293. The High Cost Of Living

I just did some financial forecast for the next month.

It doesn’t look good.

(I doubt anyone has ever came out of a financial forecast feeling happy and contented, knowing that they have more than they’ll ever need. It’s just one of those things about life, I think. Like hospitals)

There’s a high, high cost of living for those of us stranded in the Klang Valley. God knows that there are people in the world who get by with a lot less, and are a lot happier for it, but I’ve done some calculations for myself in the past, and came to the conclusion that all things considered, a comfortable sum for me to live on is RM1,200 a month.

To live on, mind. It just covers the basic survival needs: food, transport, and wifi.

That sounds exorbitant at first glance. But consider: I travel 25 kilometers to university/the workplace in a single trip, and I travel just about every day, so that’s 50 kilometers, which is about RM10 of petrol money. Then there’s the toll fare, which averages to RM2 per day; and parking money, which is RM6 per day.

RM18 right there, just to get to the places I need to go. With 30 days in a month, I’ve already spent over half a thousand ringgits on transportation.

The trouble with the ever-rising cost of living is that our wages aren’t rising to meet it. Not mine, at least. If the cost of living was the water level and the money I got was the swimmer, it should have died sometime in April.

(yesterday, I found out that an organization – UNESCO or someone like that – values a human life at 85million US Dollars. I looked at the figure and just laughed. Inside, I cried)

If my bachelor’s degree in finance qualifies me for anything, it’s to point you to the people you can blame for our standards of living: the prime minister, the finance minister (in Malaysia, they’re the same person. So he’s to be doubly blamed), the central bank (or the Federal Reserve, for you folks in the US), the policymakers, China… Basically anyone who’s not us.

But my opinion is that if there’s anyone to be blamed, it’s the fool who suggested we use gold as a standard for wealth.

Think about it. You can’t eat gold. You can’t drink gold. You can’t warm yourself with gold, and you definitely can’t get wifi out of gold. Gold isn’t good for a lot of things, except for looking shiny, conducting electricity, and being completely immune to corrosion.

I say that we need a new gauge for wealth. Not water, of course – it’s far too common to be of practical use as a currency. I suggest in place of money, we begin trading in bread.

You see, RM900 as the minimum wage doesn’t tell you much – especially if you don’t live in Malaysia. But if I told you that the Malaysian minimum wage will buy you about 300 loaves of bread – now that means something. It tells you, at least, whether a person is able to survive off what he or she earns.

(my wages as a part-timer in this company, if anyone is wondering, is about 10 loaves of bread per day)

Bread might not be your staple diet. Hey, it’s not ours either. But flour prices have been more or less stable over the past decades [citation needed], and no one has a monopoly on bread baking. Soon, we can start measuring wealth in terms of bread, and begin setting policies with loaves of bread as the standard!

(“for settlement of this lawsuit, you, John Doe, shall owe a total sum of 600,000 loaves of bread to Jane Doe…”)

You don’t have to worry about an economic bubble, because the bread, unlike monetary worth, is real. You can put the days of inflation and deflation behind you, because as much as people might start their own bread to get more money, bread is, at the same time, being eaten all around the world. And what happens to the people who stockpile bread they don’t eat? They end up with a pile of spoiled bread in their kitchen!

It’s genius!

…Until you realize that it means having to drive a truck full of bread to get that new TV that you’ve always wanted. Then we’ll come up with a system to represent bread, using paper. And then we’ll decide to detach our paper currency from bread production for that we can have a more stable currency worth.

And then we end up right back where we started.

I don’t know why I even tried, to begin with.


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