I began writing this column back in the salad day when the Dow was rocketing towards fourteen grand and property values were going through the ceiling. But even then
I could smell trouble brewing for the middle and working classes.
“What’s he on about now?” Mutters yer man up in Pearl River. “Health insurance? The price of turnips? For God’s sake, not Iraq again!”
No, indeed, my first column was about pensions, social security, and the dependence of 401(ks) on the financial markets.
“Oh, me bloody stomach! This is the last thing I want to be thinking about on a Wednesday evening with the tea poured and the spuds and cabbage going cold in front of me.”
I merely mention this troubling matter because (a) no one else ever does, and (b) it’s time we stopped burying our heads like ostriches and came up with some manner of an alternative before we’re all on the Bowery.
Now kindly note that I did not broach the subject while the stock market was lower than a skirt in a convent.
I might also add that barring a Tsunami hitting Manhattan or even worse - Steve Duggan having a bad run out in Belmont - I believe the Dow will continue to appreciate, if only because corporate profits will keep rising due to all the layoffs.
Nonetheless, with a dysfunctional education system, ongoing nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Eileen Murphy’s addiction to boy bands, you don’t have to be Charlie Haughey to predict rocky times ahead.
So, what’s your solution?” Demands yer man up in Pearl River as he shunts the spuds and cabbage into the microwave.
“The Post Office!” Says I.
“Have you totally lost the run of yourself? Sure isn’t that the place where you queue up for hours to buy a couple of stamps, and God help you if you ever want to send a few screeds of used clothes back to Ireland where the children are running around naked in the rain?”
“The self-same establishment,” I agree. “But hold your horses, I’m actually referring to the old Irish Post Office Savings Account and the wonders of compound interest! I mean, what would be so wrong if Barack, Rahm, Nancy, Harry and the other commies down in DC were to set up a system of national savings bonds paying a rate of 2 or even 3% PA to be redeemed when – or rather if - you hit the big 70!
“Why not 62?” Replies Pearl River. “Isn’t that the age you get your first whack at Social Security?”
Well to quote Malachy McCourt, “62 – Mar yeah! The way things are going we’ll all be working ‘til we’re 90 - if we’re lucky!”
Now I know well that the current rate of interest being paid by bankers and gangsters is negligible, but 2 or even 3% will eventually be less than the Chinese are charging us to restore Fallujah and Kabul. So, at least, we won’t have to keep going hat in hand to those sons of er…Mao!
Compound interest may not sound very sexy but it’s like a Cavan man - safe, sound, and still bringing home the bacon when fancy Jackeens and Yellowbellies alike have long gone on the dole. Compared to the stock market of the last decade it’s akin to Viagra – dust off your Christian Brothers compound interest tables, if you don’t believe me.
Besides compound interest can guarantee you a sound night’s sleep and you won’t be biting your fingernails every time you steal a glance at the Dow.
“That bloody microwave!” Roars yer man up in Pearl River. “The mouth is burned off of me! Heats the damned spuds too much on the inside.”
How right he is. The market is equally untrustworthy - a bit too much like Belmont when it comes to supplementing the paltry Social Security check.
Of course, I probably shouldn’t be promoting pipe dreams - the financial industry would curl up and die before allowing such a scheme to pass Congress, for what fees could they extract from compound interest? It would be just you and your sexy little Post Office Saving Book.
Still and all, someone better come up with a long term solution because the Bowery is full of condos now and the owners don’t want you lying around on their pavement guzzling your bottles of Irish Rose.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah!” Says yer man up in Pearl River. “Didn’t this guy never of Powerball?”