To the poorhouse. Go!

I began reading newspapers – well one newspaper, The Weekend Australian about a month ago. The world is just as interesting now as it was when I stopped thinking around 1998. (Really it is, I’m loving it.)

To my joy the Australian last Saturday has begun talking to me and about me. I discovered I am one of many Calculating Women.(Calculating Women by Anna Fenech is not online – so if you want to actually know something stop reading now.)

I thought I was just stupid and disorganised all on my own, but I found out there are a whole lot of us who know all about paying bills and bugger all about much else to do with money.

I was recently made aware that I drag reasonable money as a high school teacher and that having a clue about how much money is in the bank is not a bad idea, further, it is also possible to know how much superannuation you have and how much you owe on your mortgage. This is infact real basic housekeeping – the brand of which I’ve been blissfully unaware.

I figure I must have a kind of slap-dash genius for finance because I hardly ever get told my card won’t work. I’m pretty humble and it’s not hard to make me happy. I could say that up till now I’ve got as much of this world’s goods as I want and can do ‘whatever comes next’ without many worries.

On the strength of Calculating Women and my new found community of financially fucked females I am inspired to act.

So I ditch the contents of the filing cabinet because everything stinks and is fuzzy with evil black spot mould. Buy an expanding folder and collect every piece of paper I kept in the house (rather than the shed) that I thought might be important.

Not too bad. Last year when I took stock and did about 6 years of tax returns I paid off a HECS debt and got a deposit for a mortgage. This time all the medical stuff and uncashed cheques has paid the bills and I discover that after a year of absolutely no idea I’m breaking even. Fuck’n genius. Only one group Certificate AWOL.

I keep reading and there I am again. Anna is still talking about me and the techniques I employ to ensure survival:

– there’s always the old ‘Prince Charming’ theory, failing that; ‘the something will turn up’ approach and finally; the oh fuck it ‘I’ll do it myself then’ – she continues all the way through to the progressive stages of – Financial Sufficiency, Financial Awareness, Financial Development and ultimately Financial Independence.

I identify me in every word, locate myself as Financially Aware, finish the article and become vaguely uneasy about my bank accounts – I don’t know my balances.

Am I worried? – Not a jot. She’ll be right mate prevails until I reach further into the Awareness stage – I feel it coming on and that’s when my chest begins to tighten.

Ignorance is bliss and innocence once lost can never be regained. I’m on the money train now and am looking forward to a modestly superannuated future. Now I’ve opened the Business Extra by myself and there is no going back. The halcyon days of wealth by financial oblivion are over as I realise I am not Financially Independent in any meaningful sense and nor am I rich. And to think I was both those things just a few hours ago.
That is depressing!

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8 Responses to To the poorhouse. Go!

  1. Norman says:

    Sadly, not the only thing that’s depressing.

  2. "B" says:

    Whatever do you mean? You little darling.

  3. Ken Parish says:

    You can never be absolutely sure about Norman, but I assume he’s saying it’s depressing that someone could be (have been) so obliviously negligent about their personal financial position at the age of 41. But there are lots of people like that, and not only women.

    Nor is it a sign of lack of intelligence. Instead I suspect it flows from the instinctive sense of immortality of youth (although sustaining it until 41 is an achievement), allied with a completely justified perception that a disciplined, middle class work and saving ethic can be a tad boring. In part it’s an aspect of the yin/yang pull of adventure versus security (pretentious – moi?).

    It probably also flows in part from having had a comfortable, secure, middle class upbringing together with brains, beauty and a good education that together allow you to feel with some justification that “she’ll be right mate” and something will always turn up, however irresponsibly you may behave. If worse comes to worst you can always go home to mum and dad. But by the time you reach 41, you become aware that beauty will fade, that mum and dad won’t always be there, and that most likely no-one is going to take care of you except yourself. People who didn’t have your sort of secure, comfortable upbringing (and other advantages) tend to reach that realisation much younger, and can feel quite shocked and alienated by the reality of someone exhibiting this sort of blithe irresponsibility for so long.

    Fortunately, as you’re beginning to discover (and me too in a slightly different way), it is actually possible to retain a sense of wonder and adventure in life and be financially disciplined (and acquire assets) as well. In fact, that sort of discipline, if sustained over a surprisingly small number of years, leads to financial freedom that allows a range of choices and adventures you can never experience if you continue to just live for the moment. Equally fortunately, 41 isn’t too old to embark on that sort of program.

    It seems to me that your self-revelation of past short-sightedness and ill-discipline is refreshing and maybe even courageous. It’s anything but depressing. But then I’m a biased judge.

  4. woodsy says:

    I’m not sure if this is the article but you may like to click here to see if it is.

  5. woodsy says:

    The article misses the most important point when discussing the reason why married women aren’t proactive in making investment decisions. They know they’ll be looked after by the Family Court when they decide the time has come to ‘take their share’ and ‘get a life’.

    O.K. perhaps I don’t know enough younger women to include them in the genealisation above; but from my experience in the financial planning game and personal experience of two brothers who have been taken to the cleaners by their ex’s, it appears to me that most ‘middle aged’ women simply choose to start a new life based on the expectation that they will be looked after financially due to court orders.

  6. "B" says:

    Woodsy

    That’s it. Thanks.

    They know they’ll be looked after by the Family Court when they decide the time has come to ‘take their share’ and ‘get a life’.

    It is a generalisation, but I agree that women ‘of an age’ are invariably geared toward dependence. Men of similar age seem to be pre-programmed to be the financial captains in families – regardless of their ability.

    I wonder how much longer these stereotypical gender roles will inform our culture.

    I think that setting our children a financial course for life is an important factor in their education regardless of gender.

    In our family the boys were educated in this way – us girls were not. Necessity didnot press me and thus here I am, a downwardly mobile, middle aged, middle class woman who is learning what independence really is.

    It is a rare woman in my generation who stands alone – I only know a few. And they are independent either through hard core survival and necessity or the luxury of a wealthy family.

  7. David Tiley says:

    There are two other reasons (excuses… yes, yes) for being financially chaotic.

    1. poor family, no money, all this mortgage and shares stuff seems too scarey and grown up..

    2. the bloody government has made small business so complicated that being entrepeneurial means channelling a Borgia accountant for days at a time.

    The defence in both situations of course is – GET SMART AND HIRE EXPERTS (even on a low income) but nasty things can happen before the lesson is learnt.

  8. EvilPundit says:

    Of course, financial planning for middle-aged men contains one important rule: Don’t get married.

    That way, the money which would have been taken away to fund some woman’s retirement will remain your own.

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