a little east of reality

Sunday, August 07, 2005

ain't it funny, in a rich man's world?

He had heard people speak contemptuously of money: he wondered if they had ever tried to do without it. (W. Somerset Maugham)

A friend emailed me this week, most apologetic, to ask if she could borrow some money. Her workplace had made a mistake and her pay was around $400 short. 'Oh no problem', they assured her, 'we can fix that right up...next pay'. Uh, yeah, next pay is a fortnight away. Two weeks $400 down is not an attractive picture. Trouble is, it's embarrassing to admit to your employer that you have absolutely no emergency savings. It's embarrassing enough to admit it to yourself, and I'm sure that she was less than keen to admit it to me by asking for help. Luckily we have a long history of helping each other out in various ways - whether money or rides or just a listening ear.

The point is that it really brought my attention back to my own finances. I was able to help her out this week, but that wouldn't be the case every week. Which begs questions like, 'what if my car broke down?' 'What if I had to make a trip home with no advance notice?'

I was thinking last week about my various debts and all of the things they prevent me from doing. That spare money in my salary (the part rent and household bills don't take) that goes to paying off my loan and credit card is the money I could be using to travel or save for a deposit on a house. And it suddenly struck me: that money goes somewhere...not into thin air (which is how it feels) but into the pocket of someone at the bank or credit card company. Someone else is building my house, someone else is taking my holiday, and they're using my money to do it.

It made me really angry, not least of all at myself for still being in debt. I know it's practically the universal condition in the Western world, but it isn't how I want to live. If someone is taking a holiday with my money, I want it to be ME, damn it!

If only the process weren't so slow...