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Thursday, 20 January 2011

On the need to save

You may earn a lot, or you may earn a little. In the long term, what matters is how much you save. I've been told, once there is a pile of cash, you're able to get out of the unruly cycle of having to live from paycheque to paycheque... You can invest in property, start a business, or find some other way to grow your money. But then the need to continue saving persists, because you never know when your stash of cash will be frittered away. Remisiers, housing agents, lawyers, accountants, consultants, bankers, contractors, architects and the whole bunch of service providers will charge you something for their services and advice. Don't they need to earn a living as well? Don't be a miser, be a man. Realise that these people need to earn a living as well. Pay them what they are meant to be paid, don't try to cheat them, and at the same time let them know that you have financial constraints as well. Money is meant to be spent, not splurged. The spending of money has to be justified whenever possible. The spouse who says that you should not be so calculative (and encourages you to spend more) is likely not thinking of a future with you. So you become bankrupt and cannot pay her credit card bills -- so what? She'll just look for another generous man.

I read that a man in New Zealand attended funerals of strangers to help himself to the food. He was observed putting food into tupperware containers while other attendees paid their respects. When he was reproached for taking the food, he stopped coming to funerals.. but not before bringing home for about two months. Did he really need food that badly? The funeral director even called him the "grim eater". While it is one way to save money, there is no need to degrade one's self just to save a few dollars. I would rather eat biscuits and drink warm water than to weasel my way to a funeral and skim off the food.

During the new year, RTM 2 aired The Pursuit of Happyness. It's based on the real life story of Chris Gardner. Will Smith plays a man whose bad investment in some medical scanners causes him to lose cash and his wife leaves him and his son. Eventually he also loses his home and becomes homeless. All the while, he works for a brokerage, and he conceals his hardships from his colleagues. He finds shelter at the home for the homeless, and he has to rush there after work every day to queue up or else he won't have a place to sleep. He manages to find a scanner in the park, which a decrepit homeless man thought was his time machine. He manages to fix the scanner after numerous attempts and sells it to a doctor. He also studies by dim light for an exam, while watching over his son. Eventually, he aces the exam and is offered a job by his upper management as a broker. He eventually goes on to form his own brokerage firm. It was an uplifting movie that showed me people can succeed if they put their mind to it. But it also shows me that sometimes, we can't avoid the nasty stuff in life -- like spouses walking out the door, losing your financial wealth, etc. Sometimes we just overstretch ourselves but we must learn to reposition and get back on track. It's important to realise that the bad stuff could happen to anyone, so we should just accept it and get back on track. By not doing anything to mitigate, you are worsening the situation. Be positive and look at things objectively. Learn to move on. Let every step you take, take you one step closer to your goal.

Learning to save is an important part of life. If we save only a small portion of our earnings regularly, we would be able to have a stash of cash after a few years. Things can be done. But beware the spendthrift who think nothing of spending on whimsical items. I'll admit it, I've been a fool for love, and I myself have made a few purchases on a whim. As example, I purchased a Yorkshire Terrier simply because my girlfriend wanted it; a few years before, I gave her a Fujitsu Lifebook as a birthday present. These were expressions of my love for her, but today the laptop is outdated and higher spec laptops can be obtained at cheaper prices. Living in the moment has meant that my decisions were centered around my devotion to her, but she on the other hand has found it necessary to work separately to find her bearings again. Perhaps it's a good thing in disguise, as she'll have a better income; I could never afford to pay her what she is drawing now, and she was reliant on me for her more expensive purchases. Today she earns more than I do, and I have considered lecturing part time to even the score. But my core business will surely be affected if I leave the office for extended hours, unattended.

The business of homeless people is an interesting one. How often do homeless, poor people find a way back into respectability? And back into society? They who succeeded have not let their condition impede their progress. For example, here are 15 famous people who were once jobless. We could do something about the poor and homeless people in our country. For example, the organization known as Porchlight employs the homeless and the disabled, getting them to create food products that are sold to hotels and restaurants. Perhaps that is a good goal to aspire to. Social business isn't necessarily loss-generating. Some social businesses can be profitable as well, while creating a social benefit for the less fortunate members of society.