Thursday, 2 February 2012

The youth of today, eh?

I recall no teaching of any kind of finance at school. But then I didn't do 'home economics' which in those days translated as 'cooking'. Boys who did that in the seventies were branded 'poof' so we all did woodwork and metalwork instead. Manly things involved saws, not spatulas.

Now I have a cooker I use every day, woodworking tools I use reasonably often, perhaps monthly on average, and have not seen a proper forge since 1976. I do have a small anvil but can only work metal cold. Looking back, learning about cooking would have been much more practical than learning how to use a shaper, a lathe or a plane. I did make a very nice ship's cannon in steel with an aluminium base though. It was so good my mother won't give it back. I think my father still uses the pointing trowel I made. So it wasn't all a total waste.

I can also make neat  housing and mortice and tenon joints (never managed dovetails) but none of this touched at all on the costs. Only on the finished products. School taught  us a lot of practical skills but never made any mention of what we should charge for using them. It is not just about woodwork and metalwork.

I did well in English, well enough to become a published author. The ghost of that teacher is satisfied now. I won an essay competition at school which gave me a goodly pile of record tokens (I bought Kraftwerk's early mad stuff). So if someone wants writing done, what do I charge? It was never mentioned

School taught me how to do many things but never mentioned any means of making a living at any of them. Yes, I can turn a cannon barrel or a table leg on a lathe. I can take a rough casting and shine it on a shaper. I can temper a chisel end or anneal a steel rod but what are those things worth? School never mentioned worth. School never once said 'You know how much you can make if you're skilled at this?' If you look back with a cynical eye, school taught us the value of everything and the price of nothing.

That's hindsight. We all have it. It's no use at all. It does not help us pay tomorrow's bills.

I learned about finance the hard way. When you borrow, they want more back than they gave you and they want it at a rate that can leave you utterly skint. No, it wasn't taught in school but it was common sense and in my early twenties I didn't have much of that. Neither did the early-twenties in any generation before me, so it's hardly fair to expect it of the few generations that come after me. We all learned the hard way apart from the few who watched us learn the hard way and were sensible enough not to follow us into the gutter.

It is not surprising, then, to find that the early-twenties in modern generations are pretty much the same as those of earlier generations.

When I was twenty-something, the thought of 'pension' went along with the thought of being wrinkly, being unable to down two gallons of beer and go to work the next day,  being slow and cautious and easily broken, saying things like 'I was in the war' and 'I'm eighty-six, you know' and stinking of cats and pee. Now I'm fifty, have no cats and a well-trained bladder, can't take the volume of beer I used to but all that bladder practice paid off. Now, pension is something that matters.

Now, I am glad that those pension contributions were forcibly deducted from my salary because when I was younger I would never have paid them voluntarily. Normally I am very much against anything forcible but let's be realistic here. Through my twenties and thirties and indeed most of my forties, if you had said 'pension' I would have regarded it as something to worry about later. If those pension contributions had not been deducted at source I would not have paid in. Few would.

There is a pension waiting for me and okay, the contributions were taken without my consent. In true anarchy they would not be and I'd have to keep working until I died. That part of government is one of the few sensible parts and compulsory though it is, it is considerably cheaper than income tax. The government costs you much more than your old age pension contributions. You pay far more to keep them in comfort now than to keep you in comfort later. Makes you think, doesn't it?

It's no wonder the young don't want to think about it.

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