Gambling across borders

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Posts Tagged ‘Child Trust Fund

Babies and risk management

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As citizens we are expected to exercise personal responsibility rather than scrounge off the tax payer and this means seizing opportunities to find work, to become homeowners, to make money… Being responsible means taking and managing risks.

Our Gambling in Europe project puts great value in finding ways to communicate ideas about gambling and other forms of risk-taking to a wider audience. Recently we asked several anthropologists to share their personal stories about different forms of risk management. Our colleague spoke of her experience of being a young Mum and managing risk in investing to her baby daughter’s future.

risk-profiling

When I had my first child I was one of the last to receive a cheque for £250 from the state to invest in Child Trust Fund. When my cheque arrived it was accompanied by a booklet explaining the different types of trust fund using a colourful flow chart that began by asking whether or not I was risk averse. If I was, then I could opt for a savings account with a modest level of interest. If I wasn’t, I could choose an account based on shares which would probably end up as a larger amount, although this wasn’t guaranteed: the value of shares goes both up and down so my daughter could end up with less than she would with a savings account. In the worst case, the investment could be lost altogether.

While none of this was particularly new, the fact that it all related to the newborn in my arms whose future seemed so bare and precious made the choice all the weightier: should I opt for the safer of the two options or that which was likelier to be more profitable. The precariousness of my work and finances at the time didn’t make me feel terribly bullish. For the same reason, I figured my daughter would need as much money for her future as I could cobble together.

risk profiles

customer risk profiling at banks

For those in a less precarious state of affairs, the trust fund cheque would have been processed as a shares-option without too much angst: the risk involved would have been cushioned by other capital and relative certainties. In contrast, the wavering I experienced marked a far wider cultural shift – remarked upon by anthropologists – from a British identity rooted in values of prudence, to a form of citizenship in which risk taking is actively encouraged in house and share markets, in entrepreneurship and in which uncertainty is the defining feature of work, the economy, the environment, and so on. As citizens we are expected to exercise personal responsibility rather than scrounge off the tax payer and this means seizing opportunities to find work, to become homeowners, to make money… opportunities in which risk is inherent. For those for whom this risk isn’t mitigated by established wealth that can cushion the odd loss, being a responsible citizen by taking opportunities – aka risks – can be daunting if even possible in the first place. Being responsible means taking and managing risks. It’s the big contradiction of our day. I decided the most responsible thing I could do for my daughter was to take a gamble on the stock market in the hope doing so would provide her with that much more for her future. A month later, as news of Lehman’s crash broke as I was feeding her one cold night in our scantily furnished Peckham flat, I felt all too aware of just how blind these financial ‘decisions’ can be.

Written by Andrea Pisac

July 20, 2013 at 10:27 am