26 April 2010

Things I Notice When the Talk Is About Money

While in India in 1990, I remember various conversations I had with a someone on a train or whatever, and being asked how much money I make. This happened more than once. I remember being shocked by the question, one which I possibly had never been asked before in casual conversation. No doubt I stammered out some kind of evasive response. So I had discovered that this kind of question isn't taboo everywhere. Whereas, here....

After talking to an old friend on the phone the other day, I pondered that even though he was talking about money, he never actually said an amount. He said he got a raise, which was more than what he thought he was going to get. He said more than once, emphatically, that it was much more, like twice as much as he thought it would be.

People say, "Man, I lost my shirt in the stock market, now I can't retire when I'm 55." They never say, "I lost $200,000 in the stock market. Now I only have $300,000." I feels risky even to write it.

It seems that any details that might indicate how much money you have or make are verboten. Not that I have a need to know how much money someone makes. It's just something I notice--a common omission. I wonder if the more you make, the less likely you are to use an amount when referring to your money. Or maybe it's not incremental. Maybe there's a genetic switch of some kind, such that once you make over a certain amount of money, your jaw snaps shut like a clam.

At a show the other night, the performer talked a little about her mortgage -- she couldn't afford it but got talked into it. She didn't say how much it was, just that she was poor, and it was difficult. She talked about tenants and window sills and storage units, and how difficult it all was. I think this is only understandable to someone who has those kinds of problems. To me, they don't seem like problems.

A couple of times I've unwittingly referred to monetary amounts in groups of people who by my standards have rather a lot of it. I think once I actually said how much money I make (not that I'm saying it now!) To make less money working for the Dharma (a corny phrase) was a choice I made some years ago, and 99% of the time I am happy with it, and feel that I have a fairly high standard of living (by my standard anyway, which has to do with love and meaning.) Anyway the effect of saying that I make $xx,000 per year was as if had dropped an ice cube dropped inside the back of their shirt and they were trying to pretend it wasn't there.

Based on this very large sampling of statistically valid data, I have created...

Maxims For How We Feel and Talk About Money
  1. Even if billions of people would consider us wealthy, we feel poor. No matter how much you have, there is not enough.
  2. We speak in specific amounts when talking about outgoing money. Example: "They charged me $1,100 fix a tiny dent in my car!"
  3. We speak in generalities about money coming in. Example:"My tax refund this year is somewhat less than last year."
  4. We have actually told one or possibly two people on earth how much money we actually make or have.
  5. We are more likely to talk in detail about our sex life than our financial life.
Or is it a middle class thing? ...What are your money maxims?

image is Laxmi, Hindu god of wealth and prosperity
from http://holidays.vgreets.com/Diwali/Lakshmi_Puja

No comments:

Site Meter