Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Visit to the Money Police

This getting old stuff thing is bloody awful. Bits starts to ache, things start to sag, some things start to take longer, other bits don't work. It's just crap.

Making things a little more scary, finances and money.

It's been on my mind for a while. The finances thing. The "what ifs" and the "maybes" and the "what-abouts" when it comes to money.

There is so much information out there - it's really daunting. Mortgages, superannuation, pensions, shares, property, derivatives, accounts - ARGH. When you break it down, it's all just numbers. Numbers and money and your own hard work. But what are you supposed to do about all of this. Where are you supposed to jump? What are the choices? What shouldn't you do?

Making matters a bit more tenuous, spending ten years working in finance and banking has put me off anything to do with things financial. Money goes into a bank account and then it goes out. Some gets siphoned off into a high interest savings account, there is a float for when I'm between jobs so that rent and bills are covered for a few months - and that's it. It seems that people who work in banking fall into two camps - those who rake it in - and those who really don't care, don't want to care, or stuff up badly. I've fell into the don't want to care camp after losing a lot when tech stocks fell from the sky in the early 2000's.

Not helping matters, working in investment banks in the mid-nineties with all the dreadful stereotypes - the cocaine flowing in the bathrooms, the sexism, the 12-hour days, the Panamanian slush funds, the bullying, the inequity - all if it has left a bad taste in my mouth. I know how much the sector has been cleaned up and regulated, but still. Memories of being whistled at and groped stay with you. Not good.

Yet, on the good side of things, in my middle-aged circumstances, I'm lucky that I get paid well and have no debt to speak of. Having no dependents also goes a long way as there is nobody relying on me for food, shelter, clothing, education and new electronic goods.

The other side of things, in my middle-aged state, there is a part of me who is wondering when the rich husband is coming to sort all of this stuff out for me. I don't want to think about this stuff. It just makes me feel completely inadequate most of the time. I have my parent's questions roaming around my head. Why don't I have a house of my own? When am I going to buy a house? Don't I know that property is the only way to go?

Thing is - I think about owning property and I think of deadbeat tenants, council and water rates and boring body corporate meetings. And houses have gardens and I HATE gardening. I like living where I live, my lifestyle isn't supported in the suburbs and I like living near my friends. I also like walking to work for the most part, being near everything and know that getting home from the city late at night is about a $15 cab ride on an expensive night.

I also realise that many of my peers did all this stuff ten years ago. Then again, most of my peers got married ten years ago and now have school aged kids and very settled lives. I don't fit that mould.

There are lots of good things about my life - but the time has come to get the head out of the sand and start looking to the future. Not something I do that well as I like to live in the moment and long term plans are something I don't feel comfortable with. The best I can do at the moment is that I want to go to Bali or somewhere like that when this current contract is over and then go find a new job.

A couple of weeks ago, my attitude shifted a little. I had a couple of long conversations with an old friend who's currently trying, and succeeding to increase his personal wealth. He started to inspire me. Following this was the last dream group, encouraging me to take control and power over myself and my circumstances. He's managed to turn his situation around - why couldn't I?

So it's time to audition financial advisers. Or the Money Police as I like to call them.

The first round was last week. A group with a rather splendid sounding sounding advisers in a very grand looking building off a leafy city street.

Unfortunately this was the day that it decided to bucket down and the day that I left my umbrella at home so I turned up looking like a drowned cat to these splendid offices.

The two gentlemen who I was there to see were very nice. Older - probably had a Seniors Card in his wallet. The other fellow was a neat, brushed Gen-Y.

Then they got asking me the questions, some of which I have no clue about.

What was I earning? (Could answer that.)
What debts did I have? (None - this is something I'm very proud of.)
Car? (Modest and paid off, but needs nearly a grand of repairs to fix the front panel that some arsewipe drove into into while parked in South Yarra a few weeks back.)
Savings?(Could be better, but at least I have something in the bank)
Superannuation? (Again, not bad considering I had eight years away from the country in the nineties.)
Insurances? (Not doing that badly there, but could save a bit on a few things.)
When do I want to retire? ("What's retiring? Can't see it happening.)
What do I want for my financial future? (I don't know.)
What sort of things are important to me? (Travel. Friends. Having enough to be comfortable.)
What did I spend my money on? (I don't really have a clue, but I know I can save more.)

I explained that until a few years ago I was earning less that the national average wage and I had no inclination of remaining in Australia. Thankfully things have picked up, turned around and despite the current dodgy government I'm looking to stay in Australia.

And that rich husband hasn't turned up to take all the worries away.

So now what?

I asked some questions? What about my status as a contractor? What could they do for me? What sort of charges was I looking at? What sort of service could I expect? What sort of options would they give me? Would I have to be poor for the next twenty odd years?

They had answers. Good answers. I liked they told me that I could still travel and that I didn't have to be poor. Until they looked at my current situation in detail, they couldn't do a complete rundown, but I got a few indicative numbers. Then I flinched.

I left and made my way to the gym to see my personal trainer - who I told the Money Police that was not an optional extra in my life. I'd rather give up coffee than my weekly session with Slap. It's all about priorities.

So I have a lot to think about, as well as seeing other versions of the Money Police to find the right fit.

My friend was right - don't jump at the first guys you see, ask questions and find your strategy.

It's all scary.

Just working out what I want is scary. So far all I've come up with is that I was an apartment or flat, inner city, with floorboards and either a balcony or courtyard. I also want a chaise lounge, decent bookshelves and two cats - house moggies, one that will get called Marmalade and another one - preferably black, called Rhubarb.That is all I can see myself wanting. These things and the rich, loving, nice, gentle husband who will put up with me and if I'm lucky sort out all this shit for me.

That's as far as I've got.

On this scary journey, I feel like I've run a marathon, even if I've only made the first, few tentative steps.

At least I've started.


Jackie K said...

Good for you. You can do this, and you're in a good position to start. As someone who's not great with money despite working in finance and having a degree in it and knowing ALL the theory ... I applaud your doing this. And you won't need to give up the gym and buying property can include an inner city flat, instead of a house with a garden. And about that absent rich husband? Remember: a man is not a financial plan! :)

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

Yes - money is always a worry even if you appear to be okay.

My financial situation has been like a rollercoaster - and I can't see it settling down soon.

And I am older than you.

But you are doing the right thing and I'm certain that you will prevail.