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Australian family life circa 2008

It makes me mad, all this talk about shares plummeting and banks in trouble. I don't wait with bated breath to hear the latest interest rate cut. I have no shares, no mortgage, and no money in the bank. I'm a sole parent. I work. I thought that meant I counted as one of Kevin Rudd's working families. It took me a while to realise that his idea of a working family is two people working.

Oh, I do get money in the bank but it goes out again straight away on rent, food, education and petrol. Often more goes out than in and then I get charged $30 for being overdrawn. I don't get interest, I pay debit interest.

In fact I owe the banks a lot of money on my credit cards. And I didn't use these to buy luxury goods or holidays. I used them for everyday living expenses. This was very foolish, I know, but I had them and I needed the money so I used them. And you can bet the credit card rate won't be going down any time soon.

I don't have a plasma TV. I have quite a nice ordinary one given to me by a friend when she got a new one. Before that we watched a tiny portable, bought second hand. It didn't have a remote, it was pre-remote.

I do have a nice computer. I took out a loan to buy one after my kids' school updated theirs & we could no longer open their memory sticks on our old one (purchased for $50 from a charity).

I have quite a decent house. I worked my way up to this house. I started off in a lovely cottage that was sold so we had to move. Rents were on the upward so we went downward to a rundown dump. After four years in the dump my finances got better so we moved. The new place was eventually way too small for teenage children sharing a room so we moved again.

This place isn't renovated, it doesn't have cooling, and doesn't have a dishwasher but hey, we are doing our bit for the environment. It was filthy when we moved in and the agents couldn't care less. It was take it or leave it...plenty more desperate tenants lining up behind us. We can't have a dog, most landlords won't allow them so although we are dog lovers my kids won't know the joy of having one.

We have no security, the house could be sold or the rent increased the minute the lease expires. When the interest rates go up our rent goes up or the house is sold. When the rates go down our rent stays the same or goes up for some other reason.

We try not to get sick any more. Our family GP's practice stopped bulk-billing. And not only that, they won't swipe your Medicare card, you have to pay all the money up front. Sure you get some back but that's not the point. You have to have the money to pay. If two of you get sick that's nearly $100 and even if you can scrape that up you probably don't have any left for medicine (and no money for petrol to get there) so you just don't go.

My situation isn't at all unusual. There are plenty of people like me. But you don't hear much about us. We don't ring up the radio when they ask us to tell them how we are coping with our mortgages. We don't have a spokesperson that the media calls on for comment. We often work part time as we don't have a partner to share the care of our children so we don't have much superannuation.

Now the media are reporting that it is a good time to buy a house or shares.

Well, whoopee.



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