Money lessons with Dick­ens

Matamata Chronicle - - Sport - ROB STOCK

Vic­to­rian English nov­el­ist Charles Dick­ens is help­ing me cut my spend­ing this year. He’s also been re­mind­ing me of a few fun­da­men­tals of money man­age­ment.

I am­read­ing Dick­ens’ nov­els be­cause ear­lier this year I vowed to stop buy­ing books un­til I had made my way through the many un­read ones on my book­shelves.

The vow was an act of po­lit­i­cal protest. Each year Auck­land Coun­cil de­liv­ers me another eye-wa­ter­ing rates rise. And each year, I try to find a way of trim­ming my spend­ing to limit its im­pact on my bank bal­ance.

I have largely stuck to my pledge to cur­tail my book-buy­ing habit with the ex­cep­tion of be­ing per­suaded to buy Harry Pot­ter and the Cursed Child for my res­i­dent 10-year-old Pot­terite and a copy of A His­tory of the World in 100 Ob­jects, which I could not re­sist. Aim for self-suf­fi­ciency De­velop a sav­ings habit Don’t bank on in­her­it­ing any­thing

Dick­ens used to be on the Bri­tish £10 note. That was very fit­ting, be­cause Dick­ens was in­tensely in­ter­ested in money.

But of all the six Dick­ens nov­els I have so far got through, it is Great Ex­pec­ta­tions, the story of a black­smith’s ap­pren­tice who sud­denly comes into a gen­er­ous in­come, that I found most pro­fes­sion­ally in­ter­est­ing.

We tend to think of con­sumerism, easy credit and fi­nan­cial profli­gacy as be­ing par­tic­u­larly mod­ern evils.

They aren’t, and nor is the ten­dency of peo­ple to squan­der an in­her­i­tance.

Great Ex­pec­ta­tions is the story of Pip who comes into ‘‘great ex­pec­ta­tions’’ of wealth.

It goes to his head. He runs up debts. Spends a bun­dle on food, books, clothes, jew­ellery and liv­ing it up.

He lives be­yond his means, runs up debts, and spends prac­ti­cally none of the in­come (which comes from an anony­mous bene­fac­tor) on any­thing use­ful.

Pip makes five mis­takes peo­ple to­day of­ten make with money.

He spends more than his in­come, which is the road to ruin in Dick­ens. Sav­ing and fru­gal­ity is the hall­mark of good sense.

He lays noth­ing aside against the fu­ture, and worse, he does not in­vest in prop­erty or

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skills. When his great ex­pec­ta­tions van­ish, he’s in­debted and un­able to see how he will earn money.

His spend­ing is guided by the de­sire to earn the ap­proval of oth­ers, namely the cold-hearted Estella, who he loves.

He re­lies on oth­ers to pay his way. Pip’s debts are paid off by the black­smith, whose mod­est wealth

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is built on work skills, pride and fru­gal­ity.

Pip banks on com­ing into money. Many peo­ple to­day bank on a bit of money com­ing their way in wills. It’s a dan­ger­ous thing to do. Even if you have ex­pec­ta­tions of in­her­it­ing money, it’s best to live as though this won’t hap­pen, and treat it as a bonus if it does.

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PHOTO: 123RF

Vic­to­rian nov­el­ist Charles Dick­ens was in­tensely in­ter­ested in wealth, and its mis­use.

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