opinion

BAREFOOT INVESTOR: Is Australia about to become a completely cashless society?

The Nightly
5 Min Read
The truth is that we’re basically already living in a cashless society . . . so, will we get rid of it entirely?
The truth is that we’re basically already living in a cashless society . . . so, will we get rid of it entirely? Credit: The Nightly

Lyn says: I’ve heard some talk lately (a lot more than the normal conspiracy theories) around the removal of coins and then notes from the Australian monetary system, moving Australia to a completely cashless society.

The discussion between Linfox, the Government and the banks all revolves around how expensive it is to “move” coins around the country for regional post offices, banks, corner shops, etc.

The proposal is that $1 and $2 coins will become notes again to reduce weight. This whole concept is so very scary. It does mean there’s a lot more traceability of payments and business transactions, and the ATO will see everything!

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Barefoot responds: It’s always puzzled me why paying for something with cash doesn’t have a surcharge, like cards do.

After all, there’s a huge cost to taking cash: think of the shopkeepers who have to walk to a bank holding more money than a homie in a rap video. Or Armaguard, who have two pistol-packing blokes driving around in an armoured tank.

Now, the truth is that we basically already live in a cashless society: according to the Australian Banking Association, cash is being used for less than 13 per cent of payments and it’s sure to continue dropping in the future.

So we’ll get rid of cash? I don’t think so, as much as the ATO would love it. A good case study is Norway, which is the world’s most cashless country, with only 2 per cent of payments being made with cash. Yet they are currently legislating the right for its citizens to continue paying with cash to ensure that they are “prepared for emergencies” (like when the artificial intelligence robots shut down our digital payment systems, and have us dance like monkeys for their entertainment — we’ll need notes and coins as a backup).

While I don’t see an end for cash, I do see a future where there is a surcharge on paying with cash.

‘Second mum’ stole from us

Sally writes: We have — well had — a much-loved receptionist. She was like a second mum to our child. She even took paid time off to go as the grandparent/important person day at her school. She was paid above award wages and was looked after with bonuses and gifts for the past 17 years. Here is the kicker, I caught her stealing cash out of my wallet on my birthday! The look on her face as I watched from the door was not one of guilt, or fear of getting caught, but quiet intent, as if it was normal activity. I pretended not to notice, but I was shocked to my core. This was right before she went on holiday. While she was away on holidays, I called the local detectives and asked for advice. Here’s where I have a conflict: do we prosecute or not?

Barefoot responds: Should you prosecute? HELL YES.

If I were in your shoes I’d want to see her face a (pre-morning coffee) Judge Judy. And I’d also employ a forensic accountant to look over your accounts and see if she has stolen any money from the business. If they find anything, you should hand that over to the cops and add that to the rap sheet.

I know the hurt and betrayal must be weighing on you, and the prospect of a drawn-out drama might fill you with dread, but I’d encourage you to see it through — if not for a sense of resolution for you — but as a way of helping her next boss.

Brokers or jokers?

Jerry asks: I was scrolling Instagram the other day and I came across a group called “unbiased mortgage brokers”, who have “recommended by the Barefoot Investor” at the top of their page. Before I book an appointment, I just thought I’d check that you do recommend this home loan provider?

Barefoot responds: Thanks for checking!

I’ve never heard of them. However, I am very happy to give you a recommendation: stay away from “unbiased mortgage brokers”, and anyone else (other than financial counsellors) who claims that I recommend them.

My parents need support

Annie writes: My parents ended up losing their jobs last year and still had debts amounting up to a total of $80,000 (a mixture of credit cards and fixed-term loans).

I have been making repayments for these and, by my calculations, I should be able to finish paying off these debts by October this year. I’m trying to figure out the best way to help them after this. They’re both receiving Centrelink retirement payments each month, which are minimal.

I would like to supplement their income, though I am worried about how they’d be spending it. Is it advisable to open up a joint bank account with my parents?

Barefoot responds: Let’s stop for a second and acknowledge your sacrifice.

You are an amazing daughter! I’m sure your parents really appreciate what you’re doing and, if they don’t, remind them.

If I were in your shoes, when October rolls around, I’d re-establish some boundaries and cut off the money.

Still, that’s easy for me to type and incredibly hard for you to do. To soften the blow, I’d encourage them to have a meeting with a financial information service officer at Centrelink and have them do a statement of financial position and a budget that shows them how they can live off their pension.

I don’t know if you can afford to keep funding your parents’ lifestyle, and what the ultimate long-term effect it will have on your retirement. Yet I’d encourage you to think about that deeply.

As they say on the aircraft safety message: you need to fit your own mask first.

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