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Opinion: Robin Hood Has Left The Forest

Posted August 27, 2012 by Conor Ross-Magahy in Ramp Specials
Trading Places

It is the natural inclination of everyone to want to retire with a safety net filled with cash. Personal choice after that allows us to act upon this desire. Most commonly people opt for a pension plan, of which there are many.

This is not an advice piece on pensions, though.

The pensions most people get are tied to a system that invests regular deposits, over thirty to forty years, to build up a nest egg the pension holder can retire on. It is simple in concept. You are made aware upon starting the pension that your investment may go down as well as up. This language is shaped in soft wording which confirms that the pension holder is in the main taking a gamble on their long-term investment working out positively. Most pension investments are then wrapped up in technical terminology that’s only deciphered on becoming a qualified financial advisor, but in layman’s terms means you are investing your retirement nest egg in the stock market.

We all know that the stock exchange is a beast subject to the mood of the market. It can be in a good mood one day, a bad mood another day, a depressed mood another and on a high the next. Historically proven, it leads to untold wealth creation and equal and opposite wealth loss. Knowing that pensions are important to the pension holder and the market is subject to mood swings can lead to a bumpy ride for the individual seeking a comfortable retirement. Alas, the pension holder is tied in and so has no choice but to keep their seat belt on and hope the car that they are a passenger in does not crash.

So, who works on the market? Traders who, for the most part, are men and women under the age of thirty-five or thereabouts. It is hard to imagine the amount of stress and pressure on them individually; it is no wonder they experience early burnout. Most either retire or move on to another career by the age of forty. Within this mass of humanity there are group mood swings which can affect the how the market reacts, called market sentiment. Market sentiment is something to be feared, according to those who lost out in the last crash in 2008. Market sentiment is an emotion. Emotions have no place in market decisions.

Nowadays it’s computers deciding if buying, selling or hedging is the order of the moment.

Here enters the algorithm. As a result of the losses experienced by the biggest investors, the stock market has quietly moved away from human involvement in decision-making. Particularly in the USA, nowadays it is computers deciding if buying, selling or hedging is the order of the moment. The vast bulk of decisions made today effecting the pension owner’s investment are decided by algorithms. In this post-2008 world that we inhabit, we often find the much hated trader is now binary based and completely devoid of humanity. This has led to a new term to send a shiver up the heart strings – ‘flash crashes’.

Flash crashes are giant dips or troughs in the industrial averages driven specifically by these emotionally-void binary algorithms. With human market sentiment now removed from the trade, the algorithms cannot tell when to stop selling and then, if they all try to sell at the same time…

This is scary and this is the world we live in now. It is a world where there are 150,000 trades per second. The regulators cannot regulate at that speed.

So what’s the solution?

Let’s slow them down by making them think about each trade.

Have you heard of the Robin Hood Tax? Known also as the Transaction Tax, it is an advocated tax which will be levied on every trade in the stock exchange. The rate talked about is 0.1% of every trade. 0.1% of 150,000 trades per second adds up very quickly.

The idea is to build a cash pile large enough to be able to cover the cost when the next crash happens. This way the taxpayer won’t have to stump up the cash to bail the market out again, forcing the gamblers to pay for the mess they will inevitably make.

Europe has already started this process. Nine countries have committed to working out how to implement this tax. In France, on August 1st, the Socialist President Francois Hollande implemented the Robin Hood tax of 0.2% on stocks with company share values of more than one billion euro, a good start.

Ireland has said no to this tax because the UK says no. The UK fear that investors will move to markets that do not have the tax. Our Government’s fear is that investors will move to the UK because they don’t have the tax.

Pension holders, if they fully understood the security that the Robin Hood Tax offered investors, would not thank the governments that say no because it is a tax that helps secure their investment in the stock exchange. Is making the gamble for a secure retirement that bit less stressful really such a bad thing?

About the Author

Conor Ross-Magahy

  • http://twitter.com/SerialBlogamist Catherine C

    I…..actually understood all of that! :o

    Excellent piece, Conor *applauds*

    • parshknackler

      I’m hoping this is not the 2nd reply i am leaving :-/ hah, im technically deficient if it is, no comebacks! Thank you for the applause and for the lovely comment. I especially like the applause :)

  • Fred Anderson

    You can set rules to stop the computers from trading.

    Putting ANOTHER tax on everyone, including you & me, isn’t right.
    hasn’t the 99% been slammed enough?

    and now you want to TAX our investments, INCLUDING our retirement funds?

    No way.

    • disqus_9s8Ut4lW5f

      Thank you for your opinion, i appreciate it :) You may be missing the point, this is a tax that will stop us tax payers (the 99% as you say) having to bail out the trader gambling again in the future, There is nothing to fear and everything to gain, and for 0.1% it is a bargain. Also, i didn’t even get going on the percentages that traders make regardless of up or down share value. Believe me when I say the robin hood tax is on the way :)

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