Social Media Award Winner

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's not Friday but the Budget has stolen a day from me.

It's not Friday, but the Budget has stolen a day from me. And caused me to repeat the headline of my blog post as my first line.

It's a cheap subbing trick that the sub editor's desk uses when they can't be bothered to think of a standfirst.

But that has nothing to do with chancellor George Osborne and his "Budget that rewards work"; his stern admonition to those wealthy who seek to avoid paying stamp duty on their big houses, "you have been warned" and various Despatches-box banging to emphasise his point that "Wallace and Gromit must stay in Britain".

 What happened yesterday was basically a later Budget (he usually stands to deliver at 12 noon on the dot) and 59 minutes (with some interruptions from a rather boisterous House of Commons) later, we had to scurry into meetings/to our desks to knock out the stories. In all we did 20 stories for the paper AND 10 stories for the web - from a team of just five journalists (I wasn't writing).

With all that copy editing, and with various hiccups on the way - from the machine at Marks & Spencer not working at 7:30 in the morning (the time I used to get up, last week, before the Budget planning wrecked my sleeping pattern) through to one of the Panelists being struck with a mystery bug and another forgetting to write their blog and various other minor irritations, I was completely copy blind by 5pm. I literally could not see to look at the screen nor even to look at the printed word. Which for a journalist whose job involves writing and reading copy, this is not a good thing.

Thankfully the Santander press office took pity on our poor team and treated us to Benihana's  in the evening - the food and the entertaining and slightly sexually disturbing chef almost banished thoughts of the boy-faced Osborne and his desk-thumpery.

However, it did not quite help.

This morning I was convinced that it was Friday. I sent out a twitter #FF to a bunch of people, most of whom said thank you; one was then convinced it was Friday and got worried that she'd missed a day of work.

I also started telling people I would see them tomorrow (thinking it was Saturday) when it blatantly wasn't and if my jeggings had not been hanging out to dry, I would have worn those to work forgetting that it is Thursday and I have three damn meetings.

Finally, I decided to go for my Friday morning ritual - a Cumberland sausage sandwich on brown bread at the Little Dorrit Cafe. Argle. Now I have to have one tomorrow as well ....

The only reason I can think is that on Wednesday, we did twice the amount of work that we would usually do on a press day and went out and almost died as a result. I think I also dreamt about work, which would add to my time-space-continuum confusion.

So thank you, George, for ruining my week, for stealing more money from female pensioners and seeking to shoo away all the wealthy people from the UK and send them scurrying to the Canton of Uri.

I am sure I am grateful. But you now owe me more than the £171 that the BBC's Budget calculator promises that I will be better off by as a result of Osborne's "working Budget."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Looking forward to penury

You know it is a bad time for pensions when even the Metro carries a story about the depletion of our pension savings.
Metro, by the way, is usually the one paper I strive to avoid in the morning, given that it usually only contains terribly depressing stories about children kicking ponies in the head or grandmothers sleeping with their progeny’s boyfriends - hardly the encouraging kind of get-to material one should read when going to work.
It’s so bleak sometimes I want to give up before I even get to the office.
But today, I wanted to get to the office to check my own pension savings. I’m afraid I’m one of those who have several small DC pots and one or two deferred DB pots left untouched. I intend to leave those DB pots untouched but to merge the three DC ones into my current scheme in the clutch-at-straws hope that by the sheer power of accumulated force, any incremental rise in interest rates/performance of the funds might be accelerated by having that additional £5k.
When I read that DB liabilities jumped £133bn in February alone, however, the safety of my old DB pots also looks miserable. And to think I dared to sign up for a company pension the very day I joined my first employer, Reed Elsevier Butterworths Tolley Et Al (as it was then, more or less) way back in 1999.
Was I really wrong? Jeff Prestridge, our esteemed columnist, has for many years extolled the virtues of Isas to augment - and perhaps even replace - traditional pension pots. I have an Isa too, of course - 10 per cent of salary to pension/Isa, 10 per cent to charity, the rest on the mortgage and the darn cat. That’s what I always believed.
But even with the wondrous Broughy of Schroders boosting my long-term Isa savings and cash, well, doing bleep all, I’m not exactly going to roll in the lap of luxury with this little bunch.
Now it seems with an estimated shortfall of 40 per cent I need to boost my own savings considerably. Perhaps even make it 25 per cent, 30 per cent of my monthly income. On my salary and with my bills, mortgage and travel expenses, that seems barely reasonable.
I’m pretty boring - I don’t drink, I don’t go out clubbing and my taste in clothes is so avant-garde that I pretty much hate, loathe and detest clothes shopping. But even if I squeeze a few more pence out of my salary, will any of it make any difference in the long-run?
We might not even have pensions by the time I come to retire which, it seems, will be a few weeks before I die - at least I won’t have to worry about long-term care costs, as I will be in my grave.
The only sniff of help might be from the fact that I have a property, although I am getting worried about my windows, my ceiling, rising crime (not in my property, although that could be a way out of my personal pensions crisis .... perhaps granny-crims will be on the rise... ) and a million other things to worry about, not least the fact the leaseholder of the flats has gone awol, just when I wanted to buy back some years on my lease.
I’ve forgotten my thread. Oh yes, so basically my Isa savings are pitiable, my pensions are pitiful and my retirement prospects are the pits. Well this is cheery.
I should never have read the paper this morning. Next time I board the 8:50 to London Bridge I’m going to get a copy of the Metro and shove it up, well, maybe I’ll be too depressed to do any shoving. Perhaps I’ll start collecting them and store it as fuel for when I’m 75.