The Game of Life

It’s never too early to start planning for what’s coming - say banks and insurance companies

Opinion | Christian Cummins | November 2008

It all started because I wanted to buy a flight home at Christmas without having to ask my dad to book it on his credit card. He always tries to redirect me to chicken airways flying from a distant European capital. Because it is ‘cheaper,’ he says. So is sleeping in a tent, I say. That sort of thing causes bad blood at Christmas, you know.

I needed true financial independence. So, I went to the bank.

"I want to order a credit card. I’ve never had one, you see."

The dark-haired lady at the desk gave me a welcoming, motherly smile, asked me to take a seat and fixed me with unblinking eyes:

"Mr. Cummins! I’m very pleased to see you. Have you given thought to your pension?"

"Look, I still get pimples the night before parties. I collect World Cup football stickers. I really don’t think..."

"It is never too early to think about your pension, Mr. Cummins. What plans have you made?"

"I was thinking of dribbling a lot, complaining about the price of everything and..."

"A pension is nothing to joke about, Mr. Cummins."

I felt chastened. So we played a little game. I had to guess how desperately poor I would be at the age of 65 if I didn’t take drastic action now. Now, I have a minimalist, romantic vision of old age so I calculated what I would need for a wholesome diet of cheap red wine, onions, garlic and olive oil, doubled the figure to insure against explosions in olive prices, added the cost of a few DVD box-sets and named my price.

"I’m afraid it would be less, Mr. Cummins."

"Oh, I see. I’ll have to use sunflower oil."


"Oh, nothing."

"We’d better look at where you can put money aside, had we not Mr. Cummins?"

"What are your plans for life?" she asked

"What? I mean pardon?"

"What do you want to do with your life, Mr. Cummins?"

"Um, I just came for a credit card."

"You know: Do you want to get married? Have kids? Build a house?"

"Um. Yeah. Perhaps."


She drew a chart. It was a diagonal line from me to a drawing of the sun. The sun was marked ‘pension.’

"When? "She repeated, more urgently this time.


My phone rang

"Hi honey, when are you coming home?"

"Hi honey, when are we going to get married?


"I have to put it on a chart. At the bank."


"And kids? Just for my life chart."

She hung up.

"I dunno." I told the nice lady at the bank.

"Well, let’s move on to something else." she suggested.

"How will you finance yourself if you have an accident that prevents you from working, Mr. Cummins?"

"Was?" The traffic outside seemed suddenly loud.

"Or an illness that means you can no longer work?"

"Bitte?" I could suddenly feel the free radicals attacking me.

"I think an insurance would be wise, Mr Cummins."

"Yeah… Um… Good idea. Right. Um..."

"And how much do you think you will be worth in the case of a fatal accident?"

"Where are you going Mr Cummins? Wait! Wait..."

Other articles from this issue