Sunday, March 22, 2009

Same As It Ever Was: Why My Budget's Still Boudoir

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself " did I get here?"
-talking heads, once in a lifetime

Lately it's trendy to talk about money, financing, even personal finances. Magazines and weekend sections go on about how we'd rather talk sex than money. The final taboo, right?

No, indeed, this is not about to go Carrie Bradshaw and you are not about to read any analogies between menage a trois and credit card binges. If there were analogies, frankly, I don't know enough about either. Rather, it's a little story about brunch.

We were eating a la carte as they detailed their latest clothing purchases. He's unemployed, she's about to be, they're moving in with family next month. Both are applying to school again next year, both are almost thirty. They've done a variety of things this year from investing in Apple stock (which dove after Steve Jobs got sick) to spending a few hundred dollars each on some random clothing purchases this weekend.

Red flags.

We started to talk about exchange rates and how "if x currency drops low enough" whether they should "just throw our entire tax return into it." They had conceived this plan without any research, without monitoring the news, without even knowing how exchange rates had performed in the last few months for either currency.

As you may realize from reading this blog, I've been reading about the CAD and a select few currencies since last summer. The currency markets are pretty volatile but I know some decent monitoring tools and news sources. What's the appropriate response?

The best possible response, for me, was to shut my mouth. Or rather, open it and fill it with some poached egg and mimosa.

There are a multitude of reasons I don't want to go there. First of all, they have a raging consumption problem. The appropriate metaphor to even talking about financial savvy is sitting with someone struggling to understand the weight watchers points program as my size four behind debates the merits of different probiotics. A whole different ball game, an emotionally loaded value laden super bowl.

Second, I feel talking about how much attention I pay to money makes me seem miserly. Like getting busted using a mirrored storefront to check out your own image. In reality, I pay attention to money and financial news more out of interest than out of any attempt to be wealthy. There's serious social relevance to cash. But, unless my company comes from the same school of thought any reflections I have on exchange rates and currency value are going to make me seem a bit odd.

Third, teaching a crash course in any financial idea should only be done by invitation. Else, it can seem really patronizing. We can't have a conversation about this possible choice without it seeming like I'm telling them what to do. And, if they totally disregard the information I'm able to offer - an awkward "I told you so" could occur.

So I turn to my allies and accomplices in the online world who also know the abbreviations for at least four international stock exchanges, who want to contemplate the deeper meanings and effects of bailouts, who track spending not only to hold themselves accountable but because they believe it helps create self awareness and long term changes.

And I raise my Sunday mimosa to you all.

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