Last night I was talking to one of my sons – the one who is in his mid-twenties – and what struck me is the unmovable convictions he had on many issues. We were talking about writing because he is the one in the family with real talent; heck, the kid was born a writer. When he was eight he constructed a complex and completely believable story so that he doesn’t get in trouble for being late to school. We were called in…and I knew: this one can be a great writer! But last night, I started questioning whether he has the two other ingredients most great writers seem to share: a) the flexibility and open mindedness that allows them to grow and develop; and b) the almost military discipline that writing demands.
The latter was one of the points on which we seriously clashed: he still seems to think that writers only write when they are truly inspired. I, on the other hand, know that whilst this is so, writers make sure that they are inspired at particular time of the day, for a length of time, every day. There is so much talent out there and so little discipline to use it and create!
To make matters worse, my son seems to think that changing your mind is a sign of weakness; I, on the other hand, believe that it is an inevitable part of growing and becoming better, and integral part of expanding our horizons and improving our understanding. Let me give you an example.
Couple of weeks ago, John and I were discussing imaginative ways to speed up paying off the last of our ‘negative wealth’. My approach to life is analytical – I read, I research, I design spreadsheets and if we are very lucky a decision comes at the end. Hence, I started researching all kinds of options including credit cards: I looked at a cashback card, at reward cards and at 0% cards. We phoned providers and found that it is worth using a 0% transfer offer for a brief period – this will save us quite a bit of interest and we do certainly have the money to pay it all off before the interest charges start. Where is the growth in all this, you may think?
Well, looking at my previous articles on The Money Principle, I did publish a piece on why using credit cards is a really bad idea; and it is written with passionate conviction and reasonable argumentation. Since then, however, our circumstances have changed and so it seems my opinion on credit cards.
My views have become much more nuanced because I could finally see that:
- Credit cards are like any other instruments – they can be used wisely and responsibly or they can become one’s Nemesis. At any rate, the instrument itself is blameless.
- Credit cards can be a useful line of interest free short term borrowing. This only works when the money you need to pay the balance off is sitting in an account collecting interest and you don’t forget to move it when the CC balance is due. Failing any of these and you are in Nemesis land.
- Some cashback cards offer up to 6% back on purchases at specific shops. This is not bad actually – imagine getting 6% discount every time you buy something at M&S. It works only when you don’t change your shopping behaviour and start shopping at M&S just because you will get 6% on your cashback card. It is still probably cheaper shopping for food basics elsewhere.
- Credit cards offer useful benefits like insurance on purchases. Some offer additional rewards like vouchers and airmiles. Rewards can be useful but watch it – when we had loads of airmiles we were overspending; and booking any trip using them is such a bother that we are still very airmiles wealthy.
- Credit cards offer 0% transfers and this facility used properly can save you a lot of interest. Particularly when you are really on a home run paying off a 10% interest loan or have outstanding balances on other CCs.
So, you see, I have changed my position on credit cards somewhat and am acting on it. Credit cards are allowed but we pay all balances in full (have been for couple of year now) and this payment is automated. And we have moved a small amount on a 0% but I may be telling you about this one some other time.
Is changing my position a sign of weakness or growth?