Sunday 20 October 2019

I'll admit it -- I have an awful 'interiority' complex

While thousands of us are saving our money, I hope spending mine on home improvements will boost us all, says Jody Corcoran

Jody Corcoran

Jody Corcoran

IT is at times like this that I need a woman in my life. Don't worry, I do not intend to burden you again, at year's end, with an update on my love life, other than to say that since I last wrote on affairs of the heart, things are, happily, more full of promise.

What troubles me this Christmas is an escapade upon which I embarked some months ago and which remains frustratingly unfinished, tantalisingly close though the end may be.

On the basis that every trial is sent, not only as a test but also from which to learn, let me take you then to the heart of what is commonly referred to as the real economy.

Because you will never know what is fully going on in this country until you have spent an hour in Woodies of an evening, or half an hour lunch break in the company of those fine women in the haberdashery department of Arnotts.

I am renovating my home. It is a project that has taken me from firms of external insulators to suppliers of windows and doors, to -- and this is where I need a woman -- the mystery, the confusion, the utter futility, in fact, that is interior design.

Official figures tell us that there is a large sum in savings in bank accounts here, some estimates say around €100bn, either paying down debt, which is understandable, or just sitting there awaiting what economists call "velocity".

That is, if I pay a firm say €14,000 to insulate my home, it in turn will pay its suppliers and workmen, who, perhaps, may pay somebody else to do a job for them and so on until everybody benefits, not least the real economy.

By the way, it pays to shop around on retrofit, upon completion of which the Government will give you back up to €4,000, although that grant level has also just been cut.

I received quotes which varied from almost €19,000 to almost €14,000: no points for guessing with which I went.

Of course, not everybody has a five-figure sum to spend on what may seem a relative luxury -- warmth -- in these times of harsh austerity, even if, as I say, there is still a lot of money out there doing, well, not a lot.

The decision was taken in a moment of blind panic, infused by a certain wilful ignorance.

I bought the house two years ago even though I kind of knew that the property market had not yet reached the bottom, although surely it must be close at this stage.

I had sold a few years before that again, just as the market was about to crash, so all considered I got out just in time, but back in a little before I would have intended had the choice been mine alone.

In any event, the upshot is that there was a few bob left over, sitting there doing nothing in particular.

The crisis in the eurozone made me wonder what to do: withdraw to hide under a mattress; buy gold; open a dollar account; or just leave it be and hope for the best.

I was inclined to leave it be until the Government made a grab on private pensions, which raised the question, what would be to stop them from making a grab on private savings too, should the need arise?

In the end, two severe winters, and a certain bafflement at conflicting advice, helped me to reach a conclusion: invest in what is my only tangible asset, while also -- you know -- doing a bit for the real economy.

Many others remain more cautious, and it is difficult to blame them, what with everything that is going on. It is impossible, always was, to know at what point confidence will return, although you may be sure it will have arrived before anybody will announce its return.

Events in Europe have done nothing to help. In fact, the mess they have made of it out there has set in retreat the green shoots which were to a point -- maybe I just imagined it -- showing signs again this time last year.

There is not much cause to be optimistic about the year ahead. In here, we have just had what amounts to another pay cut, our second (or is it third?) since the recession began. So a certain tentativeness has returned.

The most depressing news came from Retail Ireland recently, which disclosed that a number of UK multiples were giving serious thought to pulling out of Ireland next year should there be no improvement.

Such retailers, at a guess -- they were not identified -- may be among the advertisers of this media group, of all media, which will not help the bottom line should they actually withdraw.

Ours is but one company in the real economy: we are all interlinked, all of us who live and work and aspire -- employers, employees and those who depend upon us.

In the end it will come down to a personal decision for the savers of tens of billions holed up in bank vaults not doing a whole lot, but earning some interest of which the Government will take more as time goes on.

It has become desperately important, though, that savers start to give serious consideration to the bigger issues involved here before caution becomes not just a by-product, but a self-defeating sentiment that begins to take root.

Of course, there are various other issues which can feed into such a decision but, truth is, it is a decision which only they alone can take, to put to use those tens of billions in savings which can only do some good for the country.

There are bargains to be had out there, I can tell you, and workmen available too at half the rate they would have demanded before. Four years ago, for example, a tiler would have demanded two euro a tile to lay, now you can have the job done for a euro.

There are other bargains too: just ask Brighid in Arnotts' haberdashery department. Tell her I sent you. Tell her also that I will return when I get my head around the difference -- the point of the difference -- between an eyelet and a French pleat.

Which is why I need a woman. Thing is, it is the issue of paint colour, floor tiles, curtains and blinds which has exasperated me most, to the point that, this Christmas I am quite content to sit in a builders' mess than to wonder again why the paint colour "linen" turns out to be more like magnolia and why a grey porcelain floor tile seems annoyingly white under a light shade from Ikea.

Sunday Independent

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