‘Damn! My expenses have not been paid and I may have to go without heating!’
This is what an acquaintance of mine told me over a cup of hardly drinkable coffee.
We were sitting in a coffee bar, catching up – I hadn’t seen her for close to a year.
She didn’t know about my moonlighting as a personal finance blogger; The Money Principle just came up in the conversation.
This is how, I heard the story about the big, bad employer who doesn’t pay expenses fast enough so this lady gets in a tight financial spot regularly.
It bothers her; it bothers her a lot. Even only telling about it made her face fall and her voice quiver.
I listened politely and nodded.
I nodded as a woman. My nod didn’t say ‘I agree with you.’
It said ‘Yes, I can see that you need to continue.’
Here is the thing:
Couple of years ago, I may have agreed with her. I may have even joined in bemoaning the failures of our employer (and these are many). Today, I can’t.
I still believe that not delaying the payment of travel expenses fast is wrong: my position on this one is that I’ll never be a lander to my employer.
But the question I had to ask was:
‘Why did you count on this money so much?’
‘Because I have no money at all’ – my companion said. ‘I need to juggle my current account and credit cards to survive.’
I looked at her puzzled.
‘But surely, you earn well.’
‘I probably earn £45,000 per year.’ – she said.
It was said in the dismissive tones people use when they think they are underpaid.
So here is the first problem: my coffee companion was dismissing a salary about 80% of the working people in the UK can only dream for. Making £45,000 per year is not a king’s ransom but it is not a pay to be sniffed at either.
Did you notice what the second problem of her statement is? Yep, you guessed it right: she said ‘probably’. How hard is it to know how much you earn instead of guessing?
And the third problem is, that I happen to know exactly how much this acquaintance of mine makes. Her salary is £13,200 more than what she thought she makes.
Why am I telling you this story?
Because it made me realise something. It made me realise that
We should stop worrying about money and sort out our lives instead.
We have become so focused on money that we don’t even seem to notice that it is our lives that need attention.
My coffee companion dismissed a serious salary because it was too small to accommodate her life. She’d already told me that she can’t afford her house (why did you buy a house that is too expensive for you?); that she had spent the weekend in Germany with her daughter (they needed to have a bit of fun); and I saw a Facebook picture of her on a horse (now, horse riding is an expensive pass time but she needed to try something new).
She had evidently very little control over her finances. This made me wonder how many other areas of her life are in free fall.
Lastly, how do you survive life and its curve balls if you don’t have the wits to check simple things like how much do you earn?