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:




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.

Palpable incredulity in the cockpit pulpit

The Chairman of Qantas Ltd, Mr Leigh Clifford, wrote a letter to the Australian newspaper in response to criticism from a minister of the cloth that he, Mr Clifford, and other business leaders were publicly advocating changing the definition of marriage. The existence of such criticism seemed to surprise him. Mr Clifford’s incredulity was palpable. He said “Apparently, companies have no business expressing a view on social issues” and “By this logic, should companies scrap all of their corporate social responsibility programs?” (An image of Rik Mayall in The Young Ones delivering those lines with exaggerated irony just floated across my mind.) It probably was an attempt by Mr Clifford to use irony to dismiss his critics, although I doubt it worked. Continue reading

How’s that compulsory superannuation working out, then?

Given the chance, Paul Keating, and to a lesser extent Bill Kelty and Garry Weaven, those relics of Australian labour politics and the union movement from the 1980s, champion the Australian compulsory superannuation system as a huge win for the average worker. They claim credit for winning an industrial battle to grant superannuation to the workers. Prior to their glorious victory, they viewed super as a privilege for a wealthy few. I suppose they keep banging on about it because they could be fearful of the average worker finding out one or two home truths about compulsory superannuation that are perhaps not so glorious after all.

Every $10 of wage otherwise payable to an average income worker, when paid as a superannuation contribution makes the average worker worse off. Wages are about 50% more valuable to an average worker than superannuation contributions. Continue reading

Why are some business leaders lobbying for ‘Marriage Equality’ ?

It makes no sense at all.

The letter sent to the Australian Prime Minister is published here.

It makes no sense for business leaders to use their authoritative positions as business leaders to lobby Government on overtly civil political topics, such as the definition of marriage. Yet the letter published makes it clear that the signatories are writing in their capacity as “BUSINESS LEADERS IN SUPPORT OF MARRIAGE EQUALITY”. It’s there in the headline, conveniently shouted out in capital letters. The CEOs who signed the letter are major figures in Australian business, some of them as heads of the biggest publicly listed companies in the country. One of the signatories is the CEO of the Australian Business Council. These people are heavy hitters and they know what they are doing. Which makes it all the more confusing as to why they would participate in this lobbying. Continue reading