Friday, 1 November 2013

We Can't Afford Pensions.

This morning (1/11/13) The Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 was discussing a planned strike by Fire-fighters in England and Wales. It's a dispute over pensions.

As soon as pensions were mentioned I snorted and thought "well, no one can afford pensions these days...". Then I took a moment and realised that I'd been sucked into one of the great financial narratives of recent times.

No one can afford pensions....

Organisations across the country are changing their pension plans due to "short falls" or in other words "we trusted our investments would work, but they didn't" and employee after employee has seen the value of their plan fall.

When I was in the BBC I saw my final salary scheme come to an end, and I accepted it...

The problem is... This isn't a story about pension deficit this is a story about pension entitlement and redundancy, but it fits so neatly into the default narrative of pension black holes.

I immediately wrote it off as another organisation stung by the financial down turn moaning about bad investments that the financial world said would be fine and then were ruined by another group of financial experts. You know, the old story.

Default Narrative is hugely powerful, it informs out gut reactions to complex stories, it makes us see stories from the wrong angle, with the wrong colour, and the wrong shape. When we remove our default, (like getting the person seated in front of us at the theatre to remove their comedy oversized 'My Fair Lady' hat) we can see the whole story and not just the bits that press our buttons.

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