Monday, April 7, 2008

Adulthood: Financial edition

One of the stranger side effects of growing older and becoming more involved in various organizations is being asked to oversee the financial affairs of such groups. I'm currently serving on the vestry at my church and on the finance subcommittee of the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Religion.

Now my dad is a CPA and a longtime small business owner, who for as long as I can remember kept the books for the churches we attended, big and small. I don't know if he naturally has a head for figures; his heart was always in the humanities, but he did the money stuff to make a living. I think sometimes he found it fascinating to know the ins and outs, the financial complexities.

As do I. I've always wanted to be an insider and see how the sausage is made. But I've never sought out positions that require me to understand balance sheets, because other than "debits on the left, credits on the right," I don't have that expertise.

So how I got into a position of approving budgets and so forth for multi-million dollar operations, I'm not at all sure. (The fact that it happened should make you feel a little uneasy about those large associations to which you belong.) I think I can see when expenses are rising and revenues are falling, and I even manage to listen closely enough to understand explanations of line items like "Net Revenue From Temporarily Restricted Funds." Maybe it's enough to be able to pay attention in short bursts, long enough to comprehend the big picture and its component pieces. But I sure am glad that there are people with better heads for numbers than mine minding the store the other 364 days of the year.

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