Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Rullsenberg Rants

I considered setting up a new blog specifically for some rants but managing two blogs under my current circumstances seems rather like inviting a Stressed Ericcollapse. (For those who did not catch this excellent animation, Stressed Eric was a short-lived series of animations wherein the hapless central character, Eric Feeble, would find himself overwhelmed by life's torments and nearly strangled by hypertensed blood vessels.)

Consequently, this entry is completely out of place to the general nature of the blog but will make links to the topics of focus for this site to illustrate my sentiments.

Today's Rant Is...

How exactly have I ever been able to save money towards a pension? I sat last night and calculated what had happened over my 20 years of working life.

For approximately 6 of those 20 years, I was unable to contribute to a pension due to being on benefits or receiving other unearned income such as study bursaries or grants (from which you are barred making contributions to pension plans --- not as you can afford to save any money when you are living on those meagre amounts). I know the costs of Higher Education are spiralling in the UK, but even then it wasn't easy - just moderately easier than it is now (Let's hope to avoid the difficulties faced in the USA - so ably explored in The West Wing season 4).

Between 1985-1992 I was living at home with my not-well-off parents. I started working in 1985 on the grand sum of £2000 per year, which was pretty pathetic even that period's standards. Net income £148 per month. £50 to home for board plus travel and work clothes costs. That left a lot of money for being a teenager (we REALLY need a "typeface for irony" as Tom Stoppard's Alexander Herzen notes in the play trilogy The Coast of Utopia --- and for those not savvy, that sneaks in a reference to the beloved Douglas Henshall who starred in these plays).

By September 1992 I was earning, whoo-hoo, not quite £8000 - but that figure was what my gross earnings had risen to for just two months before I left to go into full-time higher education. At which point, my income more than halved to my student grant plus my Student Loan: ah, the joys of the Student Loans Company. (Yes, I qualified for a grant. But I was born in October and therefore did not qualify for the additional mature students' allowance. When I left for university I left home for good and had to keep paying bills over the summer. There was no going home to mum and dad or summers bumming round Europe. Full years of rent and bills and home insurance).

So post-graduation, what happened? Well, I have mostly been working in Further and Higher Education as a lecturer. Well-paid? Think again. For several years, despite working frequent 60-hour weeks, I was often earning less than I had received in student grant income. So far I have had only two years where my earnings have been at or above £12,000 gross.

And I count myself as quite lucky. I do not have children and I am not working in a life-long minimum-wage-type job (though my past income has often been significantly lower than that level). How do you save when your income barely covers your essential outgoings (food, housing costs, work travel - family expenditure)? At the moment, I am lucky enough to be in post with a good work's pension scheme, but how long will that be for? Temporary posts or fixed term contracts are now the norm not the exception...

We can flippantly say that Obesity = the solution to the pensions crisis (or "Eat Fat and Smoke Tabs" as Mr Cloud phrases it), but ultimately a whole raft of people just fall outside of being able to save AT ALL, not just enough, and not just for pensions. Yes, consumerism has spiralled out of control and the corresponding level of debt is closely related to that. But in a culture that criminalises poverty, categorises the poor into the worthy and the unworthy, is it any wonder that few can see as far ahead as the mythical future?

Rant Over... nornal service will be resumed shortly (unless you advise that a Rullsenberg Rules rant blog should be set up?)

1 comment:

Neil said...

Liked your post. Think it's really several posts in one. have a look at my response.