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BOB CRATCHIT

As if I didn&#39t have enough on my plate (what with the little &#39un at death&#39s door and all), I am forced to look upon the dawn of the true millennium with the spectre of Paula&#39s Potty Idea looming on the horizon.

How do I convince the inhabitants of Gin Lane that IPAs are the savings vehicles which will save them from abject poverty (if they live to retirement) as opposed to a brown beverage they throw down their gullets of an evening?

Is this the best business opportunity me and Mr Scrooge can hope for in the wake of stakeholder? News is here in Camden that the good men of Westminster are making up Individual Pension Accounts as they go along. But this is surely nonsense. Those people is educated, unlike me, and would never do such a thing as pluck a number like 1 per cent out of the air and leave the entire future welfare of the poorest section of the population reliant upon it. Those nice civil servants, Latin and Greek scholars to a man and woman, would never do anything so immoral or so stupid.

What a year! It has been boom time here at S&MFS, the downside of which is that Mr Scrooge had to fork out steel for re-enforcements to the front of the counting house.

Before investing in the armoury, we had to replace the wooden front door five times as thousands from the work house sabotaged the premises. These poor unpensioned souls had been beating down our door ever since they got wind of the new, transparent, low-cost money-purchase pension schemes. Problem is that some of them seem to think they should be getting our advice for free. Can&#39t think who gave them that impression.

I hear Government departments are about to shell out thousands of shillings on painted boards and cock-fight sponsorship to ensure the good people earning less than tuppence ha&#39penny a year will buy stakeholders from April.

Hopefully, the ads will mean that, within the next few years, two-and-a-half million of the beggars will have joined the stampede to buy stakeholder pensions. I, too, look forward to that day – when we can also hope to see a blue moon, Treasury secretary Melanie Johnstone falling for an IFA and Mr Scrooge giving me a pay rise.

To be fair to old Scrooge, stranger things have happened of late. Who would have believed it but old Mr Scrooge came round to talk to Tiny Tim when I was out at work. He was offering to adopt him because Scrooge, who is with out a family himself, needed some way to tax-shelter £3,600. There could even be a booming business selling orphans to child less couples in old London town. Now they become a tax-efficient savings vehicle as well as prime material for send ing up chimneys. Puts a whole new spin on the term orphan asset.

Scrooge & Marley plan to buffer the impact of low mar gins by selling insurance covering core illnesses like the king&#39s evil. Premiums have come down since the Black Death became a thing of the past and only wiped out half the population. But even if this insurance side line, stake holder and IPAs are a combined winner, I might have to resign my job. Got to put my family first. The new year may see me polishing my suit from my previous position and hitting the tied trail just like the bad old days.

Merry Christmas and an Equitable New Year.

Bob Cratchit AFPC is a consultant at Scrooge & Marley Financial Services

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