A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be able to buy an original Matt cartoon to add to my ever-expanding collection. Matt, if you do not know, does the pocket cartoon on the front of the Telegraph every day. The one I have just bought was published on the January 14 this year, the week of my birthday, so it was a sort of birthday present.
The cartoon is about pensions and the cost of petrol. It shows an elderly chap sitting opposite his HR manager and on the manager’s desk are two cans of petrol. The caption reads: “Would you like your pension in unleaded or diesel?”
With a simple drawing and just nine words, Matt manages to tie together two commonly held beliefs – that petrol is now highly expensive and pensions are lower in value than ever.
A couple of weekends ago, I travelled with Mrs Guru by car to Southwold in Suffolk. Before setting off we filled up the petrol tank for the princely sum of £60. I do not think I have ever paid so much to fill our ageing auto. We were discussing that as we drove along the A12.
The 100-mile trip to the coast depleted our petrol tank by 25 per cent so it cost us around £15 to get there. At £7.50 each, it seemed quite cheap if you compared it to the cost of taking the train, for instance.
Not only that but there were only two of us in the car and there is room for five in all. Transporting three additional people would obviously have used up more petrol but at a per-head cost of between £3 and £4 for the 100 miles travelled, it still would not seem prohibitive.
And so my thoughts turned to pension and welfare reform. The new pension regulations will only work if it pays to save. Our pension system in the UK, while it has its problems, has a better than even chance of spreading pension ownership far wider across the population with the current reforms than any of the myriad reforms that have come before.
The system is far too complex and if we binned half the legislation on the books, the remaining half would still be too much. But the direction we are now travelling in seems far more sensible than at any time in the last two decades.
I am more hopeful than I have been for some time that things are looking up on the pension front. Also, petrol is probably not as expensive as I thought it was from reading the daily newspapers.
That is not to say the Matt cartoon is not funny. It made me laugh when I first saw it and it makes me smile to look at it still. When we look at cartoons, we expect them to make us laugh – but a good cartoon can also make us think.
Steve Bee is managing partner at Paradigm Pensions