Breaking them in.

“Nothing is so galling to a people not broken in from the birth as a paternal, or in other words, a meddling government, a government which tells them what to read, and say, and eat, and drink and wear.” So wrote Thomas Babington, Lord Macauley, in 1830, as published in the Edinburgh Review. Continue reading

Advertisements

Relief for the lower paid requires relaxing the Superannuation Guarantee rules, not tightening them

Jane Hume, writing in the June 2017 edition of the Investment Magazine, an Australian publication aimed at institutional investors, argued for the removal of the $450 per month minimum income threshold that governs Superannuation Guarantee (SG) obligations. Her arguments were unconvincing to me. After nearly 30 years of my career in superannuation, as a consultant, actuary and for 12 of those years a trustee director, it is very clear to me that the $450 threshold should be increased, not reduced. Jane would like to see it reduced to zero. I would like to see it increased to $1,500.

Continue reading

SS America

She was launched in 1940 as the SS America. At the time, she was the world’s fastest ocean liner.

NY

But the second world war had broken out. By December 1941, the US joined the war effort explicitly as a result of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. The SS America was converted to a troop carrier.

After the war, she returned to the Atlantic route, with  speed; and society; and glamour.

atlantic

In 1964, she was sold to a Greek shipping company and spent the next 15 years circling the world: England to Australia and back to England. This was an emigrant’s route, not a cruise route. If the Suez Canal was open the route was Southampton, Crete, Port Said, Djibouti, Fremantle, Melbourne, Sydney on the way out.  Then Auckland, Panama, Florida Keys, Southampton on the return. Under the ownership of the Greek shipper Chandris Lines, the ship was renamed the SS Australis.

Here she is at Crete, February 1976. I was on that southern outbound trip. Crete was the first stop out of Southampton.

crete

 

Eventually, she would arrive at Station Pier, Melbourne.

sp

Before the final outward bound stopover in Sydney.

syd

The emigration route came to a natural end in the late 1970s. By this time, the ship was 40 years old. She deteriorated under various subsequent owners. Plans amounted to nothing. She had spent years at dock in Italy before being sold again to a venture that was to turn her into a floating hotel in Thailand. She never made it.

SS America was to be towed from Italy to Thailand, via the Atlantic in 1993. A storm off the Canary Islands intervened.

nearing the end

And there she remained.

final

Peak-retirement

Retirement strategies. Saving for and spending during. The world is awash with writings on how to save and invest for retirement. The volume of material is vast and it is being added to daily, including by me. Why is it so? If ever there were a topic that should have been settled over 100 years ago, retirement savings is it. There is no need for continuously adding to the material. The fact that such material is ever growing hints that there is a problem. If the topic was settled, there would be no need for a constant barrage of new material.

There most definitely is a problem in retirement savings (in advanced economies): it is the futility of trying to save effectively on an individual basis without any risk sharing arrangements in the context of lengthening life-spans, higher costs of living and higher expectations of lifestyle. It is a cruel hoax foisted on the bulk of the population that insists they can do it, provided they have the right investment strategy, the right draw-down strategy, the right contribution strategy and so on. But the right combination does not exist. That is why people are always looking for new ways, new ideas, some development or technique that will allow them to save effectively and retire securely in a lifestyle that meets their expectations. Yet it cannot happen but for the small proportion of each country’s most wealthy. Continue reading

Diversity and inclusion – how to kill the concept

It is quite puzzling.

Look at this piece:

Yassmin

 

 

An assertion, without any proof or suggestion of how it may be proved, that the oil well cap blew off the well at the bottom of the Mexican Gulf because of a lack of diversity and inclusion in the executive ranks of the oil industry seems an odd way to promote D&I. What is much more likely is that such a statement will be ridiculed publicly and the concept of D&I will be damaged, probably irreparably.

 

Turnbull achieves what Chifley could not

The Australian retail banks have effectively been nationalised. What Ben Chifley tried to do in 1947 but failed has been achieved in 2017. Chifley was a Labor PM. Turnbull is nominally Liberal.

The banks all operate with a government guarantee on deposits. In effect, the Government, ie the taxpayer, has assumed a fundamental risk of the banking business. They operate within a big 4 policy framework that shuts down the possibility of mergers and restricts competition from other parties. The Government is now going to impose an arbitrary tax on the banks outside normal company tax rules. The Government is going to regulate bank executives behaviour, keep a register of ‘acceptable’ vs ‘non-acceptable’ bank staff, control bankers’ pay and the gender make-up of the employees. There are very few aspects of banking business that are not under covert or overt Government control.

This is the path to socialism.

The end of conservative government in Australia

I am not a particular fan of the big Australian banks – they enjoy privileges granted by Government policy that makes the business of big banking too sheltered from competition, too easy to extract economic rents and protected by barriers that prevent new entrants to that sector. Yet in the wake of the Federal budget for 2017-18 announced last week, I find myself on the same side of the fence as the bankers. The proposed bank tax is disturbing. Continue reading

Compulsory superannuation is driving this mad idea

The Treasurer has been keen, reportedly, on letting younger Australians use some of their superannuation to help fund a purchase of their first home. Goodness knows why the Treasurer thinks this will make housing more affordable, but then again, economic literacy is not strictly a prerequisite for the job.  ScoMo reminds us of this law of the land almost daily.

The only, repeat, only reason that this pops up as a possible policy is due to the compulsory superannuation guarantee law. If the young did not have part of their wages compulsorily diverted by law into a ‘do not touch before age 60’ fund, then they could choose what to do with their money. They could spend it, invest it, buy education, buy property, or whatever they deem fit. I believe that people spending their own money make better decisions than Australian Treasurers dictating to them how to spend their money. Call me old-fashioned.

If the Treasurer thinks more carefully, he would prefer to abolish the SG than let people swap a superannuation asset into a real property asset.

Using superannuation savings to help buy a first home?

Stupid idea. Ridiculous. Mind-bogglingly bad.

The Treasurer was contemplating, according to media reports, allowing those who have not yet entered the residential property market a relaxation of the superannuation preservation rules. They would be allowed to withdraw an amount from superannuation to help fund a first home purchase.

The unaffordable house prices in Australian capital cities are not caused by a lack of demand. They are caused by a lack of supply. Throwing more money at the existing supply will increase the house prices, not reduce them.

At the same time, the embryonic retirement savings of the young will be set backwards.

And this man is Treasurer.

Apartments in Melbourne

I’ve been contemplating the apartment market in Melbourne, with a view towards possible investment. Are apartments overpriced now and so should I defer? Are they fairly priced? Anyone with inside knowledge is invited to pontificate in the comments.