It’s a funny one money isn’t it? It’s something we aren’t meant to talk about yet it is the fuel for pretty much everything we do in life. We each have our own unique relationships with finances, which research suggests are shaped from our experiences surrounding it.
They often say the first generation builds a business and makes money, the second makes it a success and builds a fortune and the third generation loses it. To a certain extent I would say this has been true of my family and has had an affect on the way I was taught to view money.
My paternal great grandfather at the tender age of 22 took a huge risk and moved himself and his family to Canton in China where he set up a successful business as a silk merchant. From my understanding this was very profitable and it ensured my great grandparents traveled the world and had a very comfortable bank balance. This wealth provided my own grandfather with an excellent education, which his parents deemed vital if he was to do well in the world. Years later due to civil unrest in China my great grandparents returned to the UK to retire having sold their company for what was a handsome sum in those days.
Although there was no longer a family business, my own grandfather was desperate to replicate his parents success and they encouraged him to do so. My grandpa had an incredible business mind and having spotted a gap in the market, he set up one of the first ever car financing companies, just as cars started to become popular on British roads after the war. A few years down the line, with his company head office in Pall Mall, my grandpa went onto set up a very lucrative deal with Rolls Royce (the one Princess Grace of Monaco got married in was financed by his company – who knew the royals needed loans?!). When his office opened a branch in New York, my grandma and grandpa set up home in the tax haven of Bermuda.
My Dad and his siblings grew up very privileged due to my grandfathers success and the relationship they all had with money was quite different as a result. Unlike my grandfather who had been encouraged with his education and felt the need to achieve his own success, I hate to say it but my Dad and his siblings were spoiled as a result of money and the drive to earn their own was somewhat lacking early on. At 18 my father was given access to a sizable trust fund, which he’s admitted, in hindsight, should have been used to start a business or at least invested wisely. Instead Dad chose to buy cars no 18 year old’s have the right to drive, and then went onto travel the world living the high life. He was too young and reckless to have that type of money and as a result blew it.
Sure a few years later as Dad’s trust fund started to dry up, and after a few strong words from my grandfather, he settled down and started working. Dad went onto set up his own business which I understand was very bumpy at the start with many ups and downs, and he had no more buffering from his parents (in fact my mum helped him). By the time I came along Dad was doing well and although I didn’t grow up in the extreme splendor he did, I am very fortunate that I grew up in comfort with lots of the privileges money can afford. As a result of having and losing money though, Dad has always been incredibly tough on me when it comes to finances and earning my own money. As soon as I finished my GCSE’s he insisted I got a Saturday job and instilled a strong work ethic in me. Since the age of 16 I have never not worked – often doing two jobs at a time. This attitude taught me to work hard and honestly, to understand the value of things not just the price tag and to be financially independent.
Given I was taught to be so independent I find it odd to think that in my early 20’s I somehow found myself being totally relied upon financially by an ex boyfriend. I’m sure one day I will write more about it, but for now I’ll give you an edited version of this horrid relationship.
After a few months of dating – whom I now know to be a total monster – I somehow found Dickwad had moved himself into the flat I was renting. I never asked him to move in, he just took my spare key and began letting himself in and out, night after night. Before I knew it, all of his stuff was there and he treated the place as his own.
I’m someone who has always needed my own space at times and one evening when I asked him to go home he confessed he didn’t actually have a home to go to. He told me he’d given up his old rental when he’d slowly started moving in with me (I later found out this was a lie, and the reality was, he’d been kicked out for not paying the rent). So there he was, living with me and not contributing to the rent, bills or even smaller things like milk and toothpaste. I wasn’t on the best of salaries working in PR, so I really struggled to run the flat and support the two of us on just my wage, but if I asked him so much as to buy bread he would go berserk. I soon found out that due to Dickwad’s excessive partying he had lost a number of his freelance writing jobs so I ended up being responsible for absolutely everything – including writing the one column he still had left for GQ which was so poorly paid it didn’t even cover his phone bill. Dickwad’s entire living costs, from the roof over his head, oyster card top ups, buying clothes, socialising costs, eating etc all fell on me aged only 24. It was an incredible strain on me and one of the many, many reasons I ended things.
After years of putting up with this and much more, I asked him to leave, but he had nowhere to go and no money to sort himself out. It was awful. I hated that I had been manipulated into the position where this grown mans welfare fell entirely on me and that my kind nature had been taken advantage of to such an extreme extent. He hampered my life so much. As he had nowhere to go though, I realised my only option to escape this relationship was to get another job in addition to my full time Private Equity role (I’d left PR by this point due to the financial pressures on me) and save some money of my own. I know what you are all thinking, why didn’t I ask my parents for money or borrow some from friends? Well, it wasn’t that easy. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want people to know what a mess I was in and given I’d always been told to look after myself financially I was too stubborn to admit I hadn’t done so. I couldn’t even get a bank loan because Dickwad’s credit rating was so bad it had affected the flat we shared. So, when I finished my day job at 6 pm, I’d have a nap and then go to work from 10 pm – 3 am at a West End nightclub. I did this for four months, until I could afford to pay out the current tenancy agreement, which I was locked into, and take a short term let elsewhere on my own. The long hours killed me but I did it and I am proud of that now. I learnt through this horrific experience that the best protection anyone can have is a little money of their own. The relationship added to my independent values and as a result I don’t ever want to be in the position where someone feels that I am a financial hindrance (big or small) to them or that I could be viewed as a burden the way he was to me.
I don’t need a saviour, I never have. Nor do I want to be anyone elses saviour, I’m done with that. I would never use anyone for what they can give me, so why should they use me? If people find this attitude intimidating, I believe it is because they don’t have their own acts together or because they prefer people to have less than them and therefore they aren’t the type of people I want in my life anyway. It’s much better, I believe, to be wanted in life rather than needed.
Given this independent streak, when it comes to relationships (with a partner, friends or colleagues) money will never excite me. I’ll never be impressed by the size of a bank account, fancy degree, big house or job title. I am impressed by kindness, integrity and humility.
I now realise that the way couples treat money in relationships is an index of the value they place on each other. It doesn’t matter who earns more or less, it’s about doing your bit. If I love someone with all I have, I’d give them all I have. If they have less than me but they are prepared to put in as much as they can, that’s all that matters. Equally if they have more money than me, I hope they would be accepting of the fact I’d try and give all I could. I can’t stand people who date for money not love, I can’t comprehend that type of attitude. Money does not brong you love, but fighting about it will certainly bankrupt a relationship. Financials just aren’t important to me. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love the the odd treat or gift (I’m still a girl!) but what I really want is someone to be there for me, someone who respects me and treats my heart well, it has nothing to do with purchases for me.
Having had this relationship and also hearing all about my Dad’s trials and tribulations with finances early on, I know the value of money and I appreciate the security it can bring to ones life. For me money gives us opportunities and chances, but material goods don’t mean that much to me. I have never understood greed, it’s not in my nature. If anything, I boarder on being too generous and would much rather spend my money with and on the people I care about than on the many things society suggests mean we are wealthy.
Lots of people seem to equate fancy purchases with happiness and success but for me I’ve never found that to be the case. I’m sure buying a flashy car or handbag may give people an initial buzz if they are into that sort of thing, but that thrill is temporary and will soon fade. I look at peoples sports cars sometimes and imagine the money they spent on them and can’t help but think “you could have been travelling the world with that money but instead you choose to crawl over a speed bump”, to me it is nonsensical. Expenditure on interactions with the people I care about such as dinner with my parents, drinks with a boyfriend, getting a manicure with a friend are so much more valuable to me. These little bits of happiness add up and last a lot longer than driving a show off car or carrying a bag with a weird logo.
Money to me is a great enabler. It is the fuel that helps provide me with the life experiences I crave but nothing more. I love to travel and the money I earn helps satisfy my curiosity about the world as it enables me to explore and expand my horizons. Through travel I have found it interesting to see how other cultures view money. If pay cheques really are the key to happiness then why is it that we only ever see poor children dancing in the streets of third world countries whilst kids in the Western world moan about not having the latest Playstation game? If I were to ever get married, I don’t want an engagement ring worth the GDP of a small African country or a wedding day that leaves us broke. I’d rather have a happy debt free marriage and travel to those African countries to explore with someone I love spending time with and creating memories.
You see that’s what it all comes down to for me, building lasting memories with the people I love. When I am in my final days I want to be able to look back at my life fondly and feel I got the most out of it. I know with this attitude I will never make the Forbes Wealth List but that’s ok with me, I am filthy rich in so many other ways thanks to the people I love and the times I share with them and no amount of money will ever compete with that.