Is it worth having a pension?

In his latest column, Gerald Ratner shares his thoughts on his career and how his perspective changed on pensions over time.

The Daily Mash: ‘Cheap gold is a contradiction in terms’ – and for Ratners, it was also a business plan.

The company was destroyed when, as CEO, I admitted its wares were total crap. Yet the name still survives today as a term of contempt for nasty, shiny jewellery worn by wankers. Something to be proud of Gerald.

Well, I have had worse. I was in a restaurant once, and a woman flung a tiramisu in my face! I didn’t mind because I was going to order one anyway for my desert.

These are the sort of things you have to put up with if you’ve committed the worse corporate mistake of all time – as voted for by The Sun.

People only know me for that one mistake, which is a bit unfair, because I have made many mistakes throughout my career.

One example is the time I was fired by the Chairman I had hired! But, I discovered that at the age of 43, I had a pension pot of £1.8m. This was because my annual salary was £850,000.

When I visited my accountant in 1992, I asked him how I should invest it until my retirement. He showed me a little scrap of paper, revealing to me all the blue-chip companies offering around 15% guaranteed interest per annum, as long as I didn’t touch it for 10 years.

If I had taken his advice, my £1.8m would have been worth £8.4m by 2002. However, I didn’t do this. I liked the excitement of the stock market!

After all, with the exception of 1987, it had gone up every year for the last 30 years.

So, that’s what I did, and over the next few years, it halved! In fact, by the time George Osborne said that people can take it all out and buy a Lamborghini, there wasn’t enough left in there to buy one.

However, losing my pension was the best thing that ever happened.

If I could have afforded to retire, I would have bought a Jag and a pink jumper, and spent the rest of my life playing golf and listening to bad jokes from retired BA pilots.

Instead, as I had to work, I joined the speaker’s circuit and I love it.

I even did one for The Daily Mirror! Yes, the paper that cost me half a billion pounds. So, it was nice getting some of my dosh back from them – now that joke only cost me £499,995,000.

During lockdown, as I haven’t been able to do live speeches, I have written a book, offered a lot of mentoring, and I have been involved in about 20 podcasts. And, of course, I have been writing these columns for Business Leader.

Most importantly, I have been using my brain. There is so much talk of physical exercise, but the most important thing to exercise is your brain. Using it makes you just as happy as doing a 25-mile cycle ride. I should know as I do both every day!