As we have progressed farther and farther to virtual money, it’s becoming easier and easier for “them” to take it away (if it ever really existed – which it didn’t.) It’s been quite a few years since I did an in-depth financial review of my family finances, and what I’ve found has been shocking. But the true shock is this: because I never see my money, it could easily be taken away from me without me noticing.
Here’s how it works:
- We start with the paycheck. One no longer receives a paycheck (and certainly not cash), rather it’s “direct deposit” into your bank account. Depending on where you work, you may not even receive a paystub / payslip / pay report. Rather, it’s “available” somewhere for you to download and review.
Did taxes go up? Did the employer slip a “state mandated health charge” as a deduction from your pay? Did your city implement a local income tax that you never heard about or noticed? With 15 or more different line items and another 15 or more subtotals and totals, tracking the differences is…challenging. And given the difficulty, who’s going invest the time every month to do so? As long as the final number doesn’t change “all that much”, it’s probably being ignored. Safe to say they’re counting on that.
- In the U.S. I had ordered a $15 phone line. The bill was $30… $15 for service, then state tax, county tax, universal service charge, emergency system funding charge, etc, etc, etc. The charges are often added over time, the bill becomes more and more complex, the price creeps up, and few are closely reading the bill – and even if you are, who can figure out what all these extra things are and whether they are legitimate or not?
- In Israel they play this slightly differently. Most service prices are “an introductory price” (they mention that very quietly in passing). After a year the price will jump 25%, at 18 months, another 25%, and if you’re not paying close attention or setting check dates in a calendar – you check 2 years later and you’re paying double or triple.
- 6 months ago my apartment grew 5% larger. No, we didn’t have any renovations done. Rather, the city chose to “reassess” apartment sizes and include common areas (the elevator shaft and entrance hallway) in the apartment size. Hence my residency tax jumped 5% without the city raising tax rates. Neat trick, that.
- When you run out of the virtual money in your account, it’s ok. In the U.S., just drop the product or service (including your electric) onto your credit card. The balance goes up, the interest charges go up, but the bill only says “minimum payment” – so it’s ok. It’s just more virtual money disappearing in hidden costs.
- In Israel it’s slightly easier to have the same problem. Instead of credit cards offering a credit line, the credit line is directly attached to your checking account. Meaning, your checking account can go NEGATIVE without bouncing checks or stopping the money flowing. It just starts charging you interest… until the negative number hits the credit limit.
…the “money”, just numbers on a screen, comes in, the “money”, just numbers when you swipe a card or click to pay, goes out. You don’t feel it, there’s no money in hand! You don’t even see it, no paper bills or coins to bother with.
Does it really exist? Who can say? But “they” certainly want it and work very hard to take it away from you… quietly, a nibble at time, just like piranha, until they’re hitting muscle and bone.
While “they’re” always happy to take your “virtual” money, literally to the point of doing so automatically, they don’t seem very eager to give it back to you. If you overpay your taxes, it’s tons of forms and months of time to get it back. If you are overcharged for a bill, or have a service added you didn’t ask for… good luck getting it back! (Not going to happen.)
Nowadays there are people who say they don’t believe in G-d, for they can’t see Him or empirically measure Him. Yet they believe in money, though they may never see it either! Strange that.