People have weird attitudes about money. I mean, none of us really wants to admit we don’t have any. We certainly don’t want to admit we have money problems. That’s a taboo.
Of course, our relatives and closest friends know. These are the lucky ones from whom we borrow and never repay.
But money is in our face all the time. It’s everywhere. The little stock market ticker runs across the screens on the TV. Suze Orman has made herself rich and famous, talking and advising about money. The airwaves are filled with money talk shows. All these funds to invest in, all this advice – it’s wasted on me and others like me.
There’s a significant portion of those in this country, like myself, (I happen to be a single mother) who are clueless about money and investing. I once heard that the “average” American has less than $500 saved. That was comforting to me.
So, I’m here to come out of the closet, lacking in designer clothes, as it were, to identify with all those like me who are raising kids and are struggling to put food on the table, (in my case it’s a trip to McDonalds, but whatever).
We live paycheck to paycheck, (if we even make it that far) and don’t really think about the future because we can’t – we’re too worried about the here and now.
I worry about the priorities – like keeping the cable, phone and the Internet going. Then I have to think about paying the rent.
I wouldn’t know a mutual fund from a money market account if it rolled over into an IRA and hit me in the head.
The only thing I know about anything rolled over is coins when I take them to the bank:
“Can I cash in these rolled coins or do I have to deposit them?”
“Do you have an account here?” the teller asks, looking at me suspiciously.
“Yes, here’s my card.”
I pray she doesn’t check my balance and pray even harder it isn’t negative.
Many of you readers out there cannot relate to this, however, you probably have a relative lurking nearby who can. So, you can stop reading now if you have never: 1) received a collection letter in the mail; 2) been harassed by bill collectors by phone; 3) received shut-off notices for your utilities; 4) written out checks at the grocery store with no money in your account and hope to deposit the cash in time; 5) called and begged customer service to keep your utilities or cable/phone on a little longer; 6) contemplated changing your name and running off to a remote island; 7) Seriously though about the merits of robbing a bank.
Personally, I am the Queen of Payment Arrangements, so astute and accomplished at postponing bill payments that I have developed it into an art form. I’m thinking of writing a book, the first “how to” in preventing utility shut-offs.
So how do you know when you’re fiscally challenged? Here are some sure signs of trouble:
• Your kids know more about money, the household bills, and the prices of things than their friends.
• At the library, you can’t pay your late fee because you didn’t have $1.30.
• You put $2 in your gas tank.
• Your child pays for a school lunch with pennies.
• You take a loan from one of those cash-advance places that charges 453 percent interest.
• There’s $2.37 in your account, and you use your debit card at the grocery store to buy dinner.
• You call the credit card company to see if your payment was received so you can run out and use the card again.
• You dig through the car seats, sofa and winter jackets for change and are thrilled when you come up with 63 cents.
For people like us, everyday life is a challenge. We find creative ways to survive in a world that costs too much and cares too little, but somehow, we manage to survive.