For a long time, superannuation has been the whale in the room for me. It’s a whale, and not an elephant, because it has a heavy, fluid sort of feeling. A creeping damp which I ignore, but is gradually staining the carpet and washing over my feet. I think, “I’ll deal with it later”, as everything begins to float on the rising sea.
It took a while to realise, I wasn’t quite sure that she was a whale, but then she said: “What am I? Did you guess? I am a fish.” (Croser, Josephine. & Muirhead, David. (2013). Can you guess?. Flinders Park, SA : Era Publications)
Superannuation is such a wet, deep thing that I can’t dive in, and yet I have an intense worry and fear, but I don’t want to think about it at all. My bed is a small ship, bobbing along on an ocean of financial unknowing. Or maybe I won’t have to ever think about it, I could be dead and not ever have to consider it:
“I can’t help but pull the earth around me, to make my bed” (lyrics from Florence + the Machine’s “To Wreck”).
…I’m so embedded in the dirt, grateful to the earth for cradling me. The moisture of this alien thing feels like a threat, making an earthquake in my cocooned stability, my head in the sand. I don’t want to be in the water below the hole dug along the coastline.
We had an aquarium in our bedroom. All my feng shui books said how wrong this was (water affecting money where you sleep), and my energywork mentor said that our black ghost knife fish poorly impacted our money energy. I marvelled as he swam, but I worried that each undulating tremor of his rippling fin reshaped my money landscape like the tides on sand. We moved house and he died in the bathtub. I was sad but also relieved. I wanted to bury him in the garden, but took the coward’s way out with the rubbish. Then the idea of superannuation evolved into a much larger ghost knife fish, into a whale.
I brought all this sea-money baggage to the Canberra Library Tribe’s #GLAMRtax event last Thursday. The presenters were a financial planner (Scott Malcolm from Money Mechanics) and an accountant (Jane Hadrill from Hadrill accounting). “Ugh, superannuation,” I said to Scott, demeaning his love for something that he really does find super. Maybe it’s just because I’m aware of my total depth of misunderstanding, I’m treading water and can’t see the edge of the pool. The superannuation whale is a deadness draped on my shoulders, a dragging albatross, the devastation of a wasted and rotting carcass on the beach.
Scott and Jane helped me to realise that superannuation is actually mine (often, 9.5% of salary) – not an extraterrestrial force, but something that is kept for my future. Super can become lost too, like a seahorse following a different current (you can find it too or keep track of it). It’s providence, not punishment. I was so glad to hear good stories and perspectives about money, because I have been underwater about it for so long.
I realised that my golden superwhale was terrible (and terrifying), because I’d trapped her sublime beauty in a SeaWorld globe. From her prism, she had tried to reach me with all the power of the ocean, a salt line on my arms, a flood in the courtyard. I had thought that she was just a weird policy beast, but now I know she’s feathering a nest for the future. I just need keep her healthy, in a nice environment. I’ve lifted the dark, foreboding liquid, and visualised lightness and freedom, an expansive body of water for her to swim freely, flecked with the gold of future funds, attracting abundance.
When I’m an ancient elf living in a woodland cottage, she will dance in the nearby sea, spyhopping and lobtailing as we share our longtail money together. I am grateful to my guardian golden superwhale, for having been patient through all our dark water years and now into the lightness.