Growing up I had mixed feelings about the concept of money – not sure whether it was good or evil, helpful or destructive. I even wrote in my primary school graduation yearbook that I if I could change anything in the world I would make it so that there was no such thing as money! Whenever I come across that book these days I cringe and feel embarrassed that those words are written next to my name and picture. I hope people that read them don’t take me too seriously considering I was only 12 years old and didn’t know any better.
To be honest I don’t really remember why I wrote that. Perhaps I couldn’t think of anything else to write and stole the thought off a classmate. Or maybe I was genuinely concerned about the effect money can have on people. By that age I had seen or heard about people living in poverty, witnessed the emotion money gives people, observed the divides between the seriously rich and devastatingly poor, watched countless movies and television shows where there’s a villain driven by greed, experienced how some people judge others based on how much money they have. All of that perhaps led me to the conclusion that money was something to worry about – hence why I thought there should be no such thing.
After five years of high school, numerous jobs and a dual business and journalism degree with an economics major, I learnt that society needs money to function. Instead of thinking that it is something to worry about, I now see it as something that should be taken care of. With appropriate management, through things such as budgeting, saving and investing, money can be wonderfully harnessed. Here’s how I progressed to understand this:
My money learning experiences
High school: My high school years involved a lot of growing up and increased independence. Being able to go out by myself and buy my own things started to put a thing or two into perspective. I slowly began to gain a sense of how much things cost and how to establish a bargain from a rip-off. These practical lessons were accompanied by business and economics classes at school which taught me theories regarding why certain things cost more than others (e.g. supply and demand). Also, playing the online share market game simulator at school introduced me to the valuable concept of investment. Since I was quite competitive with friends, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous every time a mate from school managed to save up enough money to buy a car before me. The benefits of delayed gratification were plain to see, so I figured I’d better start learning to save!
First jobs: My first jobs taught me the value of money; that it is something that needs to be worked hard for. I became more protective of my money because it was something I had earnt through hours of effort. For example, I was less willing to buy a pair of jeans that cost as much as I had earnt through a whole day’s work! I began to develop budgeting techniques to help me save for the things I really wanted.
University: My tertiary studies helped me to see the bigger picture of why money is important for society, and why people behave the way they do with money. It inspired me to want to change the way people perceive money and help them to make better financial decisions so that there is less worry and stress in the world.
Since I’m now at that stage in life where I’ve landed my first full-time career job, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my future financial goals. I fantasise about buying a house and living a comfortable lifestyle free of financial worries, now and forever (don’t we all?) Surely that can be achieved somehow. Realistically, I don’t think life is meant to be as easy as that. But if we’re smart about how we manage our money and spending, we can make things easier for ourselves. That’s what New Zealand’s Money Week campaign (31st of August to 6th of September) is here to remind us about.
Check out the official Money Week website to find out how you can get amongst it and learn how to build financial capability.