Sunday, March 18, 2012

Investing for retirement

 Everybody saves for retirement, some more carefully than others. Some of us rely on government pensions to sustain us in our retirement, some on company pensions, some on private Pension Funds to which we have contributed. We trust the Pensions managers not to steal our money, and we trust them to invest it sensibly – in blue-chip bonds and shares denominated in reputable currencies.

If we want to gamble on dodgy nickel-miners or Third World bonds, we’ll do it with our play-money, thank you. We certainly don’t want anybody to gamble with our retirement savings. If they lost it, what would we do when we’re too old to work?

It’s a bit disconcerting to observe the shaky status of the Euro, the European currency that is used by a ragged assortment of seventeen nations – including what are charmingly called the PIIGS, pronounced “pigs” – Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain. Greece is the Western banksters’ chosen practice ground, where they experiment with how far a nation can be degraded before it collapses into a Police state.

Bankster is a new word combining the words “banker” and “gangster”. Banker in this usage refers to an investment-banker (merchant-banker, in England) – not a traditional, respected, straight-as-a-die clerk like the nice man or woman who stamps your deposit-slips.

Many of us are uncertain whether the world’s politicians and senior Civil Servants – in general – are too corrupt and irresponsible to be trusted. We need have little doubt with regard to those in the five PIIGS. There, corrupt banksters have bribed or bullied corrupt officials into pledging their governments’ future tax revenues as security for unnecessary loans.

The loans are (as often as not) spent on weapons to ward off imagined enemies. And, as often as not, the corrupt banksters own the weapons-manufacturers. And even more often than not, all the corrupt bribers and bullies get together and persuade the victim-nations to go to war by even more bribing and bullying, so that the weapons actually get used and have to be replaced with new ones. It’s a sweet deal.

Sometimes the loan-money is passed directly to the weapons-makers. Greece, poor and bankrupt, spent the whole of one of its recent bailout-tranches on new army tanks and other equipment. It doesn’t even have an enemy at the moment! Well, never mind, the banksters will find them one. Stand by for a false-flag attack by some CIA-sponsored gang based in Turkey.

The relevance of all this is that some of our own retirement-savings are invested (indirectly, at least) in PIIGS government bonds, some of which have no likelihood of being repaid except in grossly devalued currencies.

A few years ago I attended a couple of AGMs of one local Pension Fund, just to see what it was doing with my son’s savings. What a bunch of innocents its Directors and Investment Managers were. They didn’t have much of a clue about the outside world. As long as their portfolios were beating “the benchmark” (which they themselves had set), they were happy. Never mind if the US Dollar was going up or down; they had no idea at all how that might impact their members’ retirement savings.

All our local Pension Funds’ investments are governed by the Pensions Law, passed by our local parish-councillors, which permits some specified kinds of investments and forbids others. Last time I checked, it permitted Greek government bonds and forbade gold bullion. Sigh.