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BeeHive  >  Press Articles  >  Honesty's the best policy

Honesty's the best policy

Iíve been travelling around the country recently speaking at conferences about the likely effects of the upcoming Green Paper on pensions, which our Governmentís about to give us all as a Christmas present. Itís nice of them really, very thoughtful in fact. Just the thing for the Yuletide season - more pensions legislation!

Iím not being funny, but weíve got loads of pensions legislation already - cupboards full of it in fact. More than most people have tea towels, I should imagine. To be honest, pensions legislation is a bit of an unimaginative Christmas present really - weíve had five new pieces of pensions legislation in just the last two-and-a-half years, enough for three Christmases and two birthdays.

Itís getting a bit like the jumpers our aunts kept knitting for us when we were young. Every Christmas, another jumper, every birthday, another jumper. You end up with a cupboard full of jumpers that you never wear because they donít fit - and never could, what with one arm being miles longer than the other. And even if they did fit youíd still never wear them because they were made from the kind of remaindered wool that made you stand out from the crowd and look very, very silly.

Iím really worried that this new piece of pensions legislation wonít fit either - just like the last lot we got - and will just end up forgotten in the cupboard with the rest. The trouble is, pensions legislation is a bit more important than jumpers. You could happily leave a jumper gathering dust at the back of your wardrobe and just get it out and wear it with the sleeve rolled up on the odd occasion when your aunt actually came round, so you could pretend you wore it all the time. This is a valid response to unwanted jumper syndrome.

But, unwanted pensions legislation syndrome isnít quite the same sort of thing at all - oh no. Whether we like it or not weíve got to wear it. Even if it doesnít fit us or suit us, weíve got no choice. Itís all weíre going to get and we have to lump it. We should be grateful weíve got pensions legislation, itís rude to complain. Plenty of people in the world would love to have the pensions legislation we have in our wardrobes, weíre really spoilt and ungrateful.

Yes, all the same arguments your parents threw at you for not wearing the jumpers auntie slaved over for so long, and all designed to make you feel bad about yourself - along with all the guilt that accompanied feeling personally responsible for African famines because you didnít eat your greens. Iíve never really bought into any of those arguments and still think it would have been better for everybody concerned if Iíd given the jumpers back and said I didnít really like them and they didnít fit anyway.

We didnít do that, of course, and thatís why our cupboards got so full of jumpers and why the charity shops have done so well now weíve all grown up and finally cleared out our lofts. But, as weíve all grown up now, perhaps itís time we started acting a bit more sensibly with regard to this unwanted pile of pensions legislation that is cluttering up the place.

When we get this new Christmas present from the Government, if we donít like it, or it doesnít fit with our real lives, or it doesnít suit our individual circumstances, we should tell them we donít want it. Thatíd make them think a bit. Wouldnít it be marvellous if we all wrote to our MPs and said we really think they could have tried harder, Christmas present wise, and have given us something useful for a change?

If just two people in the whole country did that, theyíd probably just think they were weirdoes and ignore them. But, as Arlo Guthrie once said, what if thousands of people did it? Theyíd think it was a movement. And thatís what it is, itís the anti-unwanted jumper and pension movement. All youíve got to do to join is promise yourself to keep up to speed with all this new pension stuff when it comes out and if you donít like the look of it, write to your MP and tell them so. Tell them you wish youíd told your aunt a few home truths too. That should give them something to think about.

Steve Bee


First published in Bloomberg Money, December 2002