This week Helen Pridham, freelance journalist
Being freelance has its pros and cons. On a Monday morning in high summer, wandering upstairs in bare feet to get to your office certainly beats squeezing on to a busy commuter train. On the other hand, if your “to do” list for the week looks scarily short or unmanageably long, catching that train to a regular job with a regular salary suddenly seems a lot more attractive.This year, the summer lull started much earlier than usual. Money sections started to shrink and so too did their thirst for freelance pieces. But this week, thanks partly to a call from The Times’s Anne Ashworth, my “to do” list looks the right length. I start off by researching my regular piece for The Herald in Glasgow (it’s not called The Glasgow Herald any more). The subject is pensions for women. Ironically, this was the subject of my first ever article for The Herald some years ago. Nothing much has changed since then, it seems. Women are still worryingly underpensioned, except now the younger ones have student debts as well. I decide the piece should offer practical advice and phone some of my Scottish IFA contacts for their tips. “Join a company scheme” and “Get the old man to contribute to a stakeholder for you” are popular homilies. After that I get down to researching my two pieces for The Times – one on mortgages and the other on savings. Fixed-rate mortgages seem be getting cheaper by the hour, which means poor old savers are in for a rough time. On Tuesday, I was planning to meet some old work mates for lunch but deadlines take precedence. We agree to postpone until after the summer. On Wednesday, I take a rare day off to go sailing with Scottish Widows Investment Partnership. We meet at Waterloo at the ungodly hour of 7am and get to the coast just after 9am. There are three yachts waiting for us, two for Swip’s sales team and clients and one for the rest of us. The weather is glorious. We sail over to the Isle of Wight in a leisurely fashion for lunch. Sailing back, things get more serious as there is a race to see which boat can get there first. Several of our crew are particularly keen to win. We come last. Still, it is a very enjoyable day. I even manage to have some serious conversations with Robert Waugh and Stuart McMaster, Swip’s head of corporate bonds. Back to reality on Thursday. I write up my piece for The Herald and email it to Glasgow for midday. The rest of that day and Friday, I am busy putting together ideas for a bank’s customer magazine to which I contribute, updating a booklet for another company and checking that second-quarter data for my quarterly funds report is coming in. Also speak to Jill Insley at The Observer, who has done a super job since taking over from Maria Scott, about future pieces. Finish the week watching the Big Brother eviction along with my daughters, who are great fans. This programme would be a great medium for communicating some financial messages to the younger viewing public. Maybe one of the housemates’ weekly tasks could be about, say, pensions. But, then again, perhaps not.