Saturday, 14 August 2010

day 4: money

day four, and i'm managing well, alhamdolillah. i don't really feel the hunger or thirst at all, which is the beauty of getting to fast in the winter with no daylight savings. however, i do get very tired, especially by the end of the day.

now i know that many of the topics i've been writing about are actually rights rather than privileges. in other words, everyone has the right to decent education and a job that earns them enough to live comfortably. everyone has the right to decent healthcare and so on. but the reality is that though everyone has these rights, too many people don't have the things they should have. and most of this is entirely because we do not structure our societies and our world in a way that everyone can get what they deserve. it is our individual and collective choices that cause the imbalances.

i am framing these rights as privileges because i am one of the lucky ones who has opportunities and access to things that everyone should have. this reminds me that i should be working to ensure that others also have the same opportunities and access, in whatever way i can. one way is to do this is to raise consciousness through my writing, so i will continue with the topic for today.

the issues for today are around financial stability and wealth. the almighty dollar, which we worship far too much, which we chase after when often we would do better chasing after other things, but without which we face poverty, destitution and severely diminished choices.

i remember when i was changing jobs from one that was very flexible to one that was quite rigid in terms of the timing of the hours of work and the need to account for every minute of the day by charging out in units of 6 minutes each. i was talking to a colleague about the job i was going to, and said sadly "i'm losing my freedom". he replied to me "money is freedom".

it's a simple phrase but extremely powerful and totally true. having money gives a person a whole heap of choices. it means the ability to leave an unhappy marriage without wondering how you and your children are going to survive. it means that you can often afford better health care, better education, better housing (which also leads to better health). having money reduces stress, and we know that many marriages breakdown due to stresses around financial issues.

as i mentioned here at the hand mirror, i've never been a working class person. and i mentioned yesterday that i have never been out of employment so have always had my own income. there was the year of parental leave i took after the birth of my second child, but at least i had enough saved that i never had to depend financially on another person. that feeling of financial dependence is one i hate so much that i've never ever considered not working. i couldn't bear for someone else to be making choices of what i could or could not have.

the only time i've been on a benefit was for about 5 weeks one year during university holidays, when i was unable to find short-term employment due to an upcoming overseas trip. and i guess you could call the the universal student allowance i received while studying a benefit. but since it was universal, it carried no stigma.

i've never had to face the stigma of being a beneficiary, perpetuated by political parties and reflected by a large section of the population. i've never had to deal with people translating my need and my vulnerability as some kind of laziness. i haven't had to feel shame and humiliation (imposed on me by others) because i couldn't support myself, for whatever reason.

i'm in the very lucky position of having no debt. i don't have to watch interest rate movements carefully, because any significant rise might affect my carefully balanced budget. nor have i been in the unfortunate position of investing in finance companies that went bankrupt, or straight-out corrupt schemes like blue chip. i haven't had my life savings gambled away without my knowledge by an unscrupulous lawyer or financial advisor. i did lose money back in 1987, when i was foolish enough to believe all the hype and invest in shares like equiticorp, but on the scale of things, it wasn't too bad. and because i was young, i knew i was going to be able to recover financially.

i have never had to go through the process of bankruptcy, nor have i spent sleepless nights wondering how i would pay the bills (i have had many sleepless nights, but more on that another day). if i wanted to buy something, i've never had to worry about not affording it. which is not to say that i overspend - i have very rarely spent more than $100 on any item of clothing, i've never bought a big screen tv, i've never spent on state of the art technology or top of the line anything, i've only ever purchased second hand cars, i don't eat at fancy restaurants. but these are all my own choices, made because i don't believe in extravagance and showing off, not because i couldn't afford these things. i imagine how difficult it must for people who know they will never be able to afford extravagant or pretty things; who must always do with castoffs and second hand stuff and not by choice but by necessity.

i know my financial stability is helped by the fact that i don't spend any money on acohol or other drugs, nor on make-up and cosmetic procedures - although i have had laser eye surgery so i don't have to wear glasses any more. again, these are choices i make from conviction, not from necessity. and my financial stability is also helped by the fact that i just don't buy anything on credit. i only buy things when i know i have funds in the bank to pay for them. i'm able to do that, but i know that many, many people aren't. i know that many people are forced to go to loan sharks when some unexpected expenditure arises, or have to borrow just for food and rent.

i've been able to save for my retirement through a private scheme and through kiwisaver, the latter being one of the best policies of the previous government. retiring at age 65 seems too far away - i feel like i'm ready to retire today - and i know that by the time i get there, some government will have moved the goalposts and i'll have to work more years before i get my superannuation. but i feel for the elderly who have to live only off their superannuation. they may not have earned enough during their lives to have another source of retirement income, or maybe they had funds they lost due to investments going bad or unforeseen circumstances. it's terrible to watch people struggle at that stage of their lives, and to know that they have to go without things like adequate heating just so that they can pay the power bill.

which to wider considerations of poverty:

At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day (Source 1).

More than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where income differentials are widening (Source 2).

The poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income (Source 3).

According to UNICEF, 24,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.” (Source 4).

please take some time to go this website, read and reflect, cos there's plenty more information. i know it's depressing but it has to be faced, and should be faced on a regular basis. unless we begin to care about this reality, we won't be moved to do something about it.

one of the best ways to fight poverty is through political activism. the kinds of imbalances listed above won't be undone by individuals, they can only be undone by governments and by mass movements. join a cause and advocate for fair pay, fair trade, more aid - most countries haven't come near to the .07 percent of GDP that they've signed up to, and nz was around .03 the last time i looked. insist that aid doesn't have political or economic conditions, so that the majority of the aid money goes back to the country of origin because it's channeled to corporate providers who are resident in the country of origin. and if you have a surplus of funds, try to spend on those in need. (apologies, it's late and i'm tired, so haven't provided links to help you with any positive actions that might interest you).

when it comes to money, i'm extremely privileged. i'm one of the top 20%, i have more than i need and more than i deserve. i'm extremely thankful for the lack of stress in my life related to financial matters. if you are one of the people who suffer that stress, who struggle to survive, or have any issues related to money, then my thoughts and prayers are with you.

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