Posts Tagged ‘Pension’

Woe those that save and live frugally

March 6, 2017

images

There is always that pull to and fro of our past. Some say, don’t look back. But with age comes an oversupply of what has been and much less of what is yet to come. I am talking of time, not substance. It’s most unlikely that at the age of seventy-seven one contemplates joining the army or seek a career in investment banking. Sure, some go climb mount Everest or take up the piano, but most contemplate things and end up rummaging around in memories. I do.

One of the good things that was ingrained still occupies my train of thoughts. It was one my parents main input. ‘Live within your means. Save for what you want and don’t waste.’  This was also reinforced by the political system back in Holland. The era of consumerism never took The Netherlands in the same way it was embraced by Australia. Buying things on credit was unheard of. Today, this very different and the credit card is also embraced. Even so, some national habits are well ingrained. I believe even eating raw herrings is as much a pastime now as it was when I lived there. Saving is still held in high esteem.

This might well be the reason that of all the countries in the world, The Netherlands now hold the enviable record of 103 quarters of uninterrupted economic growth.  While much of that growth is contributed to cutting welfare and taxes and giving corporations greater freedom, Holland still enjoys a generous welfare system. Excluding costs of education, Holland spends 24.3 % of GDP (Gross Domestic Products) and comes in fairly high on the list of welfare spending. Australia spends 18% and  this is towards the lower end of world’s foremost economies. The US is the fourth lowest on welfare spending at 14.8%.

The Dutch pension gets paid irrespective of being poor or rich. Everyone who turns 65 gets it. It is a state insurance scheme whereby every one who works or has worked in the Netherlands gets a pension when turning 65. It is roughly 2% for every year that one has worked in Holland

http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Economy/Social-welfare-spending/%3E-%25-of-GDP/Excluding-education

This is all about our experience on how saving in Australia is being punished.  Since about two months ago the government changed tack on pensions. Those with savings above a certain limit would either get the old-age pension lowered or totally taken away. We lost our pension. It seems, that in Australia it is best to whoop it up and spend, spend. Burn your money, go gambling, load up your credit card, run up debts. You will ensure you get the pension.

https://www.svb.nl/int/en/aow/wat_is_de_aow/wie_krijgt_aow/

And by the way, the Dutch pension is about 70% 0f average wage instead of 40% in Australia. So, next time you hear Turnbull or Morrison going on how Australia is some kind of social paradise. It is NOT. We are pretty stingy when it comes to social welfare.

 

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A sigh of relief!

January 3, 2017

new-cover-1704-front-big-book-cover-18april

There is a communal sighing of relief washing all over Australia . Work has started and routine is returning. People are happy again. It is odd how we yearn for variety and change of routine, yet always welcome a return to normality. There is nothing as life-confirming as everyday habits while performing household duties. I suppose, all the extra dishes have now been washed and the last of the bottles put out for re-cycling. We are all relishing a return to the familiar. We enjoy being bored but are just not honest enough to admit except to our most intimate friends under the cover of darkness or an umbrella during day time.

New Year’s day was totally absent of any public expression of joy. Not a celebration in sight. All shops were closed. Even the coffee bars were shut. Some tourists were aimlessly walking around looking for a celebration. Several with strong European accents asked us where they could get a coffee. “No, not here in Bowral, but the Fish and Chip shop is open, try there you might get an instant Nescafé.” Bowral on New Year’s day looked like a post-apocalyptic scene out of the novel ‘On the Beach’, by Neville Shute. I remember when each time we arrived back in Australia by boat it would be on a Sunday in Fremantle. Not a soul to be seen on the streets. The first time back in 1956, before the book was even written

At one stage we had foreign students living with us in inner city suburb of Balmain. They were mainly from Asian countries. Inevitably they would ask us; “where are the people?” They missed people around on the streets more than anything.

I think Australia might have to try a bit harder in the field of public celebrations and joy in attracting tourism. Sure, the fireworks in Sydney and other places were magnificent on New Year’s Eve. Overall, it seems that the Christmas season celebrations are mainly a private affair. A family get together rather than a public event. Our cities don’t seem to have the density required for people to come out in the open in throngs like they do in Amsterdam, Paris or Hong Kong. We live too spread out from each other and with our love for privacy don’t care much for a display of abandoning all our inhibitions, except when we get drunk. Even then we are more likely to bash than to embrace.

A report has come out stating that our economic model of consuming by soaking up our yearly GDP is becoming more and more unstuck. It seems we have reached a level of saturation. There is only so much we can shove in our cupboards and wardrobes or have enough power points to plug in electronic gadgetry.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-04/consumerism-buying-more-stuff-not-answer-to-happiness/8160346

Well, the pensioners will certainly give a helping hand in non-consuming, seeing the government has targeted billions to be saved from cutting pensions or by lowering them. The money saved will be used to give tax breaks to business and the wealthy. We also have this senator advising that pensioners should be ashamed of being a pensioner. Pensioners ought to feel they have failed seems to be his message.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-02/david-leyonhjelm-calls-to-restrict-pension-assets-test/8157924

We should all pull together and show shame. Be proud of your shame.

Stocking up on Cabbages. The end is nigh!

July 15, 2016
Almost There

Almost There

Here in Australia and in the state of NSW, at least grey-hound racing is being stopped and outlawed. They call it a banning of a sport! Lots of people are up in arms about it and claim it is a livelihood for them. However, the livelihood is the betting of money. It is the same with horses and racing. Take away the gambling part and no one would give horse-racing a second look. People could well end up eating horses instead of racing them around.
We all will be lucky to get out of this mess alive. We are stocking up on cabbages and sauerkraut.

The financial tectonic plates are rumbling,scrambling yet again. The US treasure notes pared early gains. The thirty year rate dropped from 1,099% to 1.007% when news got around that Turkey is having a coup. Two bridges across the Bosporus have been closed to incoming traffic and Turkish Pide stall holders are nervously looking over their shoulders. They are getting ready for a run by the public on food items, especially yoghurt.

The German bund rate was just about getting back into the positive territory again, when first Nice and now Turkey shemozzle, it went back in giving investors a mouth-watering negative return.

Our Australian pension is means tested and subject to ‘deeming.’ It meant, when applying for the old-age pension the first time, we had to empty our pockets and show our savings accounts. We are supposed to inform the government whenever our financial situation changes. Even the value of our car and furniture is taken into account in determining the fortnightly pension. The total amount is ‘deemed’ to earn an interest which is then used to lower the pension accordingly. An exemption is the value of our house. We are allowed to have a house.

However, the deeming rate set by the Government is getting tricky. Interest earned on savings is almost zero and getting lower. It will be interesting to see when banks in Australia will be giving negative rates on savings. It is already happening in Japan, Switzerland and Germany. Can one imagine paying the banks to keep our savings? Will the Government in deeming and ‘mean’testing of pensioners increase our pensions proportionally? After all, if interest earned lowers the pension, interest paid out ought to then result in getting compensated as well.

It is a complicated world. Who would have thought people are now investing in negative returns. Some are now shifting money into gold, works of art or old furniture. There are nervous hordes of financiers roaming the world, shifting currencies and doing their well practiced dodgy deals again. Of course, during a real crisis, food is what really counts. This is why we are keenly eyeing the food supply. Did you know that the red pickled cabbage sold out within the first day it appeared here in Bowral’s Aldi? We went back yesterday hoping to buy some more but it was all sold out. We bought the last few jars of sauerkraut.

Even so, the sun is out and Milo is on his favourite cushion. He occasionally looks at us, tries to stir us into getting dressed to go for our daily walk.

All is well in this household.

Relief for Seniors with Sun and Shadow.

June 13, 2016

IMG_0904after the flood

With the world reeling from disasters, one could be forgiven for keeping the TV’s switched off. After the recent flooding, he was seen to hurry to Bunnings to buy wooden beams, some tubes of strong adhesives and bitumen paint. Bunnings of course, is a large hardware chain which sell dreams for the handy-man and home DIY…(Do-It-Yourself). They are huge. In a clever move to involve both men, and women, Bunnings introduced classes in general homecare, such as minor carpentry, basic plumbing, clearing drains, and tool handling for women. Last year the classes were combined with line dancing. It included face painting for the kids, and on Saturday they have Lions Club volunteers raising funds by selling Barbequed sausages, and onions on sliced white bread, with a variety of sauces. The kids and husbands love it. Bunnings is to hardware what Aldi is to food.

He had felt it his duty to try and prevent future water inundation, even without wearing pyjamas. After measuring the distance of the required levy he lowered the back-seat down in the car. He only recently discovered this possibility. It doubled the capacity to carry wooden beams to almost twice the lengths. He finally also read in the car manual that the reason his car did not carry a spare wheel in the back, was that one could drive with flat tyres. He had given up reading the car manual. He kept falling asleep. Instead read yet another Mankell thriller. Apart from some Ruth Rendell books, he never was much into crime books…

His recent book marketing and selling of his own book had come to a bit of a hiatus, and the recent threat of minor flooding was just the ticket to lift him out of his beloved tendency to nurture gloomy feelings. Something that he tended to do anyway without any outside encouragement. He had often told himself that his efforts to publish his memoirs was for the family to deal with in case he went missing in action, or had carked it. Not an unreasonable assumption, seeing he was nudging seventy six years in total so far. He was previously given to pondering he would like to leave something a bit more substantial than just his faded Municipal Rate notices or his record of Dutch and Australian pension entitlements.

Almost There

He found himself humming ‘when the Saints come marching in’ while driving home with the necessary wooden beams poking against the back of the front seat. A box of liquid nails adhesive was secure on the passengers seat. He was going to glue the beams outside near his garage door to form a barrier, and prevent future flooding. He had written a stern note to the Strata Body Corporate but the courtesy of an acknowledgement was yet to be given. He did not really want to rely on the blocked stormwater drain to be fixed. Even so, he did notice a remote camera for sale at Aldi’s with the necessary cables and manual. The camera would come in handy to send it into hard to reach areas to investigate any problems. It is amazing how technology outpaces the elderly now. No doubt the camera could be sent into the drain and transmit in detail any blockage. Something to ponder about for the future.

After arriving home and unpacking the beams he got stuck into the job at hand.

His wife noticed he was very cheerful.

Business and National Service in Holland.

June 3, 2015
Amsterdam

Amsterdam

With the first sex and my curiosity about it somewhat satisfied and the Maltese woman and gun in wardrobe fading into Oosterman history, I concentrated with renewed vigour into saving and planning to go back to Holland. Readers (if there are any) might remember I had a little metal box into which I saved as much as I could. Of course while living at home I gave all earnings to mother with the getting of own block of land and own house. This too had been achieved within a few years. The garage was now being used to rent out to other migrants which was handy to top up mum’s income running a very busy household. Who would have thought the take up in the new country had made such rapid progress in such a short time. There was mum now collecting rent, the Merchant of Prosperity and now a Rent Lord.

With Frank now coming and going, from the nightmare of what was Callan Park, at his whim, the atmosphere was often tense. The first sight of Frank we would all just scatter to friends. The impasse between what we thought Frank would and ought to finally get in care, and the rough reality, went on without resolutions. We either had to sign up for his permanent incarceration at a lunatic asylum or put up with Frank basically doing what he liked at the hospital, coming and going whenever and in whatever condition he might find himself in. It was absolutely dreadful and  remained an unimaginable horror, not only to Frank but to the rest of the family. Friends urged my parents to send him back to Holland. Things were supposed to be so much better and more advanced in The Netherlands.

This wasn’t easy done with a mentally ill person. He would have to have nursing staff to accompany him as well as my parents and how would Frank feel being left in Holland without anyone? A conundrum if ever there was. This would finally resolve itself when both Frank and my parents went back for good to Holland in 1974. They had enough. On hindsight that was always the best thing to have done. Pensions and healthcare had improved well above the level in Australia. The pension here was ‘means and asset’ tested. This was achieved in an office of the Social Securities. On top of everything my parents were asked to empty all in pockets and handbags on the table in front of the person dealing with my parents pension. My mother never felt so humiliated in her entire life. In Holland everybody works towards a pension, rich or poor get the basic pension. Not means test. Even today, a pension in Australia is regarded as ‘welfare’ or ‘hand-out’ as is unemployment relief, and single mother’s income etc.  and not as  entitlements that  civil societies work towards.

It might all have contributed to the fomenting and nurturing of my rich curmudgeon psyche but I really wanted to go back and try regain what I had left. This was a mistake. But really, making mistakes is a  good way of spending years in preparation for adulthood. I always felt that. Never regret a mistake is my motto. I don’t know how but I had saved up for a trip to Holland within a few years. It was still the old monetary English system of complicated pounds and shillings, pennies. The single boat fare to Genoa and then the train to Amsterdam was 110 pounds in 1962/63. The boat trip over was fantastic. Can you imagine; the orchestra playing jaunty music, games of tombola, the daily sweepstake and lots of young people on their first trip overseas?  I do remember the orchestra’s players being so bored playing the same music, day in day out, week after week, month after month. It was a job so much like everybody had to make a job. Is the chopping of steaks or the soling of shoes any better ( year in year out)?

I also wanted to work in an office and wear a suit and attache case. In Australia, especially during the first few years doing piece work on machinery and clocking up lots of overtime, I was wondering how it would be to go to work with something like having some importance. I don’t know why I thought this would be better suited in Holland. The arrival by train in Holland was without fanfare. There was no one greeting me at Central Station. I could not have expected it. Even so, I almost thought; can’t people see I am a returned migrant from Australia? An absurdity of thought. I moved into a distant uncle place who had a bed that folded into a wall but who was also dying with cancer and an ex chess master. He was forever berating his ex wife and expected me to cheer him on. I used to mix great lumps of mince meat mixed with hot spices. He loved it and even felt the spices to cure his cancer. He wasn’t used to chilli but red in the face he would eat lots of the spiced minced steak to the exclusion of everything else. It might well have hastened his final demise.

My old school friends I revisited and within ten minutes they were watching TV. It had all moved on and they weren’t interested in re-visiting that which had gone by. One of my friends had married and with two children gave me the sage advice and unhappily said ; ‘never get married.’ As is known today, I did and it was the best thing I ever! So, there is so much uncertainty about life. It is all such a risk and bobbing about on tides that can sweep you out as well as sweep you ashore. We do our best.

I haven’t yet even come to ‘business and Dutch National service. That will come next time.

This blight of being normal.

March 17, 2015

 

The grandsons Jan, 2013

The grandsons Jan, 2013

If you are ever told that you are mad, rest assured you’re on the right track. No greater praise can ever be given. I generally try and avoid normal people. They often listen to  radio’s shock jocks, look at commercial TV and put on re-runs of ‘I love Lucy’. The jury is still out on those wearing knee socks, especially when combined with sandals but  is ok with raglan sleeved jumper. Only this morning I noticed a man sitting on a park bench reading The Daily Telegraph. Now, there was a normal man if ever there was. Milo sorted him out though, walked up to the bench and cocked his leg resolutely while trying to catch the man’s eye. I felt that my contempt for that newspaper was well warranted when I noticed car stickers with ‘ Do you think that is true or did you read it in the Daily Telegraph?

 

The country is getting excited again. The normal state of torpor is rapidly vanishing. Neighbours are smiling to each other and saying ‘gooddayehowsitgoing?’ again. In another eleven days the NSW state is having an election. The greens have just announced preferences ,bar a few seats they could win on their own, will be given to the Labor

More Salvia

More Salvia

Party above that of the conservatives. Both the Greens and the Labor party are opposed (vehemently) to selling off the Poles and Wires. Things are looking up and H and I will be glued to the screen watching how the previously safe seats of the liberal- national party will fall into the warm, soft and welcoming bosom of Labor.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-17/nsw-election-2015-labor-greens-preference-deal/6324726

You can tell that the Liberal-National party are run by very, very normal people. They had hoped that passing legislation with a matching budget that lowered prosperity, especially for the impoverished end of town, would be received with great enthusiasm and  given standing ovations by all. The pension would be lowered from 25% of average wage to 17%. They would introduce a lovely co-payment for each visit to the doctor of $ 7.-, each time. As icing on the cake, deregulating and making university independent from government funding would also be introduced. Universities would be allowed to compete and charge according to what they see fit. Students would be paying off the fees for many, many years, but only if they got a job. All very normal.

It is almost time for the next budget and last year’s budget is still hanging in there. They blame an obstinate senate not passing those lovely bills. And, even now at this late stage, no one of the normal LNP club dares to look in the mirror of reality. They should know that selling public assets is now truly on the nose but with their persistence in trying flogging off the power grid, they seem to have exceeded all forms of normality.

Thank goodness for all those ‘normal people’ who will put Labor back in the seat again. ( We hope)