Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A blue sky thinking


Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel? by Pants

Sometimes the only thing that keeps me buoyant about my future prospects is the near-certainty that euthanasia will be legal by the time I'm ready for the final adieu. In fact, I like to think there will be a system akin to a voluntary redundancy for those of us who are prepared to go quietly ahead of time rather than linger in tax revenue-sapping MaxSec twilight facilities. I like to think that it would involve a sweetener including superior drugs administered in The Grand Hotel du Cap-Ferrat after a couple of final weeks re-enacting La Grande Bouffe. This is my idea of Club Med.

I've never been able to work out why it costs so much to maintain elderly people in care homes. They can manage to live independently on a few dollars a day but throw in a zimmer frame and a couple of low-paid carers and the cost starts to resemble Victoria Beckham's wardrobe budget. The people who run these homes need to source a new supplier for their custard powder.

My prospects are slightly better than I had previously thought. The way people carry on about the superior superannuation scheme in Australia, I'd imagined all my contemporaries relaxing by the pools of their harbourside mansions for half the year and then wintering in their villas in Tuscany, identical Lamborghinis adorning the respective garages.

It surprises me to discover that many of my age cohort will enter retirement in debt. I was brought up in a lay-by culture. To me, the idea of a mortgaged retirement is Rufus Dawes with a Little Dorrit chaser. I further discover that, despite my never having benefited from any superannuation scheme, my nest-eggedness is on a par with the Australian average for women. Men, of course, have twice as much. For every ten dollars employers contribute towards superannuation for men, women get three. Inequality is a cradle to grave commitment, apparently. No other party has ever contributed a single penny or cent to my dotage.

I have recently learned that I'm not, in fact, a baby boomer as I've always believed, but a member of Generation Jones. It did seem that by the time it got to me, the baby boom was little more than a whimper. I'm glad I have a 'generation' to call my own although, at a mere eleven years in length, I'm a little uncomfortable with the image of five-year-old mothers it conjures. I'm also not altogether sure I concur with its defining characteristics. I don't think of myself as particularly competitive, especially not in relation to the counting of consumables. However, I can now blame the baby boomers for what's wrong with everything without experiencing any inner conflict.

All things considered, my lot is not so bad. Naturally I still live in fear of my house collapsing and all of my teeth falling out. Public dentistry is not an option unless you're prepared to wear a bandage around your jaw for several years and diligently administer oil of clove. Having money in the bank does not make you any more rational. I've had a dental check today and everything is fine. This can only mean my mouth is simply banking trouble for future withdrawal, ideally just after I've spent all my cash fixing up a house that collapsed in circumstances outside of my insurance cover.

I still have my British pension. That ought to keep me in hearing aid batteries provided the exchange rate doesn't get any worse. I had a letter a few weeks ago telling me I've earned two thirds of the full state pension in my chequered employment career. The bad news is that it's not indexed if you live abroad. You get the rate on retirement for the rest of your life. That's not particularly good news if you're planning to live beyond the current economic cycle.

There have been numerous appeals against this, the most recent of which failed last week. I can't imagine how it can be legal. It's a bit like Amazon only sending you half the order you've paid for because you've deviously chosen to live in Ecuador where the cost of living is lower. You'd think the British government would be only too keen to provide incentives for its ageing population to decamp to someone else's healthcare jurisdiction. British retirees living in Australia are threatening to return to Britain and straight into the waiting arms of the NHS now that their payments are less than they'd earn on a paper round.

It's inevitable I think that 'easing out' will become an option for those of us who cannot face an interminability of bingo nights and baked custard. That's the way it was before medical researchers and their pharmaceutical company sponsors ruled that enabling the longevity of the world's wealthy minority was far more important than saving the babies of its poor majority. Market economics will triumph once again. In the future, there will simply be too many of us to prolong at cost. Medical and social science will have to find an alternative answer to running a viable humanity.

Generation Jones has been lucky so far. We dodged post-war austerity and arrived just in time for the dawning of the age of Aquarius. We hit the universities as they became free and graduated before the era of residual debt. We've ridden multiple property booms like rodeo stars. And we've still got a few years left to duck and dive our way through the next recovery. With any luck, we'll be right there for the first government-funded, narcotic-fuelled, living-willed exit strategy.

I feel better now. What a difference a post makes.