Tag Archives: finance

Back to reality

7 Apr

Sorry for the recent radio silence. This week I have been pushed into the deep end and I am fully immersed in the world of work and life back at home. This week has been business as usual: I’m back in German lessons twice a week, I skipped the writing club this week to meet up with some friends and, suddenly, it is the weekend again.

My first day in work I was absolutely dreading. For the record, a six week break is not a good preparation for starting another job. On the train into work, I was thinking about all the things that I would be missing out on doing at home: reading, drinking tea, having a nap and watching Judge Rinder in the afternoon. But it wasn’t long before these thoughts were a distant memory and I had Excel spreadsheets back on my mind.

The bad thing about working in Finance (and there are a lot to choose from so it is a tough decision to make) is that the beginning of the month is the busiest time. It is also the time when you normally start your job. I have had so much information thrown at me that, by the end of the day, my head has been spinning.

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It’s always interesting to see how things are versus what you were actually told in the interview. Interestingly, this is where our travels in South America have been very useful – nothing shocks me anymore. It is clear that this job will keep me busy and I will not be able to say that I am bored at any point. The best thing is that I know that I can make a contribution in this job, in a way that I wasn’t able to in my last job. I think it will be rewarding and hectic at the same time.

I have enjoyed being in the centre of the city and being able to go out for lunchtime or going for a walk along the river, when the weather has been good. It’s also nice that the company is a lot smaller and there are mini-perks, like fresh fruit is delivered twice a week to the office and tea and coffee is free. It is a different feel to the company but one which reminds me of the first big company that I worked for.

It’s now the weekend and I am taking time to recover from getting back to work. I was beginning to think that next week would be easier because I have already adjusted to working life, until I realised that this week was only a four day week. Oh well, perhaps next week will be even worse. Who knows? For now, I will enjoy the weekend. I hope your weekend is as relaxing as I am hoping mine will be!

New vs old banking trends

14 Sep

A bank in Switzerland has recently launched a new way for children under the age of 12 to save money. They have launched a digital piggy bank. The children put the coins into the piggy bank and the value is automatically added up and the children can see the total in an app.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. It is good to get children into the habit of saving from an early age. I always had a piggy bank when I was younger. It was always a tough choice of whether to spend my pocket money straight away or to spend it on sweets at the village post office. My piggy bank, which was transparent, sat next to my brother’s on a shelf in the kitchen. Whenever I was thinking about going to buy sweets I would have a sneeky peek through the clear perspex box and see roughly how much money he had and to make sure he hadn’t got more than me. That and that alone decided if I bought sweets that week.

The best thing about having a piggy bank as a kid was being able to empty all the money out and count it myself, whenever I wanted to. Sometimes I felt rich. I had almost £6! This was back in the 80s/early 90s when I could get a 10p mix from the post office or really splash the cash and get a quarter of midget gems for 45p. For my younger readers, a quarter is 113 grams.

I even had a slip of paper where I would note down how much I had saved each week. Yes, even from an early age I was showing indications of my future career as a finance professional. It was exciting to see how much more money I need to save in order to buy a new CD or my favourite magazine.

Young people are criticised a lot when it comes to money. Older generations complain that they buy things on credit and don’t understand the real value of money. I am inclined to think that having a digital piggy bank will not only take away that excitement of counting your own money but also convert money into a virtual rather than a real concept for the next generation.

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We have probably all been in the situation when the credit card bill comes that we are horrified at how much is owing. I have on more than one occasion been convinced that I have been a victim of fraud. I have definitely not used my credit card that much this month. I am an innocent victim of crime. Then after reading the itemised bill, you realise that you can’t blame a fraudster – you have spent that much but because you weren’t physically handing over money to a cashier, you have lost all sense of spending and now you have to eat bread and water for a month in order to pay the bill.

Of course, we are moving towards a money-less culture, in which all transactions are conducted virtually. Apple watches have been around for a while and more and more apps and gadgets are coming on the market to make purchasing goods easier.

Maybe I am just stuck in my ways and I’m showing my age but I don’t think that children should be denied the opportunity to count their pocket money themselves and have that feeling that this week they are richer than they were last week. In fact, I still occasionally do this now.

Swiss Money

11 Feb

When people think about Switzerland one of the first things that springs to mind is money. If you have visited you will know that Switzerland is expensive and you will probably need more money than you thought you would for your visit. Switzerland is also home to many financial institutions and combined with its banking secrecy laws, it is a perfect place for people to squirrel away money.

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Either way you cannot deny the fact that Switzerland is synonymous with money. Being that as it may, I still find the money a bit baffling.The notes look like they would not be out of place in a Monopoly set: bright yellow, reddy-pink, green and blue are the colours of the notes that are most commonly in circulation. All of them are slightly different sizes to one another. I believe that this is primarily to help the blind and those with vision difficulties to work out which note is which when they come to pay for something.

So far so good, the notes are no problem. I still find it strange that it is never a problem to pay in a high denomination bank note for something that is relatively cheap. For example, in the newsagents, it would be no problem to handover a 100 Frank note for a newspaper that costs 4 Franks. There is no need to apologies and make excuses, such as, “Sorry I only just went to the cash machine and I don’t have any change yet”. The cashier will not bat an eyelid and hand over 96 Franks in change, without saying a word.

The equivalent in the UK would be paying for a 1 pound newspaper with a 20 pound note. The cashier will inevitably tut, ask if you have anything smaller, mutter under his breath that he doesn’t have much change left and begrudingly hand over 19 pounds in change. You feel completely ashamed as you shuffle past other customers in the shops and try not to make eye contact with them.

Interestingly, in Switzerland you can pay with what ever denomination of money you have on you, whether in the city or up a mountain at a small chalet which serves refreshments to hikers and nature lovers, and there is never a problem at all.

With the coins, however, confusion reigns supreme. The problem is that the coins are all virtually the same colour and apart from the 5 Frank coin (there is no 5 Franc note) they are all the same size and shape. The exception to this is the 5 Rappen coin. This is distinctively smaller and a gold colour, even though having 90 of these coins will buy you next to nothing.

This causes bewilderment when you need to pay the cashier in coins. You desparately fumble through your purse trying to find the right coin. But as they are all the same shape and size, this turns into a monumental task. Each coin needs to be carefully examined to determine what it actually is. You convince yourself that this must be the 20 Rappen coin that you have been hopelessly searching for, only to discover it is a 10 Rappen coin! By now the cashier is looking at you with despair and you can feel the evil stares of the other customers gouging into your soul. Then you give up and decide to pay by card and leaving the small mountains of coins still in your purse.

 

On the positive side, when you come to sort out your purse and tot up how much you have been lugging around with you, the amount is always significant. All of these coins that are completely unassuming suddenly add up to 15 Franks and that is enough for 2 pints of beer. Happy days!

I wonder if the money is a metaphor for the country: small, unassuming but when you look closely it is more valuable than at first sight.