Somebody always wants your money

As I sit in front of my computer, human money behaviour comes to mind.

I am compiling documents and emails as part of a formal complaint to FOS, Australia’s Financial Ombudsman. FOS is where you go if you when you can’t resolve a financial dispute directly with a financial institution.

I received “financial advice” which attracted a large and unexpected tax bill. Despite detection of the “mistake” exactly 6 months ago to the day, all I ever heard are excuses. Endless “we are following up”. I had to pay the tax bill and am now trying to recover that money. Depressing.

I leave that matter here as it is not very interesting for you, dear reader. The exercise did however cause my mind to wander on to financial matters and human behavior…

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I live in central Melbourne. All around our building, including just outside of it, I see beggars. Pieces of cardboards in front of them, with similar scribbled messages. “Can you please spare some change?”. Or a shortened “Any spare change, mate?” if they are on their feet.

You don’t have to walk too far anywhere to encounter yet another charity collecting for a good cause. Rattling their money boxes in front of you. For this…, and for that…  Donate… Donate…

Outside the State Library of Victoria here in Melbourne, more often than not, there are young people in t-shirts to match whatever they collect money for. Stretching out their hand to greet as you walk towards them.”How are you, mate?”. “Do you have a minute?”. “What do you think about… <insert something that disgusts everybody here>”. Sign your name and give dollars.

“What, you don’t care about the environment?” I did actually once hear that exact last statement.

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Yes, sometimes it does feel that “they all want your money”. I don’t want to become across as harsh and uncaring, but this “money for nothing” feels too much at times. A few words, written or said, and then give me some cash. Over and over again.

You hear about people’s retirement plans being “winning lotto”. Or siblings and family members fighting each other about an inheritance. I saw some of the latter first hand when my uncle died many years ago.

Then you have charities such as ex-cricketer Share Varne’s who gets defensive and aggressive when reporters ask him for financial details. Or Belle Gibson from The Whole Pantry who appears to have been lying about many things to get sympathy and, yes, money.

It seems that too many want money but only by easy means. Not really have to work for it. Give me your money and then go away…

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Then this… Last week, out cycling, I stopped for a fish and chips lunch at a North Fitzroy corner store. As I enjoyed my meal inside the shop, an old bloke in a wheelchair slowly made his way in. He was thin and didn’t look wealthy. One of his legs finished just under the knee.

After counting and then handing over a pile of 20 cents coins, the old bloke ordered what looked like a single potato cake. Slowly, he broke apart pieces of the potato cake and ate them one by one. Then he cleaned up his table, rolled out and disappeared.

I asked the shop owner about the guy. Yes, he is a regular, he comes in almost daily and orders just a potato cake. It may very well have been his complete lunch for the day.

I felt bad about the whole thing.

Twice, I offered the shop owner money to pay for a fish and chips lunch for the old bloke next time he comes in. Twice, the shop owner rejected the money, “It’s OK, it’s OK”.

The old bloke clearly did not have much and a top of that he was wheelchair bound and missing part of a leg. A little more substantial lunch than a potato cake may be a small token, but perhaps he would have appreciated it.

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I finish this post with another “want my money”, this time by my Bank.

There was a sudden unexpected charge of a mighty 8 cents on my credit card statement. I questioned the charge, via email as you do these days…

I sent the email 10 May and had to wait for one week before the reply below. Right…

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Another 2 days passed and another email arrived from the Bank. Confirmation of the reversal of my 8 cents worth of charges and an acknowledgement that “an error in our system led to this interest charge”. Mmmmm…

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Of course, this exercise in isolation would have cost the Bank a lot more than a measly 8 cents. However, the accumulation of many such “errors” would be different. Am I cynical now…?

Dear reader, please check your bank and credit card statements regularly. Who knows, you may also be the victim of “an error in our system…”. And perhaps for a lot more than just 8 cents…

Yep, they all want your money….

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