Too bright to look at? 

Our team were outside the office, earlier today, playing with their pinhole camera whilst the eclipse was in full swing.  I stood there with them, in a light that was feeble, watery and yellow, as if we were observing the last few rays from a dying sun.  No such dismal thoughts were evident from the majority of those out there, waving their sheets of paper, or staring rather smugly upwards through their special, retina-protecting sunglasses. 

I say 'smugly', because very few people were the proud possessors of protective eye-gear, mainly because the things were sold out in the shops a long time back.  It was frustrating to listen to the BBC news presenters repeatedly advise viewers not to look directly at the sun, unless they had a special pair of glasses - and then tell us that we'd be lucky if we could lay our hands on a pair.

So, the eclipse is that wonderful event that comes around very rarely, but which, in practice, is simply too dangerous to enjoy in practice.  It almost seems irresponsible for the Beeb to make such a big deal of it, at the time of the event.

A bit of advance notice would have been helpful, I thought to myself.  If, a year ago, some BBC presenter had told me that this really cool and rare event was going to be happening, and I'd need to do some advance planning in order to be ready for it, then perhaps I would have stood a chance of being able to enjoy the thing safely.  Or perhaps my usual complacency would have subverted any such ambition.

Which, when you think about it, is just like retirement planning.  We know it's going to happen one day.  We watch those around us getting older, and giving up work, voluntarily or perhaps less easily.  It's like being on a long, slow-running conveyor-belt - we do actually have plenty of time to think about what happens when we drop off the end, and therefore have opportunity to plan accordingly.

Sometimes, along the way, we experience some phenomena that are anything but gradual.  They might happen quite suddenly, overnight.  In relative terms, the almost catastrophic collapse of DB pension schemes is such a phenomenon.  One might argue that the Pensions Reforms, which bite on the 6th April, are another example - although much of the content of those reforms has been observable, in its gestation, whilst we all trundled along our own respective conveyor-belts.

Indeed, there is nothing new under the eclipse of the sun.  Retirement planning continues to be about planning.  For retirement.  I can no more arrive unprepared at the day of exit from the workplace, with optimistic expectations, as I can hope to view the eclipse through unprotected eyeballs.  But we still tend to do this.  Why is that?

 

Kevin Moss, 20/03/2015