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The courage to spend or save

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Jayantha weighs up if one should splash the cash or not

That party is over! Our society, plagued by the fever of conspicuous consumption, now finds itself confronted by a very real influenza. People in the east are left bemused by those in the west, panic-buying toilet paper as if it was some sort of vaccine. Surely the time-tested remedy of water, that has withstood centuries should suffice.

This is no laughing matter of course; it really is a life and death situation. Uncertainty is confounded by the unpredictable spread of this invisible enemy. It is natural to think about one’s own mortality – and the issue of money. It is clear to us now in the current crisis, how little one needs to live comfortably. Those expensive gold bangles and watches that we wear to impress others; our whiskey and wine collections, who will enjoy them after our (hopefully not untimely) demise? We cannot take them with us, nor exchange them for perfect health or just a bit more time with our loved ones.

Our natural reaction to a calamity is to stop spending and start to save for a rainy day. Whilst this may be a logical reaction it is not what governments want us to do. In contrast to our rational thinking the policy of central governments, is to encourage more spending by giving cheap loans with low interest rates at negative interest rate. This approach saved us once after the 2008 financial crisis, preserving the jobs of a large number of people. If we don't spend, the economy suffers and then people have no way of making a living. So, we find ourselves in a paradox where saving money becomes worse than conspicuous consumption as governments do their best to promote it. A strange realisation set off by extraordinary turn of events but the real question is; are we not able to find a sensible middle ground?

To save for a rainy day, or spend in case the next year is our last, is a timeless dilemma. Those of us approaching or already in our 7th decade know that we haven’t much time left – all that hard-earned money doing extra “on calls” or “private work” is going to be left to our next generation who are inherently better off than us at the corresponding age. They may not be as careful as we have been with our money, as they did not earn it.

It is noticeably clear to us, with the current crisis, how little you need to live comfortably.

Can one justify paying four times the fare to fly to Sri Lanka in the comfort of business class, or would that money be better spent given to a charity? Does charity begin at home – should we share our wealth with our children, or does this disadvantage them; will the knowledge of inherited wealth blunt their ambition? To have money is one thing, the courage to spend is another.

There are some who continue to work well beyond 70, Some even refer to it as their ‘hobby’.

What more do you want from your life in these later years? This is fine for some, but we must carefully consider the joy and comfort that can come from splashing a little extra cash on life’s luxuries as we head into the twilight of our lives.

I am aware that this can be a very contentious issue. I would gladly welcome different opinions on this subject – that after all, is the purpose of this forum

Jayantha Premachandra


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