Inflation and me
Making plans amid a money mess
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How are you responding to runaway inflation? My personal response might seem a bit counterintuitive: I just elected the Rolls-Royce option for cataract surgery—out of pocket (insurance doesn’t cover it). The serenity with which I conveyed my decision seemed to impress the A-scan technician that I was either Daddy Warbucks or a fool.
In my defense, the doctor offered the choice of seeing far or seeing near. May as well have asked me to choose between saving my son or my daughter in a house fire. “Both,” I lunged, in the moment not conceiving of aught better to splurge on. Hairdressers, manicurists, new car, gym membership, overseas travels—none of these I have or do. None trump being able to see. I like seeing. What shall a man give in exchange for his sight?
I started developing a sense of unreality about money even before fuel prices jumped over 59 percent and food prices over 6 percent last year. Maybe it began when my grandmother scraped together $100,000, nickels at a time, only for someone to talk her into pouring it into a lost cause. That made me ponder life and the curious lack of correlation between hard work and earnings, on the one hand, and how your life turns out, on the other. “Wealth … is so uncertain” (1 Timothy 6:17).
I used to get a little interest on my savings account, and when that trickled down to nothing, they told me an “investor’s account” was the ticket. It was for a while, then that stopped too, and I asked why, and the bank mumbled something about the feds. So now my accounts not only don’t accrue but erode daily. The longer my money’s in the bank, the more I lose. Which brings me to the complicated logic of choosing the soup-to-nuts eye surgery: I will use what money I have for important things before it buys nothing at all. Hey, my father is 97. If the Lord leaves me here that long, I’ll want to see.
Once by sheer dawdling and indecisiveness, which I underscore are faults and not virtues, I was spared a loss of $8,000 (according to my then accountant) in the 2008 crash when many a more conscientious soul lost a fortune. It just so happened that my money was in limbo while I dithered over a list of stocks, thus dodging a bullet, like the uncannily lucky Mr. Magoo. It was God’s protection, of course.
Maybe my sense of unreality comes from a multitrillion-dollar federal infrastructure bill they tell us will cost us nothing. Where is the outcry from fifth-grade math students across the nation?! And how is it that daily operational costs of this country will bear no relation to tax collection? Are madmen in the Treasury basement just cranking out Federal Reserve notes like it’s going out of style?
Money is going out of style, actually. First, they steered us from cash to plastic. Now, from plastic it looks like the next thing is some form of digital transaction system.
I have been rich and I have been poor. Both relatively, of course, the “rich” by world standards, the “poor” by American standards. But neither was the result of merit or fault, I wish to emphasize. The rich period I was born into because my grandfather was intelligent. The poor period was likewise the result of factors outside my control, which the author of Ecclesiastes is at pains to detail: “time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11).
My personal bottom line about money: Be a wise steward of it (Luke 16:9), and be generous to others (Proverbs 11:25). And as you see where things are headed in this country, keep enough on hand to pay the border guard.
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