My grandmother owned a unit in the same street as Mum and Dad for many years and after she passed away, Dad didn’t want to rent the unit out so it was empty for a year or so. Apparently, one of the conditions of his insurance policy was that the unit not be vacant for more than ninety days at a time.
So every three months, my gorgeous Dad would take a camp stretcher over to the unit and spend the night there.
Most people would just say they'd stayed there if they ever needed to put a claim in, but my Dad actually did make sure the unit wasn’t empty for more than ninety days in a row so he’d never have to lie about it.
How utterly wonderfully and refreshingly honest is that?
I’m not sure I would ever go to that extent but I can honestly say I’ve never claimed anything on my tax return that I haven’t been entitled to.
Except by default.
Because I once had A Very Dodgy Tax Accountant.
I questioned him about this at the time and said ‘but it’s my choice to move, they haven’t transferred me or anything’. But Very Dodgy Accountant Dude insisted we could claim the cost of our move, which was about $3,500.
So we did.
Even though it didn’t feel quite right.
Fast forward a few years and I received a Very Official Looking Letter from the Australian Taxation Office letting me know that Dodgy Accountant Dude was in fact Very Very Dodgy (you don’t say ATO!) and he was under investigation for Doing Dodgy Stuff. The Very Unjoyful Letter also told me that I would be notified if any of my previous tax returns were going to be audited.
Oh my goodness.
Oh my goodness.
Oh my goodness.
I was divorced by this stage and really couldn’t afford to be paying back thousands and thousands of dollars. For about two months, I was slightly concerned every time I checked the letterbox but thankfully I never heard from the Tax Office again.
Always trust your instincts and do what aligns with your values rather than someone else’s.
And apart from anything else, surely it’s not great money karma to receive money that isn’t actually rightfully yours!
I know it’s a little ironic that my greatest lesson in honesty came from Dodgy Accountant Dude rather than my Dad but sometimes we have to learn by experience rather than being led by example.
My Dad was born in 1931 so he remembers growing up during the Depression in Melbourne.
In 1932 the unemployment rate reached 32 percent. The impact that must have had on society is unimaginable to most of us born in the last 50 years.
Dad had to leave school when he was 14 as his father had a heart attack and could no longer work. He is such an intelligent man and it’s such a shame he never got to finish his education.
He would have been capable of Many Amazing Things. Including Running The Country, which is what I thought he would have been good at when I was a little girl.
I may be slightly biased but Dad would have made a wonderful Prime Minister. Although I’m not sure how he would have gone having to wear all those Suits and Ties.
Dad grew up truly valuing money and at 83 years young, he still hates wasting money and won’t buy anything unless He Actually Needs It.
If you saw The Items of Choice in his wardrobe you might think he Needs some new clothes. But he honestly doesn't care. I've never in my life met anyone less affected by marketing or What People Think.
Last Christmas I picked Dad up from the airport and he had one of those red, white and blue stripey bags in his hand.
Yes, the ones that people generally use for storing things in around the house.
I used one to take my clothes to the laundry mat when I lived in London 25 years ago.
Most people don’t take them on planes.
But my Dad did.
I have to admit – and I realise how terrible this sounds - that the only thing 'wrong' with it in my eyes is what other people may have thought about him.
But it didn't bother him in the slightest so I had absolutely no right or reason to be bothered by it.
Some examples of this include (but are definitely not limited to):
Exhibit 1: Buying $1,000 worth of shares a few months before the stock market crash of 1987. Oops.
Exhibit 2: Selling my house after getting divorced and then paying more for a unit than what I got for the house - despite the fact My Grand Plan was to have a smaller mortgage on one wage. Nope, that didn’t happen. But I must say, that unit turned out to be The Best Investment Ever.
Exhibit 3: The more than 100 unread books I have at home.
Exhibit 4: The 46 dresses hanging in my wardrobe. If you missed my blog about All Things Dress-like, click here http://www.theyearofmore.com/blog/do-women-really-need-dresses
Exhibit 5: The four coats I purchased in New York. Yes, to wear on the Sunshine Coast. Here’s a link to that post too http://www.theyearofmore.com/blog/how-many-coats-does-a-woman-in-queensland-need
Exhibit 6: And clearly the fact that this blog exists is evidence in itself.
But what fun I’m having exploring all of this!!!
And I’m definitely closer to Dad’s ethos on money than I’ve ever been before.
He would be so proud.
If I were to ever actually tell him about the blog of course.
But that would mean telling him about the 46 dresses and the 100 unread books.
Everything. Cars. Furniture. Holidays. Absolutely everything.
He’s never possessed a credit card or cheque book and doesn’t even have an ATM card. He has a passbook account and goes into the branch to withdraw money when he needs it. It’s so 'old school', which I absolutely adore.
In complete contrast to Dad, my bank once rang me to let me know there had been an ‘unusually high amount of activity on my credit card’ and when I’d finally stopped laughing and snorting on the other end of the phone, I blurted out:
Thank goodness he doesn't have access to the Internet!
Another story I haven’t shared with him happened when I went to live in London in 1989. I had travelled around the United States and Europe for two months and upon arriving in London, after paying my bond and a month’s rent on a flat, I was left with 14 pound in the bank. So one night we all went out for dinner and I had the Brilliant Idea of putting the entire bill on my credit card and then everyone else would give me cash.
This is clearly not a financial decision my Dad would have approved of.
So the plan was going well until the waitress came over to say my credit card had been declined. Oh dear. Not only did I end up with no cash but I also owed one of my new flat mates £10!!!
It’s Not Quite The Wisest Plan I’ve Ever Had.
So far I’ve lost the Ducted Heating Debate but I’m going to keep trying. I’ll wear him down eventually. In a loving way of course!
Last weekend, during our weekly Sunday night Phone Joy, I decided to ask him about his Bucket List. After he retired, he and Mum did lots of travelling within Australia but neither of them had ever left the country, so I asked him if there is anywhere in the world he would like to visit as I’d be happy to accompany him.
Do you know what he said?
He wants to go to the Flowerdale Hotel for lunch.
The Flowerdale Hotel is a pub 100kms north of Melbourne that we frequently visited when my brother and I were growing up. Lots of happy times were spent at the Flowerdale.
He doesn’t want to visit the Eiffel Tower or New York - with or without his Stripey Bag.
He wants to go and eat at a pub that is filled with love and happy memories.
He’s quite a unique man my Dad.
And I wish I were more like him in many ways.
Perhaps The Year of More really is getting me a little bit closer to that goal.
What's something you've learnt from your parents?
‘You don't really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around - and why his parents will always wave back.’ William D. Tammeus