Gratitude Sunday: Money Is The Great Equalizer

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Benjamin Franklin

Sunday Haiku
Yellow blossom pops,
pink flower blooms, purple blings,
spring sings pure color.

Sunday Musings
After my rant last week and other posts in the past you may think I spend much of my time thinking and complaining about money. That’s the way of poverty in America, isn’t it? If you’ve always had enough money, you have no concept of what it is like to live without it so you might not understand why people who don’t have it are always concerned about it. If you’ve never had enough, you are constantly imagining what it might be like to have enough.

I remember when I was making about 10 dollars an hour. I was mostly self-employed. My rent on a three bedroom house averaged 300 dollars a month. Gasoline was less than a dollar a gallon, and a ride on the bus was less than a dollar as well. You could get 4 cans of chili for a dollar, four 4-packs (16 rolls) of bathroom tissue for a dollar, 4 loaves of bread for a dollar, a gallon of milk for under a dollar, and a whole chicken could sometimes be had for 10 cents a pound on a good sale.

That was about 40 years ago, and while wages haven’t gone up everything else has. Now in the area I live a 3 bedroom home rents for about two thousand dollars a month. One can of chili is $1.79, and one raw whole chicken is more than 10 dollars, in which case, it is less costly to buy a rotisserie Costco chicken at 5 dollars and save the time and expense of cooking; gas is once again more than 3 dollars a gallon. And even with a better paying job, average wages are still around 10 dollars an hour. The son is an entry-level worker now and earns a bit over 11 dollars an hour. He barely makes enough to feed himself and get back and forth to work, and rarely makes enough for rent or utilities. He’d like to save for a car, but public transport sucks him dry at 5 dollars a day. When I was growing up an adult could work a 40 hour week, with an at-home spouse to manage the care it takes to have a clean home and home-cooked meals, while buying a home to raise a family in, and still count on a comfortable retirement by the age of 65. Cars didn’t cost 40 thousand dollars; you could buy two modest comfortable homes for that amount back then. That was gone by the time I raised my child.

The myth of wealth building in America is dead. Oh, it works for a few people who are lucky enough to have all the details fall into place for them. For the rest of us, we can work until our dying day with no relief in sight. From many months of study, this state of affairs appears to have been orchestrated by the people who already own most of the wealth in America at the expense of the workers. This equates in my mind to enforced servitude, when most wages are sucked back up into taxes, the cost of providing a home and food have grown exponentially and not enough left over to live on or save, and is the equivalent of violence against the American worker. The change has taken place in the course of a couple of generations. The solution presented is debt, which then makes one a slave to interest payments.

Money, then, is the great equalizer. It is dangled in front of us like a big green carrot. Yet, we are not taught how to manage money when we are in school. We are taught math, but the biggest complaint I hear repeatedly is about the practical application of math. If you are not going to calculate how to build things, or amounts for chemical combinations or medicine titrations, or how to measure distance, what is math for? I’m thinking the best math application we can teach is about money. How to make it, how to save it, how to make it grow, understanding loans and interest calculations and percentages. How to balance a checkbook, how to get the best prices at the store, how to shop for the best deal, how to financially run a household budget. How to fill in a tax form, how to open a bank account, how to decide if a loan is the best use of your money. How to budget for immediate needs, how to plan for contingencies, how to save for retirement. Nobody likes the word budget, as it seems limiting at best, but it is the best word for how to be in control of your money.

None of the above is taught in school, though since our American society is based on capitalistic consumerism, which is all about money, it seems like the best application of math that could be taught. Boy Scouts have a required Merit Badge called Personal Management that teaches a bit about how to manage money and not many of the scouts I worked with internalized and benefited from this information. Part of the instruction includes delayed gratification. This information was not supported by the math taught in schools. Families often do not discuss money with their children because they don’t want children to worry. Like language use, if we talk about money math everyday, won’t we understand it better?

The difference between wealthy people and not-wealthy people, besides inheriting their money, is the understanding of money math. Wealthy people have a cushion, that is, if they fail they still have more to draw from. Not-wealthy people have no cushion; if they lose, they lose everything. Wealthy people understand how to use, create, and profit from money. Not-wealthy people have no clue how to make money work for them through delayed gratification, that is, planning and goal setting, rather than spending whatever money they have as quickly as possible.

Do you know how to manage what little money you have? Are you saving on your own for retirement as a hedge against the bureaucracy stealing your Social Security tax investments? Do you have a contingency fund, no matter how small, for when the car breaks, or a medical emergency, or a job loss? Do you really need that 5 dollar latte twice a day? (5 [the cost of one coffee drink] times 2 [twice a day] equals 10 dollars a day times 365 days of the year equals 3,650 dollars on lattes in one year. That’s nearly enough for a down payment on a house. Can you make coffee with less cost at home? Or be satisfied with fewer lattes in the name of having more cash in your pocket? Just one example.)

In poverty thinking, people often spend everything they have because they think they won’t have more, so they want what they want right now. In some cases this includes buying items that seem to give relief from the stress of poverty such as “feel goods” like lattes, clothing, drugs, alcohol, gambling, and others. They have not learned how to save money for a later date. This is learned behavior and often generational. If people were taught how to use and manage money I’m thinking much addictive behavior might be circumvented because people would be enabled to be more comfortable with their lives and how their money supports their lives, even if the income is small. This is all hard to imagine if you are living with your kids in your car, without access to a shower so you can be presentable for work. If you are lucky enough to have a car to live in.

Anybody, at any income level, can learn money math and how to budget and use their money. It takes very little digging at the library to find books that help. Start with Elizabeth Warren’s All Your Worth, which describes a 50/20/30 budget plan that works at any income level. This plan requires you to be honest with yourself to start. And starting out you may need to make some sacrifices like skipping that twice daily latte. It’s hard to imagine when you are 25 how fast 40 years goes by and what you will need to retire at 65. But when the car breaks and you have contingency savings tucked away and don’t have to go into debt with interest payments to fix or replace your car, you will understand how this plan can work. And when you are 65 and no longer able to work, having a few extra dollars over and above any Social Security income will give a feeling of comfort as sweet as a soft warm bed.

While you are learning money math, discuss what you learn with your children. Help them learn to save and delay their desires for the sake of financial security. Teach them the dangers of over-consumption and debt, which offers a means of instant gratification but really means you pay interest on your purchases often long after the purchased item is discarded. Teach them conservative consumerism. We don’t need the newest phone, or the latest model shoes, or this year’s fashion. The stuff we need needs to function for us, not against us.

The fiancée I had when I was 19, the one who passed away before we married (he was all of 24 years old) used to say “Never burn your last match, or spend your last dollar.” It’s another way of saying make sure you save something toward the future. Don’t use the last of what you have before you have more or you may find yourself without anything. It isn’t easy, but teach yourself and your children how to keep more of what you earn by paying yourself first and then paying it forward.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – The lovely yellow green of new leaves. Wildflowers are pretty too; brilliantly flurried yellow dandelions. Flame colored tulips. Pink candy-striped hyacinths. The eye of the yellow tulip.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Bingeing through Blue Bloods (2010 – (seven seasons and still running), rated TV – 14) with Tom Selleck as the patriarch of a family of police officers. Formulaic series, but the characters are being developed, and my favorite part is the signature scene when 4 generations sit down to Sunday dinner together every week and have actual conversations in which they don’t always agree. My family did that when I was small; I miss being close enough (in proximity) to do that every week. * Morning Glory (1933, not rated) with Katharine Hepburn about a rising starlet who is mentored by established producers and gains success. One of Hepburn’s earliest movies and an excellent example of her affected style of acting.


Currently Reading
The Lonely Hearts Hotel (2017, fiction) by Heather O’Neill. I haven’t figured out how the title relates to the story yet, though there is plenty of sex and drugs in the story. Maybe I’m too distracted. By the use of fragments. * Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2000, history) by Rebecca Solnit. On to moving meditation and the paths of labyrinths. Who knew there was so much to contemplate about walking? Well, Ms Solnit, of course.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • The music of Joni Mitchell.
  • Getting an invitation to my niece’s baby shower.
  • Being in love with the soft yellow green of new baby leaves and dangly catkins.
  • Trees.
  • The residual smell of chlorine on my skin, proof I at least went to the pool if nothing else in my day’s activities.
  • Pain, the ultimate indicator of still being alive.
  • Waking up another day.
  • The gray cells which continue to function with the ability to learn and think critically.
  • Being curious about how tall a certain young scout I had known was now and seeing him at the pool working on the Swimming Merit Badge. Curiosity satisfied.
  • Knowing the families of my siblings’ in-laws.
  • How sometimes the rain is comforting to my mood.
  • Looking forward to the first local farmers market of the season in a couple weeks.
  • Asparagus. Asparagus.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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3 Responses to Gratitude Sunday: Money Is The Great Equalizer

  1. piratesorka says:

    Boy you hit the nail square on this week. I was really Never taught about money. If I did the odd job or its like, I made a little money ( never much) Mom never explained her choices when we went out shopping be it groceries or clothing or the family bills. I remember going to the doctor in my early 30’s only to be surprised with a bill!. My parents magically took care of doctors bills and this was $70 bucks! I was no longer on their health insurance. Heating bills and electric bills were another surprise. In my late 20’s I lived in a fourplex, nice and cozy place. I could easily walk to the bus stop or walk to the store or laundry mat. My plans were to move to Berkeley and go to Grad school in August 83′ However I remember the oil heating in my plex’ ran out in early November. I was dismayed to find out I would have had to fill the entire tank and it was too much for me to afford. So I went without heat that entire winter. It was a bitter experience to say the least.. Now at our age currently I look back and I so wish someone would have taken me aside and show me all about money, how to handle a checking account, insurance, figure out interest rates.jiggle the bills so I could afford all I needed and not just what I wanted.. IN fact until I moved away I had no idea what my parents or grandparents paid or saved. Not a bit. What a blind fool I was!

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  2. sassy kas says:

    We went through a couple of winters when all our wall heaters (our only source of heat) were broken and we did not have the funds to replace them, and no public assistance available to help replace them. We lived in layers of bathrobes and blankets. My parents didn’t have health insurance, they paid as we went. Nobody can afford that now with the cost of health care inflated by the greedy hands of insurance companies. (Watch the Donna Reed show; husband is neighborhood doctor, office is in their home; office visits were 5 dollars, example of changes over the years). We are all blind fools if we don’t teach ourselves and our children how to use money without debt. The only good reason I can see for debt is buying a home, and even then it is to our advantage to pay it off as soon as possible. I’d love to teach a class on “poverty money management” so people can learn about how to use their money and not let money use them.

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    • piratesorka says:

      On the fourth line it should read ” in my early 20’s” NOT my early 30’s!. However in all honesty I did go off to grad school without a shred of health insurance. I was at a all time poverty rate, I could not afford insurance….fortunately for me when I had a accident on the school grounds, THEY promptly paid the bills on that one and to make it just a tad lucky…my roommate was a physical therapist!!!. I was foolish but ohhh sooo lucky.

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