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Correspondent’s week

This week by Sunday Telegraph acting deputy personal finance editor John GreenwoodBeing a personal finance journalist is all about being stingy. There is nothing wrong with stories along the lines of “Just a slight reduction in personal hygiene can save you pounds on your water bill” and, let’s face it, everybody likes a bargain. But this week I have realised that I am not as good at managing my own finances as I regularly exhort readers to be with their own. As far as my money matters are concerned, it is fair to say that the cobbler’s children go poorly shod.

My first meeting is with Barclays general insurance supremo Mark Till. He persuades me that people change their car insurance all the time but never shop around for their home contents cover.

Back at the office, I decide that his “We will beat your new quote by 50” offer is just the spur I need to claim the theft of my bike off my own insurance and then switch to someone cheaper.

But a call to my insurer draws a blank response and a quick check of my direct debits leads me to the conclusion that I have not actually got any household insurance. After a few moments’ turmoil, I decide that the glass is half full and that the money I will not get from claiming for the bike is about the same as the premiums I have not paid. If I really want to delude myself, I can reflect on my still untarnished no-claims record.

Tuesday sees me researching a Tep by Tep guide to buying traded endowments with APMM chairman Brian Goldstein. He informs me that even though with-profits policies are about as popular in the UK as Jonathan Ross in the Thatcher household, the Germans are gagging for them.

Then it is on with a feature about the pros and cons of retiring to Canada. (Basically, not much to do, all the roadkill you can eat and some really cheap properties if you like permafrost.)

By Wednesday, I have decided that we need to write something about Ed Balls’ attempts to make law without actually legislating. The Treasury is trying to put the frighteners on anyone going into alternatively secured pensions without showing evidence of regular attendance at their local Plymouth Brethren meeting house. I reckon that pretending to be in the Plymouth Brethren is a bit trickier than trying to look C of E. I foresee loads of 74-year-olds growing chinstrap beards and dressing like the bloke on the front of the Quaker Oats packet.

I cannot help thinking that the Treasury is on to a loser on this one and is hoping that it will go away. However, my editor and I decide that we have got to warn the readers of the threat of retrospective action.

By Thursday afternoon, with that piece done and dusted, I am free to pop off to meet former MM news editor Adrian Cammidge and his Aegon colleague Jon Atkins down at Lords. Also in attendance as Collingwood and Cook pile on the runs is current MM news editor James Phillipps, a man of no fixed haircut these days (if only I had his options), coiffed like Owen Hargreaves with a touch of salt and pepper.

Come the end of the week and it is time to knock out a short feature on critical-illness cover for page two. This is a tricky subject to write about but David Gwyer of Norwich Union sorts me out with a heartwarming case study of somebody whose life was changed for the better by having a policy. The other half of the story involves sounding out adviser opinion of Prudential’s new flexible policy, which IFAs seem to like the idea of, even though it seems about twice as pricey as other plans on the market.

Given my own stinginess, I will not be buying some but then I am the type who would rather die than take out life insurance.

Any Out of Contexts or Diary stories? Send them to Diary editor Paul McMillan, email: or telephone: 020 7970 4776


Relaxing times

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