Not Another Wretched Pin-Code To Remember!
19 September, 2010
The problem of having money! Not my problem, but my girl friend Sally's problem. We had lunch at the Ivy on Friday (she was paying) and I could tell she was worrying about something when we had to stand outside on the pavement for ten minutes while she finished another cigarette. She has those electronic jobbies, of course, but for a hardened chain-smoker like her they only go so far.
Nobody quite knows where Sally got her money from. She was married once, to a businessman who later became quite wealthy, but only after they had split. There's vague talk of family trusts, and I do know that she had a very successful Norwegian father in the shipping business. At all events, Sally has houses all over the place, and lots of investments in equities and funds of various types. She won't say how much exactly, and it's a favourite guessing game among her friends. Best estimates are about thirty million dollars altogether. For some reason she won't use professional advisers, so she spends hours every morning poring over the Wall Street Journal, and glued to the Internet. Anyway, the bit that really causes her grief is the cash: Sally has a naive belief (my opinion, but what would I know) in the green stuff, and we do know that she usually has around two million dollars in cash. Not in bills, although her wallet is always bulging, and she has safes in every house she lives in. No, we are talking bank accounts.
Our bottoms had scarcely touched the chairs when she started, and the menus lay untouched for a good ten minutes.
"Those Irish," she complained, "They're suspending the guarantees at the end of the month. I've got to move two hundred somewhere else. Bloody nightmare."
While the debt crisis certainly wasn't helpful for investors in general, and most stock exchanges took a plunge, the silver lining was that governments stepped in all over the place to guarantee bank deposits, so that people like Sally suddenly had a lot more options as to where to put their money. For a while, in 2008 and 2009, when you met Sally, she would tell you excitedly that this or that obscure island where Mick Jagger or some such A-list celeb had a house had given a guarantee for USD100,000 and she had found three local branches of international banks.
But even my arithmetic tells me that if you have two million dollars in cash then you need twenty separate bank accounts in different banks, and if you have ever tried to open a bank account with a new bank then you'll know just how much bureaucratic garbage you have to wade through. Plus Sally will only use banks with electronic banking, so that she can count her chickens every morning, I suppose, and that means passwords, access codes, pin codes, card-readers, you name it. Sally's workdesk is a picture, littered with innumerable little machines and lists of numbers that are supposed to be kept secret.
So you can see why the Irish decision (to suspend guarantees the government offered in 2008 for only two years) causes a big headache. Plus Irish interest rates are quite high, comparatively speaking, so it won't be easy for Sally to find alternatives, and it will mean another mound of paperwork and more 'secret' pin codes which are readily available to her cleaning lady.
"And it all has to be done in the morning," moaned Sally, draining her second Kir Royale and sucking on her electronic ciggy. "After lunch I'm past it."
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