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Don't turn money into a dirty word.


This is the week when a lot of people count the cost of spending money they didn't have on things they didn't need to impress people they didn't like.

But no such 4am worries will trouble the likes of those for whom the trough is never empty, such as Ross McEwan, the new head of RBS who was handed PS1.5million in free shares just before the New Year stock market closed, or Peter Luff, the newly-knighted Tory MP who once claimed expenses for having his Aga serviced and charged the public purse nearly a thousand pounds for TWO china tea sets.

They say that polite people never talk about sex, religion, politics or money, but I can't recall a time when I've ever talked about anything else.

I made my way up from nothing - when I was 17, during my first job as a journalist, I was so badly paid that I had to collect old pop bottles in the morning and get the 10p deposits in order to get the bus to work - so when I started making a huge amount of money in my twenties, I felt like I'd won the pools.

My success seemed so miraculous that I couldn't stop advertising it, and OTT though I may have been, I vastly prefer my boastfulness to the shifty glances and shady silences I've experienced from more privileged people. As events from the banking crisis to the payday loans scandal to the BBC bosses bonanza highlighted, we really should be erring on the side of complete candour when it comes to who's doing what with whose cash.

People often don't like others to know how much money they have in case they get tapped for a loan or, even worse, a donation. But I believe that stinginess truly is the halitosis of the soul, and that any utterance of the old saw "Never a borrower or a lender be" is a sure sign of a Scrooge who would prefer to sit rubbing his sticky paws together on his filthy pile than share a bit of joy around.

"You're welcome, we can spare it", on the other hand, is my favourite line from the lovely old Ian Dury song Reasons To Be Cheerful, and very much the way my generous working-class parents taught me to see the world. I was an adult before I knowingly met a mean person - they were, of course, middle-class - and I wasn't in the least surprised to learn that in this country, the poorest give the highest percentage of their earnings to charity and the rich the least. In the USA, incidentally, which the British are often keen to condemn as a brash and brutish society, it's the other way around - which seems a far fairer state of affairs. It's important to talk openly about money and not sweep it under the carpet as the topic of sex used to be, because not doing so ends up with the nightmare situation we now have; the appropriation of public money by every crafty, useless, well-connected nobody who can fiddle an expenses sheet while pensioners die of cold every winter rather than ask for "charity." One of my favourite sayings, by the American billionaire philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, is "He who dies rich dies shamed". The bankers and BBC bosses could learn well from it.

People often don't like others to know how much money they have but I believe that stinginess truly is the halitosis of the soul


Rewards: McEwen and Luff
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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion, Column
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 5, 2014
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