Ask Paul: How do I protect my kids from my money worries?
As a single parent, how do I navigate this cost-of-living crisis? I don't want my children to feel financially stressed, but I can't hide everything. I work all week, but can't buy a home in the current climate - a goal I was working towards pre-COVID.
Throw in a set or two of braces and everything else going up, and I feel like there are no answers. I'm tired of reading articles telling me to cut a few dollars here and there when I feel like maybe I could do with a financial adviser looking over my finances, but that's also unaffordable.
I try really hard to be positive, but at times this situation gets me down. I feel like I make wise decisions and do all the right things, but doing this all alone is sometimes such a heavy burden to carry. - Mel
This is the key question of our times, Mel. Everything is expensive, wages are generally not keeping pace with inflation and millions of people feel they are treading water, going backwards or worse.
I'm not going to tell you to keep cutting costs. I know you will have done that.
For those who have not, it is not a subject we can avoid. Financial pressure hits us all at some stage, usually at the worst possible time!
For Vicki and me, it was 1990. Our mortgage hit 18%. Vicki was not working due to our young kids and my business was doing okay but not great at that stage. We sold the car and bought a cheap second-hand one. Fortunately, I could take public transport to work. It was bulk food buying (I grew to love vegetable curry) and we went financially backwards for nearly three years.
So, without the obvious, pious lecture about cost cutting and maybe doing some extra part-time work (how does a parent do this?) what do I say to you, to someone who is making wise decisions?
Well, I think that it is okay to just keep your head above water for a while. Please don't see this as a negative. The truth is the world keeps changing. Children grow and over time become adults.
Our careers can evolve as the kids get older. I've just turned 68 and have had the advantage of having lived in tough times and good. Inevitably, the hardest financial time is the younger kids' stage, even without rising interest rates, inflation and ever-increasing expenses.
This is not the solution you seek, but I think this is the time to simply survive and let your situation and the world change, which they will.
Exactly how the world will change, I have little idea. But as I look at some 7000 years of history, what I do see is a huge improvement in the vast majority of people's lives.
I also thank heavens that we are fortunate to be living in this beautiful country, with not only great free beaches and parks, but relative security, peace, healthcare, education and some very good safety nets, ranging from government benefits to charitable services. Just hanging on financially is no fun. I get that, been there.
But it never left my mind in the recession of the early 1990s that Australia was arguably the best place on the planet to be "just hanging on".
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