It was an enticing invitation from Skipton Financial Services, inviting me to a finance seminar at the local posh hotel. I rattled the local grapevine and discovered that Skipton did this periodically and if you sat through the talk, you received free Danish pastries, a pen, real coffee and a nice view of the golf course. The invitation was sent to my respectable married persona who for convenience has accounts in places like the Skipton, rather than to my personal finance writing alter ego who thinks their interest rates are rubbish, and thus it was the married me, who last Friday morning, donned a sensible Jaeger skirt and went along. "Hi ya folks!" said our presenter. He was a plump, friendly forty-something geordie called Ian, who had obviously done this routine hundreds of times but was trying to be spontaneous which was why he had removed his jacket. Alas my neighbourhood is far too posh for such hi-de-hi familiarity, so the audience, composed of about forty people with an average age of 65, muttered good morning discouragingly. Skipton Financial Services, Ian explained, was a wholly owned subsidiary of Skipton Building Society and governed by the PIA. "And that folks, is not the Pakistan International Airlines!" Silence. Oh dear, the English sense of humour doesn?t travel well. This was when Ian, the poor wee soul, finally realised he had his work cut out.
What Is Your Money For? The sentence appeared on the screen. 'For a rainy day' someone said, everyone nodded. Having run personal finance seminars myself, I know how hard it is to strike the right tone. Too chummy and simplistic and you alienate the personal finance groupies who like to go to bed with an annual report. Too much about equity bond ratios, and you see the eyes of people who usually line their rabbit?s cage with the money pages glazing over. But Ian did his best. First we learned all about the intricacies of Long Term Care Insurance. "Absurdly cheap" he said carefully choosing the nicely Scottish example of Scottish Amicable. "If Mr. and Mrs. Senior invested ?10,000 at the age of 60, Mr. Senior would get ?19,000 and Mrs. Senior ?17,000 pa for life on the other?s death !" There were ooos of appreciation. "And why does Mrs. Senior get less than her hubby?" asked Ian. "Because we live longer!" announced a glamorous seventy-something lady wearing golfball sized pearls. Looking around I realised that the men had a decidedly hunted expression.
Money like housekeeping, Ian explained, should be for the pantry, fridge or freezer. The pantry means instant access such as building society accounts, the fridge is for investment for 1 - 3 years such as National Savings and Guaranteed with profit Bonds and the freezer is for long term investments like pensions and etc. The intricacies of Isas were explained with graphics and arrows, and for five minutes made perfect sense.
By now tummies were rumbling so to keep our minds off the Danish pastries, Ian turned into Bruce Forsyth and was playing his cards right. "If you put ?10,000 into the Halifax in 1984 would it be worth ?8,000, ?12,000?" he called. Throwing all middle class pretensions aside we were soon shouting Lower! Higher! like old pros. One gentleman who was simultaneously doing the Telegraph crossword correctly guessed that if you had put ?10K into the Halifax in 1984 it would be worth ?26K now compared to ?98K in the stockmarket. Ian looked relieved.
"So. Are You Adventurous, Balanced or Cautious!" Ian enquired. We decided we were all frightfully well balanced and now knew the importance of not having too many eggs in the one basket ? though lots in the pantry, the fridge and the freezer. Then we were whisked through Inheritance Planning, "You don?t want to give money away to your children and grandchildren if you might need it yourself, do you?" said Ian. "No!" cried the by now thoroughly warmed-up audience. For we were holding on to our purse strings with renewed vigour. No one would ever get fourpence out of us again.(Except Skipton Financial Services). Then suddenly Ian was taking in the applause and we were racing each other down the carpeted corridor for sustenance.
It did me good to be in spend a morning with this age group. The fastest growing sector of the population is the over 85s and yet perhaps because personal finance pages are usually written by people of working age, so the wishes and aspirations of the retired are too often ignored. Of course mortgage payers are savers too, but there is now a vast generation gap between the highly geared younger generation and the high-value, asset-owning older generation which has taken full advantage of the post-war bull market. Neither generation has much time for each other?s viewpoint, for both feel insecure for different reasons and thinks the other does not know the meaning of suffering. Munching Danish pastries, my group looked tanned and relaxed and sat discussing their next holiday. It is they, I realised, who shall inherit the earth, for they have invested in time rather than timing, in thrift rather than debt, and small squirrelings rather than the big investment gestures. Theirs is the silent laughing victory you will not see reported in the papers for it is undramatic and unsexy. But never doubt its force. My generation, who is killing itself with stress, sky-high childcare costs and mega-mortgages should know when it is beaten.
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