It doesn’t shame me to admit that the supposed male role-models in my life lie on opposite sides of the spectrum. My father is the Armani-wearing, plane-hopping businessman who spends more time in cities I cannot pronounce than in his own home. He’s the man who will spend a week’s pay on a new hobby which he indulges in for a few days before getting bored. On the other hand, my mum’s boyfriend is the wealthy man who buys food in bulk from Pak ‘n Save, wears bargain-bin clothing and has driven the same car since the dawn of time. Put simply, the two male role-models in my life are classifiable as a ‘large spender’ and a ‘frugal person’. In this sense, I have witnessed completely opposite stances on how money should be processed. I know my father’s spending habits are concerning, but it’s my mum’s boyfriend’s stance on money that really confuses me.
My mum’s boyfriend is a man of Dutch descent who moved to New Zealand in his late teens. He spends most of his free time cycling, jogging and tramping. His love of tramping and the great outdoors have always been a great motivation to him. It was due to his love of tramping that he joined the region’s most well-regarded mountaineering club in the 1990’s. Not long after he joined the club he met my mum. Ever since they first met they have been friends. He even had the privilege of accompanying my mum on her first ‘snow summit’. He is a strong believer in John Muir’s outlook on mountaineering: “walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer.” His working life on the other hand is far different. He has been working nonstop since he arrived in New Zealand. In fact, he has come to possess a small fortune of money by barely spending any money on his own desires.
Imagine that you were offered $10,000 for free with no strings attached. You would take it, right? I certainly know I would. I wouldn’t donate it to charity: I’ve got more important issues at hand. But what if you were given the chance to be a millionaire? That’s a million dollars in your bank. I’m sure that would appeal to your senses. We are greedy, selfish human-beings after all. With that amount of money we could purchase a mortgage-free house, a fancy car, and still have money left over to support us for years to come. We’d be able to live life to the full without having to worry about our bank balance. So why is it that there are people who strive for billions of dollars? Surely there isn’t that much that you can buy with a billion dollars! Hearst Castle? A thousand Ferraris? It is needless to say that our financial heroes Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have earned so much money that its value can no longer benefit them personally: only large-scale charities could put that much money to use. The only way such excessive values of money could be reached is through a frugal nature. My mum’s boyfriend is of this very nature.
My mum’s boyfriend is a man who has been saving every cent he has ever earned since he was first employed. I can understand his reasoning for this: it’s a personal trophy; a self-given congratulation for his own success. But what really mystifies me is that both he and mum are 50-years-olds. You may ask, “What’s the problem with that?” This is where things get personal. I know for a fact two things: he has a large portion of cash in the bank, and his “soul mate”, my mother, has a very serious form of cancer. In fact, the oncologist has given her mere months to live. So when he goes on a grocery run for my mother and buys the cheapest juice instead of my mum’s preferred Just Juice in order to save a measly 50 cents, I start to question his motives. Both of their lives are relatively close to their ends, and he’s attempting to save an insignificant value of money by compromising on a small purchase. How could such small savings possibly benefit him? I cannot understand his reasoning behind this. And, if the Bible is to be taken into account, nor can Christianity. According to Luke 12: 16-21, the act of saving up your money until the day of your death is foolish. What makes matters worse is that he’s definitely not the only one with such a tight control over their money. I cannot identify the sense of satisfaction these people must feel knowing they have rarely indulged in any personal satisfaction. These are the wealthy people who shop at Save-Mart to save a couple of dollars. At what point in time are they going to realise what a waste of time it has been saving for all these years?
What makes this even more peculiar is that mum’s boyfriend has no children for whom to pass on his fortune when he dies. I assume he plans on donating his money to charity when he passes away. Many people would respect this decision. Many people would see this as a very humble thing to do. I wouldn’t. I personally think that it would be much more honourable to care for his dying life-partner. Caring for someone you love would be much more gratifying than caring for the needs of a complete stranger, especially when he wouldn’t even be alive to witness it. I do not suggest that he adopts the same spending scheme as my father, but perhaps allowing something as small as a carton of Just Juice into his budget. After all, you can’t take your money with you when you die.
NB I wrote this last few year for an essay competition entitled "what makes you think?"
Not long after I wrote this, my mother has passed away.