Notepad on Life

December 29, 2016

I want your best quote, insurer, not your opening gambit

Filed under: business,Consumer,Finance,Motoring — - @ 1:25 pm

pic courtesy of Gerry Balding

“Sorry to hear that, Mr ********. Can I just ask why you’re cancelling your cover with us?”

“Yes: the renewal quote you sent me was undercut by another firm by 38 pounds. I’ve taken out cover with them instead.”

“Oh…right…Actually, it’s a shame you didn’t get in touch with us first, because we could have probably undercut that, depending on whether any circumstances had changed.”

“But how’s that? You’d already sent me a renewal quote. I assumed that was your best offer.”

“Weeeell…not necessarily…”


Now, I’m not so naive as to have been completely taken aback by this conversation, when renewing my car insurance recently. What did surprise me is the way no attempt was made to mask or even obscure another painful truth about the financial services sector. You know, the sector whose TV ads are often based on the premise that they are your best friends.

Those renewal quotes aren’t their best offer, after all. Just the most they think they can get away with.

Which  is what friends are all about, of course.


January 8, 2016

We build ’em up and we knock ’em down…

Filed under: Consumer,Finance,Health,TV — - @ 9:44 pm

Ah, those dark alleyways of human nature. Watching the accomplished star of The Martin Lewis Money Show this evening, a man who might have found a silver lining to the Great Depression, had only he been born a century earlier, I realise that I won’t be able to help myself should the day ever come.

Martin Lewis filing for bankruptcy would trigger my guiltiest ironic chuckle since I learnt that Jim Fixx had died while jogging.

It will probably never happen. As I’m sure the Fixx family assured themselves more than once.


July 5, 2014

Money talk isn’t pillow talk once you’re wed

Filed under: Finance,Relationships — - @ 9:00 am
Tags: ,

How to talk about money before you marry

 “…it can be one of the most important talks you’ll have. ‘The way that people manage their money can be very different,’ says David Blaylock, LearnVest Planning Services CFP®. ‘It doesn’t mean that differences can’t be managed, but it’s something you should know before you tie the knot.'”

Ah, bless. Love the idealism in this article, and believe me, whenever you hear people talking about five- and ten-year plans, you know you are up to your ribcage in idealism.

I’ll tell you what love’s young dreams need to know before they tie the knot, David Blaylock. How the vast majority of them will talk about money after they marry

April 3, 2013

Cyprus exposes partnership myth of politicians and their people

Filed under: Finance,foreign,politics — - @ 9:00 am
English: Population map of Cyprus, showing not...

Population map of Cyprus, showing not the density but the number of population in the government-controlled areas of Cyprus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When your politics and perspective  lean towards the capitalist right, you become resigned to the fact that, in between all the stuff you side with, you will occasionally hear some things that sound like thinly-veiled dingbattery at its worst.

So there has been some stuff these last ten years or so that I have read or heard from libertarians and economists alike, which I have  mentally filed away in a drawer marked ‘overreaction’.

Western nations running out of fuel, setting up glorified police states and forcing me to arm myself to the teeth to defend a house stocked to the rafters with tinned food and the fragment of bullion bar that represents my hurriedly-withdrawn life savings – I just thought that we would somehow manage to be better than this; that the First World, for all its flaws, would be rational enough to hold back most varieties of man-made apocalypse.

Reading about the travesty unfolding in Cyprus, however, I am not as sure as I was. At the very least, the spectre of politicians  ransacking people’s savings to shore up holes in the national economy is an almighty blow to idealists who still like to think of State and citizenry working together towards some common good.

While the people who got the planet into this economic mess are allowed to go their own sweet way with barely a sanction worthy of the name placed in front of them, the ordinary citizen finds his savings plundered to levels as high as 60%. The Cypriot government reminds me of those comedians who endlessly lampoon Christianity while skirting around Islam as if it wasn’t even there: go for the soft target, the ones without lobbyists, PR armies or financial clout. The ones who won’t fight back. How very brave.

And is there a Cypriot politician out there, I wonder, who feels a scrap of shame that, on his or her watch, the people of Cyprus are told with despotic arrogance exactly how slowly and minutely they may retrieve their own money. It is as if King John has popped up in exile on a Mediterranean island. It is a 21st century scandal.

And what should worry the rest of us is the prospect that politicians across Europe are watching this wretched episode unfold and seeing not so much a disgrace as a useful precedent. I hope I’m wrong but I am starting to believe that in one respect at least, the fear mongers of the right are spot-on. There is no partnership with government, no common goal. We are simply useful idiots whom politicians use to cover their lame behinds.

Dingbattery? Let’s just see if this nonsense stops with Cyprus, shall we?

November 5, 2012

Good citizens? Politicians see only taxable ones

Filed under: Consumer,Finance,Motoring,politics — - @ 4:21 pm
Banner indicating a toll road

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I thought it was just some weary battle-cry of anarchists too old to get a grip on themselves, the lament that all governments exist only to squeeze their electorate dry. I was optimistic enough to fall well short of libertarianism, believing that a little government in all our lives kept us honest, calm and comforted; a bulwark against the occasional excess of private enterprise.

It has taken 34 adult years but that innocence has gone now. If spitting in the face of financial prudence over student loans gave me food for thought, the proposed two-tier road toll system has scraped the last traces of naivety from my rose-tinted spectacles.

“The proposal is one of several options currently being considered by ministers as part of a Government review of transport funding, which follows concerns that increased fuel efficiency could lead to a decline in revenue for the treasury.”

That’s right; the same grandstanding politicians who urged us to lose the gas-guzzlers and go green, would now punish us for doing precisely that. They don’t want to support the good guy, they just want to bleed him dry, whether good, bad or indifferent. And like a Mountie‘s bastard twin, they always get their man.

Did I mention ‘bulwark’ earlier? I was actually talking bulwarks.

June 25, 2012

Veneer of the smart-aleck dented by Carr crash

Filed under: Finance,politics,TV — - @ 6:47 am
Tags: , ,
English: Photo of Jimmy Carr

English: Photo of Jimmy Carr (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blimey, Jimmy Carr; was that the best you could do?

The man who does more gigs in a year than the Queen does official engagements, the man supposedly hardened by the no-prisoners-taken world of stand-up comedy?

Even with no guarantee of ultimate victory in the controversy over your tax affairs, surely you could have come out swinging with at least the semblance of a counter-attack?

Consider the sweet ironies at your disposal, after all. The Prime Minister, no less, moralising over conduct that breaks no laws. The very same Prime Minister who is forever assuring us that the cupboard is bare where university grants are concerned, yet can rustle up taxpayers’ millions at the drop of a hat when presented with the chance to play soldiers in Libya. A worthy recipient of the fiscal fruits of your labours, James, I’m sure you’d agree.

Then consider the rent-a-vent social media brigade, stoking up the outrage at your tax  manoeuvring, even as they eye up this year’s tastiest looking ISA or check the pamphlet to make absolutely sure there are no set-offs they’ve missed on their tax return.

Or perhaps you could have simply laid on the sarcasm with a trowel at your next gig and feigned remorse for the heinous crime of hiring a competent accountant.

But no. You freeze like a rabbit in headlights and trot out one of those pathetic euphemisms – “error of judgment” – that fool no-one. You, who can probably see off hecklers in your sleep, can’t even try to defend yourself when it comes to shamelessly not breaking the law. That, I have to say, diminishes you rather more in my eyes than do your financial affairs.

They can seem so smart, so perceptive. the modern breed of comic. Pontificating from behind a microphone and cutting down whomever they feel warrants the role as  this week’s Aunt Sally, regardless of the hurt they cause.

As noted here before, however, they’re not always quite so bright as they sound. And some of them, it would appear, are unduly desperate to be loved.

September 22, 2011

Personal finance education? From this government?

Filed under: Education,Finance,politics — - @ 5:48 am

I wish the Daily Mail well with its campaign to have compulsory personal finance education introduced into schools.

That I was only ever taught how compound interest works, never that it is one of life’s most powerful forces, is one of the few regrets I have over my own education and having watched the early promise of an endowment policy erode to something somewhat less glamorous over 25 years, without an ounce of contrition from the company that provided it, I am on a personal mission to ensure that my own children are capable of investing their own money in future without recourse to the so-called financial services sector.

As to how much support – genuine support – the Mail can expect from the Government in its endeavour, however, I harbour serious doubts, for it is just a matter of days since revelations that our rulers are considering plans to penalise graduates who repay their student loans early.

What a message to send out. What better way to reinforce the mindset of an irresponsible, clueless age where money is concerned: an age in which bankruptcy is seen no longer as a cause for embarrassment but as a genuine tool in financial planning. An age so clueless that one muppet interviewed by Radio 1’s Newsbeat yesterday was clamouring for an end to cuts because they haven’t achieved anything, as if a double-dip recession is something you see off in a week.

Shamelessly, the Coalition is poised to add its own six penn’orth to this madhouse: dare to display some precocious thrift where your student loan is concerned, be savvy enough to realise that the first rule in any sensible financial strategy must be to cut debt, and you won’t be encouraged or supported, you’ll be fined.

It’s okay for the Government to cut deep and fast in trimming its own debt, apparently, but you plebs in higher education must wait. Turns out that George Benson and Whitney Houston were wrong; children aren’t our future in the eyes of this shower but cash cows to be milked ad infinitum.

Shame on them and to the newspaper that would spit into this wretched wind, the best of British.

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