20 Apr 2010, 8:00pm
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  • Somewhere it all went wrong. We was robbed – you and me and everyone else

    A last look at our unscarred friendly skies before flights resume

    The recent hoo-hah over the flight ban caused by Eyjafjallajökull makes me wonder. As a kid in the 1970s I remember being told that the future would be a relaxed one of more leisure time, a three or four day work week and the chance to pursue our visions and dreams. The grunt work of keeping the economy going would be done by robots doing our every whim. It all seemed possible then, that the advances in technology would serve us all.

    Somewhere along the way we all took a left when we should have taken a right. Why exactly is it that so many of us are working in crap jobs, in hock to the Man for our mortgages and dreams, and we live for two weeks abroad? Two weeks of escape, versus forty weeks of quiet desperation. Where did we sign on for that, how can we get off? In the past it was possible to raise a family with the income from one man’s wage. Now a typical family needs both adults working to service the mortgage. What happened to the promise of a shorter working week? The current two day weekend was only introduced in the 20th century, a change from the old Sunday off pattern for agricultural workers. Imagine the bleating from the ‘business community’ if we tried to take out another day.

    I feel for all the poor folk stiffed by Fate this last few days. But isn’t this all a wake-up call, is it really worth packing ourselves like sardines to be abused by so-called low cost airlines for 10 days of escapism which doesn’t always turn out all it’s cracked up to be? Travelling is rarely improved by haste.

    What I want is more time, to travel slowly and overland, not have to pack my experience of other worlds into two weeks mandated by the desires of some corporation. I want to taste the food and feel the plains of Europe slowly give way to the mountain ranges, to follow great rivers from the sea to the source. I want to do it over weeks, not hours, and do it well.

    Somewhere in the three decades since that dream of a longer weekend was sold me and now, something went wrong. We collectively bought into the false dream that Stuff would give our world meaning, and joined the wild merry-go-round of buying more and more of less and less.

    Somewhere in these friendly skies unscarred by the vapour trails there is a reminder that it doesn’t have to be this way. We’ve done without air travel for a few days. Nobody has died, and all the inconvenience has been because of the unexpected nature of the shutdown. Air travel is nice, but it isn’t essential.

    Maybe it’s time to charge it for the external costs it imposes on the rest of us. Tax fuel at the same rate as other transportation. Charge it for the loss of the quiet times and the uglification of our soundscape and our skies. Ban all night flights between 11pm and 6am, so that the Many can get some sleep at the expense of the Few that are in such a damned hurry. Air travel has gotten away with too much for too long, externalising its costs in terms of noise and nastiness. But most of all, perhaps we should ask ourselves why it is that we put up with this enervating haste, for so little return in terms of quality of life? Why are we rushing around so much, if it doesn’t seem to make us happier?

    20 Apr 2010, 12:08pm
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  • Dogs of the FTSE 100 – chasing yield

    miscellaneous mutt image

    Not this sort of dog!

    As someone looking for an income from my capital assets, I am going for dividend yield in my shareholdings. There’s no rule that I have to get an income from dividends rather than growth, but realising an income from growth means selling itsy-bitsy numbers of shares.

    The majority of my holdings are in the L&G Global 50:50 fund because that’s one of the three funds I can save AVCs in and I was able to save half last year’s salary tax free in it.

    The principle behind Dogs is to look for stocks that are currently unloved (the share price is low) and have high dividend yields. Select the 10 highest yielding stocks of the FTSE 100 every March, buy an even cash amount of each, then leave for a year and re-evaluate the next year. Sell the ones that aren’t dogs any more, (hopefully at a profit 🙂 ) and purchase the new Dogs, keeping the per-Dog amount around 10%. An analysis of the results of this approach is available here.

    The risks are clear – though companies in the FTSE 100 don’t usually go bust a high yield usually indicates there’s trouble in Paradise. Either the company has fallen out of favour and the price has tanked, or a share split has happened, which means you are looking at the dividend which came from a share that is now represented by 10 shares. In that case you’re not comparing like with like (Cable and Wireless seem to be like this now). You need to screen the candidate Dogs against this sort of thing, and eliminate any which state future dividends will be slashed.

    My ISA is small – I could only fund it with £3600 last year as my cash ISA emergency fund blocked half my ISA allocation. So my opportunity to get into the Dogs was limited. However, in my search for yield, I ended up with two Dogs already – BP and National Grid. I work for another Dog (have just checked and its recent share price appreciation means it is Dog no more), and through the  employee share purchase plans I have more than enough exposure to that Dog.

    There’s something disturbing about inadvertently setting up a Dog fund in my quest for yield. Having read this Money Observer article on the Dogs strategy, this year I may look for Dogs with intent. After all, it seems to align with my values, so I will use my ISA allocation to load up with the remaining 7 Dogs next Feb/March.

     
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