Monday, February 06, 2006

Not A Penny More.

Having Aunt as the tutor to teach you the concept of money was the next best thing to having Donald Trump as your uncle who can coach you a thing or two about how to get rich in property development in downtown New York. I don't know Donald Trump personally, I have never met him in person but I knew Aunt very well. As her nephew whom she considered a son (I called her Mommy until I discovered one day that she wasn't my real Mommy) I naturally told Aunt how much money I was making as a roughneck in the middle of Saudi Arabian desert. She wrote me weekly, each letter a stern reminder what I should do with the money that I walked into the office to have a meeting with the paymaster so he could make the necessary arrangement to have the money sent directly to Aunt by way of Telegraphic Transfer. Of course I had understood Aunt's accounting system before this but the experience of making so much money in US Dollars made me want to look for the best person for advice and who was the best person for advice in monetary matters other than Aunt, the most important person in my life.

Accounting is the simplest concept in the world but some people at Enron had made it so complicated that I don't think I will ever have the heart to study it seriously as a career option. As far as I'm concerned, Aunt had the best accounting system in the world - for every ringgit you make, save ninety cent, make do with ten cent.

I reckon Aunt understood accounting by way of direct experience in her day to day running of the business dealing with buying and selling, very much the way you buy or sell stock. Buy low, sell high. Aunt made money selling nekbat, pulut panggang, nissang pulut, coklat nissang, kain batik, songket, barang-barang tembaga. All this while running a school canteen which she later sub-contracted to a friend of hers, a single mother whose husband came back begging for a second (or third) chance after she began to make money to buy herself gold chains, and land. I have the feeling Aunt taught this lady everything about canteen business with the same lesson Aunt had drummed into me early in life - for every ringgit you make, save ninety sen, make do with ten sen.

But it was impossible to live by Aunt's accounting principles when you are young, full of ideas how to spend the money on good times. So Aunt and I negotiated a deal which in the end I had to give in to her terms. For every dollar I made, seventy cents goes to her, I had to make do with thirty cents. Aunt said I was becoming dangerously too extravagant with money to which I said thirty cents for every dollar wasn't much. She said that's too much since I didn't have to pay for food, and lodging. She pressed for another deal to cut ten cents more on every dollar to eighty cents but I said no way she was going to win on this one because I had to make do with thirty cents to fund my trip to see Europe. You are a stubborn fool and I don't know where you got this stubborn streak in you, one day you are going to regret it. Okay, eighty cents on a dollar and that's final. Good boy, come home next year, Grandma misses you.

Making do with twenty cents on a dollar was hard and that's how I got the name that stuck to this very day. The Scrooge. With that much money left, I couldn't afford to buy friends a drink. And I made it my business to spend as little as possible and take full advantage of the free things provided by the company like food, lodging and laundry. For four years I did exactly what Aunt had wanted me to do, made do with twenty cents on a dollar and get by the best I could. It was the only sensible, and the smartest, thing I ever did in my entire adult life that I don't think I will ever do something as sensible and as smart as that now that Aunt isn't around anymore to tell me what I should do.

8 Comments:

Blogger anedra said...

My financial plan is the total opposite of yours. Save 10cents for every dollar you make. So, I've been able to spend and have never been called Scrooge (and then I married one! haha!). And I guess my grand financial un-scroogelike plan made me quite quite poor. :(

Nice story Bergen, thanks. I sort of knew Aunt had something to do with this!

7:00 PM  
Blogger Noni said...

I am 33 years old, is somebody's wife and mother and my mother STILL tells me how to spend my money and how much to save. Now I question MY own son on how he spent his jajan allocation. It's a vicious cycle. And me summore failed ilmu hisab.

10:36 PM  
Blogger Count Byron said...

Wonderful. Stunningly sweet. I love every sentence.
Thanks Berg.

11:41 PM  
Blogger dr in the house said...

Wow your aunt was sure stringent!

1:01 AM  
Blogger AuntyN said...

I wish my hubby is a bit of a scrooge. Unfortunately we are both so boros. We spend what we earn so when to save?

p/s I was just joking about the royalty for the previous entry. You sounded a bit sad I thought I cheered u up a bit.

9:25 AM  
Blogger JoKontan said...

After reading all of these posts for so long, this is the first time I have the courage commenting.

I thot I was the Scrooge..

Superbly, seamlessly written Berg.

10:13 AM  
Blogger bergen said...

Anedra: But you've got a SUV. You ain't poor, ma'am. You're doing alright.

Noni: It's a cycle worth preserving, ma'am.

Count Byron: You never fail to write nice things, sir. Thank you.

Dr Roza: As a businesswoman she had to do what she had to. A businessperson has to be very careful with money, it's the way to survive. When you are business the keyword is 'never run out of cash'.

AuntyN: You are doing alright, ma'am. Don't worry about it, even the government doesn't know how to save.

Jokontan: Thank you for visiting, sir. Come often.

12:52 PM  
Blogger AuntieYan. said...

Poor me...cakar pagi makan pagi, cakar petang makan petang...nothing left to save.:-(

2:55 PM  

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