Money

Help, I’m a blur sotong: I realised how little I knew about finances

by Gabriel Ong // January 3, 2020, 12:25 pm

Help blur sotong

One of the less talked-about (and much less fun) parts of becoming an adult is having to figure out all the adulting stuff needed for real life.

By adulting, I mean that moment when you realise there’s a whole new bunch of things you need to start paying or saving for. It’s a sudden realisation that usually comes with a lot of initial anxiety as the shimmer of a carefree childhood fades away and the dreary pay-and-pay reality of adulthood sets in.

It certainly hadn’t sunk in while I was in university. While all my friends were talking about their “portfolios” and the next exciting thing to invest in, I was barely even in the game about these things.

Pretending that financial illiteracy isn’t a thing doesn’t make it go away.

I was just thinking about stepping into a new era of freedom – but why everyone keep talking about what “financial freedom”, ah?

So I’d say my journey into adulthood really only happened sometime before my marriage, when my fiancée and I started planning for things like housing and our wedding. That was when we really had to start thinking about things like how to finance a mortgage, bank accounts – joint or separate – and insurance.

It was also when I realised I was super blur about all this stuff.

DON’T BANK ON QUICK AND EASY FIXES

Case in point, I went with Cheryl to apply for a savings account, which looked pretty snazzy. Sounds simple enough right?

So we walked into the bank and told them what we wanted to do. Well, for some reason, we were then seated down with an agent – the one I thought was going to help set our account up – who, instead, promptly started his presentation.

He declared that instead of spending $500 a month to fulfil the credit card spend criteria, we could instead purchase a savings plan with an insurance provider (almost $700 per month), so we wouldn’t have to “spend’.

We both thought this was a fantastic idea at the time: “Can save money, no need to spend on credit card.” I mean, we were told it was a plan so good, even this guy and his fiancée couldn’t help but purchase one as well.

I was such an idiot. Somehow it had completely slipped past my brain that the monthly expenditure for things like groceries and bills would already add up to more than $500 a month. In that light, the savings plan would be redundant in reality – one might even argue that the agent was being predatory.

I would have known to reject the savings plan and just set up the account had I realised that I should have just punched the numbers in first. Alas – blur sotong that I was – I didn’t and we signed up for the thing.

About a month later, when we finally realised that the plan might not have been the greatest idea in the world, we asked friends for advice (one of whom even went to his director at his insurance agency to help us draft a letter to get out of the plan) and panicked for a bit.

Only did we then realise, right before we submitted the letter of complaint, that while the plan wasn’t ideal and the horizon wasn’t that exciting, it wasn’t all that bad and we could afford it.

At the end of the day, the point remains that we were taken for a ride by other people and even ourselves! All this drama could have been easily avoided if we had first put the work in ourselves to understand the proposed plans and our own positions.

WE’LL HAVE TO GIVE AN ACCOUNT TO GOD

I consider it God’s mercy that we didn’t have to pay “tuition fees” by having to cut our losses short and surrender the savings plan.

But that was the point where I decided it was time to grow up and be a bit smarter about financial decisions.

Part of this impulse came simply from the embarrassment at having been fleeced, but another part came from my realisation that I wasn’t being a good steward of what God had given to me.

We are quick to praise God as Jehovah Jireh, our Provider, and eager to believe and receive what He gives to us. But, speaking for myself, I’m nowhere near as quick to say yes to being a good steward of the resources placed in my hands and around me.

I want to change that. And one thing I’ve learnt in the journey to that end is this: Pretending that financial illiteracy isn’t a thing doesn’t make it go away.

TAKE AN INTEREST 

Ground zero: Start caring.

You just gotta come to a point where you decide this is worth looking into – and it is! Then the subsequent steps may flow a bit more easily. Just note that these are my own suggestions. They are certainly not exhaustive; just a good place to start.

  1. Track your monthly expenditure (what comes in and what goes out).
  2. Talk to a financial advisor.
  3. Know where your gaps in coverage are.

Step 1 is a good way of waking up your idea, while also giving you an idea of what your financial situation really looks like.

Step 2 helps you to plan your next steps that will suit your goals and profile.

Step 3 is so that you know how much of your income will be protected in the event that something unforeseen happens. These are some areas of coverage that you might want to explore: death, total permanent disability, critical illness, early-stage illness, partial disability coverage, accident and hospitalisation.

Quick note here – I prefer my agents to be people I can trust – usually family or friends. But, cynical as I can be, I still believe that there are good people out there who are genuinely willing to help you out in this journey of getting financially woke (just never be too quick to say yes to anything).

If you don’t have these people, now would be a good to start praying and looking – and there are also other resources on the Internet you can look up with discernment.

At the end of the day, it’s better to ask a stupid question than to make a stupid mistake. Let us embrace humility as we leave our blur sotong nature behind and at least try and get better at this stuff. 

We owe it to God, who has given us every good thing, and we owe it to ourselves.

THINK + TALK

  1. In what areas do you struggle in when it comes to financial literacy?
  2. How can you be a better steward of your money in the coming year?
  3. If it all feels daunting, start with the first suggested step of monthly budgeting.
About the author

Gabriel Ong

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.