Talking About Money

September 9, 2012 at 8:15 am (Life) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker recently. We were talking about money in general terms only. I find it interesting how taboo it still is to talk about how much money one makes and what they do with it. It’s like if we don’t talk about money we remain invincible; talking about money is dangerous, not talking about money keeps us safe.

My co-worker was of the opinion that it easier to withstand the fluctuations of money management if one starts out poor. Basically, that it is easier to go from poor up than rich down. Easier, emotionally that is not necessarily monetary-wise.

Her opinion was that one learns to better manage money when one is poor. I’m not sure I’d disagree. I grew up poor. My mother raised four children on welfare funds ie. social assistance. You learn to cope quickly on social assistance. You learn how to do without. You learn, that because you are living on government money everyone else feels like they can tell you how to spend the money (because after all the money comes from them – they pay taxes so you don’t starve to death). You learn to make do and keep quiet. You choose not to speak. You become silent, invisible. You are poor and thus must not exist.

“I come from the working poor, welfare poor, trailer poor. I’ve been …a proletariat who mistrusts the rich, so I suppose one explanation…was that I [became] ashamed of having money and became unconsciously determined not to have any anymore.” (p. 98)

My father’s second family had it slightly better. My father was able to eventually buy a trailer and they were raised in a trailer park. I spent a few summers there. They seemed to worry less about money; they participated in more activities, took more trips and always had food in the house (or so it seemed). I know now that their reality was not much better than mine. Poor is poor, degrees don’t always matter.

“Was not born poor, did not live poor. Because if you don’t have money, then no matter how devoted you are to your art, you will dwell on money. … Try being poor. In-debt poor. Poor in your brain even when there’s money in your bank.” (p. 170)

Poor is poor. Poor is not just about money in your pocket or numbers in the bank. Poor sinks down into your soul and stays there. Poor resides in your stomach, rots your teeth and ravages your joints.

Poor is Scarlet O’Hara losing it all and never giving up.  She was strong because poverty made her strong. She would not have ended up as strong if she had remained rich and pampered.

I read a lot about poverty. It is familiar. My bones know this feeling. I doubt my bones will ever know rich.

“I agree with the belief that if you don’t love money, money won’t love you. I believe that people that care about money and think about money and are lovingly careful with money have a greater chance of being rewarded by getting and keeping money.” (p. 98)

I don’t love money. I don’t understand money. I fear money. I fear poverty. I fear ending up poor and alone.

“I worry that if I die alone, how long will it take for someone to find the body.” (p. 171)

For me, talking about money equals talking/lying about poverty.

So, what do I do about all this? I get superstitious about money. I keep coins in my wallet, like the two Remembrance Day quarters (above). In 2004, the Royal Canadian Mint released the world’s first coloured circulation coin commemorating the Poppy, Canada’s flower of remembrance. Having these coins in my wallet centers me as I remember how both the past and innovation are mine to own.

… Inside my wallet, is also a 1967 nickel (the 1967 centennial was the first major celebration I remember getting a souvenir for – the school gave everyone a 1967 centennial dollar (which I still have but do not keep in my wallet).

.

…I also have a silver half dollar commemorating Queen Elizabeth 50th jubilee and a quarter commemorating the recent women’s hockey victory at the Vancouver Olympics. These coins represent to me history, pride in one’s country and national accomplishment.

The Women’s hockey coin also comes with colour but I like this plain version best.
Lastly, I keep the three quarters that represent home to me: the 2005 centennial quarters from Saskatchewan and Alberta along with Manitoba’s provincial quarter. I have siblings residing in all three provinces and where family resides there also is home.

Talking about money; talking about poverty; talking about home.

Honestly, I am no longer poor although there are many days I worry (unnecessarily) about money.

Honestly, now that I am working (again), I have enough. I have enough food. I have enough clothes. I have shelter.

I have been lucky enough to have always had these three things.

If you ever had enough, could you recognize it?

I have everything I need; now I have to figure out what I want.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Stay tuned – the conversation continues next week.

All numbered quotes from:

Losing Everything

by David Lozell Martin

Toronto: Simon & Schuster, 2008

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