Donald MacInnes: Being money-minded isn't child's play – well it wasn't for me
In The Red
Donald MacInnes writes Tales from the Water Cooler, which can be found every Saturday on page 2 of i. And, although a financial near-imbecile, he writes a weekly column in The Independent’s Money section, also on Saturdays. He writes regularly on a broad range of subjects in i’s Freeview section and occasionally fills in on Simon Kelner’s daily column when emotionally up to it. @DonaldAMacInnes
Saturday 26 May 2012
I suppose few of us are particularly financially organised when we are children, for the simple reason that there is no need for us to be a slave to interest rates while we still talk to our teddies. Especially if they answer us back. Actually, mine still do. Anyway, displaying early monetary acumen is not natural. If we were meant to be fiscally competent at an early age, Pampers would come in pinstripes.
Thankfully, I am better with money than I used to be. In truth, though, I could hardly be worse. For me, there was no tomorrow. What I had, I spent. What I owned, I consumed. I could never squirrel away anything. In fact, when my sister and I got our festive allocation of chocolate for Christmas, I would have inhaled all of my selection boxes by New Year's Day, whereas Audrey would still be shaving miniscule slivers off her giant Toblerone come Easter.
I wish I was kidding about this. When it came to money, I think it must have been transparently obvious to my mother quite early on that I wasn't headed for a career as an actuary. I can't put my finger on why this was the case. My first memory of being the (shortlived) custodian of a sizeable amount of money was in the lead-up to our annual summer holiday, invariably to a caravan park somewhere in a field in Cornwall or Northumberland. The night before we were due to leave, my mother would give my sister and I an envelope of cash, which was our spending money for our holiday.
My mother being a single parent, there was never huge amounts of cash floating around, so I would imagine the envelope contained something like £20, which was to last us for the week we were away. I recall during the car journey, I would check my pocket incessantly, feeling the rustle of the envelope and being comforted and slightly horrified by its pregnant spendability. When you are eight years old, £20 seems like all the riches of the Pharaohs. Well, it did back then. Nowadays kids probably get £20 every morning, just in case they need to buy some apps for their smartphone on the way to school.
Given my admitted profligacy, I suspect I would have spent all of my money by the first weekend, so would have to follow my sister around, begging and imploring for more. "Got any spare change?"I would drone, at which point I imagine my mother would have winced and offered up a prayer that I wouldn't spend my adult life repeating this to strangers next to cash machines.
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