Money

Money’s at the center of too much, in my opinion. Yes, it’s a means of exchange, a store of wealth and a way of keeping score, but it’s not much more. So why do we surreptitiously equate it with worth, usefulness, value and even intelligence?

The fashion for these things comes and goes. Boom times, say, like the 1890s or the 1980s/90s beget a fetish for wealth as a measure of everything. Money, or the perception of someone who has some, replaces qualities such as integrity, character, insight, perception, knowledge, thoughtfulness and wisdom. No. A mere accumulation of cash or assets implies none of these, although such a pile might – stress, might – be a result of some or all…but the correlation is on an individual basis only. Plenty of poor people have demonstrated the above-listed personal traits, so money is not the determining factor.

I listened to a wonderful CBC podcast on George Orwell recently. Orwell, Eric Arthur Blair, was a teenage hero of mine, a man who could write with insight and clarity like few others. He hated and fought communism with a fervor beyond his strength. He reminds me of the lay intellectual from the early to mid-twentieth century. Some working men and women were readers, thinkers, talkers and people of genuine original thought. They revered books and discussion of ideas, taking comfort in the beauty of considered contemplation.

Contrast today’s shallow shiny triviality that passes for public life. In the absence of respect for higher aspirations beyond mere cash, money floats to the top as the mindless way for the mindless to categorize others. It’s the last resort grading system, the test that everyone understands.

Double-Entry

In 1984, at what was then the South Australian Institute of Technology, I enrolled in and attended an accounting class. You know how you have picture or video-style memories that stick around in your head for no discernible reason? I have one of those from a lecture all those years ago still rattling around. It’s grainy and the sound is washed out, but know the topic was double-entry methods.

I should probably have stuck with it. Nah. I had too many other adventures between then and now for that to be right. Regret about such a distant choice isn’t worth the time, but it is interesting to ponder.

Thesedays I contemplate returning to those studies. Back then, when I was 21, I kinda sorta knew that any kind of general knowledge about accounting procedures and methods would be useful, but eventually chose other priorities. Now I know the value of being able to read a profit and loss statement and a balance sheet. Even if you don’t know precisely how they’re put together, accurate interpretation of such documents is a worthwhile skill.

Imagine this: If some of the central bank-created trillions of dollars, euros and yen that have been wasted in the last ten year, had been diverted into creating free accounting classes. Let’s say free accounting and business start-up classes – basic stuff, nothing fancy. How we’d all be collectively (hate that word) better off, and, individually, possibly a great deal better off if they’d done that instead of persisting with keeping failed banks afloat.

Nope. We’ll have to go pay for it ourselves whilst the eggheads stick with more and more idiocy. Watch out tomorrow for an avalanche of the stuff.

Focus

This week in markets it’s…well, it’s the same every week: What will the central bankers do? Janet & Co meet to do something or other Tuesday and Wednesday, which will mean something else to markets and something completely different to you and me. Three – or is that two? – degrees of separation is a good thing.

Which actually should be a way of looking at this tomfoolery. In my daily life, eggheads moving interbank borrowing rates a few basis points this way or that means nothing. I have no debt, so there’ll still be no interest payment. My living costs change meaningfully only with decadal moves in oil prices, so now we’ve had that for this ten years, they’ll stay about the same. In fact, now that I have just paid my premium in the last ten minutes, health insurance is now my single biggest expense apart from keeping a roof over my head. And that’s thanks to morons in DC who FAILED TO READ A 1,700 PAGE BILL THEY PASSED ON A CHRISTMAS EVE.

Ignoring the big picture is what people do by default, but I am beginning to believe it’s the only way to stay sane. Working, working for onesself, controlling outgoings, expanding incomings, saving, investing, finding cashflow and diversifying; these are the nibbles we can all make at escaping the tyranny of the big.

Local is good, small is powerful.

Shooting the Gap

In motor-car racing, they say that by the time you’ve seen the space into which you can slot your machine it’s too late. The implication is – rightly – that champions can see paths and opportunities almost before they exist.

Aussie Rules football is a useful metaphor in this regard too. Rools is a fast running game in which the ball is oval-shaped and therefore unpredictable. (Insert own life and/or business simile here.) Attackers must also defend, and defenders attack, which has the benefit of meaning everyone on the field understands how every other team-mate is thinking.

That’s worth dwelling upon for a moment. Your place on the field has an implied job description, but when a need for some other skill arises, YOU must apply that skill. Which is not to say that all players are all-rounders, because they aren’t. What they are is precisely aware of what everyone else is thinking and doing and importantly about to do. For the most part.

Imperfect science that it is, finding and shooting gaps is the way to find things such as success, for one thing, or customers, or yourself even. A gap is a route to somewhere else with a different view and a new set of challenges. Perhaps the biggest gap is the one I am about to bridge, between a job and self-employment. I consider it a must-make play, because not being my own boss from now on is unthinkable.

Perhaps you feel the same way. Let’s hold hands and shoot this thing together.