Updated 03 December 2020
In which a youthful Gentleman of Casual Bearing has an Unsettling Encounter with an irascible Festive Spirit, which in its wisdom Enlightens the young fellow with Useful and practical Pension Advice. Story by Nick Green.
Upon a chill and darkling Christmas Eve, a young clerk named Evan Scrooge sat in the kitchen of his rented flat, eating a solitary bowl of hot Frosties and playing Candy Crush. Of a sudden, heavy knocking rattled the front door in its frame. Evan swore as he lost a life.
‘Who is it?’
Into the flat came an aged man in a tattered nightshirt. He hadn’t bothered opening the door. The apparition floated to the kitchen table and pointed a long, bony finger.
‘Hey…’ Evan stared at the old man, through whom he could see the refrigerator. ‘How did you… I mean, how do you know my name?’
‘Because I am you,’ rasped the spectre. ‘I am the Ghost of your future self.’
‘Eugh. I really let myself go,’ muttered Evan.
‘Nothing.’ Evan took deep breaths. ‘Er, why do you haunt me, spirit? I mean, um, Evan?’
‘That’s Mister Scrooge to you, young whippersnapper,’ growled the Ghost. ‘I have come to warn you. So that you may escape my fate.’
Evan clutched his head of hair. ‘Aren’t there treatments I can buy?’
‘Not that! I’m talking about your pension!’
‘Pension?’ Evan Scrooge burst out laughing. ‘I’m twenty-five. I’ve hardly started my career.’
‘Exactly!’ bellowed the elderly phantom. ‘You work. You have a workplace pension. And what do you do with it? You pay in just the minimum contributions! Scroooge! Scroooooooooge!’
‘Stop saying that.’ Evan mopped his brow. ‘Of course I’d like to pay in more. But get real! My salary is pants, I can’t get on the property ladder and I’m trying to run a car. Do I look rich to you?’
‘Yes!’ the apparition retorted. ‘You are rich because you are young. You have time! Time is money!’
‘Huh. Now you sound like a Scrooge.’
‘But it’s true.’ The Ghost covered his face with withered hands. ‘Time is money. When I was your age, I never understood. And now look at me. Have you not heard of compound interest?’
Evan shrugged. ‘I might have one of their early albums.’
‘Aaaaaaaaaaaaaggggghhhh!’ The Ghost uttered a terrifying cry. ‘Compound interest on investments, you impertinent wastrel. I only started saving when I was 45 and already losing my hair. You’ve got 20 years’ head start on me. If you get going now, you could be wearing silk pyjamas instead of this ragged old Dickensian nightshirt.’
‘I d-don’t understand,’ Evan trembled.
‘Interest earns interest,’ the Ghost explained. ‘The money earned on the money you invest will itself make money!’
‘But I’ve got hardly any money to invest!’ Evan protested.
‘Doesn’t matter,’ said the spook. ‘The biggest factor isn’t how much you put in. It’s how long you do it for. Listen: if you invest just half as much in your pension each year as I did, then by the time you’re my age, you could have twice as much in your fund! Or even more! Because even though we would have invested the same amounts, you’d have forty years’ worth of interest instead of twenty. Now do you understand?’
Evan’s jaw dropped wide open. ‘Is that true?’
‘More or less. Actual fund growth depends on interest rates and other factors. Some investments may go down as well as up. Always read the small print,’ muttered the Ghost. ‘And don’t take my word for it. Talk to a regulated financial adviser. You can find one on unbiased.co.uk.’
Evan clasped his iPad to his chest in delight. ‘I’ll go and search for one right away. Bless you, spirit of Future Me! Oh, and will they also help with, er…?’
‘No. You’ll still go bald,’ said the Ghost.
‘Oh well. A very Merry Christmas anyway!’ cried Evan Scrooge.
And a very Merry Christmas to all our readers.
Nick Green is communications manager at Unbiased, the UK's favourite place to find advice you can trust. He has been writing professionally on finance, business and many other topics for over 15 years (and he also writes novels).