Annuities?? Give me Romney lambs and wet hay – those I can understand!

It’s interesting the things you learn throughout life that you don’t realise. Some important, others perhaps less so, but it’s the amalgam of all of these lessons and experiences that shapes the person you are... and forms the basis of your understanding.

Growing up in the country, city, the beach… all have a powerful effect on senses and moods, hunger, thirst, even long hidden memories. Sometimes it is those experiences that mean you can simply make sense of things that others can’t. An intuitive understanding of certain things and perhaps what to do in certain situations.

For me, there’s many things experienced growing up that still have a profound and immediate effect, many years later.

The beautiful warbling of magpies in the morning. Regardless of where I am, the minute I hear that sound I'm five years old again, heading out the home gate across the frosty paddocks to catch the school bus. Watching with ever vigilant gaze to see where they might next swoop from. Loving their music, but fearing their parental wrath.

The sound of the vacuum pump on the milking machine from outside the cowshed. There’s no way I could adequately describe it, or mimic it. But it’s ingrained unmistakably in my aural memory for ever. That's the sound of milking... no matter how many years pass.

The smell of hay, two days cut, releasing moisture and fragrance into the air as it becomes bovine caviar. Or when it gets rained on and you can smell it’ll become hay that a bunch of fussy milkers [just like John West] will reject. They'll sniff at it indignantly before relenting, giving in to the feint pangs of hunger.

I can tell from miles away, well out of sight, whether it’s a herd of cows, a flock of sheep, horses or pigs. The smell of urine and manure may just be a disgusting pall to some, but it’s a familiar sense of knowing to me. I infuriate my wife when I can confidently declare that the ‘stink’ she’s smelling is in fact sheep… and it doesn’t smell awful, it conjures up memories of shearing and scones for morning tea, sorting fleeces and dogs leaping from their hide under in the shade, eager to work and please.

These things and many many others provide an innate sense of understanding. They are reliable and truthful and I can make sense of them. I like things I can make sense of. Things that can be explained with a stick drawing in the dirt, a pencil on the back of an envelope.

I’m not stupid, but I just like it when things can be made sense of.

I've yet to meet anyone who can explain how annuities work.

Not how they function… how they work. I know what the principle is, I know what’s supposed to happen, but no one can explain how I, for one, would be well served with one when I come to retire.

The maths just doesn’t add up.

At least it doesn’t add up for me.

I keep thinking that I’m just stupid and can’t calculate them correctly. But even when I use an online calculator, that I’m sure has been built by a bunch of people with more degrees than I've had hot feeds, it always seems I put a lot in the top of the chute and not much comes out the bottom. Unless I live to be 108.

And I am left confused. Everyone seems to be able to make a bloody good quid from it except me.

Clearly the companies that sell them are not a charity, I’m not that naïve. But every time I work it out the result beggars belief. They get to pocket a lot of money and I don’t get to pocket much at all.

I’m in the business and it still doesn’t make sense. To me it’s all a bit lopsided.

Give me a blunt pencil and an envelope and I'll show you how to site a house perfectly with just a tape and a string line.

Perhaps someone could return the favour and tell me how an annuity will help fatten my retirement rather than someone else’s wallet.