It is the natural inclination of everyone to want to retire with a safety net filled with cash. Personal choice after that allows us to act upon this desire. Most commonly people opt for a pension plan, of which there are many.

This is not an advice piece on pensions, though.

The pensions most people get are tied to a system that invests regular deposits, over thirty to forty years, to build up a nest egg the pension holder can retire on. It is simple in concept. You are made aware upon starting the pension that your investment may go down as well as up. This language is shaped in soft wording which confirms that the pension holder is in the main taking a gamble on their long-term investment working out positively. Most pension investments are then wrapped up in technical terminology that’s only deciphered on becoming a qualified financial advisor, but in layman’s terms means you are investing your retirement nest egg in the stock market.

We all know that the stock exchange is a beast subject to the mood of the market. It can be in a good mood one day, a bad mood another day, a depressed mood another and on a high the next. Historically proven, it leads to untold wealth creation and equal and opposite wealth loss. Knowing that pensions are important to the pension holder and the market is subject to mood swings can lead to a bumpy ride for the individual seeking a comfortable retirement. Alas, the pension holder is tied in and so has no choice but to keep their seat belt on and hope the car that they are a passenger in does not crash.

So, who works on the market? Traders who, for the most part, are men and women under the age of thirty-five or thereabouts. It is hard to imagine the amount of stress and pressure on them individually; it is no wonder they experience early burnout. Most either retire or move on to another career by the age of forty. Within this mass of humanity there are group mood swings which can affect the how the market reacts, called market sentiment. Market sentiment is something to be feared, according to those who lost out in the last crash in 2008. Market sentiment is an emotion. Emotions have no place in market decisions.

Nowadays it’s computers deciding if buying, selling or hedging is the order of the moment.

Here enters the algorithm.

As a result of the losses experienced by the biggest investors, the stock market has quietly moved away from human involvement in decision-making. Particularly in the USA, nowadays it is computers deciding if buying, selling or hedging is the order of the moment. The vast bulk of decisions made today effecting the pension owner’s investment are decided by algorithms. In this post-2008 world that we inhabit, we often find the much hated trader is now binary based and completely devoid of humanity. This has led to a new term to send a shiver up the heart strings – ‘flash crashes’.

Flash crashes are giant dips or troughs in the industrial averages driven specifically by these emotionally-void binary algorithms. With human market sentiment now removed from the trade, the algorithms cannot tell when to stop selling and then, if they all try to sell at the same time…

This is scary and this is the world we live in now.

It is a world where there are 150,000 trades per second.

The regulators cannot regulate at that speed.

So what’s the solution?

Let’s slow them down by making them think about each trade.

Have you heard of the Robin Hood Tax? Known also as the Transaction Tax, it is an advocated tax which will be levied on every trade in the stock exchange. The rate talked about is 0.1% of every trade. 0.1% of 150,000 trades per second adds up very quickly.

The idea is to build a cash pile large enough to be able to cover the cost when the next crash happens. This way the taxpayer won’t have to stump up the cash to bail the market out again, forcing the gamblers to pay for the mess they will inevitably make.

Europe has already started this process. Nine countries have committed to working out how to implement this tax. In France, on August 1st 2012, the Socialist President Francois Hollande implemented the Robin Hood tax of 0.2% on stocks with company share values of more than one billion euro, a good start.

Ireland has said no to this tax because the UK says no. The UK fear that investors will move to markets that do not have the tax. Our Government’s fear is that investors will move to the UK becausethey don’t have the tax.

Pension holders, if they fully understood the security that the Robin Hood Tax offered investors, would not thank the governments that say no because it is a tax that helps secure their investment in the stock exchange. Is making the gamble for a secure retirement that bit less stressful really such a bad thing?

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It was a lovely sunny day and the sky was big and blue. Jacob and Loki were playing hide and seek and were having a brilliant time. Loki (Jacobs cat) decided to hide up high in the big blossom tree and was busy trying to make himself as small as possible so that Jacob would not see him. He was so excited that he forgot about hiding his tail, it waggled up in the air and could be seen.

When Jacob finished counting to 25 he shouted, “here I come, ready or not, keep your place or you’re gonna get caught!”

He scanned the garden looking for Loki and almost immediately saw a swishing swirly tail sticking out from behind the leaves of the blossom tree. Being as quiet as a mouse, Jacob started to  climb up the tree, he took great care to be as sneaky as he could.

When he was just behind Lokis whisking tail he took a deep breath and let out a giant sized and equally loud, “GOTCHA LOKI!”

Poor Loki leaped up and into the air with the fright “MEAOW -WOW-OW!”

They both laughed and when they calmed down again again Jacob told Loki, “your caught, it’s your turn now!” Loki replied “Meaow!” meaning “ok”

It was then that Jacob noticed something strange about the blossom tree, it seemed to be missing half of its pink blossom leaves. Just as they reached to bottom of the tree and were back safely on the ground they both suddenly heard a very sad voice say, “excuse me, sniff sniff, im thirsty!”

They both were startled a bit and looked all around but could not see who had spoken to them. Loki said, “meaaow?” meaning “what was that?” Jacob replied, “I don’t know Loki but it sounded very sad!”

Suddenly again the mysterious voice appeared, it said, “Oh BOO-HOO, I’m thirsty and it’s sooo hot!” The both turned to where the voice had come from and to their astonishment it appeared to be the blossom tree.

Jacob looked at the tree and asked it, “was that you speaking?” They both jumped when it answered, “Yes! Sniff Sniff, it was me, your blossom tree, i’m thirsty, can you get me a drink of water?”

After both cat and owner had picked themselves back up off the ground from the fright they had gotten, Loki chimed in with an inquisitive “Meaow Maa Meaow?” meaning “where is your mouth?” The blossom tree quickly answered, “my mouth is in the ground all around me, you call them roots and mine are all dry and very thirsty, they need some water to fall from the sky but it’s so hot and there is only that one big raincloud going the wrong direction, can you see my leaves are starting to fall off?”

The blossom tree it appeared knew lots of stuff about lots of things, Jacob and Loki felt very sorry for it indeed.

The dynamic duo had a secret, a secret that could very well be of great help to the thirsty tree. They both looked at each other and without words they knew what it was they needed to do to help the tree out. They both knew they needed their ‘Amazingly Super Underpants’ Loki turned to the tree and said “meaowuzoww meaoe mow!” meaning “we can help!”

Jacob and Loki ran inside the house and bounded up the stairs four at a time to get to their bedroom, they knew that they did not have much time. Jacob yanked open the bottom drawer of their wardrobe and there shining out at them with bright sparkling colours were two very special pairs of underpants.

One belonged to Jacob and and a big ‘J’ embroidered on the front and the other belonged to Loki and had an ‘L’ for Loki. Jacob jumped into his in one bound and then he helped Loki with his. Both underpants burst with glittering lights as they were now activated.

They both ran back down to the garden and looked all around to be sure that nobody could see them. Quite suddenly, Jacob jumped up into the air and started to fly into the sky and towards the drifting cloud. Loki flew differently to Jacob because he had a tail, it spun around just like a helicopter and lifted Loki up into the sky. Loki had to adjust the direction of his tail to be able to go in Jacobs direction.

After about five minutes of flying through the sky they approached the big raincloud, the blossom tree was right, it was indeed drifting in the wrong direction.

Jacob had an idea, he told Loki to spin his tail really fast beside the cloud to try push it back in the direction of the blossom tree. Jacob helped Loki by taking huge gulps of air into his lungs and huffing and puffing. Jacob huffed and puffed while Loki swished and swashed and to their delight the cloud started to drift back in the direction it had come from and by luck towards the blossom tree.

Jacob put his hand into the cloud and discovered that it was like putting his hand into a bath full of cold water. They pushed and blew and huffed and puffed and swished and swashed until eventually the cloud hovvered directly over the tree. Now all they needed to do was to get the cloud to empty its water onto the thirsty waiting blossom tree.

Jacob decided that because cats dont like getting wet he would take on the next part of their superhero task. He took another gulp of air and flew into the cloud to try and find the chain so he could pull the stopper.

He half flew half swam down and into the cloud, while he was searching inside the cloud his toe through sheer luck got caught on a chain, he knew instantly that he had found the chain that was attached to the plug that held all the water inside. With the powers that the amazingly super underpants gave him he pulled on the chain with all his mighty might.

There was a sudden underwatery ‘THUNK

He half swam and flew out of the cloud and was thrilled to see that all the clouds water was pouring directly on the blossom trees head, for a split second he was sure he heard a huge “AHHHHH!” coming up from the delighted tree.

Loki Meaowed happily to see all the rain falling very specifically on only the tree.

They high fived each other in delight!

It was time to fly back down to the ground and when they landed back safely in the garden they both dashed back up to their bedroom. They put their now dry from all the flying, amazingly super underpants neatly back in the bottom drawer. The cloud rained its rain on the blossom tree for the next half an hour before stopping.

The Blossom Tree shone with happiness and its Blossoms Bloomed Brightly.

The End….

Weathered Man.

15/07/2010

The battles lost in time and mind,

that re-enact each moment upon his head,

rip from the past and plow like leaded

bullet snapshots through his lob-sided growl.

A jumbled grunting snarl with pressurised

tears, queer luck brought this man.

Eyes closed, he transports his being back

to the hurts that grind his insides,

new directions that might have been

map themselves and unfurl into real tastes,

sweet tastes that melt in his mouth with

flavors of cream and meringue.

A divine dance of the almost possibly real,

and then, the stray bite sours and the spittle flies.

He is now a king, pronouncing his weighted

opinions to passing shadows,

he is the weathered man with the street tan,

and the gap filled crocked smile.

In Stephens Green

I have seen

a toungless beggar

be refused a coin

while ducks overfeed

on freely thrown bread

bulging  satisfactorily

with duck hiccups.

While Ugg boots flap

with silly hair

systemically unaware

as i try not to stare

at their orange glowful  glare

thats not from nature.

Rubber tyred taxis

mark a burnt trail

that wears thin

the drivers resolve

and thread depth.

And over borrowed

suits with pink collars

nod in agreement

on a done deal

to steal time.

And time and again

the Brazilian powered eco-cab

peddles, soft drinks

and west of Ireland Geography.

(The Who- Who are you?)

She found herself without her childhood home by her late 30’s.

An unscrupulous solicitor and a shify slight of hand and what once was her birthright ended up sold suddenly for the benefit of the unmentionable practitioner of law.

Mummy told us her parting shot as she stormed from his office full of tears was,

You will have a lifetime of bad luck for what you have done!

He was dead within six months

His karmic comeuppance came double quick time.

87 Ranelagh Road is a three story over basement Victorian and Mummy immersed us all in stories of her past glories in it.

From a young Ronnie Drew and Luke Kelly attending her parties, to her mothers occasional chats with Brendan Behan at the canal.

Mummy made it plain,

You are all upper middle class and money is not its standard bearer! Its breeding. Do you all understand?

And we would all nod in unison as we perceived that imaginative virtual reality long before technology got involved.

Her young life was idyllic with money no object and the world her oyster. Not much was ever denied her.

She attended Tullamaine Preparatory school from the age of 4 until 11.

It is now better known as de Burlington hotel.

She specialised in Horse riding, Piano, French, and the Girls Brigade.

For Secondary school she went to Alexandra College on Earsfort Terrace.

She traveled all around Europe many times and spoke of it as if she were in a Grace Kelly movie.

She drove a Triumph Herald Convertable while working as an English teacher in Madrid from 1958 to 1961.

She spoke Spanish, French and English.

She kept a secret all that time, a secret about washing.

At a very young age she requested a sink be installed in her bedroom in Ranelagh.

Come the early 1960’s she started feeling the social pressure for marriage and along came Daddy.

By that time all she had left as a dowry were 12 small rented terraced houses at St. Margarets Terrace a neatly built by her father cul de sac off Cork Street.

Daddys spending prowess timed its entrance perfectly.

(lipps inc – Funkytown)

Mummy regarded an “accident” as an atomic spreading of germs.

Infection spread wild and wide all around the hinterland would lead her to abandon all hope mentally.

When a perceived leak did actually happen it meant everything electrical or not, had to go through a dousing.

Walls, light-fittings windows, chairs, doors and us.  A dousing of disinfectant was her cure to avoid the end days in her mind.

Our clothing and our bodies  could easily be deemed infected and subject to Pine and or Dettol disinfection.

She felt compelled to confirm our cleanliness by having us wash ourselves from a basin of water and disinfectant. The basin was balanced on the fridge which was right beside the head of Mummys bed.

The same basin was used in the same location for our clothing. We had to work hard with our sales skills to stop her wanting to burn them.

She was our mad mother and we knew no different.

A few weeks in I got the job of innocent confirmer of the non leakage, it was a regular job just after her visits . She regarded me as pure and not capable of telling lies. The Job entailed me walking backwards from the bathroom one slow step at a time and stating loudly if I saw wet or no wet.

STEP, NO WET! STEP NO-WET! STEP NO-WET!

Naturally and not being stupid I never saw wet.

This did not completely stop accidents happening.

We were told to start side shuffling with our backs towards her at all times. It meant a sort of side shuffle skip to me. You kept the item be it food, cigarettes, coffee or clothes up high and away even further from her right  until the last moment. You then swooped in face on to feed her.

We all shuffled around her imagined arc shaped infection perimeter.

I stopped going out on the road to play, my clothes were odd and smelled of disinfectant.

I started to mitch from school.

Life took on a disposable aspect as Nescafe Coffee Jars became coffee cups.

A tip would be to be wary after pouring the hot water into one as the gluey rim can act against savory appreciation.

We Lived in a world located halfway between madness and manners.

The local Convent up the road was Mummys advice, partly due no doubt to her fear of revealing her circumstance to a Church of Ireland equivalent.

And so we walked all of us in turns to the places where food could be begged.

Niamh and I plodded many paths together in search of help.

After 6 weeks our electricity got cut off, they had sent us lots of letters over the months but we only found out about it late.

It meant watching out for the bogeyman whom i knew for a fact lurked about a night.

(pink floyd-another brick in the wall)

He did it the way he did it before, without warning. He was a coward and his nature always worked out the best scenario to suit his non confrontational ethos. He simply disappeared and never came back. We were all sent to a dark place full of deja vu, heartache and tummy rumbles.

Mummy went berserk, she lost all grip on sanity. He had done it to her again and “fucked off” just when everything seemed to be going ok. Daddys departure drove her to accelerate her illness and we would all pay a heavy price  for being left behind to manage her madness.

Starting the day after daddy vamoosed she would become virtually fully bedridden, just rising twice per 24 hours to go to the loo.

The next eight weeks  gouged out scars in each of us as we searched for food, heat and disinfectant to stave off the imagined attacks from germs.

She developed a routine for going to the toilet twice daily, she would heave her legs out over the side of the bed one at a time and pull herself into a sitting position. She was always bursting to go at these times so she sat cross legged to keep herself from having an accident. Her hands during the whole procedure would be tightly clasped and held up high at the side of her head. This was because she regarded from her waist down as a no go area abuzz with invisible nasties.

Germ ripe nasties.

We were to be silent as church mice on pain of death during this whole process, a misplaced squeak would result in severe disinfection and the possible loss of our clothes.

She was all concentration at the edge of the bed cross legged and bouncing. A few bounces usually did the trick to get her upright. Once settled upright she would walk crossed legged and crab like to the living room door and from there, give her dramatic nod to whomever was on toilet duty that day.

Duty involved walking over to her with our arms held high, to roll up her sleeves as far as they would go. You had to take care at the corner around her elbows. The resultant look was of materially based biceps evenly balanced on each of her shoulders.

She would then resume her side shuffle onwards to the bathroom where she would disappear for about an hour or so.

Occasionally the toilet duty would involve bringing more soap into her, this happened on particularly bad days of her ritual. Days when she mixed up some of the equations and had to start the formula again.

She used carbolic soap, always sunlight or lifebouy. One was lifebouy red and the other sunlight yellow. Each bar of soap was cut into five slices. Experience revealed that sunlight soap was slightly softer and easier to cut. Her slice of soap would be left on the sink before her visit commenced.

Soap was the most important product to be gotten into  our household, but in those first 2 months after Daddy abandoned us even soap would become subject to lack of finance. At these times we would squash together the many abandoned slivers left discarded in the bathroom and hope they would do her. This backfired a few times by breaking up halfway through her process.

Hell would be unlocked at those times.

On her return upon the empty fridge her number 6 cigarettes would be left open with one sticking out. Upon this box also lay waiting another box of matches with a match sticking out too.

She had learned quickly that lighting a cigarette was made almost impossible with her red raw ice cold hands. Having both cigarette and match at the ready made the task easier.