Once upon a time there lived near a large wood a poor woodcutter, with his wife and two children by his former marriage, a little boy called Hansel, and a girl named Gretel.
The family suffered greatly due to his own financial incompetence, there was once they were down to their last loaves of bread. The woodcutter sighed, “Why did I ever touch those 6% perpetual securities of Dyflux? They are barely worth anything now!”
His wife, who was way more astute as a person, reasoned with him. “Well, you could chalk it up to an honest mistake. You didn’t bother to read their books, thought that it was a company supported by the government, and was blinded by the large coupon. It’s a mistake that 34,000 other people could easily make.”
“Right you are, my dear wife”, muttered the woodcutter sadly, still dreaming of a government bailout.
“Next time, learn to diversify though. Ploughing our life savings into one single investment is rather dumb. By the way, we need to dump these kids into the woods so that we can save our own hides.” No one said that financially astute people were nice people.
The two children overheard what the stepmother said to their father. Gretel wept bitterly, and said to Hansel, “What will become of us?”
The boy had a brilliant idea. He got up, put on his coat, and, unlocking the back door, slipped out. The moon shone brilliantly, and the white pebbles which lay before the door seemed like silver pieces, they glittered so brightly. Hansel stooped down, and put as many into his pocket as it would hold; and then going back, he said to Gretel, “Be comforted, dear sister, and sleep in peace.”
The next morning, before the sun arose, the wife went and awoke the two children. “Get up, you lazy things; we are going into the forest to chop wood.” Then she gave them each a piece of bread, saying, “There is something for your dinner; do not eat it before the time, for you will get nothing else.” Gretel took the bread in her apron, for Hansel’s pocket was full of pebbles; and so they all set out upon their way.
Hansel stopped ever so often to drop a pebble out of his pocket upon the path.
When they came to the middle of the forest, the father told the children to collect wood, and he would make a fire so that they should not be cold. Hansel and Gretel gathered together quite a little mountain of twigs. Then they set fire to them; and as the flame burnt up high, the wife said, “Now, you children, lie down near the fire, and rest yourselves, while we go into the forest and chop wood; when we are ready, I will come and call you.”
But of course, the pragmatic parents didn’t. Hansel and Gretel waited till they fell fast asleep. When they awoke, it was quite dark, and Gretel began to cry, “How shall we get out of the wood?” But Hansel tried to comfort her by saying, “Wait a little while till the moon rises, and then we will quickly find the way.”
The moon soon shone forth, and the clever boy followed the glittering pebbles all the way back home. They knocked at the door, and when the wife opened it and saw Hansel and Gretel, she exclaimed, “You wicked children! Why did you sleep so long in the wood? We thought you were never coming home again.” But their father was very glad, for it had grieved his heart to leave them all alone.
A little while after this close shave, financial calamity struck the family yet again. The woodcutter had thrown whatever money they had left into a pyramid scheme, or better known as a Multi Level Marketing scheme, or identifiable as a Ponzi scheme. Same banana, really. You could argue it out in the comments section below.
“You freaking fool!” screeched the wife. “Did you know that for every person that eventually profits from an MLM, nearly 14 others lose their shirts?”
“I’m so sorry, I just wanted to better our lot in life. Besides, the computations of expected earnings were so attractive, I couldn’t resist,” lamented the clueless woodcutter. “They said all I had to do was to recruit 2 others to join me, and that the scheme had been successfully run for over 2 decades.”
“Did you even bother to calculate that if each person recruited just 2 others in a month, the whole of Singapore would be in on the action under 2 years?” the wife was close to despair. She pawned her jewellery at a steep discount just to keep the family going.
“Now that you mention it… it makes sense why all MLMs are destined to fail.” the woodcutter couldn’t hold back his tears anymore.
“Ah, what’s the point of crying over a shitty investment? Time to toss the kids out again.” At this point, our dear reader is beginning to pick up a pattern of problem resolution in this family.
The children, however, had heard the conversation as they lay awake, and as soon as the old people went to sleep Hansel got up, intending to pick up some pebbles as before; but the astute (yet evil) stepmother had locked the door so that he could not get out. Nevertheless, he comforted Gretel, saying, “Do not cry; sleep in quiet; the divine will not forsake us.”
Early in the morning the stepmother came and pulled them out of bed, and gave them each a slice of bread. On the way, Hansel broke his in his pocket, and, stopping every now and then, dropped a crumb upon the path.
The mother led the children deep into the wood, where they had never been before, and then made an immense fire, she said to them, “Sit down here and rest, and when you feel tired you can sleep for a little while. We are going into the forest to hew wood, and in the evening, when we are ready, we will come and fetch you.”
This time the kids knew the drill and resigned themselves to a long sleep.
But fate was unkind to them. The moon shone and they got up, but they could not see any crumbs, for the hundreds of birds and wild animals had eaten all of them up.
The two courageous children wandered far and deep into the woods, completely lost. Nearly delirious with thirst and hunger, it was a stroke of luck that they stumbled upon a cottage. But it was no ordinary house in the woods.
They went close up to it they saw that it was made of bread and cakes, and the window-panes were of clear sugar. Not skipping a beat to marvel at the architectural wonder that lay before them, their first thoughts were to gorge themselves silly.
“We will go in there,” said Hansel, “and have a glorious feast. I will eat a piece of the roof, and you can eat the window. Will they not be sweet?” So Hansel reached up and broke a piece off the roof, in order to see how it tasted, while Gretel stepped up to the window and began to bite it.
Then a sweet voice called out in the room, “Tip-tap, tip-tap, who raps at my door?” and the children answered, “the wind, the wind, the child of heaven”; and they went on eating without interruption. We can attribute their ridiculous attempt at pacification to their growling tummies.
Hansel thought the roof tasted very nice, so he tore off a great piece; while Gretel broke a large round pane out of the window, and sat down quite contentedly. Just then the door opened, and a very old woman, walking upon crutches, came out. Hansel and Gretel were so frightened that they let fall what they had in their hands; but the old woman, nodding her head, said, “Ah, you dear children, what has brought you here? Come in and stop with me, and no harm shall befall you”; and so saying she took them both by the hand and led them into her cottage.
A good meal of milk and pancakes, with sugar, apples, and nuts, was spread on the table, and in the back room were two nice little beds, covered with white, where Hansel and Gretel laid themselves down and thought themselves in heaven.
The old woman behaved very kindly to them, but in reality, she was a wicked witch who captured children and built the bread-house in order to entice them in. As soon as they were in her power she killed them, cooked and ate them, and made a great festival of the day.
It was a strange way to be a cannibal, but thankfully this is just a madeup bedtime story.
In a cruel twist, she took up Hansel with her rough hands, and shut him up in a little cage with a lattice-door; and although he screamed loudly it was of no use. Gretel was next, and the witch said, “You lazy thing, and fetch some water so I can make a stew out of your brother. I hear the keto diet is all the rage these days.”
The smart little girl tried to distract the witch. “Aunty witch, isn’t it rather expensive to maintain an impressive yet delicate house like this? After all, you need to replace its contents each time some ravenous children visit. Those clear sugar panes must have been a pain to install.”
“Oh bless your sweet little heart, I have home insurance from FWD” cackled the witch. “They run some fantastic deals from time to time, and I love their UI and purchasing process. Besides, their CEO is good looking as hell. Here’s the link.”
The old witch INSISTS you have to check out FWD General Insurance
“That’s a strange way to be using a bedtime story to advertise, but I suppose it keeps the lights on and pays the bills. Yet it was woven in so seamlessly by the storyteller. I’ll check it out later,” replied Gretel.
“Be sure to check out the rest of the policies they have! First, we will bake,” said the old woman; “I have already heated the oven and kneaded the low carb dough”; and so saying, she pushed poor Gretel up to the oven, out of which the flames were burning fiercely.
“Creep in,” said the witch, “and see if it is hot enough, and then we will put in the bread”; but she intended when Gretel got in to shut up the oven and let her bake so that she might eat her as well as Hansel. Clearly she had quite the appetite.
Gretel perceived what her thoughts were, and said, “I do not know how to do it; how shall I get in?” “You stupid goose,” said she, “the opening is big enough. See, I could even get in myself!” and she got up, and put her head into the oven. Then Gretel gave her a push, so that she fell right in, and then shutting the iron door she bolted it! Oh! how horribly she howled; but Gretel ran away, and left the ungodly witch to burn to ashes.
No one expected a keto diet to end this horribly.
Now she ran to Hansel, and, opening his door, called out, “Hansel, we are saved; the old witch is dead!” So he sprang out, like a bird out of his cage.
For the purpose of being a crowd pleaser and just so that we could use the ending “And they lived happily ever after”, the children discovered chests full of pearls and precious stones all over the house.
Oblivious to the fact that there was still a half baked witch in the vicinity and that they were committing house robbery, they stuffed their pockets to the seams with the ill-gotten treasure.
Gretel had an idea of how to get home, and told Hansel excitedly, “This may sound silly, but we could just walk in ever increasing circles until we find our way home.”
“You’re right, it is silly, but since I have no other better alternative to offer, I shall meekly follow along. Besides, you saved my life with your quick thinking.”
Miraculously, on their 28th circle, the children chanced upon a group of dejected investors protesting at Honk Lim Park. It seemed to be about the disastrous Dyflux saga but it was impossible to tell who was an investor and who was there simply there to watch the drama unfold.
Gretel noted that some placards made by the investors demanded their full capital be returned, but knew there was a 0 chance as they were at the bottom of the creditors’ list in the case of liquidation. That’s how unsecured credit rolls, like it or not.
Still, she kept her tongue to herself because she knew that people that lost huge sums usually lost their sense of logical reasoning as well. It was then that she spotted her father.
“My dear children, is that really you with pocketsful of Burmese rubies?” the wizened old man couldn’t contain his joy. He had not had one happy hour since he had left the children in the forest, and his wife was dead. (We surmise due to exasperation)
“Yes father, it is us.” And so the joyous reunion was complete and they returned home.
The father had plans to pay for some dubious trading classes ran by some hack known as Madam Khoo, but the children put their foots? feet? down.
“Father! Use your reasoning, please. If they are able to trade consistently for profits, why are they offering to teach you? That hag would already made her profits quietly and not bother with advertising on youtube, instagram, and facebook. When was the last time you saw a Warren Buffet advertisement?” Hansel was adamant in not letting his dad screw up his financial future.
“Same goes for all the amazon/ebay/qoo10 sales hacks that claim they can teach you to be equally profitable. Follow the vested interest, and you will never go wrong. These crooks just prey on the easy money mentality that most gullible people have,” chimed in Gretel.
It was then that the woodcutter finally realized his folly and admitted that active investing was not for everyone, only those with the correct mindset, training, and aptitude. He let the children manage the money which they did admirably. (In a properly diversified basket of instruments spanning various markets and asset classes, with minimal sales charges and trailer fees which could really eat into long term profits)
And so they lived happily ever after.
Enjoy this story?
Read about Part 1 in this series here: Little Red Riding Hood
Read about Part 2 in this series here: Hansel and Gretel
Read about Part 3 in this series here: Chicken Little
Read about Part 4 in this series here: Jack and the Beanstalk
Read about Part 5 in this series here: The Three Little Pigs
Read about Part 6 in this series here: Goldilocks and the three bears
Read about Part 7 in this series here: The Pied Piper of Hamelin
www.ClearlySurely.com aims to eradicate the knowledge gap between consumers and Life Insurance. Our Vision is that one day, every Man, Woman, and Child will be properly insured.
We are also having fun experimenting with a broader base of financial topics. Let us know if you have something you want us to cover!