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Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Posted by chelone (My Page) on
Mon, Jun 19, 06 at 16:43

I work with two people who are perpetually "broke". A woman with a 17 yr. old kid (single mother), and a guy with a wife and 2 kids (12 and 7; wife doesn't work). Same refrain every week... not enough money. I used to be sympathetic but I'm less so now.

I see no indication of any sort of BUDGET. I see (hear!) the cell phones at work, hear about what was viewed on cable TV, "pay per view", and never see either of them "brown bag it". The guy with the stay at home wife has 3 cars; all registered and insured.

I have come to believe that financial woes have less to do with one's paycheck than they do with one's expectations and feelings of entitlement. How do you feel about this?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

I used to work in a government welfare office and daily saw people's lists of regular income and expenses. Yeah, I know rents are high and heat and gasoline are expensive,and ya gotta eat, but why do people have multiple cell phones, cable TV and huge credit card bills? I often wanted to give them counselling ,but my job was to review the figures and make the decision on how much govt financial assistance to approve. Once I told an applicant that she might want to consider getting a cheaper apartment or doing some off-the-books babysitting, she complained to my supervisor that I was "prejudiced" and tried to get me fired! People just do not want to see clearly!


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Grandma used to say (1940s) that there was none so deaf as those who wouldn't (i.e. refused to) hear.

Didn't hear her say anything about the "selective hearing loss" that some women despair of in their husbands, these days. But ... that was a long time ago, her husband had been dead for a few years, and women didn't feel as entitled as modern women do.

I've said to quite a few folks over the years - that if you don't boss your money ... it'll boss you.

I prefer to boss my money, thank you. Well, more or less so.

ole joyful


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

I think you are certainly right. I will also go out on what may be an unpopular limb and say that I believe people also feel they are entitled to have quite a number of children even if they do not have the means to support them and/or willingness to sacrifice non-essential expenditures in order to do so.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

I agree so much...some folks think they are entitled to have a brood of children, and for our tax dollars to take care of all their needs and a lot of wants.

I think a lot of it boils down to letting a LOT of money slip through one's fingers...a soda at the gas station, and a bag of chips, a couple of lottery tickets, not being smart enough to shop and get the most bang for the buck, spending money they don't have (using credit cards and not being able to pay them off each and every month). What does that say? I cannot afford to pay cash, but I can afford to charge it on a card, and then to pay big interest. Too many folks have too many wants, and they want it NOW wether or not they can afford to pay for it. They live from paycheck to paycheck, and just don't understand why. They think making more money would be the answer. It seldom is for most, as they then just spend more...making sure it is ALL gone by payday.

Sue


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

I am troubled by my lack of sympathy for the two people I referenced in the initial post. I like both of them very much; they work hard and their labor should accord them more than it does.

I am troubled because I see daily NO attempt to control the most basic expenses. I bring MY lunch and my snacks to work! and I'm well able to buy my lunch whenever I so choose (their's, too). But I don't opt to do so daily.

I am disturbed that cell phones, cable TV, and lunches "out" are considered necessary. I don't think they are. If your car has been repossessed or you can't afford the tires required to get an inspection sticker what the hell are you thinking when you have a cell 'phone (let alone registering, insuring, and registering one more car than there are licensed drivers in the household)?!

I don't "get" this sort of thinking, at all. What the hell would they do if the country was invaded? or the economy collapsed in the same manner as 1929?

I'm glad to know I'm not alone in being "creeped out" by the whole "I deserve it" mentality. Or maybe I'm just having a bad day and it has manifested itself in "meanspiritedness". Dunno.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

I know what you mean. I woman I know asked her elderly father for a loan, because she didn't have enough money to pay the bills. She was frustrated that he said no. She honestly didn't understand that if she made less money than she paid out each month, she couldn't possibly pay it back.

A lot of people work hard. As far as it "should" be more profitable, well maybe. But as you have so aptly pointed out, some of the problem is what kind of stewards we are, or learn to be, for the resources we have.

I know a woman who wears an unusual size of clothes and the family didn't make much money. A well-to-do relative wore the same size, and would often give her gently used things to my friend. The relative came to visit one day, and saw the beautiful, expensive clothing on the floor, all over the house and in a pile on the floor of the closet. It was dirty and wrinkled. The children were making a game of jumping from one piece of clothing to another without touching the floor. There was no more clothing offered after that day.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

I think a lot of people just don't comprehend finances. Don't understand debt, compound interest, investment risk, any of it!
Couple that with the head-in-the-sand disregard for the future, the instant gratification culture that reinforces having it all. Now. and you got problems. Personal and social responsibility just isn't the norm right now. Heck, the government can go a gajillion dollars into debt, what's the problem with a little credit card balance?

Same as with health. Ignore the risks, indulge now, pay later. Obesity, diabetes, inactivity, substance abuse, hypertension - our collective health is tanking.

I think schools need to shift curriculum to include more real life education and skills. And communities need to step up. Arm our citizens with knowledge. Some decent shot at surviving the onslaught of media and marketing bombarding them that says "just do it". It was less dangerous - individually and as a society - to be ignorant of these issues 20, 50 years ago.

Rant over.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

I agree with you, chelone. In their defense, however, those folks are barraged with the message that we are what we own, and the companies which want us to buy have made it very easy to do so -- car leasing, interest-only mortgages, easy credit ... When was the last time anyone you know bragged about buying a smaller house to make sure they could afford disability insurance or to retire sooner?

A couple of generations of tumult haven't helped, either, as people who, in previous generations, pretty much were employed for life find themselves unemployed by corporate takeovers, relocate themselves to find or keep work, and so on. There's no guarantee you'll be able to afford that fancy item later, so why not get it now?

We are subject to the same pressures, but somehow we're better able to resist it.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

OK, so I'm not the only one who thinks/feels this way. (a relief!).

OK, now to the greater question... how do we begin to change the sort of thinking/lack thereof! that drags people down into a whirlpool of insolvency from which there is no escape?

Is it time to get serious with this malaise in school curricula? should we tighten "credit" more? I'd like to see more of both, personally, but there will be pitfalls and how should such a shift be accomplished with minimal chaos? Would it be possible to do so without a wake of financial turmoil? I don't know, honestly.

And, Celticmoon, I couldn't agree more with your assessment of the National DEBT (not the same thing as a "deficit"!).


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

That's all very well, but there are some big, powerful corporate entities that are doing very well with the status quo and want to keep the credit circus going. They don't care how many lives are ruined, and in fact would argue that all these people buying things they can't afford and paying interest helps the economy! If the public schools tried to start teaching frugality and common sense and attempts were made to tighten the availability of credit, there would probably be lobbyists in some form or other out there immediately working against it.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

I try to keep cynicism at bay. You aren't helping, harriet.! LOL


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

TV encourages us to go out and spend, spend. What we bought last week doesn't count - we need to spend today (to keep their sponsors in business).

I've been encouraging people to learn how to manage their money more effectively for over 20 years, but there are not a lot of people willing to take the long view.

Spend more time planning their 1 - 2 week vacation than planning for their (20 year?) retirement. In these days, for quite a few people, the beginning of that retirement has become involuntary: the euphemistic word is "downsizing" - but for many, especially the older and higher-priced execs., it boils down to being fired. Told they're redundant.

Even some of the young hot-shots in the computer industry who thought a few years ago that they had the world by the tail had a rude surprise when the hi-tech bubble burst a few years ago.

Sorry to rain on your parade, chelone. But here goes:

In our area, the schools, as well as other public entities, are rather strapped, as there have been cutbacks of support (can anyone here spell "T-A-X- C-U-T-S"?) (we've been somewhat addicted to that in these parts, recently, as well).

Some years ago, when I visited a local High School, there was written on the wall in large letters the name of a national life insurance company which has its headquarters just down the street (well, its headquarters used to be down the street - till it was bought out by a similar system with headquarters far away). I visited the office and said that I objected to the name of a corporate entity being written on their walls, as they are a public institution. They said that the insurance company offers various means of support.

Now, the schools are searching even harder for money, and some have accepted substantial sums from certain soft drink manufacturers for exclusive right to market their brand in the schools. Such has been scrapped in some areas when the parents and people interested in good nutrition yelled loudly enough.

We can expect more of the same. I think that I should call our local board to speak against such - but when they ask where is the money to come from, what answer can I give?

A financial planner in this area who wrote a book titled, "Financial Freedom Without Sacrifice" says that we should have more training about skillful money management in schools, and quite a few agree - but it isn't happening.

The universities also are having difficult times and are turning much more to the corporate system for support. I do not like the idea of our universities and the corporations becoming bosom buddies.

ole joyful


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

how do we begin to change the sort of thinking/lack thereof! that drags people down into a whirlpool of insolvency from which there is no escape?

The key, I think, is addressing entitlement. We spend lots of money -- even money we don't have -- out of habit.

Social Security is an example: even though the pre-Baby Boom generation collectively amassed the most capital in human history, each member is eligible to collect SS regardless of his/her financial condition. We need to quit thinking of SS as a "savings account" due each contributor and more like "anti-poverty insurance" on which, if we're lucky, we'll never collect. Ditto with the insanity of subsidizing the growth of tobacco at the same time we pay the price for the long-term treatment and care of smokers.

Similarly, I think we need to find a way to de-emphasize the importance of "stuff" in our lives. The physical resources devoted to driving an economy fueled by the purchase of almost-disposable electronics and furniture and cheap food cannot last forever. The emotional costs of holding a lousy-but-well-paying job just so one can keep up with one's debts -- or of overtime hours spent at the cost of time lost with family and friends take an increasing toll as well.

Our long-term health as people depends on getting out of this spiral. But change is hard for many people and some oxen will be gored in the process -- and no one wants it to be them.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Very good point, Steve!

Social Security was NEVER intended to provide the entirety of retirement savings. When set up, it was precisely what you mentioned... an insurance policy that kept people from starving (as many did during the Great Depression of the '30s). It was intended to be part of a "3 legged stool", savings/a home, and a pension were the other two, I believe... . I'm not sure, where along the line, the other two legs were jettisoned, but evidently they have been by too many.

It's my own opinion that SS taxes will have to be raised (like it or not) and we will have to begin "means testing"... like it or not! Triage isn't always fair, and the reality is, it will hit those of us who live below our means, save, and are comfortable harder than it will the wealthy or the truly poor.

One of the two people I referenced above has flatly told me they don't care... they're broke, the state will take care of them (just the way it takes care of their parents and n'er do well siblings). And the statement is pretty accurate, but it really chaps my a-- to hear it.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

One of the two people I referenced above has flatly told me they don't care... they're broke, the state will take care of them (just the way it takes care of their parents and n'er do well siblings).

That, unfortunately, is a common sentiment. I think the best way to address that is to make sure that they aren't taken care of all that well, if you know what I mean -- with every encouragement to contribute to their own welfare, whether that means selling off assets (like houses and cars above a certain value) or being encouraged to keep working ("Welcome to Wally World -- would you like a cart?"), and with a conscious eye toward things like indexing the age of retirement to average life expectancy, postponing some cost-of-living adjustments (like many people, I don't get them automatically from the company _I_ work for), etc.

The U.S. has pretty much made pariahs out of people who smoke cigarettes. I have no doubt the same social effect could apply to those who think they can profit from not watching out for their own futures as much as possible.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Interesting discussion. My father wasted no time "retiring". He'd saved carefully, owned a home, and was nobody's fool. He knew, damn right well, postponing his retirement would serve no good, he waited until my mother qualified for Medicare to cancel their increasingly expensive Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance, making damn sure the AARP policy filled in the gaps. Still, though, he did NOTHING to legally safeguard his "holdings" for his kids, even though he stated repeatedly he wanted it to be our's!

Mum. She is the poster child for how NOT to live your life. Smoked for 60 years (duh!), paid no attention to basic "maintenance", worked part-time, and never bothered to involve or inform herself about her estate or her long-term care. NO CLUE... Now I take care of her, have for 3 years. Who will do that for me?

I only wish the sort of safety net she presently enjoys would be there for me, too. And, as I've said before, I'm in a far better position than many of my contemporaries.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

I agree that we are bombarded by the media to buy! buy! spend! spend! It'll make ya happy! You'll be the envy of all! (I believe that personal happiness stems from your relationships with the people in your life, not from what you have managed to acquire).....I have a suspicion that whether one buys into this horsesh*t has to do with how you feel about yourself. If you are happy with yourself, your relationships, how you live your life and treat other people, your self-image is more about who you are as a person and less about what other people think about you and how many toys you have.

That said, I imagine, judging by the tone of this particular forum (as opposed to some others I have visited:) this is the only one where I can say this and NOT have it followed by "Oh, you're just poor and it's sour grapes" The truth is, we make a nice living, but prefer to live within our means, have a healthy nest egg and save for our retirement. But apparently in our culture, this is an unpopular view.

BTW...completely agree with Chelone about SS. But then again, I almost always agree with her posts:)


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Oh my - all kinds of good thinking here. I agree there is definitely too much emphasis on having stuff. I don't see this changing until our society has some kind of major correction to get people to see what is truly important in life. Lots of people around now who never experienced the depression or WWII.

Also I do think our society does not expect people to be accountable for their own actions - and this gets worse all the time. Unfortunately I think making SS a means tested program where the people who are responsible and save donate their contributions entirely to the people who are irresponsible and spend it all is probably not going to contribute to a better situation in the long run.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Steve makes a great point. The official acronym for Social Security is OASDI, If I remember correctly, that stands for Old Age Security and Disability Insurance. It really is insurance in case you can not support yourself, not an entitlement.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Well, I'll play devil's advocate. Obviously, all of us here are bombarded by the same media and social pressures yet we have different focus for the most part. A sense of entitlement has always been around for many. Ever lived where a very strong "good old boy" system thrived? Only the children of certain people could do certain things.

I do believe that we are seeing the results of the post WWII consumerism gone wild. What other generations felt like they should start where it took their parents a lifetime to get? A starter home in my community? It looks like a mansion compared to my parents 3 bedroom ranch. I'm 50 and only remember the richest kids ever being given cars or having college paid for. Now, it is standard for parents to feel those are parental obligations from what I read, even at the expense of their own retirement funds.

I also see several families I know well enough to know their income is similar to ours. They fritter their money away, with no thought to their future. You would think at 50 they would be concerned but they aren't. I also realize there is nothing I can do, or am even interested in doing to change their perception. What took 50 years to happen is going to take some time getting undone!

When I look closer at my community, though, I see that people are still buying those small ranches because that's what they can afford. When my oldest was nagging me about buying him a car, I could honestly look around our upper middle class neighborhood and not spot a single family I knew that bought their kids cars. I could point out several teens who had done yard work for several years to get that coveted vehicle. I know many more families who are being responsible, than the other way around.

I know people are now willing to say they feel overwhelmed with the amount of "stuff" in their homes. Moms are finally starting to talk in terms of time for themselves instead of judging their mothering skills by how many activities the shuffle their kids to every week. Who heard of the Suze Orman or other people who try and gear investing to average joe 20 years ago? Just like there is tons of stuff out there, I believe there are real movements to help people get their lives on financial/material goods track if they are interested.

Just like the media portrayed Leave It To Beaver as the typcial family when I was a child, most of us knew that wasn't real. My mom certainly didn't stay home with an apron on all of the time. She was out earning an income, just like every other woman in her family. I think we forget in this age of instant information that we may "see" what looks like no one is taking care of business, but in reality many, many families are doing a good job. The ones who aren't seem to really stick in our mind.

Gloria


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

I don't see this changing until our society has some kind of major correction to get people to see what is truly important in life. Lots of people around now who never experienced the depression or WWII.

We have a war going on right now but, except for the nuisance that has become air travel, I don't notice where Americans have been asked to make significant sacrifices. Oh, except for the soldiers and their families. You'd think that being environmentally aware would be a patriotic thing. But we're exhorted to go out and buy or the terrorists win...

Unfortunately I think making SS a means tested program where the people who are responsible and save donate their contributions entirely to the people who are irresponsible and spend it all is probably not going to contribute to a better situation in the long run.

I agree -- which is why I believe that whatever is provided as the safety net not be a comfortable hammock. I think SS should be administered locally so that folks who end up in the New York metro area, for example, are provided with more money than folks who end up in, say, Alabama, but that both are provided with the minimum required for safe livable housing and sustenance. Work or insure yourself for more if you want. Hey -- I carry good insurance on my house and car and I hope I never have to collect on it ...

I think we forget in this age of instant information that we may "see" what looks like no one is taking care of business, but in reality many, many families are doing a good job. The ones who aren't seem to really stick in our mind.

I think a lot of that depends on where you live. I live in an "emerging" neighborhood in a fairly large city. I see some very nice vehicles in front of homes which are older and, sometimes, not all that well-kept. There are a few houses which are more showpieces than the others, though, and more all the time. The clerks in the non-high-end local shops have their mobile phones and fancy fingernail treatments; I'm willing to bet few of them have good (or any) health coverage or disability insurance. They're a paycheck or so away from economic disaster. So long as they're employed, they're doing well. But if a big economic hit comes -- car dies completely, serious illness, there's trouble.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

When was the last time anyone you know bragged about buying a smaller house to make sure they could afford disability insurance or to retire sooner?

Well, I've never bragged about (I hope) but years ago, when I had my home built, I had a plan drawn up with 2 bedrooms, and 2 baths, living room, dining area, kitchen, a small hall utility room, and a full basement. Everyone asked why just 2 bedrooms. I responded, that it was cheaper to build, cheaper to heat/cool, and the taxes and insurance are cheaper, and it is still one more bedroom that what I need.

Another response was that a 3 bedroom home would be of so much more value once I sell it. Welllllll, hopefully I will never have the occasion to sell it and the surrounding 40 acres, but instead will move from here to my final resting place.

When I built, I had in mind that the basement had the potential of doubling my living space, and that has just never happened.

Less to clean too, so big is not always better to me.

Sue...who retired at 48 with a home that had been paid for for several years b4 reiring


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

"I am disturbed that cell phones, cable TV, and lunches "out" are considered necessary."

Given the choice of dropping my land line or my cell phone, I'd drop the land line. The cell phone comes with free long distance.

Basic cable (or a satelite dish) are required to get a decent signal in most places. If you don't have basic cable, you may as well not even have a tv. Maybe these people are so bad off that they should sell their TVs, but if they aren't, they need basic cable.

Lunches out can be cheap - its easy to get $4 lunches if you have any restraint on where you go and what you order.

Anyhow, none of these are "necessary" in the same category as toilet paper or so, but they're not automatically "luxuries" either.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

My daughter and I were discussing the difference between being miserable and being discontent. It relates to this.

In 1800, in the middle of a hot humid summer, when mosquitoes were swarming around us as we tried to sleep, we might have been miserable, but we would not have been discontent. There were no other options. All the neighbours were in the same circumstance.

Flash forward to today. In the same circumstance we would not only be miserable, but also discontent. "Why don't we have air-conditioning?" "Why don't our screens keep out the mosquitoes?" We feel entitled to have the same things that others have, or that we think they may have.

It is a form of envy, of greed. It affects individuals, families and nations. It leads to growing consumerism, to hoarding and to all sorts of barriers between us and them.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Flash forward to today. In the same circumstance we would not only be miserable, but also discontent. "Why don't we have air-conditioning?" "Why don't our screens keep out the mosquitoes?" We feel entitled to have the same things that others have, or that we think they may have.

And what makes it "worse" is that our society changes, so not having access to a common technology actually deprives the person lacking access. The popularity of cell phones among all economic classes has greatly reduced the number of pay telephones out there; as a result, some people feel prodded to get a cell phone just so they can call someone else when necessary. Cars have been part of our society for so long that, except for just a few large metropolitan areas (at least in the U.S.), mass transit is inefficient and walking is plain unsafe. So, despite the expense, people buy and maintain cars. Houses and offices are no longer built to encourage free-flow ventilation, so air conditioning becomes a necessity, not a luxury. To a large extent, doing without isn't much of an option.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Very interesting thread...just one thought to add.

"Lunches out can be cheap - its easy to get $4 lunches if you have any restraint on where you go and what you order."

Isn't that called the Latte Factor by the hit-of-the-month financial planner? A $4 lunch may be inexpensive in terms of cost, but that $4 lunch is $80 or more dollars per month or $960 per year. There are any number of things I make at home that can be brought as a lunch and cost under $1 for a full lunch. Eating is a necessity, but eating out is not.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

There are any number of things I make at home that can be brought as a lunch and cost under $1 for a full lunch.

I see many people say that on the Internet, but I wonder how possible it is to eat truly healthful food -- whole grains, lean non-injected/antibiotic-treated meats, etc. -- for under $1 a serving.

What do you make for that money?


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

some brown rice and beans or a bowl of lentil soup with a piece of fruit come to mind...


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

chelone,

In one of your early posts, you wondered what would happen if the country were invaded - or the economy collapsed.

The country is being invaded - by Chinese merchandise (and that from other low-wage countries).

Our leaders are complaining that the usual economic realities aren't being allowed to happen. That is, if one country's people (Country A) buy a lot of stuff from another country's people (Country B), much more than they buy from the originators (Bs buy from As), the relative price of Country B's currency will go up, as many want to buy it in order to buy B's stuff, but not many of B's people want to buy A's currency in order to buy stuff produced by A's people.

But the Chiese gov't. has pegged the exchange rate, refusing to let their money become more expensive in relation to ours.

What is the result?

The U.S. Gov't has developed a huge debt (largely on the part of Conservatives - who are traditionally understood to be careful with money).

U.S. consumers the same.

The Chinese have been buying truckloads of U.S. gov't. bonds. They aren't going to need to throw missiles at us - all that they'll need do is demand that we pay our debts.

Which, as some in related threads have said, they're not about to do, as they want to keep their economy humming.

But the value of the U.S. Dollar will drop.

And, as some sellers of petroleum are now requiring, they'll want payment in another currency, the value of the U.S. Dollar, which has been falling relative to some others and will likely continue to do so, being suspect.

If many of our high-quality jobs are relocated offshore - where are we going to earn the money to buy all of that cheap stuff???

And if your U.S. economy sneezes - ours (Canadian) gets pneumonia! A high percentage of our production goes to U.S. markets.

Corporations love free trade - as they find the duties, barriers and other restrictions at borders a big deal nuisance: it hinders them from doing what they want! Which is to make stuff as cheaply as possible, and sell it for as high a price as possible.

Which sure helps if there are only a few corporations that fill 80% of the market demand.

We've had a number of gov't.-sponsored studies of petroleum products prices in this area ... which have all found that, yes, there is major competition in the marketplace when it comes to marketing petroleum products (mainly gasoline). And in our city of about 340,000, there may be half a dozen or so good citizens who believe them.

Sorry to rain on your parade.

ole joyful


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

I take leftovers from last night's dinner, so it actually does come out to $1-2 per serving. It may be a serving from a favorite casserole, lasagna with a salad, etc. But as far as it being healthy, anything I make at home is far healthier than grabbing a $4 burger, fries and a coke.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

My sentiments exactly, Valtog and Okieladybug! Never fails, whenever I bring out my "left over" lunch, my co-workers always remark, "that looks really good!". It looks good because it is good. Good 'n' cheap. :) Wasted food is wasted money.

(This is OT, but demonstrates the point. Mum moved in here in '03 in dreadful health. Underweight, dehydrated, and chronically constipated. One week later, with whole grains, vegetables, fruits... good ol' fashioned home cookin', she was back to "regularity")


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Chelone,

Sometimes, (just sometimes) daughters are smarter'n moms!

Glad your mom's doing well with her feet under your table. Thank you for taking care of her. I'm sure you're pleased (and a bit proud) in her transformation.

I hope that the benefits aren't only one way in this situation.

ole joyful


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Sadly, OJ, the benefits are pretty much one sided. Mum had a stroke in '04 and her brain isn't really capable of appreciating how much time, effort, labor goes into providing her with comfortable living circumstances. Essentially, she "floats through life in a bovine stupor" to quote Laura Hillenbrand in "Seabiscuit". You will appreciate the description, bein' a faHmboy yourself... . ;)

I have to make a tough decision about her shortly. She is beginning to require more care than I'm able to provide and still work full time. And I have to work full time for as long as I'm able! No part of it is easy, my friend.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

I'll have to price out what it would cost to make, say, a casserole out of whole wheat noodles, humanely-raised meat, and the other stuff. I guess I still have my doubts I could do it for $1-2 a serving along with a piece of fruit, etc. But everyone makes different choices in the grocery store!


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

That's a tough road, Chelone...DH just had to make the decision about putting his father in assisted living with an Alzheimer's unit. His father is not happy about it, but he is SAFE. I have been lucky that my parents' are still self-sufficient. Thank God for My Mom...she's the one that taught me the value of whole grains, beans, legumes and fresh fruit and veggies and how to cook. She really was way ahead of her time. DH loves the comments on his leftovers, too.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

It may well shock you to hear this from me, Steve. but I support endeavors that don't necessarily deliver the minimum price. We've been supporting Community Supported Agriculture, and participating in "Plant a Row" for years. It's not easy. But IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

It isn't always about the "bottom line"... sometimes the "bottom line" is about what your neighbor is doing for a living. Life is about choices, right?


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

I have been reading along and notice that a while back someone mentioned the three legs of the stool. Pensions were one of those legs. There is practically nothing that keeps a company from disolving their pension plans. Remember the 90s "acquisition" boom? If a company had a well-funded retirement plan for their employees, it made it a target for a hostile takeover! First the rich steel companies and now the rich airlines of our youths are disolving their retirement funds and going out of business. Their retirees trusted these rich companies and were let down. That stool is awfully shaky on two legs.

I was at a conference on aging this spring and the second morning's keynote speaker was talking about the sheer numbers of baby boombers who will be expecting hip replacement surgery long about 2014. By then, the cost of all of these surgeries will use up pretty much all of the money we are currently spending for all of health care each year. Rationing will come. I guess we can be grateful that some of us have neglected our health and will be leaving this life at a younger age! We, as a nation, are doing nothing to prepare for any of this.

I live near Detroit, home of you-know-what. Auto workers are known for working hard and playing hard. (If you don't think there is some hard work involved, imagine 6 months without a day off, or working in a non-air-conditioned factory in this week's heat). There are miles and miles of nice houses, and a wilderness of "cabins" up north where there are a zillion golf courses. We have lakes, and autoworkers have boats, and jet-skis. And snowmobiles. This a group of workers who watched their fathers retire to Florida and be comfortable the rest of their lives, and they expect the same for themselves. If Ford or GM go down or get bought out, are their pension funds safe?

These workers were so secure that they not only lived on their whole paychecks, but came to expect their overtime. Many do have 401k accounts to admire, but others spent an awful lot of their income on various recreational chemical stimulants that felt like a necessity, given long work hours, mandatory overtime (that they had voted on in their contracts) and mind-numbing work. They had their futures lined up in a contract, so why worry?

I have always had friends in their seventies and eighties. I listened to what my great auntie had to say about the Depression. I watched her use old round-bottomed pots and eat chicken thighs because it was good enough for her. I have not had to sacrifice much in my life, but I know what sacrifice is from listening to my elders.

I am very grateful that DH insists on the 401K contributions. And I think I'll get that new knee I need sooner rather than later!


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Some time ago, after Enron's collapse, I suggested here that we all could learn some lessons from it.

Many of the middle and low-level employees thought that their company was doing great - were flabergasted when it collapsed like a house of cards.

Many companies have assisted-purchase plans for employees to buy stock, which a number of employees use. If so, after those shares are released, a good idea to sell some and buy other stocks. That way, if our company goes down the tubes and our job disappears - a good part of your invested assets won't collapse with it.

Also, work to have your company pension plan outsourced (where have we heard that word before?) to a third party, so that if the company falls on hard times ...

... your pension entitlement won't die with it!!

I believe that to be good advice.

ole joyful

P.S. Chelone,

I'm sorry that your mother is getting to be too much of a burden.

It really is hurtful to come to the inescapable conclusion that you just aren't able to keep everything going, as things are.

I honour you for patronizing stores that provide a fair return to the producers of our food.

I plan to buy a bushel or so of wheat from a farmer neighbour, then grind it in the blender - he says about $3.50 per 60 lb. bushel. I can bake a lot of bread with a bushel of wheat!

Actually, I need Western Hard Spring wheat, with a lot of gluten - "bread" wheat. Local wheat will develop more general purpose flour (not "cake flour", either).

o j


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

It isn't always about the "bottom line"... sometimes the "bottom line" is about what your neighbor is doing for a living. Life is about choices, right?

Agreed. I'm a member of my local food co-op myself and I prefer to buy food -- and almost everything else -- locally whenever it makes even a little sense to do so. I'd go for a CSA if I had someone local to split it with (even a half-share is too much for just me to deal with every week). I'm very familiar with the idea that we should do things which don't necessarily show up immediately as assets on the ledger, and I walk the talk.

The question I asked about the dollar lunches was genuine. I know what it costs me to buy a free-range frying chicken and "Not-Wonder" bread and organic lettuce and strawberries and apples. I honestly don't think I could part it out enough to make a "full lunch" for a whole dollar. I don't mind spending more on lunch from home (I frequently do, and, FTM, I eat lunch out at work frequently because it's networking time for me). Just want to see how other people manage to do it. Lentils and rice works for me. Bologna and smooshy bread and a wooden apple do not.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Let's face it, it's a lot easier to prepare $1 lunches if you don't use meat, lol!, esp. the "expensive", organically raised, certified stuff. You're dead on with that observation, Steve.

I also like that you mentioned it doesn't immediately show up on the asset side of the ledger. I think that's really important, too. Sometimes, we have to spend a little more to ensure the "greater good" of the local community and economy; a concept the cheap import, Wally-World mentality undermines. My perpetually "broke" friends referenced in the OP don't understand the concept, at all. But the guy eats those packaged Ramen Noodles because they're "cheap"... he eats 2-3 for lunch, but rarely "brown bags it". When I gave him a Clementine last winter he remarked they were really expensive. But then hauled out a mini package of Sunmaid raisins (he wasn't thrilled when I asked if it wouldn't be cheaper to buy a big box of raisins and then portion them into reusable containers).

Smooshy bread and wooden apples, LOL. But we do enjoy locally made sausages from long time certified organic farmers once in awhile. The helpmeet's German heritage demands it. They're SO good!


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

I'm sorry, I didn't realize this was a discussion about organic vs. non-organic foods. I do not strictly purchase organic, whole grain type foods. I purchase the best I can with my monthly food budget and go from there. I understand that if you live with such high standards, you probably can't prepare lunches for $1-2 each. What I don't understand is this: where are you able to eat lunch out for $4 and eat purely organic? I couldn't go anywhere in my town and spend $4 and eat to your standards. It just isn't possible.

I have a friend who is adament that one should eat only organic fruits and vegetables. While I agree with that, I refuse to be made to feel guilty or condemned b/c it's not in my budget. This sounds like a "danged if you do, danged if you don't" situation.

(BTW, I do not mean to imply that *you* are condemning those of us with different food standards. I'm merely making a point).


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

I was thinking the same thing. If I want to eat an organic lunch in a restaurant or even from the bar at Whole Foods or similar place, I would still spend 6-8 for lunch. Organic brought from home is cheaper.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

I'm sorry, I didn't realize this was a discussion about organic vs. non-organic foods.

Well, it is and it isn't. :-) I'm using "organic" as an oversimplified term to mean "locally-produced foods which are grown sustainably and processed minimally". I'm aware that there are many producers who do most of that and who have not undertaken organic certification. They're OK in my book.

The beef I have (pardon the pun) is with people who think they're driving the cost of their food way down by buying pork that is injected with up to 15% of its weight with water, salt, and preservatives; buying eggs from hens kept in cages so small they can't move and fed a diet that no chicken would ever select for itself; farmers who use synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides to combat monocultural farming; and all of the corporate agricultural subsidies -- paying farmers to not grow crops; subsidizing the cost of transportation by keeping gas cheap and taking the cost of fighting wars off the books; and charging all of us road taxes to repair the damage done by trucking produce halfway across the country and the environmental damage done by runoff from manure pools and insecticides and by top-soil erosion. There are costs associated with all of that, but conventional farmers typically don't pay them. We all do.

I do not strictly purchase organic, whole grain type foods. I purchase the best I can with my monthly food budget and go from there. I understand that if you live with such high standards, you probably can't prepare lunches for $1-2 each. What I don't understand is this: where are you able to eat lunch out for $4 and eat purely organic? I couldn't go anywhere in my town and spend $4 and eat to your standards. It just isn't possible.

I don't always eat organic. If I'm invited to a friend's birthday party, I won't refuse to attend because they don't buy organic. It is, however, a strong preference of mine (and it's what I feed my guests).

It is cheaper to bring organic from home. Beans and rice or some soups and stews can be relatively inexpensive organic meals. I would be hard-pressed to eat out organically for $4, though my food co-op comes close with a mix-and-match hot-food bar for $6.

My point (apparently not made very well) is that many people on the Internet claim to make a meal that costs only a couple of bucks. Well, if that's done by purchasing heavily-processed non-sustainably-produced food that is grown, gathered, and sold by people half a country (or half a world) away who don't make a living wage, then someone else (actually, everyone else) is picking up the associated costs. I don't consider a slice or two of "baloney" on Wunder Bread and a banana a balanced, healthful meal, even if they don't come much cheaper than that. It's ironic that the most-heavily-processed food available in the U.S. is often the very cheapest.

The "boutique" aspect of organic food aside (I won't deny it exists), organic food costs what food should cost. I don't look upon it as "such high standards" so much as I consider it the standard. If you were to add in the costs of trucking food halfway across the country, providing working wages and basic health and educational coverage to the people growing and harvesting the crops, and the costs of epidemic high blood pressure and diabetes brought on by the heavily-processed American diet and lifestyle, people wouldn't be saying, "I can make a full meal for $1 or $2." It really costs us more than that.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Steve, that was easily the best statement on the real "cost" of food and its production in our country I've ever read! You NAILED every single important aspect of the food issue. We've been members of MOFGA for many years now and avid gardeners for as long. Those are the very aspects that lead to its formation many years ago. And lil' ol' Maine has been a leader in locally sustained agriculture.

I'd rather use my food budget in a way that supports my neighbors who are farmers. I'd rather pay "more" for locally produced meat/eggs/milk and learn to live with LESS of it, than turn over one more dime to those ghastly "factory farms" that pollute local watersheds/aquifers with impunity. I'm fine with beans, rice, and vegetables... probably healthier, too.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Thank you Chelone and Steve!!! As a small (very small) farmer -- it is difficult at times to make people understand the importance of local agriculture.

I happen to be a flower farmer -- but I also sell some veggies and fresh eggs. We raise things organically -- however are not certified organice due to the proximity to traditional ag crops (ie --pesticides and no buffer zone)

But once customers see our operation -- they come back over and over again. The hens are not free-range but they have a large pen with plenty of room --- all the veggie waste from the garden and house, fresh greens, hand-collected Japanese beetles (that will teach those durn beetles!) and corn, oats and millet along with their layers mash.

My customers happily pay $2/doz for eggs. However, in the winter when my traffic slows down, I have trouble selling the same eggs for $1/doz. because the store sells theirs for 60 cents a doz.

It makes no sense!! I can't begin to produce eggs for 60 cents a doz --- an egg carton cost .35 each with shipping!!!! Of course, my eggs are really fresh -- not 6 wks old!

Thanks again for supporting AMERICAN agriculture.
Cathy


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Let's talk about eggs and production for a sec.. I've never owned a hen, but I seem to recall that they lay according to available daylight... more in the summer and less in the winter. That's why they're now raised and housed in windowless "barns". Lights come on and go off at the same time every day, all year long. This means the hens lay "predictably" all year long. But the "farmers"/agri-businesses have to pay for electricity, and they have to cool the barns in the hot season (how many hens died of excessive heat following Katrina?!!). What does that add to the cost of a dozen eggs... a cost we don't "see", but a cost the farmer can write off as an expense, and thereby artificially prop up the cost of eggs in the season when they ought to cost more?

I pay $2/dozen all year round. And get this: I'd pay more in the winter because I actually understand how eggs are produced... .


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Hens lay best when there is 14 hours of light. We have a timer on a light to come around 4:30 - 5 in the winter to give them 14 hours of light. There are two windows in the coop along with a window in the door.

Hens lay an egg approx. every 27 hours. Leghorns (the white chicken that lays white eggs) lay incredibly consistantly -- about 350 eggs a year. They also mature faster than other breeds -- and start laying sooner.

As they age -- they lay less regularly. Factory farms call in the soup manufacturers and ship the old hens to them. At my place, they die of old age! I have 2 roosters that are 5 and just lost a 5 year-old hen.

Here in the midwest, we use electricity to keep the water thawed in the winter plus cooling in the summer (in extreme temps) I rarely have a fan since they can go in and out but when the temps were in the upper 90's --- it was time!

That's your egg lesson for the day!
Cathy


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Thanks Cathy. It's good to know the classes I took 30 years ago made a lasting impression. :)

I think poultry is actually pretty cool... my favorites are the "Barred Rocks"... remind me of little old ladies in herringbone tweed suits, a la Radcliffe College... ;) !

And who couldn't love that blowhard, "Foghorn Leghorn" in the Bugs Bunny cartoons? I digress...

Point is, this lil' chicken happily pays $2/dozen and would pay more in the winter. Food production is seasonal, and I'm a frugal enough yankee to absorb seasonal fluctuations. I'm fine with paying more in a season when hens lay fewer eggs and the costs of production increase. But then, I don't have cable TV, air-conditioning, a car payment, a cell phone, or a credit card balance.

;)


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Cathy, I have a young cousin-in-law who raises hens to help him save money for college. He runs a weekly egg route (chauffered by Grandma) to deliver eggs to his regular customers. He simply requests that customers save up their old, empty egg cartons to exchange for full ones when he comes to pick up the eggs. He does sometimes have to buy cartons, but not nearly as many as he would if people did not faithfully return them.

Now, I have NO IDEA whether the FDA (or whoever else might regulate stuff like this) would approve of this method, but it seems to work well for him. Re-use is the purest form of recycling, and it seems that many people appreciate being able to return their empty cartons rather than throwing them away every time they finish a pack of eggs. In addition, it helps keep his costs low -- a benefit that he willingly passes on to his customers.


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

Totally OT, but I had to share this story....
DH and I have kept hens off and on over the years. Last year one of our chickens went missing after we let them out of the pen for their daily excursion. I sometimes work in Massachusetts a couple of days a week (130 miles away) and left for work the next day at 5am. About an hour after I got there, a co-worker said, "There's a chicken in the parking lot!" This is downtown Cambridge..not a lot of chickens running around. I said, "Is it reddish brown?" "Uh, yeah...why do you ask?" Yup, it was Pumpkin! I guess she made the trip down somewhere under my car. She spent the day in the lab perched on an empty box, being hand fed and watered. I was just glad I worked at a small company with understanding owners! Weird, but true...


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RE: Being Broke isn't just about cash flow

That's a great story.

The shop where I work would have been equally as accomodating with respect to "bring your hen to work" day. :)


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