In my experience, the people who tell you about losing money are always the ones who have some. Shares down, devalued pound, dollar or euro, they always know – like the tourists you see, oblivious to everything, endlessly scanning the currency tables in the window of the nearest bank. I have never been very good at money. What I have learned came in the wake of difficulty, difficulty for which in retrospect I am very grateful because it shook me out of comfortable torpor and into a reality. I say a reality quite deliberately, because mine isn’t yours, yours isn’t mine.
I didn’t understand long term saving because I was always in work and there was always tomorrow. I could not envisage a time when there wouldn’t be work and the money would not topped up and replenished. If there are two of you living like that, you endorse each other in a dubious pattern.
One person’s concept of having money is quite different from another’s. My mother used to say that for her, having money meant being able to meet all the bills, buy a dress and not have to wear it, and still have a bit left over. This is a woman to whom washing machine, tumble drier, power shower and dishwasher were foreign terms, not interested in holidays abroad, a woman who cooked well and economically and who was much better with money than my father.
I was not better at money than the man I was with for 20 years but he earned twice as much as me. And every time I attempted to talk about money, he acted as if I had taken a sharp knife to his parts – and became hateful. I only tried two or three times. So we lived beyond our means and enjoyed all sorts of good things. Remember that old adage “you pay for your pleasures” ? It’s true. Initially, when I entered the cold reality to which I earlier referred, I couldn’t recall anything good. You have to be willing to let memory shift
and work things through till the good stuff comes into focus, in whatever little way. So, yes, you both spent money like drunken sailors so – what was good ? And of course it is self revelatory what lasts, what still has meaning…
Although I am very far from being one, I say that I am a peasant with money – I believe what is in my hand, my mind has trouble with anything further. I distrust online banking, I bemoan the decline of the cheque though I understand its acceptability is to do with honesty and honesty is nearly as out of fashion as truth. I only have one credit card. Well, no – I have a second but I have never used it. Lots of cards is a vision of hell.
At the beginning of my formal retirement, a friend sent me to his financial advisor, a man with orange hair dye who patronised me into the ground. He kept banging on about “wealth management” to an elderly woman who had just endured the biggest fall of her life in her living standards. When I left I knew I’d never return and there had to be another way. I tried three IFAs, all hot air and burning feathers. The father and son who have helped me most come out of old school financial training and they can read the documents. That is a start and because they are genuine people, they don’t flimflam. What a relief.
But what I don’t understand is cutting every corner because it’s there to be cut, rather smug virtue in self conscious thrift. And I wish somebody on whichever side of the Great European Divide had bothered to explain clearly that all the money is in one pot, regardless of which state or any concept of private. Exploitation is the middle name of marketing and money marketing is as fraught with misunderstandings and misapprehensions as any other kind. I am not minded to lend you my money when the rewards are so poor, I am not any kind of a gambler so risk taking is out of the question. I spend conservatively. Mostly. And I still count what is in my change purse every morning. Money only matters in what you can use it for.