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Going With the (Cash) Flow

Jan
30
2008

Now, I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable. I know I’ve brought up some chair-squirming subjects in my posts, but I think I’ve always treated them with tact and a certain amount of finesse. So, trust me, even if this week’s subject is one of the most avoided topics in polite society.
Money.
Wait, wait, wait. I know it’s That Time of Year and tax time is enough to make that word feel like a kick in the gut. And if you are self-employed, as we are, you’ve been playing the numbers quarterly, praying the sticker shock in April won’t cause a heart attack that won’t be covered by the health care insurance you can’t afford.
But that’s not the kind of money I mean. Nor do I want (or am I qualified) to discuss saving for the future, investing in the stock market or funds with arbitrary numbers or letters attached to them that no one remembers what them mean that responsible people have and people selling their first born for health care insurance don’t.
Did I mention I’m a little bitter about the whole health care insurance thing? Dirtman and I are now officially both over the age of 50, so you can imagine how anxious insurance companies are to give us affordable rates. I’ve got two parts of me in conflict: one part wants to stay healthy and live forever; the other part of me wants to come down with something major so I get my money’s worth. But I leave health care insurance issues to the expert and save the whining for my family.
No, the money I mean is the stuff you use everyday; the stuff you spend and actually watch where it goes; the stuff in your wallet and in your checking account and probably in your savings account you swear you’re not going to touch.
My view of money is that it flows where it flows and sometimes it’s high tide and sometimes the tide is so low all the tidal pools dry up and there’s a bunch of dead clams and seaweed laying around. We’ve always managed to keep our feet wet around here and there was even a brief time of actual swimming that turned out, in fact, to be a sort of tsunami – to pummel this metaphor into the. . . er . . . sand.
I find, though, that most people are never that ambivalent about money; it elicits strong emotions from fear to elation to smugness to embarrassment.
People have very strong opinions about spending and even stronger opinions about how everyone else spends. I think it’s perfectly understandable if I want to splurge on a hard cover book. Books are good, right? And so what if I have a lot of them – some still waiting to be read. However, you throw your money away on silly things like Beanie Babies or collectible Barbie dolls. You don’t know the value of a dollar.
You see a lot of articles about budgets this time of year. The thing about a budget, though, is that it only works when you have enough to cover it. And here is where the smug come in. “Well then, you’ll just have to work more or spend less.” (Can you see the prim smile?)
We’ve all had encounters with the financially smug. They’re in the food check-out line monitoring what food stamp recipients buy and whether or not they’re using their cash to buy cigarettes. They will remind you that frivolous things like gum and Tic Tacs are not in their budget. And, when they do purchase something, they feel obligated to tell you why they deserve to have it as opposed to your sorry, spend-thrift self.
I guess that’s why you hear people justifying their purchases to total strangers, just in case the financially smug are within earshot. “It’s been a rough week for me – I thought I’d splurge a little…”
It took me a long time to reconcile the fact that, not only are there are so many personal factors involved in wealth, but luck has a little bit to do with it too. Even financial guru Suze Ormond got her start with a personal no-interest “loan” from a stranger. And when I think of Oprah Winfrey‘s billions, I think of that line from the musical Evita that she “had every disadvantage you need if you’re gonna succeed.”
The people who were lucky will swear it was all their doing and at the other end of the spectrum are perpetual victims who claim to “never get a break.” But most of us are in between the two, subsisting on a combination of skill and luck and grabbing whatever little luxuries we can afford.
And that’s okay with me. No need to explain.

Share  Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 9:38 AM | Permalink

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