“My mum used to tell me to take out a pension,” says Anne, “and I used to laugh at her. But now I’ve started to panic I’ve left it too late.”
“Rebecca?” says Emma. “Should Anne be concerned?”
Pensions, I think quickly. Come on, what do I know about pensions?
“Well,” I say. “Of course, the earlier you start saving, the more you’ll accumulate. But that’s no reason to panic, Anne. The good thing is, you’re thinking about it now.”
“How old are you exactly, Anne?” says Emma.
“I’m thirty,” says Anne. “Thirty last month.”
Yes! Thank you, God!
“Ah, well,” I say knowledgeably. “A typical woman of thirty, who invested £100 a month, would receive an income of £9,000 on retirement at sixty. That’s assuming 7 percent growth.”
Bingo. Rory and Emma look so impressed. OK, quick, what else?
“But you should also look for flexibility, Anne,” I continue. “Choose a scheme which allows you to take a ‘holiday’ from payments, because you never know when you might need it.”
“That’s true,” says Anne thoughtfully. “I’d like to take a year off sometime and travel a bit.”
“Well, there you are!” I say triumphantly. “If you do that, you’ll want to be able to pause your pension payments. In fact, what I would do is—”
“Thanks, Rebecca,” chimes in Emma. “Wise advice there! Now we’re going to go briefly to Davina for news and weather. .”
I’m rather disappointed at being interrupted. There were so many more things I could have said to Anne. All the points I made in my pensions article are popping up in my head — and now that there’s a real person involved, they all suddenly seem a lot more interesting. In fact, the whole subject seems more interesting today. It’s as though all this stuff has suddenly got a point.
Believe it or not, I’m really enjoying the questions on this phone-in. I know about mortgages and I know about life insurance and I know about unit trusts. I know so much more than I ever realized! A few minutes ago, Kenneth from St. Austell asked what the annual contribution limit for an ISA is — and the figure £5,000 just jumped right into my head. It’s as if some bit of my mind has been storing every single bit of information I’ve ever written — and now, when I need it, it’s all there.
“And after the break,” Emma’s saying, “since so many of you are ringing in, we’ll be coming back to this phone-in: ‘Managing Your Money.’ ”
“Lots of people with money problems out there,” chimes in Rory.
“Absolutely,” says Emma. “And we want to help. So whatever your query, however big or small, please call in for Rebecca Bloomwood’s advice, on 0333 4567.” She freezes for a moment, smiling at the camera, then relaxes back in her chair as the light goes off. “Well, this is going very well!” she says brightly, as a makeup girl hurries up and touches up her face with powder. “Isn’t it, Zelda?”
“Fantastic!” says Zelda, appearing out of nowhere. “The lines haven’t been this busy since we did ‘I’d Like to Meet a Spice Girl.’ ” She looks curiously at me. “Have you ever done a course in television presenting, Rebecca?”
“No,” I say honestly. “I haven’t. But. . I’ve watched a lot of telly.”
Zelda roars with laughter. “Good answer! OK, folks, we’re back in thirty.”
Emma smiles at me and consults a piece of paper in front of her, and Rory leans back and examines his nails.
I’ve never felt so completely and utterly happy. Never. Not even that time I found a Vivienne Westwood bustier for £60 in the Harvey Nichols sale. (I wonder where that is, actually. I must get round to wearing it sometime.) This beats everything. Life is perfect.
I lean back, full of contentment, and am idly looking around the studio when an oddly familiar figure catches my eye. I peer harder, and my skin starts to prickle in horror. There’s a man standing in the gloom of the studio — and honestly, I must be hallucinating or something, because he looks exactly like—
“And. . welcome back,” says Rory, and my attention snaps back to the set. “This morning’s phone-in is on financial problems, big and small. Our guest expert is Rebecca Bloomwood and our next caller is Fran from Shrewsbury. Fran?”
“Yes,” says Fran. “Hi. Hi, Rebecca.”
“Hi there, Fran,” I say, smiling warmly. “And what seems to be the trouble?”