look at something that those that are just beginning to work
at their chosen career do not, and will not, examine deeply.
When they are told by their career advisors, or by those
that are close to them in life; think and plan about your
pension, they all, to a man and woman, gaze up into the
heavens as if their day had just been spoiled.
only 20 or 30 years old, and have at least another 30 years
to go before retiring: pensions?
It is a
million miles away, they think.
current economic state of affairs has taught everyone
anything at all, it is that pensions do matter and one has
to plan for it ahead of time. More than anything else, it
has also become a barometer of the state of the economy.
pension plan in question was originally intended for
executives but Congress (Parliament) amended the Internal
Revenue Code by adding section 401(k). And this is the name
that it is today known by. This plan became popular with
workers at all levels providing as it did loans and also
offering the employer's stock as an investment choice. In
other words, together with the matching funds from the
employer, your money, as an investment, yo-yoed with the
price of shares of banks, automobile manufactures and other
401-K deposits took a hit, to put it mildly and many lost
most of their savings over one year as those share prices
plummeted. If you were put to it, you could buy a share
from Ford, the automotive giant, for just about anything, it
seemed. Salt was added to wounds as employers sent out
statements every three months, as they were mandated to do
so by law. Your standing was shown in black and white to
you. And the picture was invariably grim: all the figures
were in the red, with negative income following the price of
the shares into which your money had been invested. All
shares were down and the income from them in the doldrums.
an example: A person I talked to told me of the depressing
figures she got used to seeing every three months. Just
three months ago, she said, her statement read that the
money she had accumulated over the last four years had
dwindled and that the final figure showed a decline of 36pc
over the previous year's total. In real terms, in cold, hard
cash; it meant that she had lost all of 26,000 dollars.
she added, she had received the latest statement a week ago,
expecting more gloomy figures. Instead, she was happy to see
that her investments had mellowed somewhat and that they
were now showing figures in the positive territory. Her
investments were up by 11.8pc, in positive territory for a
change. The share price of Ford, for instance, went up as of
the beginning of this week, by 200pc.
was, as her statement, positively glowing.
what does all this mean, for both her and the economy as a
whole? Was there a turn around on the offing, or was this
just a one time bleep?
service industry was the best place to fathom if there had
been a change with any kind of meaning. If customers were
coming back for an evening outing, then one could say that
the hesitation was less pronounced and the uncertainty was
Generally speaking, there was an obvious sigh of relief at
many of the Ethiopian restaurants. True, there was not a
general rush, but there are not as many empty tables as one
used to see a few weeks back. Ethiopian clientele, many of
them taxi drivers, were not as obvious as they used to be. I
was told as an aside that three meals a day were out of the
question these days. A large breakfast, as Ethiopian as they
come, of course; and a late dinner were now the order of the
aspect of the hacker's day to day attempt to make a living
is becoming promising. It is that the city might in the very
near future look into doing something about the meters in
the cabs. There was a very believable Ethiopian on radio
the other day speaking for all other drivers of the city who
made an appeal to the city fathers. Without actually asking
for the return of the old zoning system - impossible, it is
reliably felt - he petitioned for an amendment to the meter
reading, which he believed was making it difficult for
drivers to make a decent living. There seems to be a general
agreement that something has to be done, and will be done by
the mayor of the city. The mayor is reminded every so often
that many Ethiopians were instrumental in getting him
surprised the owners of the restaurant establishments was
that there seemed to be more Americans coming in to dine.
And it seemed more were coming in for dinner (after seven in
the evening) than before, I was told. A further bonus was
that many were repeat customers.
people taking advantage of the situation to make decisions
that will affect their future?
the answer to that.
are many bank-owned houses on the market that are going very
cheaply. Younger Ethiopians, some setting up a family with a
suitable income are buying houses in the outlying districts
of the metropolitan city (a huge area) with money from two
homes are selling at more than half the price they were
being offered at just a year ago. The deposits can be
sometimes a little heavy, but the monthly payments more than
manageable for an aspiring couple. For Addis Abeba, a house
costing three million birr is a pittance (the last time I
looked, that is). For that kind of money, the equivalent in
American dollars can buy a castle. And the electricity will
not go out, either.
times are not yet here. But there are signs that things have
bottomed out, as the economists are wont to say. The end of
this year should see the end of the straights the world
economy has experienced.
only hope that remains is that we will all have learned from
this particular near calamity and hoard for the next one.