STRAWS IN THE WIND: by Max TeichmannNews Weekly
Growing old disgracefully
, August 28, 2004
Growing old disgracefully
The head of AXA's Asia Pacific's financial planning operation, Peeyush Gupta, and executive chairman, Arun Abey, told a media lunch (as reported by Matthew Charles in a recent Herald Sun
) that, "Australia had created a lost generation of retirees despite the boom in the retirement advisory industry."
Mr Gupta said 80 per cent of retirees subsist on annual incomes of up to $15,000. "It means we have an entirely lost generation out there."
His industry, retirement advisory and financial planning, "had failed to allow people to retire in comfort". After the proliferation of the financial planning industry over the past 10 years, "people don't seem to be much better off today".
He said to his media lunchers that society had a duty to ensure people retired comfortably. "We all know that social contract needs to be honoured ... but we also know it cannot be honoured."
No? Not the way things have been organised here. Hundreds of super schemes - semi unaccountable - sponsored by and therefore serving many masters, e.g., trade unions, all competing with others as to who gets the highest returns, therefore finishing up playing the stock markets here and overseas, with the end results that Mr Gupta describes.
Our readers know that Bob Santamaria warned against all of these developments years ago with the remedy - one central super fund like Singapore's Central Provident Fund - but our newspapers themselves touting the wares and extolling the virtues of the new custodians of our savings, wouldn't print that kind of flat earth economics would they?
In fact, Mr Santamaria wasn't only talking about economics, but morality and legality, and using terms to which our New Class and its spokesmen are strangers, e.g., "the common good", "the public interest".
But many taxation and super people had also been warning about the appalling condition of financial planning and taxation advice in Australia for a long time. Some had written "Do It Yourself" books for the ordinary person, so bad had been the experts.
Normally these whistleblowers have been victimised or censored out of the public debate. So now, Mr Gupta and AXA tells us about the real world and what most ageing Australians are facing.
This must be especially disillusioning for those Australians who, doubtless influenced by their parents' memories, chose a job for security (e.g., permanent employment and a decent guaranteed super or pension at the end of it) eschewing the lure of higher pay or better promotional prospects elsewhere, so as to provide for a comfortable retirement and with the fruits of their labour to be given to their children when they passed on. These responsible citizens have suffered shock after shock while our bipartisan capitalist parties have either watched or helped facilitate this process of death by a thousand cuts.
First: guaranteed employment and job stability have gone. Progress!
Second: Then the right to retire comfortably has gone. Progress? Well ... it can't be helped. Too many people are living too long. So ... if you don't abort unwanted humans at one end of the lifecycle, you can catch up with them at the other end. "Want another Chardonnay, Snowball?" "Don't mind if I do, Napoleon."More on growing old disgracefully
I picked up a television news report about these older Australians living on an old age or invalid pension without a second income flow, e.g., a small annuity or a piece of super, etc. That pension gives them a bit over $200 a week if they still own and don't rent. This sum, needless to say, is poverty.
One interviewee still hanging on to his house - no home, as the people in the Oz film The Castle
rightly insisted - said he doesn't want to sell up and move out, to become homeless; psychologically speaking. He wished to leave the house, which he and his late wife had struggled so long to pay off and which was the scene of their children growing up and which contained precious memories of family life ... he wanted to leave this to his children.
Alright, says the State (speaking on our behalf), stay there and try living on the pension. The old widower interviewed spoke for many when he, as did others interviewed, said: "People do very poorly on that pension." No car, few outings or luxuries, little or no travel. As to going to see one's paper children (expat sons or daughters), forget it. An enforced retirement from social life: the extent depending of course on many endogenous and exogenous factors.
The three most damaging experiences, apparently, are a death in the family, or divorce, or the loss of one's home. But it fosters over-dependence upon children (if any) and they have their problems.
Considering the advances in longevity, retirement can turn into a long sentence. What should have been a great boon made possible by medical advances has, for more and more Australians, been made a burden or a curse. A predicament, made mandatory by the state. The fact is, representing selfish, predatory minority interests as both parties do, they, not so secretly, regard the aged as surplus organisms. As they do, more and more, the core working class and their children (otherwise why would they allow such schools?). And, the Beautiful People think the same about foetuses.
This is the Death Culture about which Tim Fischer used to talk, until he gave up.
If the people who used to be in work were still in work, the story about too few supporting too many would start to dissolve. But if all our young - who are being kept on at school (many for no good reason) and then going into the holding paddocks we still call universities - were to go out into the workforce, as they did until fairly recently, unemployment figures would soar because there are no jobs for them. This, prima facie, has little to do with Mr Gupta's social contract with older citizens except to indicate one of the impediments to our honouring that contract.
All Western countries say they have to rein in public spending, therefore pensions and welfare have to drop. But where is the evidence of rational restraints on public spending in, say, Victoria, now? On the contrary, squandermania, nepotism and conspicuous waste seem the rule. Thus the scam detected at Victoria University could be found to operate tertiary-industry-wide.
So ... who has to pay that piper? Not the New Class. Not the strategically-placed union monopolies. And not the very rich. Who's left to pay the piper?
Mr Gupta said the "finance advice industry was not all about making people money. Money is a means to an end, it is not an end in itself."
He sounds admirable, but I can only imagine the Bronx cheers from the assembled capitalist media representatives. I hope that lunch wasn't held in the Casino.