Your Money or Your Life?

No, this is not a reference to the well known line in “Stand and Deliver” by the white striped singer Adam Ant in 1981 ( if you can remember this you are showing your age – as am I ! )  but rather a more detailed look at the difficult decisions that are being made by everyone in the wake of Coronavirus. 

Over the last few months, there have been difficult decisions made at Government Level, Business level and individually. First, the government had to make difficult decisions on how serious the virus was and the impact it would have on society and weigh that up against damage to the economy. 

Then businesses have had to make similar choices – particularly before the lockdown – how will this affect the business, will we have to make redundancies, who should we furlough, is this work essential or not all weighed up against the safety of employees.

None of these decisions are easy to make and it’s easy to criticize when you are not the one making the decisions, but we’ve all had our own personal decisions to make as well and rather than decide the fate of the economy, when you are trying to decide whether you should work or not it comes down to one simple choice – Your Money or Your Life!  Should be simple right? 

Money or Life Decisions

Alongside coaching I’ve also had some other work and had such a decision to make recently – was it an immediate decision to make? It should have been – but it didn’t come instantly , the company I worked for didn’t immediately furlough its workers when lockdown was announced, it took about a week for the job to be deemed non-essential.  However, in that week, with a recent local confirmed corona case people were scared, talking to my colleagues, many could not afford to leave work to protect themselves unless they were officially furloughed.

Now being a financial coach I’m nearly always saving for a goal of some kind so I had some savings and after listening to others saying “ I wouldn’t be here if I could afford not to be “  after 4 days of dithering the penny finally dropped, Despite having savings as a safety net I was still personally putting earning more money towards my goal before my health! How could I criticize the company (or on a wider scale the government) if when it came down to me actually making the decision I was doing exactly the same? I mean what would be the point of earning towards my goal be if god forbid I wasn’t around to use it? So I made a decision to take myself home until such time as I felt safe at work.  I was fortunate I was able to do that.

Others were not so fortunate, not everyone was in the same position, everyone had different situations, a person suffering with severe  Asthma who couldn’t afford not to work, working in a supermarket whose company wouldn’t support him to be off sick, another who had a partner at home with a number of illnesses worried that every day he could be carrying the virus home and I am sure there are many many more across the country making the same decisions. 

Alongside everything else that is going on knowing that people with serious illnesses had to carry on working and risking their lives and those of their family is heart-breaking.

Prevention is better than cure. 

So how do we stop it in the future? How do we make sure that no – one has to choose between their money or their life? How can we cushion ourselves so we don’t have to wait for the government or employers to step in and make the decision for us? 

It has long since been recommended that we have 3 months wages put by for emergencies, but who actually does?  I’m not talking about those struggling to pay bills in the first place but those with disposable income.  Why is that?  Have we forgotten about security in the face of our wants and needs? 

Security or Self Esteem?

In 1943 Abraham Maslow published his hierarchy of needs, a theory in psychology which determines the universal needs of society, the two first foremost levels being of those of basic needs such as shelter, food and security, only once these foundations have been established do we move on to the further needs of a human being, and several layers up do we come to self esteem – now it could be argued that many of our “wants” such as the latest phone model, a large flashy car or the latest designer clothes are actually just feeding our self esteem,  our desire to feel good about ourselves and be valued in the eyes of others. Now there is nothing wrong with having these things – but ONLY if you have the income to support them and more crucially you have the foundations of security in place first.  However, for many people our wants and needs have become a priority over security. Why do we not have safety nets and prioritise our basic needs first? Well this is not a blame game, as you only do what you know or have learnt as there are many reasons as to how we handle money and choose to spend it, such as your personal history, your own habits and attitudes towards money, and Marketing also plays a huge part ( but that is a whole other blog for another day). The main thing is you can always choose to change your money habits and beliefs.  

Build a Safety Net

So I would urge everyone that can, when this is over ( or even start planning now) prioritize building yourself that firewall or safety net, think twice about buying the latest “must have” because although I agree saving is infinitely less interesting than the buzz of buying the latest iphone or Nike trainers, life can change in an instant, a loss of job, a health scare or if this ever happens again ( and I sincerely hope it doesn’t) having the security to make choices is priceless and it could just mean the difference of choosing between your money or your life.

Julie Barnes

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