It was a tempest in a teapot — or a tempest over a tweet. 

A J.P. Morgan #MondayMotivation tweet took the form of an imaginary conversation between a customer and their bank account and was deemed offensive. The customer asks, “Why is my balance so low?” The bank account replies, “make coffee at home...eat the food that’s already in the fridge...you don’t need a cab, it’s only three blocks.”

I found the brouhaha fascinating, as the advice the “bank account” gives is how I’ve lived much of my life. I started out as a teacher and went on to work at a bank. As a divorcee in my 30s, I had to watch my pennies to be able to make my mortgage payment on my own, but I had part of every paycheck deposited into my savings account. Something like an unexpected $500 vet bill for the cat had to come out of my savings account. Thank goodness I had one, no matter how small it was. 

One of my HR jobs was to present our 401k plan and encourage employees to sign up.  I’d explain, “You can put as little as 1 percent of your salary in it, and the company will match your investment.”  In every group, I’d hear, “I can’t afford to put money in that thing.” 

I’d ask, “Do you put 60 cents in the soda machine every day? That’s $3 a week you could put in your 401k.” (Yes, believe it or not, your once could get a soda for only 60 cents.)  I didn’t just preach the gospel; I believed it and always found a way to fund my 401k. Like the “bank account” suggests, I took my lunch to work and cooked at home. That way, I could go out on weekends and still take an annual bicycling vacation.  It was all about choices. 

Though I was fortunate enough to rise to the SVP level at Bank of America, I didn’t drastically change my habits. Likeminded about money, my husband and I listened to our financial planner and saved the amount she said we needed for a comfortable retirement.  We took the occasional bicycle trip in Europe, but more often vacationed in a mountain cabin or on the Georgia and Florida coasts. I’ve always cooked most nights, though we also eat out, just not at hugely expensive restaurants. Have we felt deprived? No. Are we comfortable in retirement? Yes. 

A relative once called me cheap, a remark that hurt my feelings and bothers me to this day. She wondered why we didn’t eat out more often and more expensively, take bigger and better vacations, whatever. Isn’t it strange what your family will free to say to you?

We know we’re fortunate to have both retired from big corporations, and we’re thankful we can travel and eat out and shop without a worry. I realize there are folks who don’t have enough money coming in to make ends meet, no matter how frugally they may live. There are also those, however, who earn exceptionally good money but live beyond their means.

It seems to me that the “bank account” gave pretty good advice, similar to what you find in plenty of money management books — look at what you’re spending and spend it wisely. Some call that being frugal; others label it being cheap. What would you say?

Kathy is a Sandy Springs resident. Find her books, “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch” and “The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday,” at the Enchanted Forest and on Amazon. Contact her at inkpenn119@gmail.com, follow her on Facebook, www.facebook.com/KathyManosPennAuthor/, and/or read her blogs at https://theinkpenn.blogspot.com.

 

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