In Praise of Donald and Hillary

It’s the eve of the American election and never in history have two more disdained, disliked and dishonourable candidates been the choice that America has to make. Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again” is ironic in that really, when it comes to the Commander in Chief, in having to vote for either of these two you’re starting at Ground Zero. You can “Make America Great” by ensuring that it’s starting at the bottom in terms of Presidents. Whichever way it goes, it’s not going to be a happy outcome, with almost half the people in disgust at their fellow countrymen for voting for the alternative. It’s America’s own version of the Brexit referendum.

I like to tell myself I’m a passive investor, but I do keep half an eye on things that I believe might affect my portfolio. Back at the start of this year I decided it was time to sell up on both my American and European index funds on the basis that there was just too much uncertainty ahead in both markets. I’m of the firm belief these days that politics is an increasing sideshow to a rampant capitalism that just bullies its way on with things, ignoring political boundaries and exploiting the rule of (tax) law at every opportunity. To this end, I switched out of the index funds and into Global Dividend funds, telling myself that the vast majority of the big players in these investments were either American or European capitalist behemoths anyway. I’d still be heavily invested in both the European and American markets, just more biased into the bigger corporate players within them. Through these investments I have my money where my mouth is, except my mouth is usually mouthing off scornfully about how Google, Amazon, Starbucks and the rest are swerving their tax paying duty to society while governments seem powerless to stop them. Yes, I admit, even when it comes to me, money talks and bullshit walks (to quote the legendary Bobbi Fleckman), and it would be more accurate to state that I’m putting my money where my mouth isn’t.

One thing I will say about both Trump and Hillary is that they’re NOT really good adverts for retirement, but they’re both great adverts for pensioners. Both are nearing seventy and carry themselves as if they were forty years younger. They’re a fantastic poster boy and girl for the notion that an exciting and stimulating job keeps you energised, intellectually sharp (well….) and physically ahead of many, if not most of your peers. After my experience of “retirement” it was this stimulation that I missed most from work. The demand to perform to the best of your ability in order to meet challenges and opportunities that are externally imposed as opposed to internally invented are very different things. Both Donald and Hillary must be under tonnes of pressure and stress but it seems to me that, on the whole, they’re both loving the challenge. When people talk about the stress of the workplace there’s always a negative aspect to the debate, but there’s a positive side to it too. It was that side that I missed in my year out.

I watch both candidates performing and find myself divided between hoping that I’m still as engaged and switched on as I approach seventy, and hoping that I’ve actually settled myself better to the prospect of old age than these two! I heard that Hillary’s schedule yesterday was something like starting at seven in the morning campaigning in Florida before flying to a rally in Massachusetts, then onto another one in New Hampshire before heading down to Pennsylvania where she’d attend a Bruce Springsteen concert before heading to another midnight rally in some other state! I mean, really, wouldn’t she have preferred a night in with a cup of tea and a good book? Donald had a similar itinerary. It exhausted me just listening to it and hats off to both of them for keeping it up.

When we wake up tomorrow, one of these pensioners is going to be leader of the free world. I’ll be waking up and possibly reflecting on my little life and what choices I have ahead of me when I reach pensionable age. Both Hillary and Donald are demonstrating that retirement isn’t necessarily the best choice for your later years and I tip my hat to both of them for (if nothing else!) showing a positive side to pensionable age that isn’t often on display in our culture.