The social financial dilemma
Ria Kalsi discusses the financial pressures many are facing throughout the cost of living crisis.
I don’t know many people who like talking about money. It’s awkward, it’s personal and you just never know the direction the conversation could take. I didn’t grow up talking about money a lot, but I think a lot of that comes down to being the youngest and most guarded child. But I was born in 2000, grew up in a recession and children are well known to be a lot more aware and absorbent of their surroundings than people give them credit for. I was aware that things weren’t easy, financially speaking and I think this is one of the reasons for how close me and my best friend, Kate, grew.
Kate is a phenomenal woman, from a family of phenomenal women and is now a paramedic. In fact, Kate wrote our first ever community post about the pandemic when it was all kicking off in March 2020 which you can read here. I met Kate 20 years ago, when I was 3 years old and she’s been a constant in my life. I think there was a gravitation between us at school because of how we understood money. We were both incredibly lucky to have parents who paid for our private schooling and the privilege of this has never been lost on us. I personally know it’s been key to accessing so many of the other opportunities I’ve had and I am so grateful for this. However, the demographic of pupils we went to school alongside generally came from significantly wealthier backgrounds than Kate and I did and I don’t think we were blind to the differences. However, it was not something either of us seemed to dwell on, mainly because whilst we noticed a difference, neither of us felt different I suppose.
We were kids who, despite witnessing adult conversations about money and understanding that there was a serious atmosphere around it, still felt like kids. We were lucky to have parents and older sisters who not just shielded us but never allowed our joy to be at the detriment of what was going on. Only as an adult am I able to look back and really appreciate what that meant. I had an awareness of financial ups and downs, but I am so grateful I didn’t feel like my childhood was tainted by these moments, by any means.
It does make me consider whether it’s impacted my relationship with money as an adult though. I can recall a very clear moment in first year of uni, when I spent too much towards the end of the month, went over my budget and called my Dad crying about it. He laughed, but then walked me through my budget again and I felt a sense of control. I definitely get financially anxious with an ‘every penny counts’ sort of mindset, especially when the unexpected happens. But I suppose there’s also a part of me with a ‘there's always a solution’ mindset. Though, this is almost entirely due to knowing I have safety blankets which I am very grateful to have.
We’re dedicated Eastenders watchers in our family and at the moment, they’re running a cost of living storyline with character, Stacey Slater, who turns to posting intimate pictures on an Onlyfans type website to make ends meet. Whilst fictional, the soap, as it often has, has chosen to lean into potential headspaces of the general public. You can’t help but feel for Stacey as she crumbles into tears at another energy bill and later switch her camera on. It made me think about how we talk about this crisis too. Banter is a huge part of our culture and how we deal with tough and awkward moments in this country, it is often the comedic relief we need. And of course it has made me consider as a leader, how we talk about money on Matriarch. Everyone is going through unknowns, trying to make an uncontrollable situation work to the best of their ability. The way we talk about money is influenced by our experiences and it does have a wider impact on who’s listening, even if we don’t believe it does. I know because of my financial anxiety, I am making a more concerted effort to plan low cost social things with friends and speak about it more mindfully outside of my normal circles.
Not only are we in a financial crisis, we’re in a social crisis with disparity continuing to grow. So please, make sure to be intentional and mindful about how we talk and interact with this experience. And as always, be as kind as you can. That’s one of the few things we can provide for free.