim to the cost. Now we might accept that part, yet their own £11.2 NHS IT fiasco should clearly show that they haven’t got a clue on how to tackle it because the limitations they imposed through failed IT is part of the reason that NHS IT is not up to date in the most meagre of ways which is also exactly part of the reason that the NHS hacks were successful in the first place. In addition the entire pension part is flawed, that is a given not because of what it states, but when you compare it against the Australian need to already up the retirement point to 67, with a population of 20 million, that is a retirement change already needed now, the fact that the age wave will hit with almost 4 times the intensity in the UK and the retirement age will not significantly up for another 6 years is delusional and as I see it set so that the current Labour electorate can ignore the issue until the next election, at that point it will be way too late and they will offer some diluted solutions using capital borrowing adding another . I see it as we now need an estimated £75bn a year, it is anticipated a near doubling before 2025. You see, some of the statistics have been placing comparison of life expectancy and percentage of retirement, yet as I see it, the quality of life for those born in the 30’s and those born in the 60’s is vastly different. the difference of those two groups is that maximum life is more likely to be in excess of 20 years, so those born in the 60’s and onward have a much higher chance of requiring a pension for close to 20 years longer, on a population of millions, that would equate to an additional pile of billions that would be required. In this the setbacks that the financial meltdowns gave all the people and government institutions, it shows that the shortage will increase and the pension deficit will increase annually by a lot over the next 5 years alone, so not seeing any repair actions is just weird. So as labour proclaims to be ‘social‘ their social unawareness and unpreparedness is just a little too upsetting. Now, the Tories are not innocent either. There is a given shortage and getting rid of the debt is a first step in solving it, so as we see that Labour is now willing to add close to half a trillion to the total shortage and that is just the added shortage of what they want to do to look cool. The added deficit will go straight through the roof adding overall a lot more debt than anyone is willing to consider.

And it is Labour of all others who have no welfare support. they promise a future policy paper, but the overall issue is not that paper (it will be though), it is “There are no spare funds in Labour’s calculations for extra welfare spending. To counteract the effects of planned cuts, under Labour’s current plans it would need to increase borrowing“, so that implies even more borrowing, whilst they amount needed is already through the roof. I did voice a change, I offered a view where there might be some additional ‘fat cat’ costs, even though that is not what I call it, it was a need to increase the second tax tier by 2% and the third one by 1%, whilst increasing the 0% tax group. so basically the lowest people get £100 a month more and the highest (45% tier) loses about £150 a month (as they also have the higher 0% part, they lose a little in the end), around £100 for tier 2 and £50 on the tier 3 part which I saw as a very social thing to do. And all that without burdening towards extra debt. I am not stating that the lowest group did not deserve more, I was working from a 0 balance difference for taxation, so that the coffer would not be denied more coins to address the massive debts it has now. It was a simple exercise in Excel and perhaps my method is flawed, my intention was pure, that is a lot more than I can state for the McDonnell-Corbyn group who will happily max out the UK credit card and leave others to solve the matter after they leave office, just like the two previous labour governments did.

Yet in all this it is not just the Labour party that needs a look, the Lib Dems are also due a little concern. In that I actually like the entire ‘rent to buy‘ pledge. I cannot say if it would work because the ground materials are not a given at present. What homes would be offered? Consider what the foundation is. New houses, would b great, but when we see where, there will be an optional issue. It is of course a way to get the younger generation out of London and perhaps towards other places where a younger population would be a good thing. However, would they embrace life in Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Lincolnshire or Kent? What happens when that is not an option, what if the social houses in London does not get resolved? Those elements make the Lib Dems an issue that might not come to pass, yet for every person accepting a place outside of the greater London area, the pressure will go down a little, enough little’s will make for a moment of relief, yet will it work, time will tell. In all this I personally found the second ‘referendum’ offensive. So, because people did not like the outcome, because some didn’t bother voting, the people in the UK get to vote again? I wonder how the Lib Dems will be seen when the EU gets the bill of what Wall Street does, when the UK gets the pounding because the US could not get their house in order, I wonder how those second referendum people will be seen. Even as the US is ‘suddenly’ doing great again, whilst their debt is increasing by trillions of dollars a year, as well as their inability of dealing with their deficit, how will that push others? The US now with almost 20 trillion in national debt, they stated the 1st half of 2016 a collected taxation of 1.48 trillion. now, if we do something not entirely valid, but what if we double it? (the second half is never as much as the first half, yet for argument sake), this now implies that the US would collect a maximum of $3 trillion for 2016, that whilst at present, federal spending is at almost $4 trillion and the deficit is now approaching $600 billion for this year. The deficit, no matter what they report is not getting properly addressed and has not been or over a decade. What do you think will happen when that well ends? Do you think that export to the US will continue? At that point, who would be the trade partner that remains? I do not proclaim to have then answer, yet when we see that at present US total Interest paid is set at $2.5 trillion, where do you think that goes? Who is paid interest on debts that seem to be mainly virtual? Do not think it is a simple picture, because this part is as complex as anything could ever get. Machiavelli could not design something this complex. Yet at the end of the day, the taxpayer is left with the invoice. As such lowering debt is the only safety net that would allow the people in general to have any life. I have always stated and truly believed that once it collapses, it will hit whomever is in debt. I still believe that Japan is the first domino to fall, yet that also means that the US dollar gets a hit that will be a terminal one and Wall Street will falter almost immediately after that, after which the Euro will go straight out of the window, its value less than the German Deutschmark in 1923. Japan has a debt that is close to 240% of GDP, a group of nations that includes the US, Japan, the UK and several other European nations have a budget deficit that is surpassing $9 trillion, how is that allowed to continue? This is not me, this comes from Martin Weiss, PhD. Although his PhD is in cultural anthropology from Columbia University, not in economics. Yet we can agree that at least he has a few degrees which includes degrees from Columbia and NYU, so he is not the most uneducated tool we know, unlike some in politics nowadays. The problem is not the total deficit or the total debt. It is the fact that some players like the Rothschild’s, Wall Street and even the IMF are wanting this game to continue. A push it forward game that benefits the political and financial engine operators and 0.1% of the population. Would it be fair to call this a legalised form of slavery? Is the one option allowed to have the same as a freedom of choice? That is what is more and more at stake. When the people in the UK were allowed this freedom, they chose Brexit, now we see all these players trying to undo that one part, because it is the fear of the players with too much to lose. We get more and more weighted information from the press and that engine is less and less reliable. So what remains? Well, the people in the UK are about to make their selection, whilst we see certain manifesto’s that are debatable to say the least. Some parts are just not realistic at all, yet the people must elect someone. I will not tell you who to vote for, I am merely wondering if the people will ever be properly informed.

This is mainly because there is an election looming and those not governing will make whatever promise they can just to get into office. So what will happen after that? Remember Emmanuel Macron? Making all those statements on how Europe must reform, or else there would be a referendum? Well, merely an hour ago we see: “Both pro-Europe leaders were keen to show solidarity concerning the Eurozone and have broken with previous statements by discussing potential changes to EU treaties. The move is seen by both nations as a way of healing ongoing EU upheaval, combating the rise of the far right and showing a united front in the wake of Brexit negotiations” healing whom? the ECB spending spree recipients? When we see “Visiting Berlin on Monday, Macron ‘did not push for major, ambitious reforms (of the EU) because he knows the chancellor cannot deliver until the elections in September’“, I merely see the fact that the French people have been lied to again, and those people voting have elected a new Wall Street tool (as I personally see it), and the fact that he was a former investment banker was pretty much a clear giveaway. I expect to see some kind of ‘compromise’ that gets no one anywhere any time soon around the end of August or early September, implying that the European gravy train will move along with full speed ahead for another 4-5 years. When you realise this, do you still think my Brexit support was weird? If someone had effectively muzzled Mario Draghi, that might have been a first piece of evidence that reform of the Eurozone would have been a far fetched optional reality, yet so far, that has not and is unlikely to happen.

 

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The light of exposure

In France everything is going topsy turvy, we see people who claim to have no gains in any of it make certain that anybody is elected, except for Marine Le Pen, even the current President of France is on that boat, which is interesting as he is at present regarded as the biggest political failure since WW2. I myself would like to remain neutral, which is almost not possible as out of nowhere a former investment banker is suddenly the favourite runner with no real main political experience. The political marketing department might like the fact that he will be the youngest French President, which makes almost as much sense as it would be for me to take over the clandestine department of the CIA, with all those Korean challenges? I’m game!

Yet as I see it, Emmanuel Macron made a large blunder on LinkedIn as he wanted France to head all kinds of environmental and climate research, which sounds nice as the population at large is all about climate, but he seems to forget that France has a 2.25 trillion Euro debt to deal with and the current French President is leaving France in a dire, weakened and unhealthy state. Something that can not now, and not ever be cured by throwing money in anything but a growing economy move. Even I could have done better than that. Both players for the hefty seat will need to consider that a true quality investigation in the French healthcare system will be next on the list. It is at present regarded as one of the best, yet by 2019 their numbers will drastically change as France has one contributing element. As the retirement age has shifted by 2 years, there will be a spike in both physical and mental health care that will at that moment spike to different levels. France has the benefit of seeing how wrong inaction has left the British NHS close to death, and this is whilst the retirement age was at present not affected, so in France a think-tank will need to convene on a structured overhaul that does not leave a non working system in hands of consultants for 11 billion and at that point be a non-working system. The British Labour party left them with this example. If met with the proper adjustment, Huawei Technologies and Google could have optional solutions in theory before the end of 2018 and implemented 2 years later. The question becomes who will be the player and how will it be implemented. Questions that require serious consideration and in my view the youthful investment banker might not have the solution, in equal measure I am not certain whether Marine Le Pen will fit that bill either. Yet what has been shown is that the current president has made little effort towards that growing dilemma.

So why is Macron the bad choice? I am not sure he is, but the issues we have seen with investment bankers do not make me confident. Even as we should agree that he married the love of his life even though she is a few decades older, which implies that he does not care about the opinion of others gives the vibes that he is made of stern stuff, something the French people desperately need after one tour of Francois ‘the paperback’ Hollande (as I personally see it). Yet, what wrong has Emmanuel Macron done? That is the issue, for the mere reason that there is nothing that shows he had done anything but bend the law without breaking it in the Nestle acquisition deal. So basically, this proclaimed Mozart of Finance is getting soiled in soot for the mere title of being a former investment banker. That is as far as I can take it with reliable information. The Rothschild bank empire keeps it laundry hidden and dry, neither the NSA or the CIA has anything on them (FBI has nothing either). Whatever others can find is either hear say of overextended triviality. Again, as I personally see it the entire board of commissioners of PwC will be in jail long before Rothschild bankers get into the dock in court. I am happy, but unlikely to be wrong here.

Yet these elements are not the only ones in play. During the next French administration banks are moving their interests and their work environment all over the globe, France will see its share of new challenges. As the UK is dealing with Brexit and their set of new challenges, France will also deal with other issues. Even as both are not looking towards the frontiers of what will be possible with 5G, we will see new views on security and cyber issues, not just in the WiMAX and 5G environment, there will be additional dangers and risks with the new IBM hype word! As blockchain is heralded as a new solution, there are inherent risks with a system that has these abilities. Not just in managing the data, the attached data goes much further, there is the risk that any system has more than a mere ‘massive disintermediation of the financial system’. There is the risk that a hiatus in ‘non-repudiation’ could leave a dangerous leap in the ‘who done it’ realm where nobody can be held to account. The fact that blockchain has no form of regulations whatsoever will give French banking laws additional headaches down the line. This is not just assumption (well, it is a little), the Washington Post was all about ‘Russian hackers‘ in French elections. That does not prove that it is not so, there is merely a lack of concrete data evidence and the quote “the front-runner in France’s presidential race carried digital “fingerprints” similar to the suspected Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and others in the 2016 U.S. election” give food for thought. As present the cyber units cannot even get on par with the criminals, as blockchain evolves in all kinds of ‘personal’ dialects in every nation, we will witness a new level of data adjustment. This does not mean that blackchains are evil or that they are instigate criminal activities, the timing that blockchains bring just as the data traffic from 5G could sent a 500% data traffic spike from 2020 onwards through the global online cloud community leaves us with a boatload of issues and in that, France will have its share of issues to deal with, so as there might be opportunity, there is a more than equal risk of harmful dangers. Europe at large is not ready and in a lack of checks and balances, the dangers of another 2004 and 2008 investment collapse is not out of the question, especially as the laws are still not ready to deal with the recurring danger of a 2008 finance event. In this France is in too weak a condition (as is the UK by the way). So consider that if we relate this to the Bitcoin, its volatility is in its foundation the same volatility that blockchain could face, with a truckload of return on investment risks. In this we might consider that Macron is the better candidate, but I am not convinced, in this both are not great options, yet still better than the others. It almost a Churchill moment “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried“, we could replace the word Democracy with either ‘Blockchain’ ‘Emmanuel Macron’ and ‘Marine Le Pen’. Although in the first example, we would need to exchange ‘government’ with ‘data system’ as well. In this day and age governments can no longer keep up and until the spirit of the law gets clearly enforced the population of any nation is in trouble. In this danger is too harsh a word but there is a risk and the press at large has proven to be little or no help (apart from some actual newspapers, who are some help).

As France goes to vote there is little that I can offer to the voters, only that they need to know who and what they are voting for. They need to realise that their immediate choice is for themselves and their family. For some it is one candidate for others there is the other candidate. With France having an explosive growth in poverty, the social element seems the most pressing one, but its solution is in other elements not in solving poverty but in growing a dire economy, a dire situation grown by what I regard to be outsourcing and the bottom Euro of getting things done cheaply. It is that proper reform that herald change and options, which puts the initial premise in the hands of Marine Le Pen, yet no matter how her national pride is set, if she cannot build solutions she would be a one term president too. For Macron it seems simple in the way he talks and he talks like a salesperson, but in this he needs an engine to deliver on his promises, this is something he cannot walk away from, whether he realises it to the degree is not certain, his LinkedIn message made that clear.

So no matter where the exposure ends, there are dangers that all nations of Europe will face, the sudden ‘relaxed’ shift from Mario Draghi is making that clear (Source: Financial Times). I think that this temporary ease of situation is merely to ‘atone’ for French voters, I think that the message is a dangerous one. Several sources are talking on the dangers of joint bonds an in addition the fat that Reuters views that Mario Draghi could lose credibility is not a fab, it is a realistic danger which people seem to be dimming to low until after the French elections. This as I see it implies that there is heavy weather ahead. This is strictly my personal view, yet in that regard I have been correct a few times too many. See my other blog articles to compare on that regard. In this there is partial data, there is the claim that the IMF has dropped the pledge to resist all forms of protectionism. For me the issue whether they dropped it, or merely did not make mention of it. The result is very different and in this it is not just about clarity, it is about changing channels of commerce. It is more than a mere view of ‘good business is where you find it’ versus ‘we all should be allowed to do business’, which is the more direct issue that will impact France too. Even as I have an issue with the President Trump’s tax breaks, there is one sight that is adamant. The economies are now no longer in the hands of the fat cats of Wal-Mart and corporations alike, it is in the hands of small businesses and families in stores. They will reduce tensions on infrastructure pressures and make combined ripples in a starting wave of commerce. France is one of the more likely places to get that going, much more so that the UK at present. In this France’s biggest enemy is the French language.

When it overcomes that barrier, it could start a wave of trendsetting businesses from local to global, how it is done remains open to the people deciding walking that path, it will be a personal choice for all who endeavour that step, but they can get there, they just need the proper exposure and support.

 

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Decoupling Draghi is hard to do

Like a bad disengaging train, we see more and more how the Euro has become a dangerous place to be. I have pointed the finger at Mario Draghi more than once. He is not the only reason mind you, but he is a massive one. As I see it, a facilitator towards the Status Quo of a coin no one wants. Europeans see how their retirement is devaluating itself, others see a coin they do not trust, they do not like it, and to be honest they do not know why, but the numbers do not add up. Wall Street loves it, as they can leverage iteration after iteration of floating values as they can reset the currency seesaw, but over a dozen nations in Europe cannot, their hands are tied. It gets even worse in the near future if Japan is any indication to go by. Min Jeong Lee and Yuko Takeo from Bloomberg (at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-27/escape-route-eludes-japan-stocks-still-hostage-to-u-s-sentiment) are showing you the prelude to the disaster that Europeans could possibly face within 24 months. The first statement is already showing u the issues that Europe will face soon enough: “Japan’s stock market is again showing itself handcuffed to U.S. growth prospects and its own currency“, In that same sense Europe will soon enough be depending on US growth prospects and the massive debt that Mario Draghi is pushing onto the Euro nations. Now, we need to realise two elemental parts:

  1. Europe is not that deep in debt, but the holes that Mario Draghi is creating is already having an impact. “Big bond funds are becoming increasingly reluctant to lend to the euro zone’s weakest members, looking past a crowded electoral calendar to an eventual winding down of the European Central Bank’s ultra-loose monetary policy” (source: Reuters), with the personal change, setting ‘European Central Bank’s ultra-loose monetary policy‘ into ‘irresponsible spending‘. As the time frame goes, Brexit and Frexit might be just in time to avoid a noose for the United Kingdom and France, but for many smaller EU nations it is too late, they have lost economic control and they are now the mere vassals (read: unchained into slavery) to do the bidding of the ECB. Is that what Euro nations signed up for?
  2. Japan has its own way of dealing with the debt and economy and many fear it was never a good plan, but as they skated the edge of the abyss for over a decade people have become insensitive to the impending doom, that is not a good thing, it is merely a Japanese thing.

FXStreet (at https://www.fxstreet.com/analysis/catalyst-for-chaos-201703271520) gives us the two elements. “The BOJ has an inflation target of 2%. If Mr. Kuroda ever has the temerity to end his bond-buying scheme, borrowing costs in this bankrupt nation, which has a total debt to GDP ratio of around 600%, would have to abruptly surge over 200 basis points just to keep even with the central bank’s inflation target” as well as “If the ECB were to seriously commit to ending its QE program, fixed income investors and speculators would panic to get ahead of the removal of Draghi’s bids; and Bund yields could surge well above the rate of inflation in a very short period of time“, which shows the removal of control and the implied fact (read: implied) that Mario Draghi has no intentions of ending his QE plan. Because the devastation that the surge of Bund yields would come with a hefty invoice, one that none of the EU nations can pay, this includes the big 4. Isn’t it nice that FXStreet and other trader and broker sites are actually starting to realise that what I have been warning people against for well over 2 years? I am not the ‘prognosticator of prognosticators‘ (Punxsutawney Phil has that title), mine was merely the conservative approach to the use of a modern abacus (read: Excel) with the application of common sense. Those who were claiming me to be wrong, (a fair amount of them) are now facing their own ridicule as they hide behind slogans like ‘changes in the economy‘, ‘a mere miscommunication‘ and my favourite ‘as we trusted the analysts‘, that is my favourite as it is based on the governmental forecast numbers that have not been anywhere near correct for well over a decade in well over a dozen European nations.

So as we go back to the Bloomberg part we now see: “as a chorus rises among analysts who think they see sufficient improvement in Japan’s domestic economy for the nation’s equities to unlock themselves from the exchange rate. Before last week, the yen and Topix were both up about 3 percent this year“. Yet not long thereafter we see “After Monday’s drop, the Topix is within one and a half percentage points of erasing its gain for 2017“, so before Q1 of 2017 is done, we see that the prospective gain of 2017 is all wiped out. This does not mean that there is no room for improvement, ye the fact that Bloomberg sees Japan as the 7th worst return of the 24 developed markets implies that Japan could potentially end dead last in 2017, music to the ears of the Chinese I reckon. In that same trend I disagree with Soichiro Monji, general manager at Daiwa SB Investments Ltd, as he makes the observation “Investors should focus on fundamentals like the economy and corporate earnings“, perhaps he remembers that somewhat popular kitchen course ‘How to cook the books‘, the news made some reports and comments on Toshiba and Olympus attending those artsy classes. Or perhaps the honourable Soichiro Monji remembers Nikko Cordial Corp. which is now part of the Citigroup Inc. and no longer in the hands of the honourable Junichi Arimura who was never proven to be involved, the proven guilty party is set to Hajime Yamamoto. As the pressures for these corporations go up, the dangers of ‘fraud’ (read: unintentional misrepresentation of a company’s position) will remains a danger and will also increase the impact it has on the Japanese economic forecasts. And this impact is also felt by those into the retirement system as it lost $50 billion less than a year ago. If we accept the realistic return of $2.5 billion, which fuels nearly 30% of the elderly, that is a big chunk to lose, in addition, in 8 years’ time 24 percent of gross domestic product will go straight to welfare, which is a mighty chink out of a budget that they cannot even get close to now, the Japanese debts are too high and Europe is slowly yet surely steering in the same direction.

There is one more element in all this, Toshiba is now ‘demanding’ that its US Nuclear unit (Westinghouse) to file for bankruptcy within the next 24 hours. This is not just cutting losses, this is a move to set losses where they need to be before the financial year ends (so basically all of Westinghouse and some of Toshiba losses (within legal limits of course) in Westinghouse. This gives us the consideration that Toshiba is having a disastrous year and fancy bookkeeping is in order to keep the stakeholders and stockholders happy at the upcoming reporting waves and meetings. This on top of the Fraud that happened earlier, this fits with last week headline ‘Toshiba ponders asset sales as it fights to stay alive‘, the question is what will be sold in addition to Westinghouse, because shedding the losses alone will not do the trick, they need to sell something with profit too. Nikkei Asia Review reported: “If Toshiba fail to win the bourse’s confidence, Toshiba shares will be delisted“, Now, bad places are bad places, yet when a 6.5 trillion yen company gets delisted, it will have an effect and not just a few small ripples. For some of the consumers this will be a golden year, you will face an optional sale of 65” Toshiba displays with possibly 70% off (everything must go, yes really!) Yet, as I stated earlier, they are in a state of clever bookkeeping (not a crime), the question becomes will the holders of stock and stake accept this? I have no idea, but what is decently clear is that the impact will be felt in both the US and Europe, yet not to the degree Japan will feel it.

These are just a few of the elements as they are brought to light that Draghi’s irresponsible spending is becoming more and more of an anchor, one with a noose around the necks of the European governments. In all this it was not a week ago that the Irish independent reported ‘Banks grab €233bn in free ECB loans as Draghi warns on profits‘, with the added quote “Yesterday, ECB president Mario Draghi signalled time is running out for banks to get their house in order“. So, consider the quote. Basically, whilst the ECB knows that the banks do not have their shit in a row, they still got their hands on a quarter of a trillion Euros? How is that not irresponsible? And free loans? When did any person get a free loan? For banks it is even an act, rasher than ever before as they tend to not be held accountable. All this comes with the additional quote “The banking sector’s capacity to fully support the euro area’s recovery is curtailed by its low profitability“,  so we know that the profitability is low, which was not a surprise, it affects recovery and yes, Mario Draghi dumps Europe in even deeper debt. Are you still on the path to support his irresponsible spending?

I am not, but as I am no longer in Europe, there is not much I get to do, the only disaster for me is that I have worked the bulk of my life there and I have seen that my pension is down by will over 60%, 40% in devaluation and 20% due to an increased and uncorrected cost of living. So when the debt bomb blows, very likely before 2019, I will ended have worked pretty much my entire life, with no pension remaining. Perhaps the arts can intervene? Would it be an optional economic success if Joss Whedon launches ‘Betty the banker slayer’? #Justsaying

 

 

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Boosting Pensions

Would you like to lose your pension? This is more than just a simple question. If you live anywhere in Europe, then the danger to your pension is a lot more realistic and will have a larger impact then you thought there would be.

Let’s take a look at a few countries.

Netherlands.
This was already under review, however, at present there are discussions going on to get a handle on accessing pensions for all kinds of reasons. The image in part is that the Dutch government needs this treasure vault to deal with more immediate issues as well as well as the application of spending to start an economy. As reported yesterday by the NOS, the issue at present is that the government thinks it is getting access to billions a year extra. The ABP comes to the conclusion that the changes will in the end cost billions, not save them. This comes as the government is presently trying to cut almost 3 billion Euro in retirement funding. The cut back was based on the fact that businesses and employees will save-up less per year, which might save 1000 euro, which would suit the government, as this gives them a taxation windfall of 2.3 billion. In the new system it is stated that not only do people lose the 1000 euro advantage, they will have to pay more. So there would be zero advantage, even worse, considering the amount of government jobs the treasury would be down a billion, so in the end no savings at all for the poor poor coffer, only additional losses to deal with. At a time when 6 billion in cut-backs are needed, this is not the bad news they want to hear. All this has a few more hooks. Especially when we consider the questions by Hachchi (D66) in regards pension premium raises that the ABP added in January 2012. The costs were raised by 300 million euro, as documented in  2012Z01310 (source: http://www.rijksoverheid.nl/bestanden/documenten-en-publicaties/kamerstukken/2012/03/06/antwoorden-inzake-de-verhoging-van-de-pensioenpremie-door-het-abp/antwoorden-inzake-de-verhoging-van-de-pensioenpremie-door-het-abp.pdf)

It is interesting that a similar issue is now appearing only one year later. There is more!

In one view we read that the ABP in 2010 was set at 105% coverage (which means that if 100% pension is paid out, 5% remains for growth). It is however interesting to read from the NRC (at: http://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2011/12/01/abp-verhoogt-pensioenen-niet/) we read that in December 2011 the coverage was only 94%, so in one year they went down to some degree. The same can be read at http://www.pensioenbelangen.nl/label/abp/ , more interesting, the numbers state that per September 2012 is was only at 101%. So if we recall the blog I wrote a week ago “The Age of ‘no retirement left’ is coming“, it is interesting that in that case the government is stating so much wealth. As the ABP is considered to be the largest one, we should wonder whether the Dutch politicians have any clue on what they are doing. More important, is this about short sighted cutting avoidance, or is it about more. Do not worry, they are not alone, we will have some fun looking at the UK situation next.

Is there actual evidence to support my theories? Well, the sources above clearly show that the ABP is only marginally above 100%, yet they had remained below 98% for a decent amount of time, so there is a valid amount of concern. In addition, when we consider the questions as stated in

2012Z01310, then certain issues in the recovery measures of pensions were not known, yet the initial billing would have been there, so this again is a piece of evidence that reflects 11th hour budgeting. The fact that this was never completely properly addressed remains a worry and not a reflective concern considering that in part the same issues are now again in the news.

The issues are only part of the entire picture. The fact that the Dutch pension administrator PGGM, has stated that there are issues with Walmart, could have some serious repercussions. Reuters quotes that “PGGM held 2.76 million shares of Wal-Mart as of March 31” (at: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/dutch-pension-group-halts-wal-211416613.html) this was only last week. Should the PGGM pull out then there would be concerns on both isles of the Atlantic river. Those shares represent well over 200 million, which means that Wal-mart might get some renewed problems down the line. Whether this would be due to PGGM is not a given, the fact that questions from a shareholder holding almost 3 million shares are not answered is certainly matter for concern. If we consider the economic downturn the Dutch have faced over the last 2 years, considering the issues the IMF reported in 2011 on Dutch pension funds. In that time, people entering their retirement saw their funds cut and a support capital of 50 billion was needed. So when we read less than 2 years later that those finds are so rich and that they should be opened for additional means, whilst a week later we read on some of the alleged dangers, it seems to me that playing politics with pensions is a very bad and not too bright idea. The 2011 article can be found at http://www.europeanpensions.net/ep/imf-team-recommends-adjustments-to-dutch-second-pillar-system.php

United Kingdom.

So, let’s take a look at Australia’s baby brother UK (as UK is only 3% of the size of Australia). The UK is in dangers no less immediate. The Guardian reported last November that issues would impact greatest on savers and pensioners. Yet, the story behind several issues is not brought here. For that we should look at what is happening now. Part of that is set here as http://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/capital-markets-climate-change-pension-funds. Is that even a fair assessment? If we read the quote “The way pension funds invest will determine the future, which means that to thrive they’ll need to wake up to climate change” I will wonder whether this is wishful thinking of whichever politician or investor whispered to the author. When we looked at the Netherlands and other places, these nations are all looking at sustainability solutions. Yet at present the ROI of these options are not up to scrap, so WHY use pensions there. These are fields that have been ignored be several administrations. If it is SO lucrative, then why not invest in it yourself (me asking governments)? Yes, it will be the future, but at present too expensive, so getting articles out there for pension funds to invest in the future might read nice, but as ROI reports falter it will not hold a candle up to the coming rage. This view is shared by James Cameron, chairman of cleantech investor Climate Change Capital. I know that the next part sounds dodgy as hell, but when we consider the quote “Future pensioners are going to have to bear more of the investment risk themselves“. In that case Pension funds are much better of owning parts of Raytheon and Northrop-Grumman. It seems that governments all over the world are seemingly ready at the drop of any hat to buy missile technologies, and as such the ROI for pension funds are much better off going to those places. I agree that the statement is less appealing to read, but why should pensions now be put under more and more pressure whilst, those behind the scenes refused to budge when they should have done so. The investment risk reads like a joke considering the article published in May at http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2013/may/22/one-five-poverty-line-state-pension where it states that  20% of those retiring this year will fall below the poverty line. This is in my mind the consequence of a housing issue never properly dealt with for over 27 years, whilst pensions were left alone. Taking both in the balance, then pensions might cover 80%-100% of the rent for this year, and those will come up short 2014 and later. So that is in the most positive case where people do not need to eat or drink ever. This is only for those not living in London, living there would almost amount to instant suicide. At least the Dutch can claim that their retirement issue had never been THAT bad. So, as there is a collective boost to raise the value of the RBS, that former bastion might be used to actually boost and increase value and strength of British pensions as they focus on getting back on the horse of profit (or at least try to get on that horse). Pensions are being cut in other ways too. That part can be read at: http://www.independent.co.uk/money/pensions/expats-call-for-fairer-pension-payouts-8659717.html. Some of these pensioners (almost 10%), saw the unaffordable future they saw coming their way and as such they moved to other areas. Some saw the light in time and bought a small place on Crete, some left for alternative Mediterranean locations and some went to the warmer regions of South Africa. These people saw the light, saw the non-linear growing costs and chose a better solution. It goes even further. What is less than possible in the UK becomes very affordable in India, where a week’s pension gets you a 2 bedroom secured apartment for a month, considering that rent is the most expensive part, three weeks of pension should keep a person well fed. So why not consider this? Instead of going on an exotic vacation, live in an exotic place, and of course, the Indians are all on average Cricket nut, so not the worst place to be during Cricket season. If these people are forced back because of pension issues, would the British government have the means to suddenly appoint housing to these people? They might not get an option in this as they froze pensions. In that regard, I do hope that the Exchequer George Osborne considered the consequence of even part of those 1.2 million pensioners returning to England and his 2 billion pound winter fuel allowance. That is only one post. On the other side, there is a genuine and acceptable concern of the people who are abusing that system. There had been earlier mention of the situation where UK men marrying Thai brides is a reason for the foreign pensions increase. If we voice the scenario where a pensioner marries a woman under 25 and she then gets the allowance after he is gone, then this would indeed be an unfair use of the system. We could argue that a marriage, not validated in the UK would not be seen as a marriage (I know, the legal nightmare behind this is so not nice). However, that those who never added to the British system, not being eligible for those funds would be slightly better phrased, yet the consequences for consulates to keep track of these people would be almost disastrous. Even though this would be spread over several countries, the fact that they could be required to deal with over 700,000 additional requests a year, is not likely to become a ‘relief’ to the system. Yet I must agree that something must be done. The dangers of cutting the transferred pension, if there was a marriage, could mean that these people might have a claim on humanitarian grounds to receive full Visa and transfers into the UK, which in the end might add up to be a lot more expensive. The only solution could be legislative, yet which of the ‘evils’ to choose from is not really for now. In my mind the options grows to make the pension only transferable if the marriage was longer then a certain period (5 years) or the spouse must have been a UK resident or lived, worked and paid taxes in the UK for no less than 10 years. I am just grasping the 5 years out of thin air, yet this would limit the dangers of UK pension abuse, it would also give a clear message to the valid pensioners that THEY are protected, yet that there are limits on passing over a basic state pension. In regards to those who are valid recipients of the basic state pension and their foreign setbacks there is more information at http://pensionjustice.org/.

 

Germany.

We should consider the German system, even though it is thought to be strong, secure and to some extent safe. They share the dangers those in the UK currently have. As reported by The Spiegel at http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/germans-fear-poverty-in-retirement-even-after-life-of-work-a-855352.html, even though their economy is in a strong state, the lost investments, the futures of retirement are almost none existing. In fact, their pensions are a lot worse of then the UK ones. A person there would end up getting a mere 32% of their income. If we consider the Dutch system where 70% does not even foot the bill, the desperation of 32% is a lot less appealing. The question becomes important when we consider the required pension buffers these pension funds need to have. The interesting addition is that a report in 2012 from the labour ministry stated that “the Labour Ministry itself, which indicates about a third of current full-time employees could end up receiving social welfare unless the pension system is changed. Those who have spent 35 years working full time but earn less than 2,500 euros a month would also end up depending on welfare.

So this is the third country playing politics for non-visible short gain and massive shortages in the long term. This gives serious concern for the bill the Germans adopted that as of January 2013 “for a reduction in the statutory pension contribution rates”. And that helps your citizens…..how?

So this is not just a national issue, this is a European issue on several levels. Unless some strong actions are taken, a large part of Europe will enter living conditions worse than that of several 3rd world countries, whilst comfortable living would be found for those moving to places like India and Argentina.

Go figure!

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Repeating lack of retirement insight

We have seen many plays in the past and present, where some are so short sighted on getting their own margins set, that they seem to be in short supply of common sense. Where is this coming from?

I remember issues evolving in 1997 that politicians did not heed the words of people in the know when it comes to the issues of retirement. It was stated within the corridors of those who work there that the retirement funds were not getting enough money to build the buffers needed for that generation to enter retirement. Those words were ignored by those who could do something about that.

It was not until the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics warned of the upcoming dangers of shortages in retirement funds a year later. (Source: http://www.cbs.nl/nl-NL/menu/themas/arbeid-sociale-zekerheid/publicaties/artikelen/archief/1998/1998-0129-wm1.htm ) This specific article warns the reader that the amount of people going into retirement up to 2015 will drastically increase as this will be the time frame where the baby boomers will go into retirement. Other documents gave the same warning. There was even additional warning that the group that follows was a lot smaller, as such the then current non-retiring population would not be growing the retirement funds to the degree it needs to grow. The consequence would be that the funds would grow dry really fast.

In addition, this was all before the crashes of 2004, so the reality was even grimmer then most thought it to be. That reality became truth as the retirement funds started to pay less in 2011. Whatever the reason that got voiced by those involved, in the end it was about an increasing lack of retirement buffers.  Now, today (OK, yesterday), advertisements by groups like the FNV (Dutch Union of workers) is warning people about the dangers to retirements. Why?

Political parties are now in the mindset to lower retirement payments by people. They are hoping that fewer costs mean more income into the streets. Also, as retirement payments are not taxable, lowering the tax deductibility will result in more taxation entering the coffers of government. So, there is now a clear impression that certain people in government are really willing to betray those who need retirement later on and base that risk on the ‘I need to look good now’ option.

Am I exaggerating? Is it about their view, their look? That is a fair question, yet messing around with long term pension building, not just the basic fear that people might end up with no more than 55% of their retirement funds is a dangerous act. This is not even taking into consideration dangers of additional future bank and investment failings where the buffers are currently still way too small and too much danger is placed upon funds that needs to feed a generation is just short sighted and completely unwarranted and therefor unacceptable.

What is the opposite side? Well, if we pay a little too much now, then we do get into a field where pensions will be a true safety net, especially in ages where all costs keep on rising and rising. The AOW (Government paid pensions) will remain a true safety net and could be a future foundation of safety. All that should not now or ever be endangered by unproven and assumed options for revitalising the economy. This looks like an upcoming excuse where the statistics of a better economy in 2014 (a claim that is nowhere near any level of certainty) should not be fed with long term securities. I personally see that any politician signing of on this one is to be held liable. There is the crux; they will not care as it is all about the now! Can we allow politicians to remain in office as they overspend for such a long time, not being able to balance their accounts and now are willing to endanger the next generation?

This is not just about the Dutch system. We should investigate these issues as they are likely to emerge in the UK, Canada, Australia, France, Italy and other nations. These nations are all in a state of deficit and as such, politicians in those nations would also seek a way to look good. Playing poker with the retirement funds of a next generation is an unacceptable gamble which should publicly be stated as null and void.

It is very tempting for the young, restless and party generation to not care about those issues now, but those who are not in a field where they are assured of long above average paying employment will soon thereafter learn the hard way that they are looking towards working another 15 years just to make the bare minimum.

If a politician has one clear responsibility, then it is not about getting by now, but to create safety, stability and security for the future. We are used to the short-sightedness of ‘Excel managers’ managing the needs to their next commission with a lack of long term vision, we should not allow politicians to do the same to the future of so many.

 

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