Showing posts with label depression. Show all posts
Showing posts with label depression. Show all posts

Monday, January 21, 2013

From Around The Web

West faces decade of conflict in North Africa.

60 School Shootings linked to Psychiatric drugs. I think this article confuses causation and correlation. This often happens. A great example is when we see the articles about how something (yoga, green tea, whatever) makes you fitter/ skinnier or healthier. The point is that person who does yoga or drinks green tea also does a variety of other things to be healthy like eating reasonably and exercising. Fat slobs who eat whole pizza's for lunch on a regular basis do not do these things.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pic Post

What you get sometimes when I have to work late.



Saturday, March 10, 2012

In Case The News Hasn't Gotten You Down Already

Greece default credit event leads to the payout of credit default swaps.
What does and America without a Middle Class look like?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bringing Yourself Back Up

Not so long ago I wrote about mentally dealing with deployments. I happened to be in a good mood then so it was a pretty up beat post. Right now I am kind of down. No particularly valid reason. I had to deal with a lot of those little things we put off because they are irritating to get done. I didn’t have my usual appetite and probably consumed 2/3rds of my normal intake. It is test week for my workout routine and I may have pushed myself a bit hard yesterday so I am sort. Also for no particular reason I have been tired since the afternoon though I slept fine last night. I think what’s going on is that I let myself think about leave (which is getting closer but still a long way off,) and redeployment. Thinking about good things made me bummed out to be here. It all kind of combined into blah.

In survival situations people will definitely have to deal with emotions, particularly if there is significant loss of property or lives or some sort of great suffering. Someone who is 55 and watching their hard earned 401k sink like the Titanic or a person who is involved in a violent situation have different, but very heavy stuff to deal with. Now that we have covered that life is hard and sometimes I am a whiny emo kid let us move onto how to deal with it.

In the short term I am a big fan of distractions or treats. A dvd and a snack will go a long way toward boosting your mood. A cold beer or two might help you relax also but be careful with that one. The line between a couple before dinner and a case alone in the basement is thin and grey.

In the midterm avoiding things that bum you out to the maximum extent possible is good. Getting some good endorphins going by working out is another solid one also. I also think finding things to look forward to can help considerably. Most situations do come to an end and looking at the end of whatever is bothering you will typically help. Beyond that the good old, fake it till you make it saying applies.

On a broader scale try to build a life that makes you as happy as possible. Eliminate toxic people, relationships and situations when you can. Don’t put yourself in a situation where money problems are likely by living beyond your means or borrowing excessively. Our outlooks on life help considerably here. I truly do believe that over the long run we do choose to be happy or unhappy.

Now please excuse me, I am going to have some snacks and watch the Soprano’s.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I Can Haz Economic Recovery



I heard on the news today that our economic recovery is at risk. I wondered what that guy was smoking and if it showed up on drug tests. Unemployment is around 10%, real inflation (I don’t know about you but I can’t magically factor out food, housing  and energy) is nipping away at purchasing power, home prices are down and the markets are painfully in the hole.

Granted the economy is a complicated thing so it is best judged by a broad variety of indicators. To be blunt I would say that finding any indicator that is positive would be difficult and even then it would be an exception proves the rule sort of situation.

In normal people’s lives unemployment, followed by inflation (maybe inflation would go after home prices as home prices trickle into a lot of things but I went inflation first because most people are not buying or selling a home at any given time), followed by home prices and then the market are probably the indicators that matter the most.

Come to think of it the only really positive thing I have heard anybody say about our economy in some time is that it is probably a buying opportunity for real estate and stocks.

The phrase “don’t piss down my back and tell me it is raining” comes to mind.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

US Debt Downgraded

This morning I went in to work half asleep as usual. I am able to get moving quicker than most folks but am still not quite myself until I've been up for a half hour and or had a cup of coffee. Someone said in passing "US Debt was downgraded" and it caught my attention enough to walk over and ask if he was serious. He was and gave me the one sentence summary of it then moved on to something else. This part was kind of interesting.

Remember the scene in Snatch (if you haven't seen it you really should) where the two black guys who run the pawn shop and their friend walk into the office and find Brick Top (an old crazy english gangster with funny glasses) sitting on the couch? Well it got the two guys attention because there was an old, odd looking man sitting on the couch in their supposedly locked office. The third knew who Brick Top was and what his presence there meant, that it was very bad. This was kind of like that. Certainly it will get everybodies attention, if just for a second, but only some who keep track of these sort of things know how really bad it is.

For a lot of reasons I have been somewhat complacent recently but this definitely changed that. While not a suprise parse I didn't think anything like this would happen so soon. It definitely made me take stock of things.

On the bright side I am really happy Wifey and Walker are at home with family. It would be nice if I was around, both for psychological and functional (healthy young men with military training are useful) reasons, they are in the best possible place they could be. This makes me very glad we made that choice.

I had been (maybe mistakenly) waiting for PM's to take a hard dip before buying again. That plan is out the window. I made a big, for us, purchase and feel better knowing that a little bit more of our buying power is now not dollar denominated. Also I am looking at filling a few gaps that have been present for awhile. I HAD planned to just stash cash and do a good round of buying when I get back but that plan is now out the window. Also I have a few more ideas and need to do some more thinking and talk with the Wife about them.

Get your house in order while it is still possible and reasonably affordable. I don't mean to tell you that the world is ending and you should put every dime into beans and bullets or anything like that. However if there is something you have been meaning to do, or a purchase you have been meaning to make and can reasonably afford them it is time to do it. Could be food, training, PM's, guns, ammo, whatever. There may well be some bad stuff coming so if you want something and can (please don't use credit or spend irresponsibly) afford it them it's time to get it.

If our nation does not get it's economic house in order sooner instead of later we may have some very ugly times ahead.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Unconventional Family Housing

Different cultures and periods have dictated cultural norms that vary widely in terms of who lives with each other, when and for how long. For the sake of this discussion I am going to consider conventional housing being one or two adults that are married or otherwise together living with the minor (or close to minor) children of that couple. The other norm is adults that are friends or acquaintances (or just random's) living together to share expenses.

There have always been some exceptions to this relative cultural norm of contemporary post WWII America. In particular many immigrant groups and Hispanics have tended to stay together much longer and adult children living with parents. Three generation households are common if not the norm for these groups. Also among Americans young 'adult' children maybe living with their parents for awhile and older adults who need some assistance living with family have been consistent themes. The latter for economic subsidization and the former for help with everyday stuff. Toss in random fairly short term life circumstances like job losses, breakups/divorce, relocation, leaving the military, etc and you have captured most of the reasons people have traditionally chosen to reside with family. Sort of like there have always been a certain percentage of home foreclosures there have always been some unconventional family housing. Also like home foreclosures unconventional family housing is (I don't have statistics but I sure think) on the rise.

The Great Recession is proving to be particularly hard on young adults. Even the best laid plans for getting meaningful skills on the non college path takes time and generally starts with low wages. These days kids just starting out are often the first to get fired AND they are far less likely than in the past to get the kinds of jobs that allow for upward movement. You would have to be blind to not see a lot of young adults graduating from college and moving home because they can't find a professional job; or even a job that will pay rent and let them live independently.

These coupled with an increase in the overall rate of unemployment have put unconventional family housing on the rise, at least in my circle of friends and family. Some observations from successful and rocky situations are why I am writing this today.

Here are some considerations for unconventional family housing. It is important to remember that much more than a generic roommate situation there are social factors in play and it is a different dynamic. I think the biggest and most important thing is coming up with a detailed and specific written agreement prior to beginning living together or immediately after moving in. I just don't think this can be overstated as it will, if well thought out, prevent so many issues. Obviously in a case where one person is subsidizing the other (free or reduced rent, etc) the one doing the paying has a lot more say. I will refer to the two parties as supporting and benefiting for convenience. There are many different variables and factors in play and it matters less what is agreed upon than that there is an agreement. Here are some considerations.

-Do you even want to live with family? I've known family who have instead helped someone out financially. Also I know folks who have couch surfed or been the 5th guy in a 3 bedroom paying $50 a month to sleep on the floor (guy 4 had the couch). My advice is that if it is going to really be an uncomfortable situation to avoid it if at all possible.

- For approximately how long do you plan for it to last? Somebody staying for a couple weeks or a month until whatever happens is very different than a plan that could last months or years. This is important because how long it is anticipated to last really affects the amount of planning that should be done. On the short end a two minute conversation can work and on the long end some forethought and a series of detailed discussions could be wise. (More on this later.)

-Under what scenario are you willing to enter into this sort of arrangement? Are you willing to help the supporting party while they are in school or doing an apprenticeship or internship? Are you willing to support them until they earn enough to support their self? What about if they make an OK living but choose to spend their money on other things? What if they are between jobs? What if they are are in a low paying dead end job? What if they are waffling, sleeping late and partying a lot. I would strongly suggest thinking about this and talking about it with your partner BEFORE it comes up because odds are it will come up. My only advice on this is don't be afraid to lay down ground rules. If you are OK with someone living with you while they are in school, trying to find a job, saving for a down payment on a home or whatever then say so.

-Social arrangements are the next big sticking point. This is probably the most noticeable difference between living with family and a generic roomie arrangement. Broadly speaking it would benefit the supporting party to realize that everyone involved is an adult and it would be good for the benefiting party to remember they don't just have a roomie. This is particularly important if someone is single and actively dating. While a random person in a bathrobe drinking coffee in the kitchen when a family member is over makes for a great scene in a sitcom it would not be so funny in real life. Well it might be funny in someone elses life but not your life. If house guests are cool or not is a very personal discussion but you should have it early instead of late.

Also family generally want to have a lot more vision on each others whereabouts than roommates do. When I used to have roommates I worried about what it would seem like if something happened to them. They could be gone for a week or two and unless bills were due or something I wouldn't call them. I had a vision of a cop asking where they were and me being like "I think I saw him last Tuesday" and it not going well. At the various times I have been home as an adult; what we have done is that if we are going to be gone overnight we let the other person know where we will be. Just a phone call saying "I'm staying at Bob/Tom/Sally's place" was sufficient though I did try to call before 9pm. If the folks went somewhere they told me where also. Coming up with a workable plan for social arrangements isn't hard provided that you show some forethought and have an honest if slightly unpleasant conversation before things start coming up.

-Financial and household arrangements are next on the list. Just figure out who is going to pay for what. For the supporting party be advised that there will inevitably be some cost, if just utilities and a bit of food and not to get into this anything you can't afford comfortably. My observation is that in this area it isn't so much big picture stuff but little things that create problems. We aren't talking about hundreds of dollars in rent so much as who ate the last pepperidge farm chocolate chunk cookie and didn't buy more. The supporting party generally knows that the benefiting party needs help and they are willing to provide it. Also I think that if you have figured things out to the point where everyone knows who is supposed to replace the chocolate chunk cookies the big things like rent and utilities have long been covered.

I have two more thoughts on finances. First is if the supporting party has any sort of financial expectations for the supporting party they should make then clear. It might be paying off debt or saving to be independent, etc just lay it out in advance. The second thought is that (I'm not a lawyer so this is not legal advice and consider yourself disclaimed.) in a lot of places paying rent entitles a person legally to certain rights a house guest does not have. If things get bad that could turn out to be a real pain. Maybe there is a way they could help out with groceries or something and still be a house guest. If that is a concern (or you are looking at a real long term situation) then it might be worth talking to a lawyer.

In terms of household arrangements. Figure out space and if possible clear up some storage for stuff that exceeds said space. Spell out very clearly (not just 'help around the house') what you would like the benefiting party to do towards the total household workload.

- Lastly I think it is worth being clear on what circumstances and or time frame is going to bring an end to the cohabitation. This sort of ties in with the scenario under which the supporting party is willing to enter into this sort of thing. For example you might be cool with a full time student but aren't so cool with a student taking a class or two at a time with no real direction. At some point (and many articles have been written by people experiencing this) helping can definitely become enabling. Case in point I recently saw a guy I know who graduated with a BA two years ago and has been at home unemployed since. We all know a kid who graduated high school and just sort of hung out partying, sleeping a lot and playing video games until eventually the rents lay down the law. To risk being redundant it doesn't matter so much what the conditions here are but they should be well thought out, specific enough to be meaningful and understood by all parties involved.

Beyond the Great Recession I see this sort of unconventional family housing becoming more and more common. The numbers and demographics make it an easy call. Kids today on the non college option have serious problems. They used to get a low paying job then as they learn and gain some skills wages improve over time.  To be blunt this model is not working so effectively any more. It takes longer for most to move to a wage where they can live independently and some aren't moving there at all. When GM paid anybody the equivalent of $17.50 an hour and grocery stores paid living wages it was easy to get a job then an apartment and pretty quickly be middle class. Now the kinds of jobs many of these kids get make $9 with no benefits and little room for upward movement. Those who get into union, trade and tech jobs will likely fare the best.

Don't worry the college option (this reminds me of the game Life) isn't much better. When many folks take a bump down the ladder and there is high unemployment then hiring a person with a few years experience, or someone you had to let go when things were rough, over a kid just out of college is a no brainer. This plus student debt hitting record levels (somewhere over 20k on averagea terrible time to be young.

Don't worry the baby boomers some issues also. Many of the boomers are in serious trouble when it comes to retirement because they haven't saved a darn thing or in any case nowhere near enough. They saved like they have a cushy defined benefits retirement plan and social security is totally secure. As you may note they generally do not have a defined benefits retirement plan and getting social security (with decent purchasing power) is a long bet. To make matters worse instead of buying a modest home, paying it off and staying there like the Greatest Generation did they traded (while moving some distance or in the same area) their homes up several times and often tapped any equity which had been somehow accidentally created. The amount of people who are looking at retirement who do not have their primary residence paid off surprises me. On a whole lot of these retirements the math just doesn't work. In the economy we have now with older workers being expensive to employ, expensive to insure and absent from work more often they are likely to get laid off sooner instead of later. In any case it would be optimistic to assume they will be able to have full employment for as long as they want. Also along the surprising theme some boomers seem to be in la la land in terms of how long their money will last. They must be figuring on 20% annual growth in their money or something. These folks think they will be able to at least maintain their lifestyle forever when in reality they might be able to live a very basic subsistence existence.

Of course not all 20 and 30 somethings are boomeranging back home and plenty of 55-65 year olds did plan adequately for retirement. My point is that between those two groups the amount of people in a situation where unconventional family housing is necessary or desirable is going to dramatically rise. Best of all this scenario is if the economy keeps going more or less without significant changes. If the great recession gets worse and turns into the late 70's- early 80's or America's lost decade or even worse then all bets are off.

Along those same lines a TEOTWAWKI or significant security change could lead to a non economic motivation for this sort of thing. Even if you make a fine living or saved well for retirement it is pretty darn hard for a couple or a normal family with a couple teenagers to have decent 24/7 security; let alone have decent security and get anything done. Extended families and or friends would be well advised to gather at the best location they have available. I think it is worth putting some planning and forethought into this unconventional housing situation also. This however is a whole other series of posts for another day.

 Anyway I have been writing this off and on all day and it is way longer than my average post so I am not going to bother to carefully read it twice for small grammar and convention issues. Anyway I hope you enjoy it and maybe even get something out of it.

Goodnight and good luck

Friday, October 8, 2010

Why Do People Fail To Adapt?

1. Not seeing what is happening. Sometimes folks just aren't informed on what is going on. Hard to make logical conclusions and adapt to them if you don't have the information.

2. Refusal to accept the new reality. Folks will just stick their heads in the sand and hope the problem goes away. Often this happens with a family who simply can't afford to maintain their current lifestyle. They will try to borrow and juggle bills and try to hold onto the greased string as long as they possibly can. Like tearing off a band aid going slower just makes it worse. Better to have a couple really rough months than a couple pretty rough years.

Also there are those starving farmers in Africa. Ya know the ones you always see on the aid commercials. The ones who keep planting pathetic little gardens on their 1/2 of an acre farm in the Sudan where 9/10 years there is a drought that kills all the crops.

3. They limit their options. They refuse to try the kind of food that is available and starve instead. They refuse to move to find work. They hope old jobs will come back instead of focusing on retraining and finding new employment.

4. They give up. Adapting, at least in the context we are talking about, is usually unpleasant. Like any other human situation there is a huge psychological factor. When something bad happens I am not saying you shouldn't be sad. Eat a carton of ice cream, or drink a half bottle of booze or whatever it is you do. Go to sleep, wake up and get the heck on with your life. It will eventually get better.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Oh the News

I think it is amazing how the MSM just keeps trying to talk about how we are in a recovery. Yeah we are in a jobless recovery where the stock market is pretty flat, and housing is still in the dumpster. That would be sorta like saying you were sober last night even though the facts are that you drank a case of beer, got kicked out of the club, vomited on the side of the road on the way home and passed out. It doesn't matter what you call it, it matters what the actual facts are.

I don't know where things are going. I suspect that significant joblessness will be an issue for some time. With so many people unemployed it is easy to replace workers so security will be lacking for many people. I don't know where the bottom of the housing market is but until the foreclosure mess is over and banks get all the foreclosed houses off their books things won't be in an honest place. Banks will try to hold onto these homes until prices come back but there are just too many of them for that to work.

From roughly 2008 at least partly into 2009 was really circle the wagons time. Things are better now but not necessarily good. Even if almost 1 in 10 is out of work most of us are still employed and a lot of the uncertainly has gone away. You can probably let up a little bit but I wouldn't go crazy. If you can afford it then by all means go out for a nice dinner or take a weekend vacation to the beach. However I would still hold off on getting your dream boat or touring Europe for a year. For the purposes of short and mid term planning right now I would sacrifice some return in order to have liquidity. A CD that earns an extra tenth of a percentage point but locks your money in for two years is not something I would go for right now.

It might be a great opportunity to get some great deals on stocks. If you have the appetite for risk and are looking at the long term. Personally I meet those characteristics and am buying. Wheat and tube socks do not benefit from compound inflation while investments do.

My point is that the news isn't everything. Especially the propaganda headlines. Look for stories with facts from places you trust. Look at what is going on in your community and with people you know.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What To Do?

I was talking with a friend recently. We were talking about preps and money and he said "I just don't know what to do". As I lay in bed waiting to fall asleep I thought about that. It has been in my head for a couple days now.

What to do? Well first I have to say that I do not have a crystal ball or anything. If I did we would have won several hundred million dollars in Powerball. Our time would be split between a little place near our families, our retreat and our awesome sail boat. However since I still have a job and no awesome sail boat this obviously isn't the case. [I guess it is probably smart to have an explicit disclaimer. I am just a guy who writes a blog, not a financial adviser or an accountant or whatever. You're an adult and you make your own decisions.]

What should you do to prepare for the future. Here are some thoughts in no particular order.

1. Make yourself as employable as possible. In more situations than not our current economy will be functioning in some form or another. You are going to work to get money to live. If/ when unemployment goes up even more less qualified people will find "crap jobs" as their only options.

2. Stay out of debt as much as possible. In particular avoid adjustable interest debt.

3. Diversify. I don't know what is going to happen but I think it is going to be a wild ride. Compound interest working in your favor is good. Having some gold and silver is good. Real estate if done in the right way is good. Having a few things you could barter if need be is good.

4. Don't get too attached to anything. If the area you are in goes down the tubes in terms of crime or the job market then consider moving somewhere else. Saying "but I live here" isn't much conciliation when it is hard to get a job at McDonalds because unemployment is 25%. I have a distinct feeling that economics and or crime  will make some regions of the US undesirable places to live. [I don't think the odds are long that economics are going to continue to drive people out of the rust belt. However if I had to wager one trend I would say that people will start moving away from the Mexican border/ Southwest in the coming years.]

5. Going along with the last one. Do not be afraid to act decisively. If it is time to convert one currency to another or get the heck out of dodge a couple days (heck even a few hours) can be the difference between preserving your wealth or safety and being left broke or stuck in a bad place.

6. Save, Save, Save. I think the next decade is going to be a wild roll a coaster of a ride. Periods of income disruption and unemployment are going to become more common. Unemployment will go up (probably then back down then up again, etc).

7. I say this one last because it is pretty much survivalist bread and butter. Have the means to feed, protect and generally carry on as normal of a life as possible for a reasonable period of time (if not longer).  

What are you going to do?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Late Night Conversation and Random Thoughts Theiron

I couple days ago I ended up pulling an all niter. Had a bunch of work that needed to get done so I was working until about 1 o'clock. I had to wake up at 4 the following morning. Since I would have the opportunity to take a nap the next day I just stayed up. Ended up having an interesting conversation with the night shift folks.

Personally I am not so sure about the security and stability of China. Their ability to keep totalitarian rule going is something I doubt. Buying people off with letting them own property, make money and such works OK as long as the economy is good. However if it gets too good they have problems. Right now their system works to a large part because the rural poor from the inland area are forcibly held in place. Also sooner or later rich people will want the same sort of social and political freedom as they have for the economy.

While there is was some debate on how bad things could get in the US the picture is bleak. At best I see a rather painful decade coming up. When people eventually get back to work and businesses grow and borrow and invest we are going to see inflation. I just can't see a way that when the massive amount of new money gets moving through the economy it will not decrease the value of currency. It might be catastrophic hyperinflation which could lead to war or a full on default. It could just be late 70's to early 80's style high inflation and interest rates. One fellow saw the Fed getting shut down and replaced with a true government currency. Avoiding adjustable rate interest debt like the plague and generally being financially fit is good advice. If you can afford it putting a few spare bucks into silver and gold isn't a bad idea either.

We were generally not enthusiastic or optimistic about this new health care bill. That it started by being billed as stopping big, evil insurance companies from hurting people and ended with people being forced to buy health insurance from big, evil insurance companies is sad, ironic and not at all surprising. Personally I think we the people are getting taken for a ride but soon enough government may well stick it to insurance companies. In general our government likes to start a program (special education is a great example) and then gradually remove funding but still under threat of something bad, force the program to continue.

There was significant concern voiced by one fellow that since the government is now in the health care business they can and probably will stick their nose further into people lives. Even aside from trying to centrally manage (or at least shot call) 1/6th of our economy it is a great excuse to get all up into peoples business. Think of it like the Commerce Clause but for personal behavior.  Since you doing X might arguably cost the government money via health care it is now taxed/ restricted/ banned could become a common summary of upcoming legislation and decree's.

In some ways the recent problems with the Euro were surprising to us. Then again if you really stop and think they shouldn't be. First of all the relatively recent times where the Euro has pwned the dollar have not been about the Euro's getting stronger but about the dollar getting weaker. Secondly lets look at Europe. In general northern Europe and particularly Germany have solid economies though now and then their socialist programs (they are expensive) cause issues. Southern Europe is a big financial mess. They have relatively similar socialist programs as the rest of Europe but without the economies to support them if things go less than perfectly. Europe is an expensive place to do business and especially the kind of business that employs lots of people. Those whose industry can be anywhere often avoid Europe's high wages and crazy powerful unions. The last couple years chaos has hurt them albeit slower and to a smaller degree than the US but I am not convinced these issues haven't been building for awhile.

There was some talk of the world reserve currency shifting away from the dollar. Personally I think that baring a complete economic melt down of the US, that is unlikely. I think this because there isn't any better option. The Euro certainly isn't as solid as it seemed not too long ago and in terms of managing it the Europeans have too hard of a time getting anything agreed on. I don't think anyone is stupid enough to go with the Chinese Yuan because of a lack of long term history and well, China is not the kind of government one would want to trust with something that big. The Japanese Yen is all over the place and their whole weird pseudo fascist system plus people still vividly remember their Lost Decade. The Pound Sterling is probably in some ways worse off than the Dollar. Russia is a totally unstable Gangsterocracy and heavily dependent on energy prices staying high. That whole "basket" idea seems unreliable and outright nutty. I have a hard time seeing enough nations being willing to buy into it. Then again it is so nutty and prone to manipulation that governments might love it. I see the dollar staying as the world reserve currency for the foreseeable future, if just because better options are not currently available.

 Also, at least for relatively short periods of time coffee helps you stay awake.

Lastly I have been enjoying The Drudge Report as of late. If I have just a 15 minute coffee break to get the news a glance there and one at the BBC News front page gets me up to date.

Since it is late I am going to bed now.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The American Dream

My recent post on Savings and Debt plus the follow up lead us down an interesting path. I have gotten my mind stuck on this topic for a few days. In order to fully grasp my thoughts you might want to skim through these past posts (1, 2). Now that I have referenced myself a lot lets get to semi new thoughts.

I think most of us grew up on more or less the same American Dream. Do the right thing and study hard then get a good job. By doing this you will be able to do a bit better than your parents did, assuming equitable career choices. Somewhere along the line you get married and buy a nice house with a white picket fence. Get a lovable dog and a good (not necessarily flashy but not shabby either) family vehicle. Join the local Rotary club or the Kiwanis or Lions or Moose lodge (in order depending on how much you actually want to help people and how much you like to party:) have 1.8-2.4 kids who also do the right thing and study hard. Maybe get a water ski boat or a  hunting cabin or a time share in Hawaii. A few more years down the road and then a gold watch and a comfortable pension. Now you have time to make ships in bottles or spend winters in Arizona and of course enjoy the grand kids.

So where are we now? Some folks would say that the American Dream is dead. I would not say that it is dead but I would say that it is realistic for fewer people than it was 40 years ago and far less realistic than 60 years ago. What were some factors that let then, well be then.

If we look at 60 years ago we see 1950. Things were pretty darn good. A lot of this was because the rest of the world was basically blown to bits and missing a big chunk of two generations of workers, under the iron grip of Communism or both and the rest of the world was still largely undeveloped.

40 years ago the nations largest employer was General Motors and wages started at the equivalent of  $17.50. Someone could graduate from high school or get out of the Army and walk into a good job with the kind of wage where you can afford the American Dream. Most jobs also had pretty good stability in addition to health care and pension plans.

 So why are things not going so well now? I think it is a combination of a lot of different factors. Lets look at some of them:

First as noted pretty much everywhere real wages are going down for a lot of jobs. Most notably manufacturing which used to be the ticket for a minimally educated and skilled person to have a solidly middle class American Dream life has taken a real hit. A nice young man can't graduate from high school and get a job at the plant with a secure future for him and a family anymore. The same sorts of folks are often getting the same sort of jobs; those jobs are just buying less.

Also what we consider to be "normal" has gradually trickled up. Homes are bigger and not surprisingly more expensive. We also fill our homes with all manner of expensive gadgets and electronics. People in 1970 did not have $150 a month IPhone and Blackberry packages or tv's that cost as much as a decent used car. As with anything else when the cost rises it means fewer people can afford it.

The above two reasons are the biggest issues at hand but a couple others are in my opinion notable.

Interesting credit and debt have also been factors, if smaller ones.  I am under 30 and I distinctly remember a time when many stores and shops did not accept credit cards. Debit cards were still a dream for some time after that. It is pretty hard to rack up debt when you can't buy stuff on credit. Of course stores have had payment plans and such but not too long ago most people only borrowed money for homes and cars.

Along with the long period of Greenspanian artificially low interest rates, an explosion in home prices, Fanny, Freddie (and eventually derivatives) home mortgages as well as other debt started becoming more and more available to less and less qualified people. I guess when it started bankers were confident that the long and reliable increase in home prices made them getting their money back a sure deal. Later on bankers made their quick money and sold the loans off anyway.

Somewhere along the lines it became more socially acceptable to be further and further in debt. Home prices were a huge factor in this. Getting that 3 bedroom 2 bath with a decent yard got a lot more expensive, but it was still the dream.  People used to have to wait until they could buy something or a reasonable person who was concerned about getting their money back (from them, not in general) would give a loan. For the reasons listed above the grip on reality in our economy loosened a bit and then just plain took a vacation for a couple years. Also to make matters even worse as it got more acceptable to be in debt the American Dream got even bigger.

So people were having a harder time and trying to reach bigger goals to boot. Also folks were were getting further into debt trying to get the American Dream. Somewhere along the line maybe a nice slightly idealistic idea turned into an unrealistic, unsustainable and warped vision of its former self, at least for some.

As Mayberry noted "EVERYONE is force fed the "American Dream" virtually from birth." Our parents, family, teachers and friends as well as the ever present media say this is a good thing and we should want it. I certainly would not say that (at least in the slightly more retro interpretation) it's not a nice idea. However sometimes the dream isn't for everyone, at least not today.

Tomorrow I will talk about defying the norms.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Multiple Streams Of Income

Yesterday this got stuck into my head. I couldn't get to sleep so I laid in bed thinking about it for awhile. No amazing answers but I do have some thoughts. Maybe together we can come up with some real ideas.

I have read all the same stuff you have. Multiple streams of income from small depression proof home businesses that can be started for little to no money. (Ragnar Benson talked about this in his book on the underground economy.) That is a mouthful to say and has a lot of qualifiers. The various options typically given for these businesses ignores the skills you may already have. Some skills and career fields simply do not translate into a low start up cost small business. The 'depression proof' idea fails to acknowledge that if you can do it for little to no start up cash without specialized skills then somebody who is short on money can and will likely do it for their own self.

Most of us do not have a variety of good practical small business skills. Even highly skilled people may not have skills that translate to the one person or family sized business with little to no setup costs venue. However I don't think this means we would not be wise to pursue multiple streams of income. So lets take a step back from "small depression proof home businesses that can be started for little to no money" and just focus on multiple streams of income.

What does multiple streams of income mean? Simply put it means getting income from more than one place, hence the word multiple. The reason this is desirable is that our income is (or should be) more secure because while one stream of income might slow or run dry you have the others to keep things going. Think of the old "never put all your eggs in one basket" saying.

How can one get multiple streams of income? The first thing that comes into my mind is having a two income household. We have talked about the practicality, desirability and benefits to children of one and two income households at length in the past. While there are certainly benefits to having a spouse at home in the context of multiple streams of income it is desirable to have both partners working. By definition two incomes is 'multiple streams'.

Interesting discussions have been had where people try to say that a dual income (by definition 'multiple streams') households are actually in a worse place than their single income peers. The thinking is that since a dual income household generally relies on making more money they are more vulnerable. With one provision I disagree. That one provision is the assumption that households are living with the same difference between what they bring in and what they need to 'make it' as well as savings, etc. Obviously comparing a two income household with no savings, significant debt and a huge adjustable rate mortgage that is about to adjust with a one income household that has a solid emergency fund, little or no consumer debt and a reasonable fixed rate mortgage is apples and oranges.

The question is fundamentally one of how much money you make compared to what you need.

Lets say that the Smiths take home 85K a year from his job as a Mechanical Engineer. The Smiths live a reasonable lifestyle below their means and need about 50k to just get by at a circle the wagons  (not contributing to retirement or paying extra on the mortgage or prepping or eating out much, etc but bills are still getting paid) sort of financial level. He gets downsized and suddenly makes $400 a week unemployment. The serious drop in income from 85k to 20k is going to become an issue at some point. They have an emergency fund and a stocked pantry and could dip into other savings/ investments so they are OK, for awhile.

Their neighbors the Anderson family take home about the same amount of money as the Smiths. Mr. Anderson is an insurance broker and takes home about 50k a year. Mrs. Anderson works at the county court house and earns 35k a year. Conveniently they also need about 50k a year when in circle the wagons mode.  The company reorganizes and Tom's office gets closed so he is out of a job. He gets unemployment at about $400 a week also. Between his unemployment and Mrs. Smiths paycheck they can get still make ends meet. [Admittedly the math worked out a bit too conveniently, it was not intentional. However even if there was a gap between their new take home and the 'circle the wagons' income needed the Smiths are still in a far better position as they would be using up their emergency fund and savings at a much slower rate.]

If all other factors are equal a family with multiple streams of income will fair job loss or pay cuts better than a family with just one income.

Even for those whose inclinations and skills do not make them well suited for living solely on income from small home businesses I think multiple streams of income are a good thing to pursue. How can you do this?

My first thought is to do more or less what you do for a primary income now part time as a side job. A teacher could do some after school tutoring either for them self or one of the various agencies like Sylvan. A CPA for Johnson and McMillan could do a few tax returns on the side for individuals or small businesses. I know a man who made extra income doing that for a long time. A plumber or dry waller could do a small side job himself now and then. I have even known of some contractors who would pass small jobs not worth their time and energy off to employees to do on the side during off time. One could potentially have part time occasional working relationships with a few different individuals/ companies/ small businesses that are within your field but entirely dependent of your primary income.

One of the things my Grandfather taught me is that it makes economic sense to spend time working in the area that makes the most money. A guy who makes $35 an hour (unless he has a real do it yourself penchant) would be better off spending a few more hours at work and paying the laid off jack of all trades carpenter type from down the block $10 an hour to repaint the spare bedroom or whatever. That same logic extends to side jobs. The CPA I mentioned above should not be pursuing $10 an hour gigs doing farm labor but finding a few more people who need their taxes done.

Being diversified to the point where you have some income from an entirely different area is a nice idea. You might not have skills which lend themselves to this sort of thing but do not give up. Remember we are talking about streams, not rivers. A few hundred bucks here and a grand there start to add up and may be the difference between making it or not if one of the bigger streams (a primary job or business) dies out and isn't quickly replaced.

Could you put in a motor home hookup at your place?  Yeah it could be an imposition and might not work for everyone but getting 2 or 3 people paying you $300 a month adds up fast. If not the same plot as you what about keeping an eye out for  a few acres, maybe where they someone put in a septic before their plans fell apart. Where we lived a fellow had a piece of land out in the country set up for 6 RV's in such a fashion.

Maybe you have a big empty barn and could rent out some covered storage? Chopping one of those side parts of your barn which are a relic of the dairy the place was in the '40's could easily bring in a few hundred bucks a month.

What about selling a bit of your garden/ farm surplus? Up by where my Uncles lives there is a couple who sells corn and green beans during late summer and early fall. He is disabled (at least as far as the state is concerned) and they have a couple acre garden. Selling vegetables at a little stand on the side of the road and leaving a small trailer with a few baskets of vegetables, a board with prices and a jar to drop cash into pulls in a bit less than $2,000 a year for them.

Ideas are endless and only limited by reality, creativity and your economic situation. A modest duplex with fenced yards in a nice neighborhood is a great option if you have the cash. My Grandparents did very well with apartment complexes. Or course real estate is its own beast and not somewhere one should go unless they are sure they can really afford it.

It is also worth noting that maybe the stay at home spouse could pursue various alternate streams of income. Maybe if the Mrs. is already taking care of your one or two kids she could take care of a  3rd and 4th to make extra cash.

Some hobbies such as sewing, weaving, knitting or wood working could make you a few bucks also.

Back to small home businesses real quick. Not everybody is suited in terms of skills or inclination to "small depression proof home businesses that can be started for little to no money."

Working for yourself has a lot of benefits but also some definite drawbacks. It is true that when you are your own boss you will never get downsized or laid off because the boss's cousin needs a job. At the same time small businesses fail at an alarmingly high rate. Also having a 'business' where you don't make any money is really not too different from getting laid off anyway.

Some folks love hustling (not in the 70's pimp sense) up new work and making deals and buying and selling stuff. I have a friend who is like this. He will get someone to pay him well to cut down a problematic tree near their house then make more money selling the wood. He chases down deals and resells tools and equipment at a profit.

While he might be thinking about the next deal or job on the horizon as he waits to fall asleep I would probably be thinking about how to keep the roof over our head if all of them fell through. Personally I like that I know within about 10 bucks (somehow or another they are always a little bit different) what I am going to get paid on the last business day of this month as well as say, in mid June. Don't think either of us are wrong or right, just different.

Both of us work so we have two streams of income and a trickle (the blog brings in a few bucks but not a meaningful factor in our overall financial situation). Got to think about ways we might be able to get a couple more trickles........

Wifey says to "stop writing and go make some money" so I have got to go.

THE END

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mortars and Money: My Day and End The Fed IPR

I have all sorts of stuff in my head but am tired, hungry, thirsty, in the middle of an awkward freezing/ thawing cycle and scatter brained. Also I made a sort of promise to myself to write every day if possible, I didn't say anything about it being organized or good.

Today I got to shoot mortars a bunch which was pretty awesome. We had 60's and 81's and rounds a plenty. First we layed the section in, registered it and all the normal adjust fire stuff but we also did hip shoot and direct lay. I particularly enjoyed shooting the 60mm mortar hand held.

One of our instructors said this is the only way they shot mortars in Iraq. It is by far the least accurate way to shoot a mortar since you are just pointing the tube at the target. The apparatus on the top of the trigger allows you to measure distance which is essential as the lobbing trajectors would be just about impossible to Kentucky windage unless all you did was handheld firing of mortars. The reason hand held is so widely used is that it is by far the lightest configuration with just the tube, a tiny base plate and rounds versus the tube, a big base plate and the bipod legs. Also maybe more importantly it is very very fast. No FO and FDC or adjustments or leveling bubbles. You put the mortar tube onto the ground, put a round with the right charge in it, point it at the target, get the right range and shoot. One could easily be driving around, take fire and be putting rounds downrange in well under a minute. The limitations are that you have to be able to see the target, the target has to be pretty close (probably under 1k) and it is not particularly accurate.

If in addition to the section sized PSD element I have on request I could get a section of mortars with an FO to be on call to fire an FPF and a couple priority targets that would be great. 

I have worked most of the way through End The Fed. I am enjoying it a lot and learning significant amounts about hard money and getting an intro to The Austrian School of Economics. The book is a tad repetitive but I am learning enough stuff and hearing various amusing Ron Paul stories that it is enjoyable. This book is much more technical and complicated than The Revolution. Partly because of this and partly because I have been busy and it is harder to free up a few hours in one shot to read a somewhat technical and such than one which is easier to digest.

If I had to sum up End The Fed in a sentence that wasn't "Ron Paul really wants to abolish the Federal Reserve." it would be that "Ron Paul believes the Federal Reserve coupled with fiat currency have caused most of not all of the financial problems the US has."
 
If I had to sum up the theme of this book (aside from the obvious stated above) it would be connectivity. Fiat currency is related to banking practices which are related to the FDIC which is related to moral hazard which is related to the Federal Reserve which causes Inflation which leads to other stuff which affects the previously mentioned stuff. To be honest I really don't see the connections between some of the stuff Ron Paul attempts to connect in the book but I sure see a lot of them.

I would say more but I have to save some for the final Review. 

I am going to eat a big dinner, drink a gallon of water and go to bed early.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Unconventional Living Situations: Moving For Work


First of all you might want to swing by Hermits place and give him some positive wishes. Tomorrow his wife and 20 something children are headed down to Florida to find work. Kids moving to find work and social stuff isn't anything new but well established and highly qualified adults (still can't consider us 20 somethings 'adults') needing to change states to find jobs is disturbing. It is one thing to need to make a long drive but it is another to move hours away.

I fear that unconventional living situations because of finances and moving to seek employment is a trend that is going to continue in the months and maybe years to come. Remember the roving groups of men who were searching for jobs in the Great Depression? I think this time will be a lot different because most couples are dual income. I don't have stats from that era but I imagine most households were not dependent on both people being able to work to stay above water.

What does this mean? Back then assuming you had a place to live the family could more or less stay intact in their community. Unless a family lost their residence and ended up doubling up with some relatives they could at least stay in the same place while the man went onto the road. For families with young children one parent needing to relocate in search of work could very well upset the somewhat precarious 'Dad takes the kids to school in the morning, mom picks them up from daycare at 5:00 after she gets off work' sort of situations.

Also since both partners need to work that is double the vulnerability to potential job losses. Yes it also means there is double the odds that one job will survive but for most people that is not enough. If a family needs 80% of their total income to survive (I am being generous there for most it is probably more like 90% or more) and all of a sudden they are making 50% while they won't starve to death there will probably be serious issues.

As for answers really wish I had some amazing solutions nobody has thought of. If you've got to go someplace to work you've got to go someplace to work.

It would probably be wise to minimize the expenses of a trip if you don't have a sure thing job there. The only thing worse then not being able to find a job would be not being able to find a job and spending $500 on lodging. If there is someone you may be able to crash with for a couple weeks that would be a good option. If you are asking them in a clear way with a definite ending time the odds that you will get a couch to crash on are higher. Something like 'I am going to look for a job for three weeks. After that time has passed I will either be headed back home, paying you rent or getting my own place.' will probably be better received then ' um I am going to look for a job and stuff when I get there. Can I stay with you?'.

Also don't forget about trying to work through friends in other places. The cliche that who you know is more important then what you know has a lot of truth to it. Obviously you need to be somewhat qualified (excluding engineers, doctors, etc) but a friend putting in a good word is often the difference between getting a job and not. I don't look at this as nepotism (unless taken to extremes) but that the odds someone who a friend vouches for will be a fuck up are lower then the odds that candidate #4 will be. If nothing else lots of places hire through word of mouth instead of big advertisements and such. A friend (especially in a similar job field) hearing stuff will often be at least as useful as the classifieds.

Based on these things if all other factors were close to equal I would choose a place where I knew some people over one where I didn't.

Once you get a job somewhere think outside of the box. Having that second income get going again but with another household full of expenses is not that much of a benefit to the family balance sheet. Maybe the traveling worker can find a few people to rent a little place with. Some jobs include housing and food which would be a big plus. If the goal is to send as much money home as possible having 5 guys in a 3 bedroom place makes sense. Instead of getting an apartment maybe you can rent a room in a house. Living in a little travel trailer makes sense also. Yeah these living situations can be kind of a pain but the goal is to make money. Working more hours or fewer longer days (4x10, 3x12) will let you make money and maybe go home every or every other weekend.

In these trying times I suggest that you lean more on friends and family and be willing to let them lean on you. The more we work together the better off everyone is. Maybe having a friend or two sleep in the living room for a month isn't your idea of fun but in a years time situations may have changed and it could be you calling them needing a favor. Often folks are too proud or whatever to ask for help.

Help friends and family if they need it and don't be afraid to ask them for help if you need it.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Employment: Another Perspective

Nobody seems to be writing much this week. Maybe it is the oddball weather or the long weekend coming up. My mind is still working but my energy to sit down and type it out is lower then normal.

Everyone in this little community of ours seems to think that having your own small business(es) is the best answer to employment. This does have some real advantages like making your own hours, not having to take a bosses shit, working from home and potentially being able to live way out in the boonies. While all of these are wonderful theories reality is often a lot less pretty.

Small businesses fail quite often. When times get bad and all businesses get squeezed the small guys have the least padding (savings and potential easy cost cuts). If you are wise enough not to put much (could be 5k or $500 depends on your finances) the time that you aren't somewhere else earning money is a problem. The two small businessmen I know well enough to have some idea of how they are doing are doing bad. Cuts of 30% in earnings area real problem.

Particularly the idea of "recession proof" small businesses is sticking in my teeth like a little piece of tough meat. In fact I would say that genuinely recession proof small businesses which do not require highly specialized skills or large start up costs is at best very rare. Don't let me get you down but I'm just a guy calling it how I see it.

There is something to be said for having a secure job at a viable business or institution which is not going to fail. I will not make a ton of money where I am now but that check is going to hit my account on the 1st and the 15th.

My mother works for a state agency. She has been there for almost 20 years and short of committing a felony at work she would be impossible to fire. As she put it in a conversation we once had "I could start smoking crack now and they still couldn't get rid of me. I would be able to string along pretending to go to rehab and stuff for the last couple years."

Now someone is saying that as a guy who writes a blog that has the word libertarian in it I should be against working in anything but the private sector. Eh conceptually you may be right but in real world terms what an individual or two do or don't do for work isn't going to change anything in any way.

There is some wisdom to getting the most secure employment you can and staying there, particularly in times like these and I fear that rapidly security will become at least as important as compensation.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A few drinks in and thiese things are really pissing me off

This shit is so fucking dumb. I get that in a 24 hour news cycle there needs to be some filler and all that stuff.

Congress is talking about how the BCS system is a problem that needs to be addressed. Some dude in Congress was citing the interstate commerce clause as a reason to start meddling and potentially pass some legislation to this effect. I get that the interstate commerce clause has been interpreted to mean the federal government can get their hands into anything they want but seriously WTF? We have two wars going on, our economy is in the crapper, a nuclear armed nation is within spitting distance of falling to the fucking Taliban (it worked out real well for us last time those asshats were in charge of a nation), we are potentially on the verge of a pandemic and we our elected representatives are talking about fucking college football?

Also lets give Mrs. California some peace. She doesn't think gays should be able to get married and she told Perez Hilton her opinion which did not make him happy (maybe someone should teach him tolerance). Lets all just move on.

We have a lot of important stuff to deal with so lets work on that instead of driveling crap.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Stimulate Me!

There are lots of issues with the stimulus package. One thing I am surprised at is how many democrats are pointing out that this is insane... Well, democrats who aren't in Congress. I came across an article on CNN which sums up some of these issues. To sum it up, parts of the bill are down right dumb, and racist... Now I don't jump on the whole racist train, and think that his argument is down right stupid, and reactionary. That said, $335 million to prevent sexually transmitted diseases? Are you serious? I get the idea behind the stimulus bill. Throw money into the market, and hopefully that will make everything ok. There are some basic issues about that idea, but I'm not talking about it today. Assuming that the way to get out of our current economic issues by doing the same things that caused it, spending a shit ton of money we don't have, lets actually do that. If the right thing to do is throw money at the problem, for the love of God, throw money at the problem. Instead of doing that, we are throwing in a shit-ton of other programs, and can't figure out why people think Congress is worthless. Now I haven't read the bill, and have done little research on the issue, but one thing seems pretty clear; Democrats, you have sold the idiotic idea of massive government spending... So actually do it. Stop mucking about with all the other crap.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cutting back in tough times?

I am back and more then a little out of it right now. Got out of the field and came home this evening. It was one of those weird times where I slept reasonable amounts but in small pieces. Waking up and going to bed a few times during a given 24 hour period fucks with your head pretty bad. I'm not quite sure how much is the lack of sleep and how much was some beers after a day or light eating but in any case I am safe and sound at home so the question is academic.

I got to this a bit late because it was somewhat low on the priority list. I came home, took a shower, had two beers, dinner, fiddled around on the net for awhile then got onto here. I had something in mind to write but it got postponed until tomorrow or the next day. One of those ones that is best written on a lazy morning over a pot of coffee.

I've been out of the loop for a few days and it seems a few noteworthy things happened. The Gov of Ill got arrested for trying to sell BHO's senate seat, the auto bailout failed and the Yankees spent a bunch of money on some hot shot free agent pitcher. That is the news as given to me on the radio during the ride home from work.

Those first two thinks aren't worth talking about but the third got me thinking. Basically the Yankees spent a bunch of cash (I think 110 million) on some pitcher and there is controversy on whether they should have made that move in these tough economic times. I say if they have the cash and want this fellow to throw baseballs real fast for then then fucking right on.

That got my wheels turning. Should people spend money in these trying economic times? That lead to the follow on question in relation to what, it is pretty hard to live without spending some money. For the sake of this discussion we are talking about non essential items and "luxuries".

I guess the answer is that it is way more important to keep in mind YOUR situation the THE OVERALL SITUATION. Yeah unemployment is up a couple points and by any measure shit isn't particularly good. That being said there are lots of folks who are staying in the same job and doing the same thing. So if your job isn't secure is it safe and reasonable to spend money that you don't need to?

It is worth mentioning that I think it makes good sense to live below your means, save money out of every paycheck and take on debt wisely (education or a nice little home, maybe a reasonable car if you can't pay cash). Lots of stuff could be debated but these three guidelines will go a long way toward making good monetary choices.

The big thing lots of people miss when talking about how the economic situation affects peoples finances is that their income levels change. Few if any people stay in a single income bracket for more then a few years, let alone their entire lives. Right now there are lots of people moving up, some staying in the same place and others having their incomes decrease be it temporarily through lay offs or downsizing or more permanently through retirement. So those magical statistical people who's wages are flatlined or going down while costs rise are not the only folks in the real picture.

If your income is staying the same (and is secure) or is going up then make safe choices but THEY SKY IS NOT FALLING. To error on the side of caution maybe you should be a little bit more conservative then normal. Instead of buying a new car consider putting some money into the one you already own or buying a less expensive one.

In the last year I have gone from within spitting range of the poverty line to comfortably middle class because of graduation from college and starting a big boy job. The overall money situation is a lot better then it was when we where in school. Aside from paying on my school loan we aren't doing anything particularly crazy in terms of spending. Not worrying about the cost of normal groceries or the tab on date (I like appetizers and drinks) night are probably the biggest changes. I am willing to tip better if the service calls for it. We haven't stressed the costs of assorted household purchases that much but also didn't go out and get everything she wants (not complaining just calling it how it is) the first week or even month.

I guess my main point is that you don't need to put every dollar you make under the mattress but at the same time make good reasonable choices. I will be back and more coherent tomorrow.
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