I was just reading an article about the value of networking, (in my opinion) also known as gossip, chit chat, chewing the fat, hey! whats new??? We all do this, and it may be more valuable than you realize. A little idle socializing has helped my DD#2 find a job, after being unemployed for 6 months! Way back in July, I made our semi-annual visit to the local meat packing establishment. We have done business here for 20+ years, and know the owners by name. Small, family run place, great people! Anyway, we do the usual hi-how-are-you-hows-the-family-doing thing, and I mention that DD#2 has moved back home because she lost her job, no unemployment etc. etc. (She was working in utility customer service.) Just one sentence. A couple of weeks later I had to go back and pick up the rest of the order, and Mrs. owner asks me if DD#2 has found a job yet?, nope, and have you heard of anything? Well, they might need some help in the office, their regular lady is out sick for a while, but she promised a friend of hers that she would give her son a try, but you never know how thats going to work out.....(this woman talks very fast, so this ran on for a minute or two)....and I might just give your girl a call. Sure, anytime! says I, thinking this is obviously one of those things that will never happen, a polite - well, I'd help if I could - kind of thing. Well, knock me down with a salami, a couple of weeks later, she DID call! DD#2 wasn't even home! Mrs. owner says just have her come in at 8AM tomorrow! She worked the whole day! Shes been there more than a month now, three or four days a week, but long days, so shes got about 40 hours every week! She loves them, they love her! Its a small, family run place, they cook lunch for all 8 employees every day! I can't believe it! You can bet the farm that I have mentioned what a great place this is, to just about everyone I see these days! Tit for Tat! And about the salami, not really, those things are heavy!
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Also known as "Kids...You Can't Sell Them To The Gypsies Anymore" That was a big threat in my house when we were little, be good, or I might sell you to the Gypsies! What exactly the gypsies wanted with a bunch of really bad kids I could never figure out..oh well. A short true life tale of personal finance follows. I work with a very nice, 60 something lady, in the health care business. She is a lovely, caring person, never a bad word about anything, until it comes to money. She and her husband are both retired auto workers. Now here in Michigan, unless you are very newly retired, "retired auto worker" is synonymous with "set for life." Those workers have retirement benefits that make government retirees look like the hired help. Medical, dental, pensions, survivor benefits, you name it, the UAW has gotten it for them in spades. But this Lady is back to work. Why, you ask? Because they lent money to one of their children. They put a mortgage, and a bunch of credit card debt out, to help one of their children start a business. The business failed. I didn't ask what kind of business. Anyway the banks were heavily involved, and one or both of their pensions is garnished until I don't know when. So the Lady went back to work to pay some bills. The husband has a bad back, and simply can't work anymore. Their secure, comfortable retirement is gone. So the moral of the story is, love your kids, free babysitting is great, but tell them to borrow money from the Gypsies, after all, they have all that kid buying income coming in!
I have to say that I'm somewhere between skeptical and a snort of disbelief, when I read that the economy is recovering. Don't take that oxygen off just yet Doc! Case in point: I had some nice big man sized clothes that came to us when my FIL passed away over a year ago. We got them because my Hubby is the same size. Only problem, my FIL was 5'4" and Hubby is about 6'. So after shuffling them around in the closet for a year, I put them on the local freecycle website. I had 29 replies in the first 8 hours! Several people wrote me about how expensive bigger sizes are, and they can't find them at the local WallyWorld (yeah, you know), I ended up splitting them up into several bundles. Our local newspaper ran a front page story this week, on how to apply for free and reduced price school lunches. Who to call, where to get the paperwork, if you apply and are denied, you can re-apply any time your income changes. This is front page news?! We have a group at church that makes hats and scarves, and they go to the local mental health support group. 8 or so years ago, when we first started, we offered the school social worker, who is also a member of our church, first dibs on any she might want for the school. She said at that time, she really didn't need anything, she had other sources that more than covered the few requests she had. Now I hear that she has called US wanting to know if the offer is still open! Well of course it is! Would any of us want to see a child go without a hat in a Michigan winter? I am thinking that a bare-bones lifestyle may soon be considered the "normal" way to live. It doesn't hurt my feelings any, we have been doing it all along. But, I do fell a little badly for the thirty-somethings, that grew up hollering "let me eat cake!" (apologies to Marie-Antoinette) They expected that they could "eat cake" forever, and it doesn't look good at this point. They will have to first bake the cake, with a mix they got on sale, and use a coupon, to improve the bottom line. The new normal. Voila'.
Spend or save? a hot topic in the financial world today. Which is better for the economy? I don't know, but if President Obama happened to email me some day (yeah) I could tell him a few things. A short, first hand lesson in modern economics. I was the President of the county 4-H council for several years, and part of that job was helping to set the annual budget for programs. I admit that when I first stared looking at some past budgets, I thought we must be doing something very wrong, we weren't taking in anywhere near the amount of money , as shown in those previous years. Then I learned the secret to modern funding: you didn't actually have to HAVE the money, you just write it down to make the bottom line look better! OMG! I couldn't believe it. The county agent wanted the program to look much more prosperous than it actually was, or the state might cut the funding that we DID get, thinking we really didn't need it! We allocated funding that didn't exist, for workshops and other things that no one ever used/requested, and just hoped that requests for those funds never came, or we would have had to cover them from other categories. My first lesson in government finances. This had apparently been going on for years. It might still be, but I doubt it. The state is now so broke, that I'm sure they have audited every possible source of income, because in theory, they could have reclaimed some of that money if they wanted to. It should be no surprise that the average Joe/Jane is spending money they don't have, they learned it at Uncle Sam's knee! I don't think you can spend your way out of a crisis, and if you don't learn how to save, everything will be a crisis. I don't feel like the government is interested in a real spending plan, and I don't think that they have any more idea than I do, how to get out of the mess we are in. But the phantom budgeting isn't helping.
I need to be one of those lizards with the two eyes which can go in different directions. Actually, sometimes in the AM, before I put my glasses on...... mmmm, not going there. I had a very enlightening morning. Its the weekend of my 30th class reunion. About 9 of us got together for breakfast this morning. These are all girls (?) that I hung around with in school, some stayed local, some are here from all over the country. This is the first time that I felt we are all living in the same universe, country, life etc. Its quite a diverse group, executive types, SAHM's and everything in between. I have seen most of these same girls every 5 years at the other reunions, and maybe its just the dinner/party atmosphere of the actual reunion, which is tonight, but this is probably the nicest conversation that I have ever had with some of them. At this moment in time, for better or worse, we are ALL on the same page. EVERYONE is hurting/nervous financially. Not one person was sure that their job will still be there in a year. We are all scrambling to decide how to fund a retirement when pension plans have taken a major hit, probably, (we decided), no social security to speak of, we're buying/selling/refinancing/losing our homes, and still raising families! If the pollsters want to know how Americans are doing compared to five years ago, I can tell them who to talk to! I always feel slightly silly/stupid/uninformed at these things, because it seems like everyone else is doing so great! And I'm still OK. Nothing wrong with OK, it's just...OK. Some of us thought we saw it coming, some were completely surprised, but we all agreed that we won't be looking at finances in the same way, maybe ever again. It's easy to get so lost in the day to day, work, home, kids, school cycle, that its hard to believe things can change so fast, and permanently! It may now be too late to correct some of those old financial gaffes. The girl that's losing her house may never be able to buy another. By the time the fallout disappears, financial, credit-wise etc. she may not be able to get the cash together to get financing again, and if she does, she will be hustling to get it paid off and be able to retire at any reasonable age. Another knows that she will probably never retire, she will have to work until she is physically not able to do so anymore. There is an unemployed teacher, and a nurse (a nurse!) Now to be fair, they could both certainly go elsewhere and find employment, but that would mean uprooting their families, and employed spouses, and there is no guarantee it would be any better! Will the spouse find a job? They will lose benefits/pensions at the job they have, will they find something comparable? We are all on the cusp of almost 50, statistics prove older workers have a harder time (than usual) of finding good paying jobs. Employers want young, cheap kids that they can train. I saw a mention on the national news this week about the unemployment benefits extension possibly being voted on,passed. The economist they had said that of every 5 people unemployed today, 4 of them will not be able to find a job. Mathematically speaking there simply are no jobs out there for the other 4 to find! Anyway, no matter how involved your financial life has become, how many coupons you clip, how many buckets of laundry soap you make, you can't afford to ignore the big picture. It catches up with us all in the end!
I always loved the old war movies, when the submarine captain would look thru the periscope, and see what was happening "up there." I wanted a periscope of my own! To see what was coming, and dodge that torpedo! I was reminded of this when I read a blog just now about student debt. The writer was lamenting about his bad spending habits for part of his student years, and how he wished he knew then what he knows now etc. etc. I had a similar conversation with my DD#2 a few days ago.. She was commenting (whining) about her $50 a month student loan payment. She has a friend in her FIFTH year of college, and has taken out many "generous" loans to finance it all. Yes, she has a part-time job, but she doesn't make enough for gas for the car most weeks. Her Grandmother has co-signed a lot of these loans, because her parents credit rating is in the sub-basement range. So I asked her how much she thinks her friends payments might be, when (if) she finally graduates? She was speechless! (and thats something) And if she thought about Grandma, who is on the hook for a lot of that balance if she defaults? A big dose of reality! Even when you think you've got your eye on the periscope, a torpedo can find you!
Another major hit on the emergency fund. The electric range (hereafter referred to as the stove) decided last week that it knew better than me! Turned the oven on to bake a chicken, and the next thing I knew, it was HOT, it had turned to self clean, problem is, I don't have a self-cleaning oven! We unplugged it, and it seemed fine. Next day, it did the same thing, only the oven hadn't even been on that time! OK, OK I can take a hint. The stove had to go. We ended up at Sears, lucky us, stoves were on sale! But I wanted to wait and check at our hometown appliance store, I always buy local if I can. Turns out, we went back to Sears. We got the stove and a new range hood, for the same money just the stove would have been local. Hubby hasn't let me forget yet, it was HIS idea to stop at Sears. Okay, okay, you do have good ideas sometimes honey. But it was another heavy sigh moment. We have now replaced all but one of our major appliances in the last 6 months, and I'm not even going to name the last holdout, it's older than the others were, and I don't want to give it any ideas. I'm very glad that we had the money on hand, but poor Hubby has been working as much overtime as they will allow, and we aren't getting ahead any. Now we have a couple of estimates for some outside work that we wanted to have done, and I don't know whether to go ahead and get on the schedule, or wait until later? how much later? will it get too late to be done this Summer yet? And there is a possible expense concerning a family estate coming up. We probably have enough cash on hand if necessary, but I don't want to wipe out our whole reserve. Why are these things never easy??? I have a long list of yard projects that I want to finish this year, our DD#1 is getting married in our backyard next summer. But I'm hesitant to even spend $50 on mulch, because once I start, it has to be finished, or it will look worse than it does now! So, in conclusion, I am completely undecided about everything..............maybe I should have asked the stove before I unplugged it the last time!
Somewhere along the line of your life, you get to the "tipping point." That point at which you realize, that some major purchase you are contemplating, may very well outlive you! Ours is the lawnmower. We bought a lawnmower this past week. A brand new riding lawnmower. The first new riding mower that we have ever owned! Our married life has consisted of a series of used (mostly VERY used) riding and push mowers, sometimes both, sometimes singly. All of them were given to us by various family members and friends, most were headed to the curb before we got them. Luckily I have a very handy Hubby and Father, who managed to keep them going with a variety of fixes and prayers. (does anybody even know what baling wire is anymore?) But we had hit the end. The riding mower we were using is almost... as old as I am (there is a FEW years difference)... and while the engine got rebuilt last Summer, the deck is trashed. Chunks are falling off as you cross the yard. They don't make replacement parts anymore (it's so old) etc. etc. We actually started out looking for a good used mower, but as we visited a few likely prospects, I began to imagine a world where you didn't have to know the secret formula to get the mower to run. One that doesn't use a quart of oil during each weeks mowing, one that you don't have to hook the battery charger to for an hour before you start, one that you don't have to hang on to the hydrostat lever because it will suddenly run away with you, you know, one that you don't have to dance under a full moon and chant to the lawn Gods... sorry, I got a little carried away there, but you get the idea. That thought was suddenly sounding pretty good to me, and as we talked about it, I realized, if a new mower lasts as long as the one we are using now, we will be too old to mow lawns anymore, and won't ever (hopefully) have to get another one! Being the main lawn mowing person in the family, this was something I could really get behind! So, after a little more shopping, and some dickering with the local dealer (those guys at Sears etc. can't dicker) we came home with a lovely new Cub Cadet mower! I love it already. (if self love is narcissism, I wonder what lawnmower love is?) If we take care of it, (we will), that will be the last mower we will ever have to buy.... now I feel old!!!
This is the DD#2 out of work, part 2. To catch you up : DD#2 laid off beginning of April, broke arm end of April, no savings, no insurance. She was worried about someone coming after her in court when she can't pay her medical bills. Unlikely. But she does still owe almost $1500 on her 7 year old car. I was thinking that maybe I should just pay it off. The cash out for the loan is around $1200. She has applied for unemployment, which I am sure she will get, but the paperwork is lagging with massive unemployment in our state. (Michigan) Then she can pay me back. She did still have enough in the bank to cover the car payment, insurance, cell phone for April, and I hope to heaven that the state will have gotten thru her paperwork by next months due dates. She has not asked me to do this, I haven't even said anything about it yet, but I'm considering it. My sister also told her to apply for some help from the state, for the medical bills. The worst that can happen is they say NO, she won't be any worse off than she is now. This reminds me so much of our early days, Hubby and me, eternally broke, and one mini disaster after another. Actually, those early days lasted about 20 years, go figure!
These words came out of my DD#2's mouth last night, guaranteed to strike fear into the heart of any parent. She has had a rough month. She got laid off from her job, right at the beginning of April. The company has disputed her unemployment claim (and that of all the others laid off at that same time) so that takes time to work thru the system. She borrowed enough money from me to pay her car insurance, she still had enough in the bank for her other bills. Now she came home two nights ago with a broken wrist! She was biking with some friends, and tried to avoid another bike in from of her....you get the idea. She went to the emergency room, had x-rays, had a consult with the specialist on call, and has a splint until next week, when they will put on the cast. She is looking at several thousand dollars worth of debt, at least. She doesn't know what to do. She can't pay anything until the unemployment situation is resolved (I'm sure she'll get it, I think the company is just jerking them all around) but not paying could ruin her credit for years! And to add insult to injury (literally) she got a call for an interview from another company yesterday, and had to tell them that shes out of commission for at least 6 weeks! They probably won't call her again. Not with hundreds of other prospects out there. So I don' know what to tell her. No, I don't think that any health care organization will waste the money to sue her, will it ruin her credit? Maybe? Definitely? I told her to call all of the places, as soon as she gets a bill from them, and explain the situation, she owns nothing but a 7 year old car, that she is still paying on, and currently lives back at home with her parents. They may be willing to wait, but what if they aren't, you can't get blood from a stone. We'll have to wait and see.
Woweeee! Another resolution to cross off my list! I made the last payment on our only store credit card, and it finally cleared the bank! That makes it official. We are finally out of debt. Time to decide where to go from here. Actually, I'm sure that it won't be a tough decision, at least for a while. There are some maintainence issues on the house and barn, that had to wait until we got other things under control. I was so sure 4 years ago, when we were mortgage free, that money could go right into "fixing up" but, as you all know, life is what happens when you're making other plans. Actually, the home improvement issue was another thing on my New Years Resolution list, I'm killing two birds with one stone! I think? It sure feels nice to be making some positive progress! UhOh, now I'm a little torn. Posted on the wall right in front of me is a printout of Dave Ramseys "baby steps". I know we don't have nearly 3 to 6 months of expenses saved. Dang. But if I wait that long to start some of these fix-its, the season will have passed. You can't do some kinds of outdoor work in Winter in Michigan. How much more time will some of these things be able to wait? Oh man, now I'm not in such a good mood. I think too much. Groan.
In this era of online banking, is there really any need to save those old bank statements? The rule used to be, save them for 7 years. If they agree with the website record, why would you need them? I can't imagine that any bank doesn't back-up their info, with the most expensive programs available, why would you presume that it would be compromised? I was packing away the statements from 2009, and tossing from 2001, when this occurred to me. Granted, the piles are getting slimmer, only a couple more years, and the ones that still included the cancelled checks will be gone. But, I could use that space for something else! Maybe my used tea bag collection.