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Keep on grafting

Every now and again people like me are drawn back into reality. Sure, I fly business class, sometimes first, and drink champagne at 40,000 feet. I land and stay in luxurious hotels whilst partying with a network of people who are friends, rather than business associates. I eat at fine restaurants and am treated by some as though I’m a rock star.

Obviously I love all that, but the reality is that I get home, change nappies (not mine), sort out the rubbish and put the bins out.  Equally, I fly Ryanair sometimes, because it’s convenient, ride buses, catch the subway and eat a burger or two. We’re only human after all.

It’s during some of the latter experiences that you realise how disconnected the former is from the latter. A great example is spending an hour or two just watching what goes on in a bank branch. Who goes there? It’s small businesses, often a lot of elderly people, but there are also students asking about loans and millennials looking at mortgages. The branch is not dead by a long way.

Equally, I struck up an interesting conversation with a guy who had just been to a funeral in his Scottish hometown, but now lives in Australia. He was with his family, travelling back from the funeral, and they were seeing a bit of America. I met them in Las Vegas during Money 2020 last week.

We got to talking about work and life, and he described himself as a grafter working in the construction business. For those who don’t know what a grafter is, it kind of means wheeling and dealing and ducking and diving to make a living. You have to earn a buck, and grafting is all about working hard to do just that. He was my age, and had three kids and a wife with him on the journey back. They were telling me how they had travelled business class once, and loved it, but this time had opted for premium economy as they couldn’t afford it.

I felt bad, as some of us take travelling business class for granted. I don’t. It’s a privilege. I know it’s a privilege even when I sometimes get angsty about it. No one should take the champagne lifestyle for granted as it can go faster than it came. It’s like the old saying that it takes years to build up trust but it can disappear in a second; the same is true of the champagne Charlie lifestyle. Just look at Philip Green.

As we talked further however, it is clear that I’m also grafting. I’ve spent years building a life that came apart a decade ago with redundancy and divorce. I’m thrilled to be remarried, but that means I still need to graft and earn, especially after losing most of my wealth in that financial rape moment called divorce.

This is why I blog every day and travel non-stop, to enjoy a champagne Charlie lifestyle and look after my family, as I know it could just go ‘pop’ and end. Do you know this? Do you ever think about it? Do you ever wonder how long you could last with no income? What if you had an accident tomorrow, god forbid, or lost your job? How long could you last?

That last paragraph is a gift for the insurance industry, who work on disturbance selling. I will make you worry enough to spend $1,000 a year on a product you may never use but, as the years go by, become more and more important to you.

Take health insurance. I’ve not been ill once. Not seriously. A cold here or there, and a sore knee or toothache, and that’s about it. I’ve been lucky. So recently I move to Poland and took out a new healthcare policy. It’s amazing, you can see a doctor any time you want and, even better, they analyse and fix you there and then. It’s there equivalent of private healthcare.

The UK version of private healthcare is that you pay ten times as much to have a policy that can move you higher up the list, but only after the NHS has diagnosed you and say they can’t deal with it fast enough. I’ve been with one of these healthcare providers and pay almost $5,000 a year for the policy today. The premiums have gone up every year and I know from friends’ experiences that I cannot cancel it. If I do, they send me back to zero again and exclude any pre-existing conditions that might need diagnosis. In other words, you might have been with the healthcare provider for thirty years, cancel the policy because you lost your job, get a new job and try to get the policy back. They say no. It’s a new policy. Forget those thirty years. Meantime, you got diagnosed with cancer and they’ll now preclude any treatment for cancer from the new policy.

Shoot, I know that I’m having a bit of a rant, but I’ve been massively surprised by how brilliant healthcare is in Poland compared to the UK, as illustrated by the comment above, e.g. I can open a new policy in Poland and have immediate access to doctors on demand from day one.

So what’s the point of this blog?

Well, I’m sharing a little personal insight between my conversation in Vegas and experience in Poland to try and illustrate that we’re all grafters. We’re all trying to get by. And if you take any of your good life and champagne Charlie lifestyle for granted, then you’ve become complacent and stupid. Just look at Bernie Madoff. Keep on grafting guys.

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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