On prices and dinosaurs – watching the History Channel and reliving your youth

A university has invited me to address their history department. I think they did so because I am the only fossil – an ex-student – they could find. Initially I thought it would be fun to tell the students about what it was like studying at that institution during the 1970s (the good old days?) but on reflection I realised it is all a bit embarrassing!

  • How do I explain to my audience that male students were required to wear ties to classes?
  • Or that we had hair inspections? (Our hair could not touch our collars)
  • How about the poor female students who had to wear long, loose-fitting skirts?

After all as a ‘Christian University’ we had to follow Paul’s teaching and his dress code. He said women could not wear men’s clothes that is it! No trousers, no denim, no short skirts.

  • We tried to protest by wearing ties around our waists
  • One fellow Christian asked the Dean whether Jesus would be allowed in that institution since he wore long hair? (The student was charged with blasphemy and expelled)

Have no fear – Justice did prevail!

The wind helped us.

All lectures were moved to the inner city campus whilst the seaside campus was undergoing construction. As the buildings neared completion the authorities decided that the social work students would be the first to move to the revamped campus. Students would start their day at the city campus and then, later in the day, they would be taken by bus to the new location.

As is most often the case in the Windy City, the wind was blowing with religious conviction on that fateful first day. Can you guess what happened to the young ladies with their loose-fitting long skirts as they descended from the busses?

Not-quite-Huston, we have a probelm

How do you protect your modesty and hold your briefcase at the same time? Remember, we were told quite clearly that Paul says women should not wear men’s clothing!

With transparency that matched the ethos of the times, we were informed that new guidelines would replace the old. From that point onward, women were only allowed to wear trousers. Skirts were now seen as the devil’s tools to tempt our young and innocent men.

Don’t ask questions, honour your (educational) father and mother and submit. A theology student explained without a hint of irony that clearly Paul had not lived in a windy city. This meant that his dress code was not relevant at this seaside campus.

Why am I telling this story? To show the folly of some of our decisions.

And it teaches us about money as well

Do you know what I could buy while I was a student?

  • For the month I worked at SARS, I earned R230.
  • Our 3 bedroom family home cost R40 000.
  • I had to make a student loan to pay for my books and fees. Nedbank was kind enough to lend me R250. It covered my tuition.
  • In those years we could buy fuel at 7 cents per litre (I was part of a Christian group that drove around in a petrol-guzzling, converted second world war ambulance. It was painted bright purple and was covered in Christian stickers. More than once people came up to us and offered to fill the tank as they favoured our religious flavour!)
  • For 10 cents I could buy a 500ml Coke, and for another 15 cents I could get a hot dog at Wimpy.
  • I took a first-class train ride from Port Elizabeth to Durban with the (then) South African Railways. I stayed over for a night and took the train back the next day. For this breakaway I had to fork out R7,45.

Sigh! I wish I knew then what I know now

Young people roll their eyes when they hear a statement like the one above. They think you only want to cramp their style. You do not want them to have fun in the sun because you are old and bitter and have arthritis.

Fair enough – let me flip it around.

Let us say you are thinking of retiring early at the age of 55. You have 10 years until that date. How much money do you think you will need?

  • What do you think a litre of milk will cost on your 80th birthday?
  • What would you pay for a taxi ride to the Doctor?
  • What would a good Brandy cost (only for medicinal purposes, you know!)
  • What would you pay for supper (most likely this will be in the middle of the afternoon – there is a reason why pensioner supper specials start at 4 pm!)

How to deflate a conversation: mention inflation

You probably keep hearing Economists and Financial Planners give out warnings about the effects of inflation. Though inflation gives us clues about the stability of the economy, the strength of our currency and possibly helps us to compare the cost of living if you want to move overseas for a few months, it does not tell you much about YOUR financial prospects. It is just too broad and non-specific.

Once you start down that rabbt hole you will soon find yourself wanting to wash your mouth with soap because of all the macro-economic swear words. Diminishing Marginal Productivity. Consumer Veracity. Fiscal Liquidity. And you will STILL not really know where you stand.

So what is the answer, Professor?

You need to find yourself a good financial advisor that does not present you with a neatly wrapped (with a pink bow and everything) package who make vague promises like ‘don’t worry, we will take care of you’. The arch nemesis of a good financial advisor is one who steers people in the direction that is most profitable – for them, not you! They will often push the products that they earn the greatest commission from.

Stay in school – never stop learning. Invest as soon as you can and before responsibilities and temptations lead you astray! Equip yourself with financial literacy and find a financial advisor to work WITH you, so that you remain in charge. Treat your dinosaurs with respect, go home to see them as often as you can and tell them that you love them. Amen!

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