The Pru-Man Looms

What I say here, is nothing new to most of us, but I feel that it has to be said again because you see so little movement in government thinking that gives one any hope, not for ourselves, but the younger generations that are coming up, and are still in school at this time. After all it’s our responsibility that they don’t have to undertake some horrendous burden.

Anyone under 75, will not remember the Pru-Man. He was part of the financial landscape in the 20s and 30s, looking after the benefits of the working class and the lower-middle-class. In those days pensions were unheard-of as a benefit, and this did not happen until after the Second World War, along with the introduction of the health service.

The Pru-Man cycled round working-class and lower middle-class districts, on a huge bicycle, with a carrier at the back which held his raincoat and a book. He took several different forms, but was hailed basically, especially by children answering the front door, by the same term. He was collecting savings house by house, for various purposes. The amounts of these contributions could vary from six pence, to just a few shillings. With his thick book, the page held by a thick rubber band, he would labouriously write in the contribution.

It must be remembered that these people who were contributing, were almost certainly on a weekly wage, and accepting the circumstances that it wasn’t so long since the First World War had brought a low-level of status to the country, anybody who was at all frugal, saved as much as they could for a rainy day, and the future. One of the contributions was inevitably for a burial fund. Another was for the HSA, the Hospital Savings Association. There was no such thing in those days as free medical help, unless it was as a result of an accident either in the home, at work or on the roads. I was treated twice under these terms. Doctors bills were excessively high when the basic income was only £3 a week, and it cost seven shillings and sixpence per visit to the doctor’. There may have been pensions in private companies, but for the general working man he had to take care of that himself, and in consequence these men who called at the door from another company like the Prudential, were collecting a steady increase in savings against the day when these men could not support their families due to old age or infirmity. As far as I know, there was no cut-off age like 60 or 65, you worked till you dropped.

At the end of WW2 the Labour Party which was in power, introduced pensions which were contributory by both the worker and the employer, and the Health Service as we know it. Some would say that had the health service had a cut-off level at which new procedures were within the prerogative of private medicine, the increase year-on-year of the cost of the health service, due to progress in medicine, would not have arrived at a point that it is today. Obviously when some procedures were improved then that improvement would have been included in the system, but larger ranging procedures might have to have had subsidy by the patient.

We are now in a situation where unemployment is staggeringly high, and those who have been made unemployed are losing their employment pension rights for the periods when they are unemployed, in consequence in not too far in the future there will be lot of people trying to get on in their old age without sufficient income. Like today, the old-age pension will be inadequate for even comfortable living. It is manufacturing and export which maintains the financial basis on which a country thrives. If you’ve nothing to sell, you can’t buy abroad forever, without building enormous debts

.With respect to dealings with building societies, stocks and shares, and insurances companies, it is my experience that takeovers leave the individual unable to decide whether he has got the deal he expected, or has lost out. Some of us are a little doubtful about the dealings of insurance companies when it comes to making a claim,. In the old days. before the last war, if you joined a given company that was the company you stayed with forever if you were satisfied.

Today with dealings on the stock exchange you can discover that the company, and even the bank you thought you were with. is one that you would not chose dealing with under any circumstances. Who amongst us thinks it is necessary to research every holding that they have, but today it seems necessary, the reason that I write this is because I wonder how much we can rely over our lifetime that our savings will be safe if we take out a pension system, and are sure that it will not be taken over by a foreign company who themselves will be demanding that you pay income tax not only here, but in the foreign country as is happening to me. I think there is only one way to be sure of having a pension that you can rely on and that is by contributions made to a civil service run bank, not under any circumstances, the run-of-the-mill banks. The days of rogue traders should be over.