Jam today versus jam tomorrow

We’re not rich. We’re not poor. We are the epitome of the middle classes.

If it isn’t too vulgar a subject, let’s talk about money matters becauses, well, money matters.

Neither Heather nor I are from privileged backgrounds. We’ve both grabbed the opportunities that a good education has afforded us and enjoyed the benefits of well-paid professional jobs. I make no apologies for that. Whatever we have, we’ve earned.

On the one hand, we’re not short of money. We live in a well-appointed family home. We enjoy a couple of holidays a year. We don’t have to worry about where the money to pay the next bill is coming from. We are, by most people’s definition, well-off.

On the other hand, we’re not rolling in it either. There’s never going to be a summer holiday home in Tuscany. With three young children, we’re not going to be able to afford to put them into private school. And, given the current state of the pension system, I’ve already calculated that I’m going to have to work until at least five years after I die before I can afford to retire.

That’s not a complaint. But it is a concern.

I work all night, I work all day

To pay the bills I have to pay
Ain’t it sad?
And still there never seems to be

A single penny left for me
That’s too bad

Bloody ABBA. They have a song lyric for everything, don’t they?

Here’s the thing. Neither Heather nor I have ever been that concerned about becoming what is termed a ‘high net worth individual’. The pursuit of money has never been a big driver for either of us and, as Heather will tell you ruefully, spending money has always been a higher priority for me than saving it. I like my gadgets and I choose to donate a not insignificant sum every month to four charities because … well, I just do, okay?

After all, you can’t take it with you when you die, can you?

Having said that, my attitude to money has altered over the past few years. I’m not exactly living a life of sack-cloth and ashes but I’m definitely more aware of the need to make provisions for the future. I can trace that change back to a specific date: December 2007, when Isaac was born.

In the time it takes to deliver a baby (and then a second, and a third), money changed from being something that allowed us to spend money on ourselves to enjoy the DINKY lifestyle (Dual Income, No Kids Yet) to making a conscious decision about Heather returning to work so that we didn’t become a SITCOM household (Single Income, Two Children, Oppressive Mortgage) to fretting about not having enough money invested for the kids’ future needs and becoming SKIers (Spending the Kids’ Inheritance).

We have, in fact, become the stereotypical MUPPIEs (Middle-Aged Urban Professionals).

Yes, there really is an acronym for everything.

Long story short, last night we put our children’s inheritance in the hands of a financial consultant. Where previously we squirreled money away here and there in a variety of random investments, now we will have a ‘managed portfolio’ (or what in my twenties we used to call ‘beer money’) based on our agreed ‘risk profile’, and tailored to meet our ‘long-term financial aspirations’.

Or, to put it another way, we’d like to ensure we have enough of a nest egg to fund university educations, first cars and house deposits for each of our children, rather than tucking money under the mattress and hoping for the best. My parents scrimped and scraped and made personal sacrifices to give my brother and I the best possible start in life. I want my kids to know that we’ve got their backs too.

Earning a decent wage means you don’t have to worry about being able to pay for the weekly shop but it doesn’t mean you’re free from financial worries either. It just means you worry more about ensuring you have jam tomorrow for your kids rather than jam today for yourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, life as a middle-class parent is nowhere near as tough as living on the poverty line. I am thankful for the fact that we have the option to save money, something many other people will never have. But to misquote Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben (who in turn was quoting Voltaire): with greater financial means comes greater responsibility. I slept a little better last night knowing that we’ve taken a step towards sorting out our family finances and securing our children’s futures.