By Nicholas Anderson, Editor
First published in Swedish in Forum för ekonomi och teknik, July 2017 – www.forummag.fi
As I have always said that there are 3 great investments any person can make in their lifetime, but actually there are 4! I did not realize this before being writing this column!
The 3 best investments that I have always spoken about are getting a good education, starting your own company and buying your own home.
The 4th one that has eluded me all these years is having children! I have 2 of them and 5 grandchildren. I can see that they are a great investment now.
Like the first 3 investments, the financial rewards of having children normally outweigh the financial commitments because they will probably look after you when you are old and decrepit! There is also the added benefit of enjoying their company during your lifetime, and they will inherit your property if you are a generous person, which means that you will be motivated to save a little more rather than wasting it all on clothes, booze, sex and gambling!
The above may sound rather scary and hard-hearted but using money wisely, working hard, and continuous learning will normally result in a life that is much more enjoyable than continuous consumption and self-indulgence.
Finland happens to face major challenges today. There are just not enough people working. Too many have selected early retirement at the age of 58 and 60 years, with pensions that are not paid for, with a labor market that is too rigid, and the pension system that is too expensive. We cannot afford to have the same level of basic services and pensions that a lot of older people have enjoyed in the past.
Corrections are necessary, but listening to the present government you would think that they are totally nuts. They seem to be clueless about imposing the following necessary reforms:
- We need many more babies if increasing immigration is impossible or a no-go area. Young people should be encouraged to have children. It is an easy and cheap solution by increasing the amount of money paid to young people who otherwise could not afford them. The current child allowance is not the answer because it is paid for over 17 years for each child and does not take into account the parent’s income and investments over this period. Every child her gets free education and healthcare, and that is fine, but we need to stop paying child allowances to those who do not need it and, but invest that cash in meaningful support for bigger families where and when it is needed.
- We need to get Mum more quickly back in to the labor market, and this should be done by shortening the support period, with more money, to 18 months, broken down into three 6 month periods, for instance. Mum gets to keep the first 6 months, then Dad has the following 6 months. They can toss a coin for the remainder or even share the last 6-month period 50%/50%. Dad should carry an equal share of responsibilities, and ensure that Mum can really see her career develop like his. The Swedes confirm that this is viable for Dads – they proudly call it “Papa ledig”.If Mum wants to stay at home for longer than 12 months then she should not expect to get financial support from taxpayers. If a couple or their parents have really big incomes or a large investment portfolios they do not need taxpayer support for children – so they should be excluded from this support. Yes – you saw that I mentioned grandparents. Why should they be allowed to walk away from supporting their children if they are seriously wealthy?
- All of the other public support for small children, for kindergartens or for home-care under the watchful eye of a professional child carer (the cost of which can be shared with a neighbor or friend) should remain in place for children younger than 3-years. People with big incomes or large investment holdings do not need taxpayers’ money – so they should be excluded. Grandparents are included here too in the calculations – disappearing off to Portugal is no excuse!
- I also recommend that women and men should be mixed in all publicly quoted stock exchange companies with the 40%/60% rule, meaning that men and women can hold positions that result in no less than 40% men or women and no more than 60% men or women. Many more women need to be seen at the top of companies more often, and not the same ones who repeatedly spread themselves thinly with existing boards.
The present Finnish government has not made any big changes to the system of encouraging families to grow. The Conservatives, the Center Party and the True Finns (or the Mutineers now) seem to think that women are for breeding and staying at home with dulled career prospects. It is no wonder that thinking people see politicians as outdated, old-fashioned religious hypocrites. Under the present system, having children is punitive and costly for those starting careers without rich parents. This is especially true for ordinary mums.