Money-minded, Money-maddened, Money Matters


 “Money, money, money must be funny in a rich man’s world.” The chorus of the 1976 Abba song is probably still well known but it starts with “I work all night I work all day to pay the bills I have to pay.  Ain’t it sad?  And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me, that’s too bad.”   That could be the theme song for many families, where parents work night and day for themselves and their kids, for their education, for the clothes and gadgets and things they want. But is all this effort appreciated and understood and what is the human cost of all this work to families and to society?  Relationships cannot be maintained without investment of time and love. Polarisation results.

We are well aware there are others who do not work all day and night and do have money that they have not earned honestly and fairly. How do children absorb that value system?

Materialism is a feature of today’s society. Is it all bad?  We cannot say that progress, efficiency and new developments do not have merit.  Growth in knowledge over last 50 years has been phenomenal and yet poverty has grown at the same time. Could we not have combatted that social evil?  Was individualism alongside materialism the problem?

There must be millions of families everywhere concerned with money management matters. Maybe we’re coping, may not too well.  Poverty alleviation is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and is always on the national agendas particularly of developing countries.  But that is at the macro level.   We do hear and take note of statistics of poverty rates and how many people are living on or below the poverty line and we are well aware that each of us can and should contribute to this problem. And yes, Pope Francis has instituted a WORLD DAY OF THE POOR, appropriately towards the end of the Church year and not far from the holiday madness season.   His challenging request:  At times I fear that many initiatives, meritorious and necessary in themselves, are meant more to satisfy those who undertake them than to respond to the real cry of the poor. We are so trapped in a culture that induces us to look in the mirror and pamper ourselves, that we think that an altruistic gesture is enough, without the need to get directly involved.

But at a more homely level, every family, poor and not so poor, are conscious of the role of money and how necessary it is  to bring up and educate their children, care for their elderly or extended family, beautify their environment and have as enjoyable a life as possible. A shortage of money can put enormous strain on family life.  Are there parameters, lines to be drawn as to what is OK and not OK or is it all a matter of personal circumstances and choice?

At my age and in my work, dealing with money matters and families over the years, it is as perplexing as it ever was. A current situation still confuses me.  The SA economy is not in a healthy state and on the one had we are encouraged to save, to stay out of debt as much as possible, cut debt when we can and economise on every day or special occasion expenses e.g. year-end functions, special dinners which are sometimes fundraising events, expensive weddings etc.  On the other hand such functions have become an accepted thing, whether we can really afford it or not. We’re almost blackmailed by peer pressure, public opinion and our own not wanting to be shown up as having less than the next guy.  Unrealistic expectations exist in  children and other family members to be able to buy, buy, buy expensive presents for one another and the kids at Christmas.  Is this expected or deserved?

This week we celebrate the feast of St Nicholas on 6 December. I seem to remember that in my childhood days in Holland St Nicholas came to the good children and Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) would get to the naughty ones.  And by the way we never thought of this as racist, as is causing riots in Holland this year.  That wasn’t an issue.  St Nicholas was born in the 4th century into a rich family in present-day Turkey. As a child he was noted for his generosity. After his parents died he gave away his wealth out of love for the poor and needy and was ordained a bishop.  He was the original and true Santa Claus because of this generosity and love.

Some families agree voluntarily to have a lean Christmas.  Some use money saved to make a donation to a chosen cause.   Is an expensive dinner party any more enjoyable than a picnic?

Keeping up with the Joneses is outward show.  Spending money “because I can afford it” while others suffer, even within families, is selfish and hurtful even though it cannot really be judged as wrong. However, disregarding the importance and value of money and wasting it on unnecessary and unreasonable extravagances can be sinful.  Can we tell that to our kids or spouse when choosing the right school, tertiary institution, car or house?

You see Money Matters – a matter for serious consideration. Like all property it is given to us in trust to be shared for the common good.  With a life-giving attitude it can be fun, in a rich man’s or even not such a rich man’s world.

Pope Francis views on riches and povertyTo the extent that we come to understand the true meaning of riches, we grow in humanity and become capable of sharing.   TR   FAMILY WEEKLY 5 DECEMBER 2019

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