I don't often talk about money, unless I am blathering on about the money I have saved from going car-less. Which I do occasionally. A few years ago I had to take out rather a large loan. One of those things really, mix in youthful rashness and extravagance with a dash of stupidity (actually, plenty of that) and consequences are consequences. Did I learn from the experience? Not entirely, but yes, mostly.
Today I had confirmation that the rather large loan has finally, completely and utterly, been paid off, account closed. I could almost weep. In March I gain another chunk back when my final smaller loan closes. I really will weep then.
So what does it mean? Well, my disposable income goes back up by roughly 50%, which is nice (although I am earning the most I have ever earnt, I also have the least disposable income I have had in a long time). It means Damocles has one less sword over my neck and it means I have a lot more flexibility financially and socially. Extended visits to the USA and Japan become realistic probabilities over the next couple of years. And I can do more cool stuff, like run half-marathons and marathons in more off the beaten path locations, like NYC or Marrakech or the Mull of Kintyre.
And buy more books, obviously, but that's a given.
One of the weird things about being me is that I spent the formative part of my youth (up to ten years of age) abroad, in the slightly more way out places of the world. The benefits of having a civil engineer for a father and teacher for a mother who both liked to take contracts abroad. And who were both very much the black sheep of their families; independent, stubborn, fiesty and not at all frightened by the world.
My father was an old man when we arrived back in the UK (from sunny PNG) and, given the nature of his and my mum's life as ex-pats abroad, neither had ever bought into the whole buying a house thing. It was, in fact, a fairly alien concept to them, and their attitude continues in me.
Let me put this in context. I do, theoretically, have a house. In the Philippines. But it is run-down and does need knocking down and rebuilding. I cannot conceive of owning a home in the UK. In truth I am too old now to do so, having missed my opportunity back in the early 90's when houses were still affordable and banks still stupidly avaricious (have things changed? I'm not sure). Short of sacrificing my life to the God of Cold Hard Cash, or winning the lottery, or robbing a bank, the chances of me buying my own home are next to nil.
And I'm not sure I'd want to, not unless I could buy it. Having had an £x loan that, with interest, became a whole lot more painful, the idea of taking a notional £150k mortgage (translating at, what, £350k in repayments?) is simply eye-wateringly ridiculous. Why on earth would I want to? Especially with what's going on at the moment.
Anyway, it is an argument I have had many a time with friends. Whatever the reasoning, the truth remains that I am unlikely own a house any time soon, if ever.
And I'm fine with that.
The Flatmate has just been showing me his new pair of shoes (very shiny), and very nice they are too. His sister gave them to him when he was recently in China for work (and taking the opportunity to visit his folks). She bought them in the USA. The label on them, in Spanish, declares they were made in China. They now sit snugly on his feet in the UK.
I'm not sure what that says about the world other than that much of what we buy or wear or eat probably has travelled far further than we have, or will. Which is plain odd.
I've been thinking about economics and free markets and all that jazz for some time now. Plenty of us have. It seems to be terribly important right now.
I'm not alone in thinking there is something fundamentally flawed about the way the world works at the moment. I'm not alone in thinking there are a multitude of reasons why.
For me it boils down to one simple thing. The economy should serve society, and it doesn't. Society very much serves the economy, and if you happen to be in a position of influence over the economy, then society serves you.
And I think that's wrong.
Another thought that occurs to me is that the economy exists on the single premise of value. And it is driven by that understanding of value. The problem comes when there are differing understandings of what value is, or where it lies. Somewhere in there our sense of value became distorted, as did our expectations, and with them our perception of it.
And I'm not sure how we resolve that.