My relationship with money — a poem

Woman having a tantrum over financial management

Boot Camp Task Number Two: get finances in order

Get finances in order: note the bossy tone.
The Sergeant Major barks, “Chop chop!
How many times do I have to tell you?
Are you deaf? (well yes)
Why do you even need to be told?
What’s this boot camp for
if not retirement planning
and what’s retirement planning
if not dollars in the bank?
It’s time to audit the firm of you
and maximise your ROI
time to do your sums and know for sure
whether you’ll be penniless or genteel-poor.
That is retirement planning.
Anything else when you’re over the hill
is just an afterthought, a frill
so knuckle down.”

I tell myself a fairy tale:
“Money expands to meet one’s needs.
When I’m poor I get a tax rebate.
When I earn more, the kindly IRD
tucks it away for a rainy day.”

Long ago I left a proper job
leapt off a cliff to write full time
floating up and down and up and down
without the help of helium.
Two years later when
the panic attacks died down
it dawned on me: I hadn’t starved.

So we made an arrangement, money and I.
We agreed not to bother each other
but get on with our separate lives
a kind of open marriage you could say.
I managed by living in the wop wops
eating weeds and using op shops.
My money managed I suppose
by popping in and out of pockets—
I didn’t want to know.

Living modestly by choice is luxury
it’s trendy, it’s not poverty.
At fifty-five I quit the poet’s garret
but on the topic of money I maintained
an inconsistent, optimistic stance
of wilful ignorance.

Sergeant Major locks me up
with a nice financial manager
who talks about priorities
and gives me forms.
Wah wah wah wah wah wah wah—
don’t make me think about money!

Poem and drawing by Rachel McAlpine CC BY 2.0— share freely with my name attached

14 thoughts on “My relationship with money — a poem

  1. Sadje says:

    I enjoyed your post a lot. Thinking about money is not obligatory if you have enough to get by. After all living for money is not the aim, money for living should be!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      True, but I know it’s time I grew up!

      1. Sadje says:

        No hurry. Plenty of time. If you don’t worry about money, it’s not going to worry you.

  2. Love it, as will every other pro writer! “Genteel poverty” is underrated. 🙂

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I agree. And when the ups and downs are averaged out, that’s a happy result.

  3. Ally Bean says:

    Money, while friendly, can be anxiety-producing. It has a will of its own that doesn’t necessarily go along with my own personal narrative about it. 🤨

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Funny that.

  4. candidkay says:

    Oh, you’re not alone!

  5. haywardhelen says:

    I am stiII growing up, as you put it, on this front; and hope to continue doing so! A nice post, on an important yet understandabIy probIematic topic –

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thank you Helen. Don’t peak too soon!

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I guess we are in the golden years we were supposed to plan for! Agh.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      You bet. Every one is gold. Or better, jade.

  7. Dee says:

    Oh no.. freelance writing 😀 A financially dangerous but rewarding profession.

  8. lbeth1950 says:

    I hate financial planning.

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