RTE Drivetime: Talking Money on pensions (week 1)

On Monday the 27th of October we had the first of two parts about pensions, the focus this week was that people are passing up money that is on the table for the taking. The other issues were about the kind of advice you get, and the best ways to structure your pension as well as to demonstrate the available funds if you save for retirement. 

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Clawing your way back

I thought it would be interesting to show a small table that outlines the issue with losing money, the figures below show what you have to ‘make back’ to get to break even depending on a certain amount lost.

Loss Return needed to regain original sum -5.00% 5.26% -10.00% 11.11% -20.00% 25.00% -30.00% 42.86% -35.00% 53.85% -40.00% 66.67% -50.00% 100.00%

It’s easy to see that it gets harder to get back to zero the further you fall, the most obvious example being that you need 100% growth to break-even if you lose 50%! Just something to keep in mind as you are investing or weighing up risk in the things you invest in.

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The first time buyer conundrum, to buy or not to buy?

At the moment in Ireland there is a conundrum for first time buyers: should you buy now and potentially over-pay on purpose?

It’s an unusual one and it partly related to property prices, it is a combination of taxation changes that will occur from the start of 2012 and expectations of interest rate changes from both banks and the ECB.

The argument of ‘rent or buy‘ is well established, we produced report on it with Peter Stafford (now of the IAVI/SCS) and Frank Quinn of Senior College Dun Laoghaire, but this is different – buy now or buy later isn’t taking the default of renting as an assumed continuous option, rather it is a case of delaying for the sake of market timing.

The changes in tax are on the tax expenditure side, namely TRS (tax relief at source).

Currently it is applicable to a maximum of €10,000 p.a. and the rates applicable are …

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KBC move to 90% LTV

This is a very healthy sign for the mortgage market, and in our opinion it could mean that 2010 might mark the low point for credit that we have been watching out for.

In 2009 KBC under-lent, they had €1bn and didn’t lend out anywhere near that, they are also here to stay, and prior to the crisis they had about 1/8th of the market share. The fact that they are rolling out a higher loan to value is a very confident sign that

Banks have a few internal policy tools to control lending 1.    Curtailing the amount of lending – we see that already, mortgage lending is about 85% down from the peak of 40bn p.a. , peak wasn’t exactly a gauge of normal, but half of that would be normal, and even on that basis it’s down 75% – that story still has to play out 2.    Rate increases: this has the same effect as central bank rate increases, it reduces lending and everybody has increased their margins by at least 1% in the last year, you and …

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Everybody pays, even the innocent

There were many innocent parties to the credit fuelled property bubble, they are generally those who didn’t borrow, or who carried no debt, choosing instead to live frugally, and if they used debt they used it wisely. Many of these people are at the polar ends of the age spectrum, very young (who don’t even have access to credit) or much older (who have paid off their mortgages), something we will all need to get used to though is the fact that everybody is going to pay for the mess left behind, this goes farther than NAMA.

The process I am describing is already under way, the very payments system (our financial infrastructure), is going to be used to generate economic rent from the people of Ireland in order to bring in more profit to banks so that they can repair their balance sheets. This price will be paid by the taxpayer outside of the bailout money already being supplied on our behalf. This will be even paid by people who manage to …

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USA: Failed mortgage modification programme

Kudlow talks to Christian Weller, Center for American Progress and Dan Mitchell, Cato Institute on the topic of debt relief and mortgages in the USA, the argument for straight out write-downs on mortgages is compelling, and yet so too is the argument for allowing the market to work. Sometimes believing in the free market is seen as a ‘dirty thing’, but the side effect of trying to manage an economy from every aspect is also a bad thing (look no further than the former Eastern Bloc). Somewhere in the middle is a fair and sustainable path, but ideology bias is usually in the way before the conversation passes go, for that reason you will favour one speaker over the other quite often from the outset. However, ideology doesn’t actually get results, it is merely the platform from which a concept is launched and the better path would be to have an operational model to prove the point – although that isn’t always practical.

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Banks are not competitive?

Roger Bootle notes that markets do quite well at the end of a recession and at the start of a recovery by drawing the benefits of the future down into the present. Roger has a lot to say on the topic of banks, in particular that of banker bonuses – he states (and we agree) that when banks become ‘too big to fail’ they essentially are oligopolies and hence they are able to pay so well. From an Irish perspective the domination of AIB and BOI put some stock in this theory.

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How many kicks can a broker take?!

How many kicks can a broker take before rolling over and crying ‘uncle!’. A whole bunch it seems.

Today AIB informed the intermediary market that they were capping commissions at €1,500 per loan as a maximum irrespective of the loan size. We feel that banks reward people unfairly and in a ridiculous short-term manner, AIB are no different but they are doing so at the detriment of brokerage.

I’ll qualify that: currently, broker distributed loans are highly profitable for AIB, they don’t have to pay for broker overhead, branch costs etc. I have it on good authority that they have explained this to broker representation bodies in the past, so why curtail any money a broker might make? (As if the current market wasn’t making it hard enough already!).

Simple, because it means you have more money to keep branch distribution alive, and in order to support unprofitable branches you have to find excess profit elsewhere, one of the soft targets is …

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Toxic traders, capitalising on volumes

Joe Saluzzi of Themis Trading (I mistakenly read the link initially as ‘the mistrading’!) have recently published a paper which accuses traders of intentionally trading huge volumes where they buy and sell for the same price and in the process make a half a cent per share. The volume of trading is fictitious ‘high frequency traders’, what they do is buy and sell and collect liquidity rebates from the exchange (note: 50 milliseconds is a huge amount of time) in this game. Do it 8 billion times and it really starts to add up.

This is just depressing, actual investors don’t get to join in because the firms engaged in this are doing it within the actual exchanges using the fastest computer technology available. They also have an unfair advantage in how they trade because they use rules intended to match buyers and sellers to their advantage, they find hidden liquidity and in essence remove it from the market as profit.

The most powerful deterrent would be to make a rule …

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