Spring has arrived, which is why we are encouraged to do a spot of financial spring-cleaning. I dutifully try each year, and have just found my 1998/9 financial plan tucked behind the old cheque book stubs in the filing cabinet. How well did you score? my accountant asked with touching hopefulness? 7 1/2 out of 10. Not rich yet then? Well I?m working hard on the concept, I reply. This week I start negotiating this year?s performance targets. The temptation to fall into a frank exchange views is strong (particularly when I?m right and that redheaded big spender inside me is wrong!) but given an inability to avoid both temptation and junk mail it enables me to make real financial progress.
These days, far from thinking about romance in Springtime, (unless we want to make a buck by producing a millennium baby) we all seem to be into money bigtime as soon as the clocks go forward. On cue there have been a clutch of financial surveys. Barclays? latest survey, hailed as a wake up call to young Britons to save, showed that 61% of pensioners regret they did not save more for their retirement. (So few?) Whereas 95% felt that young people underestimate the amount they are going to have to save for retirement. Every month I read dozens of such articles, which all remind me of the soothsayer in Up Pompeii who always appeared at the end to tell Frankie Howerd that we were all doomed. Of course we are! But outside in the real word I find that unless cushioned by occupational pension nirvana, younger people will tell you that while they would love to whack more away for their pension, they cannot fund a mortgage and a decent pension simultaneously, particularly with children. To do both to their IFAs or pension company?s satisfaction, then it is done by accruing debt, which of course keeps everyone else happy, while they take the strain.
I surf the Barclays site and inevitably I am invited to apply for a Barclay loan on-line. Up comes a nice table showing that if I want to borrow ?9000, I would pay just ?15,768 over 60 months including ?2,041.00 insurance premium at a terribly reasonable 15.9%APR. This package would not have existed when today?s pensioners were young and I rather think it makes their old hire-purchase and mortgage queues look positively philanthropic. I decide that however anorexic my pension payments, one of this year?s financial targets will be to avoid all loans, for I detest paying interest every bit as much as any self-respecting Muslim. Then I remember how Dante put the usurers fairly low down in his Infermo sitting on burning sands with money boxes round their necks and feel much more fortified. Usury nowadays has merely been repositioned in the market place and in all our financial sophistication, we have forgotten what it means.
A second report last week came from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which shows that 1.5m people have no access to financial services at all being either too poor or belonging to the wrong ethnic group. I am tempted to say lucky them and what?s wrong with a sock under the bed if you can sleep nights, but as the reports points out, this is a clear sign of exclusion from society. A further 4.4m only have one or two products. The reasons for their reluctance are poor information, mistrust of financial institutions and religious objections, I decide I share all three. Yet how strange that it is not simple lack of money but lack of involvement in money?s vehicles which apparently exclude people from mainstream society.
I escape my tyrannical w.p. and in my local bookshop come across 'The Money Bible' by a spiritual guru Stuart Wilde. (Rider Books ?7.99) According to Wilde, money is energy just as life is energy, and so apparently I must just understand the laws of ebb and flow and be in tune with the universe to make money. I decide this book is a must before I start negotiating financial strategy with myself. The writing style is not great ? too many exhortations to be a cool dude ? but it is useful for it reiterates what I personally believe, that providing security for old age does not come through simply earning money. For earning money burns up energy which if overdone, leads to burn-out and insecurity. Wilde explains that all insecurity comes from fear of collapse. We must instead nurture ourselves and when we are feeling creative and relaxed then opportunities to make money occur.
I rather like his belief in invocation. Say everyday ?There?s plenty of money in the world and large chunks are about to drop effortlessly into my lap.? I give this a go and of course my children overhearing, instantly demand more pocket money. The author apparently invokes regularly. He had an opportunity to invest in a small company and made several hundred thousand dollars in a few weeks. Flows of energy apparently make you rich, whereas government messages and financial vehicles obstruct our creativity.
I describe the book to my accountant who laughs hysterically down the phone. Oh he of little faith! When all this money comes flowing down from the ether, I?ll be able to tear up my targets, stop worrying about my pension and head for the nearest health farm.
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