Computers are wonderful. Or are they?

“The computer is incredibly fast, accurate and stupid.  Man is unbelievably slow, inaccurate and brilliant.  The marriage of the two is a force beyond calculation” .

So said Leo Cherne, an American economist.  A great quote.

And there are lots of examples of this ‘marriage’ achieving phenomenal things.

But sadly, from a communication angle, computers/tech often cause bad things too:

  • Too impersonal. Tech makes it so easy to communicate, that we often email when we should be phoning, have headphones in when we should be listening, etc
  • Too controlling. We often say “I don’t have time”. But that’s because we’re slaves to our computer diary – we do what it says. And if it’s full, we say there’s no time to do other stuff
  • Too addictive. We check our phones too often – prioritising people who are not in the room, over the people who are. We see this at work, at home, in the bedroom…

But as Leo Cherne says, we are the brilliant ones; not computers. So be in charge:

  • Call people – don’t email them
  • Diarise your priorities (family time, important meetings etc) and make everything else fit round them
  • Leave your smartphone in your bag

Are you in charge of your technology?

Or is it the other way round? If so…

Making the Most of Pension Freedom

HM Revenue & Customs’ most recent figures show a total of £21.7bn has been cashed in from pension pots since the freedoms were introduced in April 2015.

There has been a steady increase in the funds being withdrawn year on year with almost five million withdrawals having now been made using the pension freedoms.

There was a slight drop-off in the value of payments made in the past three months but this still amounted to just under £2bn accessed via 585,000 withdrawals – the highest number since records began.

So people are clearly making the most of the freedom and choice regime. But is such unrestricted access to pension funds a good thing? Some commentators say yes, for more than one reason.

Right decision

Firstly, pensions as a concept in this modern world of constant change need trust. Trust in the pensions system has been eroded over the years, rightly or wrongly. You gain trust by trusting others, in this case trusting people with their own money. The government took a bold step giving back control of pension funds to those who have saved their hard-earned money into them when it brought in the freedoms. We are still only a few years in but, while there have been some teething problems and some large sums of money have been withdrawn, it has so far not been the free-for-all that some predicted.

Secondly, the restrictions we faced before the freedoms were causing more issues for those who have built up multiple small pots throughout their careers.

Thirdly, being able to dip into the funds when it suits or getting access to larger sums early on in retirement has helped many who would have been stuck paying off debts while receiving just a small pension annually. The interest saving for a lot of people must have been significant.

Drawbacks

On the flipside of all this, though, the ability to access large sums of money in a single transaction has provided an additional, lucrative target for scammers.

When income was limited, and the norm was regular income for life, and scammers could not access pension funds. Now they can target individuals, coercing them to cash in their funds with the promise of better returns or more exciting investments, only to run off with them (and after they have been taxed as well).

As clients have the right to access these funds, providers may be unaware of what they intend to do with them.

But apart from education and warning, there is little else that providers can do.

There is no doubt about it, pension freedoms need to be embraced. And the government, providers and advisers need to do what they can to educate and protect the public from making mistakes.

Right now, this appears to be working, but only time will tell.

The UKSIF Investment Conference

Had a great day last Monday when I attended the UKSIF Investment Conference in London.

One of the main points to come out throughout the day was the need for us to change from a Linear society to a Circular society, in other words the need to recycle.

I had never thought of putting it that way and feel it is more appealing than Recycling.

All in all, it was a worthwhile experience to hear the diverse views of analysts, researchers and advisers from both the UK and abroad.

Today’s UKSIF Investment Conference

I’m in London today and looking forward to attending the UKSIF (UK Sustainable Investment and Finance) Association’s annual conference.

Ethical, Sustainable Investment and Socially Responsible Investing has because more and more important to many people in recent years and I am hoping to increase my knowledge by my attendance and become more of an expert and the first port of call for people who want to invest in products that do not harm our planet and the people who populate it.

That includes YOU.

And remember when we say investments, we mean Pensions, as well as ISAs, OEICs (Open Ended Investment Companies), and ETFs (Electronically Traded Funds).

The conference is a whole day event and I’m sure it will prove beneficial both to myself and my clients for whom this aspect of Investment is important.