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Archive for February, 2010

The "Luck" Factor

February 23rd, 2010 at 07:02 am

I have been mulling over this topic for a while, I just wasn't sure where I wanted to go with it. I think that we all know that debt and finances have a big impact on our families and family life. We all do as much as we can to help everyone, ourselves included, cope with the results. This is about my friend "Mary". Mary and her husband both come from solidly middle class backgrounds, both intelligent people, but things haven't gone so well for them. Mary and her family of 7 have moved 6 times in the last 15 years. That seems like a lot to me, but I have lived in the same house for most of my life. Mary's oldest child, Son#1 has not responded well to all of these moves. 5 different schools (same one twice) was just not something that he was prepared to deal with. He's very smart, kind of a nerdy kid, quiet, doesn't make friends easily, and he's just given up. He's tired of new schools, new teachers, trying to make friends, and as soon as he's finally comfortable, on they go. Mary feels terrible, this is all her fault! Why can't they have a normal life? Etc. etc. Mary and her husband have actually made some very good choices with their finances, but they bring new meaning to the old phrase about "if it weren't for bad luck, they'd have no luck at all". Bad Luck Murphy seems to have moved in with them. They lived in a home supplied by the farmer that Hubby worked for, until it burnt to the ground, luckily they were on vacation. They lived in a rental that nearly gassed them to death with carbon monoxide. They lived in a house owned by a relative, until the relative passed away and the house had to be sold. They lived in a rental on the edge of town, the city changed the zoning to commercial, and they couldn't renew the lease. They finally qualified for a low income home loan, and their lender went belly up in the big banking crisis, and they got foreclosed on! Now they are in a big, old home out in the boonies, she bought a used car to get to work, and her employer closed up shop. I think that you can be as financially savvy as Ben Bernanke, as frugal as Mary Hunt, and still get stomped on year after year. They are considering letting Son#1 go live with his Grandparents for the 2 years he has left in school, but Mary is very family oriented, and she's just heartbroken. It makes me think of disenfranchised kids trying to get out of the ghetto! It's so bad, you almost have to laugh, luckily they still laugh about it. What else can you do?

R.I.P. Dear Washer

February 18th, 2010 at 08:09 pm

My washer finally died. It's been a lingering death the last few months, but I kept hoping it would make it through until Spring. Nope. So, I shopped some washers and dryers today. I am definitely getting a dryer also. The dryer has been the problem child of the pair for years. This pair is about 6 years old. The appliance store clerk gasped when I told her it was only 6 years old, Its not the age, its the mileage! I do 5 or 6 loads of laundry, 5 or 6 days a week. That pair has given its all. So anyway, they had a pair exactly like the ones I have, for just about the same price I paid 6 years ago? Funny! $799 one year warranty, delivered, installed, haul away the old ones. Then for $999 they had a pair with a ten year warranty, 3 years on parts and labor, also delivered etc. Whats the big difference for $200? I called my appliance guy to get his take, he hasn't called me back yet. The washer died in mid cycle last night, lots of loud grinding, a few bangs, and a really hot smell. Dead as a doornail. I unplugged it. Then I somewhat reluctantly made my way down to the basement, washed off the old wringer washer, and finished the laundry. I have Grannys old wringer washer, and it works fine. I am still drying towels, but other than that, I can wait a few days to decide what to do about a new pair. Thank you Lord for the emergency fund!

Grandma Knew Best

February 14th, 2010 at 10:49 pm

I was just clicking thru some blogs, and came across one referencing good advice from Grandpa, about life and love, etc. It made me think about my two Grandmas. They had both lived thru the depression, but from the way they talked, you might not have known it was the same one! Gramdma was an only child, her father worked for the railroad, a pretty nice job in the early part of the century. She married the boy next door who also worked for the railroad, and they lived a very comfortable life. The depression was a big slap in the face for them. Father and husband both lost their jobs, both families sold/lost their homes and they ended up moving onto a farm in the country, together. The togetherness wasn't a problem, but my Grandma had never been poor, always lived in a small city, and was used to a certain life style. Her memories were of everyone being very unhappy about the circumstances, although she did used to talk about the fun, home things that they did. She learned to can, and grow a garden, enjoying farm life very much, and they did get by. Grandpa worked again as soon as jobs became available, although he never went back to the railroad. They certainly lived a much simpler life after that, and stayed on the farm until they both passed away. My Grandpa was very bitter about the whole thing, he had a considerable amount of money in the stock market, and lost it all. He was very grouchy when my Mom was growing up, and didn't have much nice to say about anything, it was all "the governments fault" whatever it was. My other Granny was born in the US to immigrant parents, the oldest of 11 children. This country was so much better than what they had left, it was like a holiday! They lived in the South when she was growing up, and all of the kids worked out as soon as they could, and some of the jobs they had! Her Father worked in the coal mines, and they moved a lot, she eventually married an engineer for the mining company. They were still living in the coal camps when the depression hit, Grandpa had grown up on a farm, so they came "up north" and bought a farm. Granny really loved farm life. She always said that it didn't matter if you had a lot of money, the farm would give you everything you need. Food to eat, fuel for the stove, and the means to get whatever else you needed. Granny was the big type A in that relationship, Grandpa kind of floated quietly in the background, doing his thing, but I know that he really loved living on the farm too. Granny talked about work. Her pride and avocation was being a hard worker. She gardened and canned and worked out in the fields when necessary, and talked about how proud she was when she would wash the mens' white T-shirts and they would be out on the clothesline, all bright white and spotless, in a row. She mended things until there was more mend than garment. But they had fun too, taking the carload of kids to the lake on a Wednesday night, the beaches were all free then. So both my Grandmas came from very different places, and the advice they considered important to pass along? Well, surprisingly similar. Always expect to work hard. SAVE YOUR MONEY! Family is important, we all need each other. Don't expect to receive every time you give. Some things you do just because it's the right thing, and don't toot your own horn about it. (the last two are kind of the same) Good advice culled from 80+ years of living (each) who could ask for anything more!

Pondering a Pension

February 14th, 2010 at 07:13 am

Just a quickie. Hubby got a registered letter from his company today, telling him that he has now paid into the pension plan long enough for me to qualify for a surviving spouse benefit, and if we want it, to submit the paperwork. "So" he says to me, "do you think you want it?" "Oh yeah" says I, "wait until I tell the kids that I get to move in with one of them, because you wouldn't fill out some paperwork!" End of discussion. P.S. The completed paperwork went to work with him tonight to drop in the shift bosses' mailbox! HehHehHeh.

Tax Time Again

February 14th, 2010 at 07:05 am

I wrote the check this morning for our property taxes, and then dropped off the paperwork for our income taxes at the bookkeepers office. We live in a small town, all of the tax people are local, no H&R Block for 50 miles. I also had brunch in town with my three best girlfriends, and we talked taxes. Everyone hates them, (taxes), tries to figure out ways, legal and maybe not quite so legal, to avoid or reduce them, but nobody has a better idea! Everybody wants a great community and services, but couldn't they be a little less expensive? The largest portion of my property tax bill is the millage for the Intermediate School District. Thats the county tech center, and the county handicapper school. Both very necessary! Next came the actual county operating money, which the county board is always trying to stretch 7 ways to Sunday. It never goes far enough, especially in Michigan, where the governor is changing the budget every week with her socks! Then the local school district with operating millage, and a special millage for technology and building upgrades, I think we are in year three of five with that one. The township operational money next, although most of that goes to run the township cemetery, and volunteer fire dept. And close behind, the local library (4 townships support this one) and the County nursing home. Now we could all agree that we wouldn't want to cut any of those things, but you would just think that some think tank somewhere might be able to figure out a better way to do it? Somehow? Maybe? I would be willing to listen to some smart suggestions to solve any or all of the above. But the really smart people probably know better than to get involved, look what happens to them in Washington!

Interesting?!

February 2nd, 2010 at 12:22 am

A comment on another point of view. I go to church with a woman who works at a state run job search office here in Michigan. As most of you know, Michigans economy is seriously in the toilet, although when compared to California???? I don't feel so bad. Anyway, this agency is responsible for job search and retraining for every person collecting unemployment or social service assistance in Michigan. The only problem is, they're out of money. The state budget is so far in the red, they don't make enough red ink for it anymore. Anyway, this persons opinion was that welfare should be eliminated and then that money used to get everyone a job. Lovely. What job? There have been several versions of this before, a limit to how much time you could collect welfare benefits, and then the state would make you take a job, like it or not. I have to say that I agreed with this, to a certain extent. I know a couple of people who lived "on the dole" for their whole lives, because they were lazy and didn't want to work. So, this was the agency that helped you find the job, or paid for training so you could get a job. But they don't have any money. And where are they going to find jobs to compell these welfare or unemployment people to take? People who are actively looking for jobs can't find one. And what about the worker whose unemployment had run out, and then they end up on the welfare role? What else can they do? I just thought that her comments weren't very realistic. But... on the other side of that coin, I work in the healthcare field. One of the jobs that many of those recipients were trained for was Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA's) Now I read all of the time that health care jobs are the place to go, the population is aging, there are lots of openings etc. All true to some extent. My company has hired and fired at least a dozen people in the last year who were sent to CNA class by the state, and were terrible at the job. Some would tell you outright this was not what they wanted to do, but they had no choice, train or lose all of their benefits. Some might have thought they would like it, but just weren't suited after they got there. And then the usual workplace foolishness, coming in late, 47 "emergency" calls every shift, always complaining about the shift/work/boss/boyfriend/coworker, calling in too late to find a replacement, just not showing up. Those people really did not want that job, but they can't quit (lose benefits) they have to wait and get fired. What a mess! Do I have a better idea? No, not at the moment, but let me think about it! (just kidding)