Saturday, 19 May 2018

C@W SCOOP! Where Meghan's Mum Gets Her Hats!

The BBC sub-title writers have a theory.   "Doria looks beautiful in a hat ...

© 2018

Friday, 18 May 2018

Interesting things to do this weekend

Not sure what to do with yourself, there is a plethora of things to do..which do you prefer?

1. Watch a Wedding on the Telly

2. Watch a football match on the Telly

3. Read The Observer cover to cover

4. Go on a rally to protest over Hamas/IDF somewhere in London

5. Mend the Garden fence

Or something else entirely....

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

The madness of pensions maths

Great article here by Royal London, posing as a news article in the Evening Standard.

I guess the pension company PR think they are pushing a great line here about how we all need to save more and give more money to them so they can get more fees.

To me (this is a 'rant alert' phrase), the result just goes to show how completely crazy the pension system has become. Let's take them at face value, you need £260,000 as an average person to have a decent retirement. I have a great job in the city and am very lucky. I have worked for twenty years, if I work for another twenty I am still unlikely to get to that level of pension saving.

Indeed, over the past 10 years on a cash invested basis, my pension savings are negative - i.e. it would have made more sense to put money in the mattress than into work pension funds. As far as I can ever work out this is because the multiple fees they take out at the beginning of a years and other management fees consistently are higher than any returns I might make on their products.

However, I digress, if only to show that I am less than convinced saving into pensions is such as good idea for the savers. Moreover, to save £260,000 in today's money over 40 years requires saving £6,000 a year, or around 1/3rd of the average salary post-tax. This already includes the state pension and benefits top ups and assumes you have paid your mortgage, if you rent then it is a mere £440,000 needed - or just over half your salary for every year you work (assuming the average wage of £26,000 a year).

It would of course help if the pensions funds offered some compound growth on your investments with them but they try very hard indeed to avoid this outcome - for them, every penny kept is pure profit. The same with the crazy annuity rates which, thankfully, the Government has moved away from enforcing.

Logically, none of this is any good. The best way to save will remain taking out the largest mortgage you can afford at any time, paying the interest and relying in the capital growth. Alternatively, paying off the mortgage too if you feel that is less risky (I happen to think that long-term the risk is with the Bank not the borrower, but each to their own). Then upon retirement, sell your property and move to Greece, Thailand or wherever you can get some value for your hard work. On no account try to live in the UK on pension saving sin the future, this will not work out for you even slightly. All the media today is hued by the many millions of people on final salary pensions which today would require literally millions of pounds in pension savings, of which there will be near zero in the next few years as those schemes were closed long ago.

So in summary, Royal London are mad to think this strategy of reminding people how impossible it is to save will be a long-term benefit for their company - they should stick to lobbying the Government to make pensions compulsory which they have done successfully and then go for making higher contributions compulsory - but don't tell their victims this!

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Bank of England - Big Data Guru

Where do you work? At my place of work the col thing to do is to walk around and say let's get oodles of data on stuff and then analyse it. This methodology is apparently foolproof and will give us the answers to the known universe.

Of course, a little while ago I would sit in the techie meetings and say things like 'Does it scale?' whenever there was a period of silence. Many of the techies now see me as some sort of wise counsel, in the same way I still see them as a na├»ve group very able at doing things but truly unable to understand why!

So Big Data is the new thing, the power of computers is unmatched and we will soon all learn it is about the data. O course, in the City, there are a huge amount of quantitative analysts who are very happy with any developments that improve their job prospects.

But data to me as two huge issues, accuracy and interpretation. More bad data is still no better than less bad data, perhaps worse even. Interpretation is key - are sales falling because of a declining market or an inefficient sales force - can data tell us this? What if the data says one thing but it turns out later it was the other?

In the Great Financial Crash, data was telling the CEO's of banks their risk of failure was tiny - then lots of banks went bust, quickly. The data had been interpreted spectacularly wrong.

Anyway, the link is to an article where the Bank of England is going to try to use a wider data set to make decisions. This of course is a waste of time, I can quite happily predict what the Bank is going to do with very limited data - it is going to set rates nice and low to keep the Zombie economy going and allow the Government to create too much debt. It has been doing this for over a decade with no sign of change - how is a bigger data set going to make this a different decision?

Of course it won't and this is some sham PR exercise, as per usual.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Weekend Footnote: Friction among the Physicists

Along with the laughable Co-op document, something else that dropped through the letterbox this week was a newsletter containing a fulsome tribute to Stephen Hawking by his former tutor and long-time collaborator, cosmologist and first-rank mathematician Roger Penrose.

It makes for interesting reading (sorry, I haven’t found an online link - though he also wrote a straight obit in the Graun) and certainly contains glowing praise for Hawking’s determination, skills in maths and physics, insight, profundity and enjoyment of life.   But … away from the formalities of a national newspaper write-up, Physicist Penrose can’t help himself.  In the newsletter - you have to smile - he goes on to set out how he reckons Hawking took a wrong turn in his work on black holes; how he was barking up the wrong tree when he ought to have stuck to the earlier conclusions he reached when they were working together; and how Penrose’s own alternative theory would have it.

Never let a good intellectual feud drop ...  these academics, eh?