08 June 2011

Finances, funding, the future, and a plan to succeed

Every so often I get the feeling that I need to get a global picture of the family finances.
My father was always very careful with the family finances, sitting at the computer every Saturday and working very carefully to make sure that he knew where things were going, at least from my perception? Me? Well, I have a bit more scattered view of it and only take a global look at things once a year or so. I know that the account we use every day is staying stable, which is the most important thing, and I figure if I am controlling things well day-to-day, with only money coming into the other accounts, I'll be okay. This has treated me well so far, particularly as we have bank accounts in 3 countries, hold and invest with 4 currencies, and make money in three currencies. (If Yoko and I die at the same time, by the way, it's going to be a mess to sort: sorry famed older brother and father and Yoko's parents.) To simplify things I try to put everything into USD when I do my calculations, but this can be deceiving as you can have an increase, but it isn't actually an increase, only a change in exchange rates. Luckily, with 4 currencies (and basic proportional holdings in all three), you never really lose or gain. The goal is, of course, to simplify this over the long term, but that requires us knowing which country we will be living in 1,3,5, or 10 years down the line, something that I'm not sure will be sorted for a while at least.

I don't know if I have ever blogged about this, but we took a bit of a bath in the subprime thing, basically because we made a stupid decision to trust a financial adviser who was out to sell something, not help us. It wasn't as bad as it could be and it has recovered a great deal from where we were, but a part of my finances for the last three years has been thinking about how stupid we were in buying when we did. Hindsight is 20/20, right? Yoko says we learned a good lesson, got some good experience, and all things in common (the nature of the fund we hold we will eventually recover 100% as it continues to pay dividends and we didn't sell at all, although it might take 20 years) it's not that bad, but it has really changed the way I invest and how risk averse I am, basically. I'm happy as it is to keep up with inflation.

The reason I am doing this now is another big issue in the family: trying to plan for a very uncertain future. I have blogged about this endlessly, but I am starting to really say clearly to Yoko and the people around me what my Plan A, B, and C are. All of the plans require moving, and some of those plans will inevitably require moving overseas, meaning that we probably need to have £10,000 available to get settled somewhere, between getting a car, house, flights, and other moving costs. Although I'm not really happy about this, it doesn't look like the other secondary options are going to be great. Plan A, however, may be coming together nicely and I'll hopefully have more to say about this on Friday, when I get back from Lancaster. I could also suddenly be offered a job and Plan A would change dramatically as well.

At our monthly postgraduate student lunch yesterday, the other students threw me a surprise baby shower: something quite unexpected, but incredibly, incredibly heart-warming. A couple of people were talking to me and surprised that I was a second-year, rather than a third-year, PhD student as I was talking so much about jobs and the future and not about my thesis. Perhaps this is odd, but it seems to me that when you have a lot of balls that you're juggling, you need to keep the longish view in mind, particularly when you know the exact date of your last payslip and what your future options are and that many of those options require moving five people to a different country. These are not things that happen over night and not things that happen without some planning. Well, maybe they do, but they don't happen smoothly. So I am interested in doing the footwork now so in 6 months, I am in a place where the thesis end is in sight and I am moving towards a brighter future rather than wondering about what might happen, throwing money into a black hole.

Of course, and here I draw it together, you never know what the future holds. The money situation has taught me that. I worked my ass off and saved meticulously when I was an English teacher. Other teachers drank and screwed: I did an MA and squirrelled away every yen I could. I ate cheaply, rode my motor bike, and ran for fun. I was content with that: I never liked wasting money anyway on food and drink, but still, it was not easy work. At the end of the day, I had gotten out of my school debt and saved... well, not a lot, but a lot for me. And in 2008 in about a month and half, 50% of it disappeared into thin air, with only the potential for it returning . Luckily, I was moving here, doing the MRes, getting my head around having another baby, trying to make ends meet on a day-to-day basis, but still. It's a bad feeling for me to lose one zero. Losing two, three, or four?

So. Tomorrow will hold what tomorrow holds and things could go very well or very badly. They could be more-or-less the same as now, or they could be a little different. One thing could be very different while most things stay the same. Some things might change while others stay the same. Emergence is like that: the system gives the illusion of stability, but I want to be very careful not to be deceived by the apparent stability. It is a temporary stability.

As critical as I am of the endtimes Evangelical Christians, they are right in one way. The end is coming soon. Soon, however, is a difficult word to pin down. Best to do what you can while you can. Or blog about it.