Did you hear the one about the accountant’s wife who couldn’t sleep? The doctor suggested that when she got into bed every night she should turn to her husband and ask “darling, could you tell me about your work”.
Or what about the woman who went to the doctor and was told she had only six months to live? In despair she immediately “what should I do?” The doctor said “marry an accountant!” The woman asked “will that make me live longer?” The doctor said “no, but it will certainly feel longer”.
These are just jokes stereotyping accountants. To be honest most of the accountants I know are not necessarily like this. Personally I think this stereotype is far too harsh and is better employed as a general description of the accountant’s much gloomier cousin, the economist. Should you have a particularly melancholy child with a leaning towards maths and an overdeveloped interest in money, perhaps this might be a good career to steer them into. Ultimately they can get very rich while explaining to others why they are so poor and they also get to constantly talk about money while not ever really having to earn any. Indeed if they could strive to become a media economist, all the better.
It’s really hard to avoid them these days. Open the paper or turn on a radio and there is another dull report of falling financial markets, a stalling economy, the upswing in unemployment and the miserable forecast that we are all headed for financial hell. All this negative reporting and forecasting rippling through the ether has becomes the stuff of general conversation where everyone regurgitates the information and spreads the gloom even further. Recently I have been in conversations where air is sucked through teeth as a precursor to a “batten down the hatches” chat.
I have found myself joining in with the latest percentages from the press or some other dismal figures heard from the radio. The problem with all of this is that it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy driven by a fear of lack and scarcity. If we are not careful we will get trapped into a poverty mentality and, no doubt, financial hell is what we will bring about. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”. Take a step back and look at what is actually happening; there is a downswing, but the base curve will have as much to do with attitude and confidence as with actual reality.
Before I am accused of Pollyanna tendencies I am fully aware of the facts. The price of oil is rising which impacts the cost of everything, the property market has slowed down, job losses are very real and wage increases are as scarce as hens teeth, but even still there is much to be thankful for and with a few adjustments here and there it can all be weathered without too much pain. Certainly spending sleepless nights worrying about it won’t change it. Adopting a good attitude to combat this blip is, in my view, the best approach.
I am all for prudence and managing money but there are repercussions for hoarding it on many different levels. As a very simplistic example of this let’s just assume you buy a sandwich a bun and a coffee at lunchtime from the deli closest to your workplace. You read a ‘batten down the hatches’ article that tells you that this kind of frivolous luxury is the first thing that should go in your tightening up scheme. Make your sandwiches at home and bring them to work with you, is the useful advice dispensed, and you will no doubt save some money.
If everyone took this advice literally then the deli may have to cut staff due to the loss of income, the bun maker and coffee company is also at a loss. If the deli is in a garage or shop, you probably picked up a paper while you were out. The paper sales go down and again this leads to loss of income and inevitable job losses. With the flow of cash being stemmed more people are out of work and signing on the dole. These people, now out of work have to cut their spending on other goods and services. Meanwhile, the dole queues go up and the economists tell us to ‘batten down the hatches’ further, we are in a recession. Because the dole queues have gone up the government needs to get in extra taxes to fund the expense and so they push something else up or reduce funding in another area.
The result is that the few hundred quid that you saved annually on your sandwiches, bun, coffee and paper is now being siphoned from you another way. You are really not that much better off than the previous year but now your stress levels have increased because on top of getting yourself ready for work, the kids off to school, the kitchen tidied and the washing on the line before you go, you now have to spend extra time making bloody sandwiches!
You can apply this little exercise to absolutely everything. In order for the economy to work, there needs to be a flow. By all means look for value, be prudent in your purchases or maybe cut the sandwich buying down to three days a week rather than five. Cutting it out altogether will just further deepen the problem and exacerbate the crisis.
We are certainly in a blip but if everyone remains calm and sensible it will all work out in the end. It won’t do us any harm to have to make choices about car journeys with the price of petrol going up. Maybe a walk or two would do us all some good. Make sure your tyres are properly inflated in order to make the most out of your petrol spend, but don’t take it to extremes and sell your car altogether. We might also become more conscious of our electricity usage; saving money by turning lights and other appliances off when not in use. You know, this economic blip might have the upside of helping us to preserve the planet a little longer. In actual fact that could, in the long run, be very good news.
If nothing else don’t get involved in the ‘slow down’ conversations. Monitor it this week for yourself and see how many people mention the fact that there is ‘no money about’. Count the articles in the newspapers about the bust or notice the reports on the radio about job cuts and rising prices. Once you are aware of the scare mongering chatter then choose to rise above it. Without being careless and foolish with your resources, remember that a certain amount of money needs to be in circulation in order that this becomes a storm in the economists’ tea cups rather than a full blown recession.