Greek pensions and government promises

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There is a famous saying that goes, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Guarantees are not always going to be fulfilled even when good intentions back the promises. So even though you will most certainly be taxed, the benefits promised to be seen in return may never come to fruition.

If people should learn anything from the Greek debt crisis, it is that it is dangerous to buy into government promises. The Greek government guaranteed pensions for people but is unable to pay them out without taking on even more debt. The Greek government under the control of Syriza has rejected austerity measures that could negatively affect the pensions and other welfare benefits, so loans appear to be unlikely to be forthcoming.

This means that the pensions are effectively gone without some sort of monetary magic. And using that magic would render the value of the pension an illusion. The Greeks will not get what they were promised.

Many people believe that promises made by the government that are codified into law represent guarantees. They think that because there is a law, the promise must be fulfilled. After all, that’s the way laws are supposed to work, right?

But what if the government promises something that it cannot come through on? What if it is virtually impossible? What if, for the sake of argument, they promise you a unicorn if you pay them a certain amount of money over some period of time? Surely they cannot produce a unicorn for you—but they must! Now think about a businessman who promised you a unicorn in exchange for money. When he could not produce the unicorn, you would call him a fraud. You would want your money back. But what happens if you cannot find him or when you do find him you learn that he lost all of your money and has nothing of value that could make restitution?

You would have lost out not only on the unicorn but also on the money you spent.

Yes, the Greeks were foolish to believe that such a system could work (and so are Americans who trust the Social Security system), but it is difficult not to feel badly for them. They were made to believe that a pension would be waiting for them when they retired, providing them a good quality of life in their old age. I’m sure many did not think to save a considerable amount of money on their own. Even though the private sector employees can say that it was “my money” that was taken and placed in the pension plan, their money is simply gone.

You cannot recover your rightful property after it is destroyed.

Most of us are stuck having our money being taken by the government so it can be returned somehow in some delayed benefit. It is imperative that you prepare independently for your own financial future because promises that cannot be kept will not be kept.