Wednesday June 11, 2008
Portfolio day, shifting cash funds about from here to there. Not my favourite activity, this. To me, not historically too far from my peasant roots, the only safe place for cash is under the bed. It’s a long time since I did that, though. “It’s so much safer in the bank, John,” I was told, years back. “We live in a time when thieves and vagabonds surround us on all sides.”
Well, don’t we just? Every day, almost, we’re assailed by stories of innocent folks being milked of their life savings, by scare stories on the economy, both national and international, and frightening accounts of the demise of commercial and financial concerns we were brought up to believe were “safe as the Bank of England.”
Well, shucks. I long ago lost that as an idea to comfort me on a stormy night. The Bank of England, worthy though it may be, has little to no interest in me as an upright citizen, concerned for the integrity of my income and my savings as the fat cats grow fatter at a rate roughly coincident with and well ahead of the rate of inflation.
So, today, I did a portfolio adjustment, spreading the cash funds out a bit so as not to fall foul of the old saw about keeping all your eggs in one basket.
It’s not a great fortune, of course, and is distorted by the presence of my earnest monthly savings efforts, built up in anticipation of the need to replace the car, the computer, the camera, and sundry consumer ‘durables’. Not really a great sum at all. The nucleus of it is a cash fund sufficient to meet my funeral expenses–I’ve long had a horror of leaving debts behind me, and anyone who’s witnessed a pauper’s funeral will go a long way to avoiding it for his loved ones.
And I’m not seeking any kind of major shift in interest for it, either. Just your average market rate, tax paid at source to avoid complicated annual tax returns. Over the years I’ve learned that a money deal that’s too good to believe is almost always the most risky of all investments.
Why do it, then? Oh, call me old fashioned. I learn from mostly unreliable sources that the banks, even the major banks, are concerned about meeting their bills. The banks, typically, are saying nothing in their defence and, in these cynical times, I’m not sure I’d believe them if they did.
So I’ve spread the risk out a bit, favouring Treasury bonds and National savings. I don’t trust the politicians who run the treasury any more than I trust the fat cats who grow fatter as the rest of us pull our belts in a little in readiness for stormy times ahead. But these two institutions, well, they’re about as solid as you can get in a time of vapour economics.
So, it’s done, and I’m as safe as I can be. I can rest easy knowing that the wolves who’d just love to get in my door are unlikely to be able to do so.
Mind you, it occurs to me that it’s a long time since I actually saw my cash funds, leave alone touched them. Used to be you could pull your little bag of coin out from under the bed and run your fingers through your treasure. Nothing quite like the actual, physical feel of gold.
Not like that now. All you get now in the way of reassurance is a few slips of computer-printed paper and the flickering figures on your home computer screen. Funny old world, ain’t it?
Do I feel guilty that I’ve spent the day on such selfish pursuits? Not a bit of it. I’m just obeying my peasant instincts, saving the seed corn, and employing my talents best I can to protect myself and my little family. It’s a human thing to do, just as it was human this morning to queue up at the petrol station to fill up the little silver Ford’s tank up to the brim. When politicians tell you not to panic, that’s the time to be wary. Especially when, like our precious Prime Minister, they have panic in their eyes and they begin to look and behave like frightened rabbits.
These are not interesting times, not yet they’re not. I’ve lived through interesting times and these aren’t them. They are times when a canny man ups his general readiness, though, and that’s what I’ve done today.