Changing Things Up

If you are a Millennial reading this, you may not yet be able to comprehend how difficult changing your ways can be.  Imagine if you would that the way you do things now will continue for the next fifteen to twenty years, including the way that you communicate, the way that you work with others, the way that you shop and the way that you consume information and entertainment.

No change, I can’t change, I can’t change, I can’t change,
But I’m here in my mold, I am here in my mold.
But I’m a million different people from one day to the next
I can’t change my mold, no, no, no, no, no, no, no

-“Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve

You reach middle age, at which time the people who are currently your bosses or collaborators retire, and then some kid who is my daughter’s age now (nearly fourteen) comes along and summarily dismisses the way that you have done things for all those years and insists that you utilize some thought-reading or movement-related technology or artificial intelligence program or automation designed to replace you.

That is where we are at now at my workplace.

The boss who had controlled everything and insisted upon things done a certain way for about thirty-five years has retired, and the elected officials want things shaken up a lot.  We are being tasked with re-thinking the way we deliver services to residents and businesses in our community, and the change is hard for many of us, Yours Truly Middle Class Guy included.

This blog is not intended to be preachy in the sense of “here is how I did something and you should too” or the more popular “do as I say, not as I do,” but more of the sense that I am a widely read Middle Class Guy on the path of self-improvement through a series of baby steps that I believe will ultimately lead to an improved version of myself.

As I continue reading and learning, I am excited to share what I have learned and how regular guys like you and I are able to put those things to use.  So please consider Middle Class Guy to be a “let’s become more successful, wealthy, adaptable and lead more fulfilling lives together” blog.

Planners vs. Doers

Image result for the best laid plans of mice and men
Source: Quotefancy

For too long, I have laid out plans, set goals and made New Year’s Resolutions that did not pan out.  For whatever reason including bad luck, laziness, dealing with emergencies that come up, striving to serve my family before serving myself and lack of sufficient funds, I have not achieved a high percentage of my goals and Resolutions and most of my best-laid plans have often gone awry over the past several years.

I have found some small measure of success of late in completing smaller weekly tasks, as one of my recent posts alludes to, by using a 7 Days A Week document, which I use to list out various daily tasks.  It provides a minor sense of accomplishment, sometimes a little more than minor, but never a very major sense.

For bigger things, I tend to list them out as a vague Resolutions like “be a better husband” or “fix our cars” than specific, measurable goals.  Oftentimes, my New Year’s Resolutions fade out of mind as they are broken in the weeks or months following each new year.

This blog, in itself, is a tool that I use to gauge my own progress or lack thereof in many cases, but one of the things that we should strive for together, me as your humble narrator and you as my reader, is to not just plan to do things, but to actually do them.

Maintaining the Status Quo

I have been in the post-college workforce for twenty-four years as of this month, exactly half of which have been spent with my current employer.

The community that I work for enjoyed stable leadership for decades, including for over twenty years before my arrival.  The elected officials and top administrator had a certain way that they wanted things done, and that’s how things were done.  Basically, a painstakingly methodical, accurate and thorough process to ensure that things were done right.  It took a while to learn the way things are done here, and that is how I automatically do them now.

With new leadership in place and the 2010s well underway, the powers that be are now looking at ways to shake things up.  Dissatisfied with the way things are going, our new leadership tasks us with coming up with new ways to do more with less, primarily by utilizing modern technology, or in most cases, telling us how they want it done.

For those of us who had learned how to do things one way, changing everything at once creates uncertainty and discomfort.

‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now,
And this bird you’ll never change, oh, oh, oh, oh.
And this bird you cannot change.
And this bird you cannot change.
Lord knows, I can’t change.
Lord, help me, I can’t change.

-“Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

The status quo feels comfortable and steady because “that’s the way we have always done things” and much of the choice has been squeezed out.

Ambiguous changes create uncertainty, even among professionals like me who strive for adaptability and staying on top of my profession.

Should we rush some new projects through without meticulously vetting them and reviewing them like we normally would?  Do we adopt less stringent regulations because the business community does not care for our more thorough regulations than surrounding communities?  Should we not require detailed engineering plans and traffic analysis for new projects?  I do not know.  I guess that what it really depends on is how loud the wheel squeaks before we decide who gets the grease.

Image result for squeaky wheel gets the grease
Source: www.haikudeck.com

Granted, some of the changes that we are making are making things better and increasing our efficiency.  Unfortunately, more of the changes seem to be primarily for the sake of change.

I have been around the block enough times to know that future Boards and administrators in my own town, in the town where I work and in your own town will not appreciate what the current leaders are doing, and will want to do things their own way.

As the saying goes, “To the Victors Go the Spoils.”

Translate Aspirations into Actions

It’s not good enough for us to make goals like “make more money this year,” “Exercise more” or “be a better husband.”  Take it from me, I would know.  I have used all three of those for New Year’s Resolutions in prior years and if I resolved to do those ten times, I have failed all ten times.

Changing and improving yourself is comprised of actions, not vague goals that neither of us will accomplish.  Although I do suppose that if you go this entire year without exercising and then exercise once the following year, you are technically exercising more.

More concrete, measurable behaviors will lead to a higher degree of accomplishment and success in goal attainment.

For me, I am going to set three humble goals for June of 2017:

1) To finally do something about moving my inoperable 2001 Nissan out of our driveway. Donate it, sell it for scrap, just get rid of it before July 1st.

2) Remove some mold that is growing on our white vinyl siding. If I cannot figure out how to do it, myself, hire a local power washing guy to do it.  No excuses.  It has been growing for months and needs to be removed.

3) Something that I am not going to provide intimate details about, but feel free to guess. It involves my better half, who has remained married to me for twenty-one years as of next month despite my many faults.  If you are middle-aged, you can understand this.  During our first ten or so years of marriage, I did not have to think or plan much for this.  As earlier in this post alluded to, we did not plan for it – we just did it.

As many a self-improvement guru has opined, I will be moving toward SMART goals rather than broad aspirations.

Image result for SMART goals
Source: kristywilson.com

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely.

Send Yourself a Postcard

In their book SWITCH: How To Change Things When Change is Hard, brothers Chip & Dan Heath write about destination postcards.

The authors define it as a vivid picture from the near-term future that shows what could be possible.  They perform double duty in showing you where you’re headed and showing you why the journey is worthwhile.Image result for destination postcard

The Brothers Heath also advocate choosing a gut-smacking goal, not just one of these vague “improve yourself” Resolutions that are sure to fall flat.

Personally, I am not quite ready for a gut-smacking goal.  In the past, I have resolved and even achieved some of those big, gut-smacking Resolutions, but not for some time.

I actually wrote out gut-smacking Resolutions in the past like “start a family,” “get a new job,” “buy a house,” “add to our family,” “get a new car” and things like that.  The “get a new job” was a Resolution for many years, but I have not written that out as one for the past twelve years.  I am certainly open to new, better opportunities but am not resolving to get a new job.  With a son in college and a daughter starting high school this August, my wife and I most definitely do not want to add to our family.

A gut-smacking goal for me would be to publish five eBooks by the end of 2018.  It is a SMART goal, hitting all five attributes.  Of course, I could self-publish five short and shitty (is that a new phrase in the making?) eBooks or even contract out on Fiverr or Freelancer for others to write sections, chapters or whatever you want to call it.

But that’s not how I roll.

If When I self-publish those five eBooks, several of which will be comprised of these posts, I want them to be well-written, timely, relevant and worth the few dollars that a purchaser would pay.

Put One Foot in Front of The Other

Image result for put one foot in front of the other

My favorite part of Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town is when Kris Kringle sings “Put One Foot in Front of the Other.”  I watch this with my family every December, along with many other Christmas-themed movies.

This lesson proves well when setting what the Brothers Heath refer to as a gut-smacking goal or Resolution.  If I think about self-publishing five eBooks that meet the standards that I would expect, it becomes overwhelming.  It is far easier to not do any at all.

If I can look at it in a different way, for example compiling twenty-five of my highest quality posts, improving on them, and adding forty to fifty pages worth of interesting and well-written thoughts and ideas on paper, viola!  If I do pay someone to create a cover, I’ll have the first one done.

You cannot embark on a second until you complete a first.  I will only complete a first by taking tangible steps to accomplish it.  In other words, I need to put one foot in front of the other, and soon I’ll be walking out the door!

Not yet even at the beginning of attaining a goal on a destination postcard, you and I need not obsess about the middle, because it is going to look different once we get there.  We must start with a strong beginning and have a strong ending in mind, and get our asses in gear with SMART goals to see us through.

A Sense of Dread

Dread is a strong word, yet dread is what I feel when I start to think of all the goals and Resolutions that I am falling short on year by year as my thirties became my forties, and as my early forties became my mid-forties.

Around Thanksgiving this year, I will officially enter my late forties, hitting the prime number of 47.

They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and this old dog dreads learning new tricks.  It does not mean that I cannot or will not, it just means that there is a definite sense of uneasiness as I do my best to implement the changes that are thrust upon me at work month by month.

Part of the dread that middle aged (and older) guys and gals may feel is that our gut-smacking goals seem so difficult to attain when they involve moving out of our comfort zone, perhaps meeting and networking with new people, putting ourselves “out there” in situations that may be new to us and generally embracing a generation weaned on the Internet and social media.

Using my example of a gut-smacking goal of producing five high-quality, decent-selling eBooks on Kindle and Amazon by the close of 2018, if I think about how far away I am from that and what I need to do to get there, it creates a sense of dread in me.

What would not make me feel a sense of dread is writing twenty-five more higher quality posts by the end of July 2017, copying and pasting them into a Word document, editing them thoroughly (you most likely already caught numerous typos if you have read prior posts – I just sit and type) and then formatting them in such a way that I can self-publish them.

My graphic design skills are lacking, so it would behoove me to hire a freelancer to design digital book covers for me.  That, too, is moving out of my comfort zone since I have never initiated an account at any of those freelance websites and would probably hire the wrong person, overpay or have my secret identity outed when I would prefer it not to be yet.

If I can get over some of the dread by scaling down my goals into smaller, attainable steps, the dread may turn into excitement, book sales and future posts about how I did it.

Action Triggers

In the Brothers Heath book, the authors cite what is called an “action trigger.”  For example, you might say to yourself, “Tomorrow I am going to go straight from the office to the gym and work out before I go home.”  You’ve tied a specific healthy behavior (working out) to a specific situational trigger (leaving the office).

They cite the research of Peter Gollwitzer, a New York University psychologist.  In one study, Gollwitzer gave college students the opportunity to earn extra credit by writing a paper about how they spent Christmas Eve and turning it in on December 25.

Only 33% of the students completed the assignment and turned it in on time.  But some of the students were asked to set action triggers in advance – they decided when they were going to write the report and where they were going to do it.  75% of those students completed the assignment.

The authors state that “action triggers can have a profound power to motivate people to do the things they know they need to do.”   The reason, according to Gollwitzer, is that action triggers eliminate the need for conscious deliberation by making people “pre-decide” what they are going to do, and that they “protect goals from tempting distractions, bad habits, or competing goals.”

Beating my example of five eBooks to death a bit more, over the Fourth of July weekend, instead of just drinking beer, watching fireworks, tending to my property, barbecuing and the like, I intend to spend at least two hours working on my first eBook.  That is, if you do not count the 600-page tome that I self-published about ten years ago, never put a real cover on it, never looked at it again and collect about $5 or $20 per month from.

$12 is better than zero, but not by much!  When my payments get over a hundred, I will be much happier.  As I have previously stated, my gut-wrenching goal is to ultimately make around $5K per month on my writing.

But I cannot do that if I never publish anything that anybody wants to purchase, and I cannot do it if I cannot overcome my dread of doing it.

I need some good action triggers and I need to actually do it, not just plan to do it like I am now.

Bowie Said It Best

I do not know why I have never previously incorporated song lyrics in my posts, when everything that I write reminds me of some lyric or another.

Image result for play free bird meme

Like Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird, I often feel like “Lord knows, I can’t change” or like The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony, I feel that “No change, I can’t change, I can’t change, I can’t change…I can’t change my mold” but the late artist David Bowie, who is and always will be one of my all-time favorites put it best:

Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can’t trace time

-“Changes” by David Bowie

The Future You Is…You

The Loser’s Curse

A few weeks ago, during the NFL draft in late April, I heard an interview on the radio with Richard Thaler, an economist from the University of Chicago who described the role that behavioral economics plays in the draft.

He authored a piece called “The Loser’s Curse: Overconfidence vs. Market Efficiency in the National Football League Draft” in 2005 with Cade Massey of Duke University.

It is a fascinating piece, and if you do not care to read or skim through it like I did, the abstract of it is that they address a question of increasing interest to researchers in a variety of fields as to whether the incentives and experience present in many “real world” settings mitigate judgment and decision-making biases.

To investigate this question, Thaler and Massey analyze the decision making of National Football League teams during their annual player draft. This is a domain in which incentives are exceedingly high and the opportunities for learning rich. It is also a domain in which multiple psychological factors suggest teams may overvalue the “right to choose” in the draft – non-regressive predictions, overconfidence, the winner’s curse and false consensus all suggest a bias in this direction.

Using archival data on draft-day trades, player performance and compensation, they compared the market value of draft picks with the historical value of drafted players. They find that top draft picks are overvalued in a manner that is inconsistent with rational expectations and efficient markets and consistent with psychological research.

Painstakingly, Thaler and Massey analyzed the performance of many players over many years in respect to their original draft position.

After much analysis, their modest claim in this paper is that the owners and managers of National Football League teams are also human, and that market forces have not been strong enough to overcome these human failings.

“The task of picking players, as we have described here, is an extremely difficult one, much more difficult than the tasks psychologists typically pose to their subjects. Teams must first make predictions about the future performance of (frequently) immature young men. Then they must make judgments about their own abilities: how much confidence should the team have in its forecasting skills? As we detailed in section 2, human nature conspires to make it extremely difficult to avoid overconfidence in this task.”

Why mention this?

First, because I have bore witness to many horrible drafts as a Chicago sports fan, even more by the Bulls than the Bears, and many horrible picks by the Cubs before Theo came to town to save us.

I believe that the Bears suffer from the Loser’s Curse when it comes to their draft picks year after year, not having drafted well since Kyle Long in 2013 and Matt Forte and Earl Bennett way back in 2008.  If you look at their draft picks over the past ten years, only a few became viable NFL players for more than a few years.

When it comes to the Bulls, well, I do not recall them making a good pick since Jimmy Buckets in 2011 or D-Rose fell into their lap with the first pick in 2008.  Taj Gibson was a pretty good pick in 2009, so the brain trust of GarPax traded him and draft bust Dougie McDermott to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the worst three players on their team late last season.  If that is not a manifestation of the Loser’s Curse, I am not sure what is.

My prediction is that Cameron Payne will not be a viable player in the next two seasons, and then GarPax will be forced to quietly move him along.

My second reason for mentioning my reading of this study is that it led me into a larger overall delving into the topic of behavioral finance.  Not a typical blog topic, I know, but a fascinating one nonetheless.Image result for behavioral finance

I researched the topic further, coming across a paper by UCLA Professor Dr. Shlomo Bernatzi, whose name I recognized from an article that I read and commented on this past March about my preference to receive $5,000 per month instead of a cool million bucks.

Image result for dr. shlomo benartzi

Behavioral Finance in Action

I read Behavioral Finance in Action, a paper by Benartzi written in 2012 for Allianz Global Investors Center for Behavioral Finance.  You will no longer find it posted on the Allianz website, but can access it at the above link on the Majestic Asset Management site.

Benartzi writes that many young people view their older selves heading into retirement as strangers.  The disconnection between our present and future selves is well recognized, and it correlates with a reluctance to save money for our future selves.

I, myself, suffered from this misconception for many years.  During my twenties, I do not recall consciously knowing or caring that retirement existed.  In my thirties, I thought that somehow I would become wealthy by identifying some chance or opportunity that would come my way.  Up until that time, I largely gained whatever modicum of success that I had obtained by acting upon opportunities that were presented to me.

In the sixteen years since I turned the big 3-0, I have either not received such opportunities to become wealthy or I have failed to recognize them.

My brother did propose starting a trading firm, just the two of us, when he was laid off from a law firm in the throes of the Recession, but I took what I thought was the more prudent and safer course, and kept the economic development position that I remain in today.

I do not think that we would have made it big in the trading world, but I will never really know.  Perhaps we would both be millionaires today had I decided to take the plunge.  More likely, I could have suffered massive financial losses, destitution, divorce and other disastrous results.

In any case, I never did make it rich.  I continue plugging away and working hard at a difficult position and strive to continue remaining a gainfully employed member of the American middle class.  I pay my bills and support my family, yet we never make it very much ahead of the curve despite my efforts.

I recognize that I hope to remain alive for many more years and, if I am successful at remaining among the living along with my wife, the future us will require plenty of U.S. currency in decades to come to carry us through and allow us to maintain a decent lifestyle.

The Future You…

Hal E. Hershfield, Daniel Goldstein and five colleagues wrote an article titled “Increasing Saving Behavior Through Age-Progressed Renderings of the Future Self” for the Journal of Marketing Research in November 2011.

It was another thought-provoking article, in which the authors wrote that one might feel more connection to one’s future self in one year than one’s future self in 40 years and at the extreme, with a total lack of psychological connectedness, one’s future self may seem like a different person altogether.

To those estranged from their future selves, saving is like a choice between spending money on something for yourself today or giving it to a stranger many years from now.

Do people think of the future self as a different person?  Hershfield et al. write that research has demonstrated that people make attributions about the future self in the same manner that they do for others, by attributing the future self’s behavior to dispositional factors rather than situational ones.

What does that mean in English?

Many people feel like I used to – that your future self will be some better version, perhaps wealthier, happier and better organized.  More in control of your own situation and choices.

Over the past few years, I have come to realize that I am much the same person that I was twenty years ago, although I have endured several hardships and losses of some of those that I loved.

On the other hand, I did not have children twenty years ago during my first year of marriage, and now have a son who will be turning nineteen over the summer and entering his second year of college in August, and a daughter who will be turning fourteen this summer and starting high school in August.

Although I have lost seven close relatives in the past twenty years, one could argue that they have been replaced by seven new people including my two children, my nephew and four nieces.

Hershfield and his colleagues performed experiments on young volunteers where they used age-progression software such as what is now easily available in many apps like Oldify, Make Me Old or AgingBooth.

These algorithms are kind of scary and can provide an image of what a person will look like in as many as thirty years time.

Image result for age progression
Source: Mark Wexler on Flickr

They examine the association between seeing an embodiment of one’s self in the future and the propensity to save for retirement or accept later monetary rewards over immediate ones.

Ultimately, Hershfield and his colleagues find that the volunteers in the experiment who see their future selves more than double the amount of money they say they would allocate to retirement savings.

Not surprising because, like Mark Wexler was kind enough to share his own computer-aided age progression for the world to see on Flickr, there is a wrinkly white-haired guy thirty years in his future, should he remain alive, who will undoubtedly need a decent amount of money to continue paying his bills, going to movies and restaurants, traveling with his wife or by himself or a future lady friend if he becomes widowed or divorced, and if he is lucky, spoiling his future grandchildren.

Like Mark Wexler, I, too, recognize that I would like to be around thirty years from now.  I no longer harbor the illusion of becoming wealthy, but I sure would like to have a six-figure income in my golden years, like I do now in my prime working years in my mid-forties.

…Is You

Hershfield and his colleagues and other behavioral economists have found that the age-progression exercise helps people recognize that the future self is indeed the same person as the present self.

Image result for age progression
Source: greenray4ever.com

The future Dr. Benartzi will be Dr. Benartzi, the future Hal Hershfield will still be Hal Hershfield, the future Yours Truly Middle Class Guy will be an older Middle Class Guy, and the future You will still be You.

You and I had better send a few dollars to a savings account this month, because I suspect that the future You and I will both need it very much.

 

 

 

 

Got My Mind Over My Money and My Money Over My Mind

Unfortunately, us middle of the middle class kind of guys have to worry about money a lot.

As a recent post attested to, some months cost us $11,000 or more, and we do not even purchase anything exciting or go anywhere great.  Sometimes, that is how much a month of our middle class suburban lifestyle costs, with appliance replacement, auto repairs, tuition payments, dental visits, a check to the IRS and the like making it cost more and more.

Inasmuch as I am trying to improve my family’s and my own lot in this middle class life, I read about money frequently including ways of making more.  Like writing blogs with ads scrolling through them.  Like creating podcasts or creating subscription services or creating eBooks.

As my readers know, I am an avid reader, typically reading a few hours per day, sometimes less.

Although I am coming off of two extremely busy weeks of working and traveling, I found the time to read Mind Over Money: The Psychology of Money and How To Use It Better by Claudia Hammond.Image result for mind over money hammond

Unlike many of the books that I read, learn from, and share about, this one was published last year.  It does not make it any better than the other books that I have read on the topic, just more recently written.  Truth be told, it is one of the poorer books on the topic that I have read.

Since neither Ms. Hammond nor anybody else has ever paid me for a book review, I would give this book one star, perhaps one and a half.Image result for one and a half stars

Hammond did raise some interesting points, several of which I would like to share with you.

Pocket Money

Hammond writes of the importance for kids to have some pocket money. As both a long-time recipient of and payer of weekly allowance, this is something that I firmly believe in.

Source: Dreamtime.com

Hammond writes that research has shown that most children get some sort of pocket money or allowance, however poor their parents might be.

She cites a study that showed that middle-income parents were more likely to make their children work for their allowance, an interesting finding considering that these parents could afford to be more generous without expecting any help around the house in return.

Hammond cites many studies and ideas on the topic, but concludes that what parents need to do is be open and consistent about where pocket money comes from and what children can expect to get.

He Makes More Than Me

Being a Brit, Hammond writes about some people that she knows in the financial sector in London.

She writes that a friend of hers in the financial sector described that even though he is making 300,000 pounds per year, he is jealous of someone else doing the same thing and making 400,000.  It makes him feel undervalued.

Me, I would be dancing a jig if I could make $300,000 per.  It would actually prompt me to upgrade my home, vehicles, TVs, phones and the like to match that much higher income.  Plus, a British pound equals 1.29 U.S. dollars as of this writing, so 300,000 £ is actually like making about $400,000.  Not too shabby, also considering that the people who she writes about are in their twenties to early thirties.

It got me thinking about a good friend of mine, who ended up getting a great job about five years ago.  He and I were the two finalists for a major economic development position and, even though I really like the guy, they made what I still feel is the wrong decision and hired him over Yours Truly.

Since we are both employees of local government entities whose salaries are published online for the whole world to see, I reluctantly looked up his salary.

My friend is making $137,000, nearly $30,000 more than me!

Our skills are the same, I am perhaps a little bit more educated, and I have him by spades in the personality department.

Does it piss me off?  You bet it does!

I understand that my best friend makes quite a bit more than I do.  He is a mid-level IT guy for the State’s largest insurance company, so it makes sense even though he gets to work remotely several times per week.

I understand it when they pay him a base salary around $125,000 or so and then give him a bonus in the $25,000 range around Christmas every year.

Do I regret not having gone into IT?  You bet.  Do I tell him that I am jealous of his job and that he works mainly with computers rather than people?  You bet.  Am I jealous of his large Christmas bonus, that he uses every winter break to take his wife and son somewhere exotic?  Absolutely.

But when I hear of someone with the same skill set that I have doing the same thing that I do, but making $30,000 more, enough to cover my son’s college tuition, and my daughter’s in a few years, or enough to cover payments on a new car, repairs to our home and several nice vacations per year, you can bet that I am jealous.  Will I tell him that when I next see him?

That you can bet I will not do.

Your Necessities Or Mine?

Hammond writes that we need money for life’s necessities and that we can all agree on that.  But what constitutes a necessity?  That is what we are less likely to agree on.

What may be a necessity for you, like your gym membership or subscription to Netflix, is not a necessity for me at all.

What may be a necessity for me, like paying our son’s college tuition or saving for our daughter’s college, may not be one for you.

Smart phones are viewed as essential in many parts of the world today. Although my family utilizes pay-as-we-go phones, like families in lower income brackets than ours typically would, they are still smart phones and we seem to be using up the minutes and memory faster and faster every month.

Even though about $11,000 left my wife’s and my checking account last month, I would contend that we spent the vast majority of it on what we consider necessities – paying taxes, fixing our family car, getting one of my teeth fixed, purchasing a new washing machine, paying for education and activities for our children, food, shelter, pet-related items and many other typical middle income expenditures.

I know people who consider new car purchases, country club membership and European vacations to be necessities of life.  To me, any of those would be definite luxury items, but to many struggling families, they might consider the new outfits and shoes that my wife purchased for our daughter last month to be luxuries, our new awesome $700 top-loading clothes washer that jiggles around and measures the load rather than just a plain old washer, and paying private college tuition to be luxuries that they can only dream of rather than necessities, like we consider them.

Twelve Attitude Categories

Hammond describes the often-cited book by psychologists Herb Goldberg and Robert Lewis from 1978 in which they describe twelve different money-types.Image result for goldberg and lewis money madness

The twelve include the freedom buyer, the freedom fighter, the compulsive saver, the self-denier, the compulsive bargain-hunter, the fanatical collector, the love buyer, the love seller, the love stealer, the manipulator, the empire builder and the godfather.

I see several, but not all, of the traits in myself as many people would.  I am not nearly wealthy enough to fit into some of the categories, like the manipulator, empire builder, love buyer or godfather.  Nor am I a compulsive bargain-hunter or love stealer.

If anything, I sometimes feel like a compulsive saver, especially when it comes to reaching my goal of saving $100,000 for each of my children for college, and I also sometimes feel like a self-denier, feeling guilty if I spend any money on myself and often spending any extra income on anyone except for myself.  But is that really so bad, spending on our two children rather than new things for myself?  I do not think so.

Goldberg and Lewis characterize self-deniers as also pessimistic about the future and not daring to spend any money that they do not need to.  I do not believe that I am that frugal.  My lovely wife reminds me to spend for things like family trips and dinners out together, and as I have previously shared, we spend a lot on things like attending concerts, horse riding and private music lessons for our daughter and our biggest expense, covering about $2,400 per month for tuition, room and board for our son, who recently completed his freshman year at a private college.

Materialism 

Hammond writes about how people’s notions pertaining to money relate to materialism, which is often defined as the desire for material goods and money to the neglect of other things.

For a long time, materialism was considered to be a personality trait that stuck with you throughout life.

She cites the Belk Materialism Scale, which I then researched and read several abstracts and articles about including an article by Russell Belk of the University of Utah, himself, in 1984.

The three measures of materialistic traits as proposed, measured, and tested by Belk include: possessiveness, non-generosity, and envy.

Materialism tends to conjure a morally negative space and most of us would not want to admit to being materialistic.  We do not wish to be led into buying more and more like the advertisers and the businesses that provide those goods and services want us to.

Hammond cites others who explain that materialism is not all bad, but there is a good kind and a bad kind.  The good kind, known as instrumental materialism, is using material things to fulfill your personal values and goals.  The bad kind, or terminal materialism, is where you use your money and material possessions to improve your own social status and generate envy in others.

The Poor and Their Payday Loans

If I loaned you $500, would you pay me back $550 when you get paid in two weeks?  I would sure go for that, but I would rather have you pay me $1,100 in three or four weeks if I loaned you $1,000 today.

Those are the types of usurious rates that those with very little money sometimes borrow at, thus compounding their relative poverty.

People who resort to them seem to be displaying a condition that psychologists refer to as tunnelling, where the mind’s focus narrows. They just want to get their hands on some cash to meet their immediate needs, no matter how high the interest is.

Image result for payday loans usury
Source: creditcardchaser.com

Hammond writes that the poor are largely passive victims of the way the brain works.  Others argue that it is not poverty that leads to poor financial decision-making but the exact opposite.  Realistically, like many things, it is often a combination of both in my humble opinion.  Lower income people often make poor financial decisions and, in many cases, poor financial decisions can lead one into poverty.

Struggling to make ends meet from day-to-day, month-to-month and year-by-year takes an enormous toll.  This may be the explanation why poor people sometimes resort to stupid decisions such as these short-term loans at extortionate rates that the mafia would be ashamed to charge.

Hammond poses the notion that poor people may not be acting out of foolishness or fecklessness, but because their high stress levels affect the prefrontal cortex, perhaps they are less able to take the future into account.

Speaking of the Future…

In Chapter 13, For A Rainy Day, Hammond writes about something that I have read and written about a lot lately and will be explored somewhat more in depth in an upcoming post.

That is the notion that many of us find saving very difficult.  We can save for short-term things like a new car, an outfit or vacation or other things that are just a few months away.

By contrast, it is difficult to save for unforeseen circumstances, old age or illness.  We know that it is sensible and important, but it is a long time off and might not even ever happen.  It also does not promise much in the way of pleasure, like a family vacation would over the summer and winter break, or a replacement for my 19-year-old beater Subaru would be.

Here in 2017, there are a lot more pressing current wants and needs. Saving an extra $600 this month for my wife and I to use in the 30’s, assuming that we both make it, does not seem as exciting.

Image result for rainy day savings
Source: Enjoycompare.com

As posted on Enjoycompare.com, “the weather is sometimes similar to our lives – there will be sunshine and rain, and the worse thing is you can’t really do anything about it except to ride with it. You can only ensure you are ready for it when the situation appears.”

As with money management, the idea is the same. When an unforeseen crisis hits, will you be ready for it? We may embrace living in the moment, living hand to mouth with our monthly salary, but what happens when a bad patch hits and you need money urgently?

There lies the wisdom of the adage – Saving For a Rainy Day.

 

 

 

Analyze This!

Image result for analyze this

Hi-De-Ho,

The Middle Class Guy is back in the saddle after a highly middle class week that involved a long, hectic day in the office on Monday, traveling to the Downtown of the Big City on Tuesday for an all-day grant workshop with my prior intern/newly full-time 25-year-old employee and then three days of credit analysis training in the Mad City.

I brought my laptop along and intended to post for three straight nights including on some books that I brought along, but ended up hopping all over the place for three nights with younger colleagues in search of the finest craft brews offered within the fine State of Cheeseheads.

Image result for wisconsin cheeseheads
Source: www.wnpaonline.com

Back in my younger years, before I became a middle aged fogey, I might have bragged about the amount of beer consumed, but allow me to plainly state that I consumed more in the past three days than I typically would in three months.

Some were great, some were good and some were not so good.  I do not have all of the types and names here, but it was more small batch craft beers than I had consumed in all my forty-six years in a matter of three days.

The two younger guys who I tagged around with (about ten years younger) knew about and had traveled to most of the breweries in question at some point or another.

I know that some were from New Glarus Brewing Company (Spotted Cow), some were from Capital Brewery, one was from Horny Goat Brewery,  one was from Stevens Point Brewery and there were many others.

I do not know how many because I had three different beer flights of four each in addition to the other pitchers and glasses purchased for me by my two traveling partners.  By the way, they each consumed twice or more as much than I did.

We traveled about thirty miles out of Mad-City one night to a troll-themed town called Mt. Horeb where I first sampled a wonderful variety of craft beers brewed right on premises at the Grumpy Troll.

For anybody with interest in such things and for future reference, I saved my Grumpy Troll receipt, and the four craft brews pictured below in the foreground are, from left to right, Hoppa Loppa, Captain Fred, Sunflower and Hey Now Brown Cow.

Beer flights at the Grumpy Troll a few nights ago.

Thursday night, we hit all four blocks around the State capital, consuming craft beer at each of the four Mad-City locations.  Glancing back at my receipts, I have one for the Old Fashioned, where I consumed four more craft beers from four separate breweries.  I could not name them to save my life, but there was a ginger beer that I liked a lot.

I enjoyed four more at The Old Fashioned in Madison.

For dinner, we consumed steamed mussels at The Coopers Tavern on our second stop around the capital.

Our third stop was a total dive bar called the New Paradise Lounge, where we spent an hour or two consuming more New Glarus beer.

We ended the night to nearly 1:00 a.m. at the Tipsy Cow, a place that seemed nice enough around 10:30 p.m. when we arrived, but filled with drunk Millennials, many of whom were covered in tattoos and showed multiple piercings by the time we left.

We had more beer there, but I had gone well beyond my limit and could only have one pint there.  My partners in crime thought it was great; I hated whatever we consumed.

Credit Analysis

The reason for my hanging out in my old college Alma Mater town was to attend a three day seminar on credit analysis.

Woo Hoo! You must be thinking.  Credit analysis, what an interesting thing to study and practice for three entire days.  I know that you are jealous.Image result for anyhoo

Anyhoo…for three days, analyzing creditworthiness and crafting the best public/private funding partnerships was what we studied and worked on.

I am in possession of more information than you would ever care to know about the topic, and completed about a dozen spreadsheets analyzing the cash flow and creditworthiness of several companies, all based on actual projects handled by the National Development Council, who coordinated the training.

I would not care to summarize three days of credit analysis and, if I did, you would not care to read it.

The instructor did share three nuggets of wisdom which I jotted down and will expand upon for my all-encompassing future book on the topic of economic development, which I will share here with you:

  1. Capitalism Requires Capital.  The instructor started our three day odyssey of credit analysis by stating the obvious, but reminded our group that capital is what needs to continue flowing for economic development deals to happen.  When the capital stopped flowing for years during the Recession, deals stopped happening, businesses failed and millions of people lost their jobs, which just made it even harder to access capital.
  2. Our local municipalities do not really do “economic development,” we do project development.  Although Presidents promise to address basic infrastructure problems and the States tend to fix roads every so often, most jurisdictions strive to achieve short-term successes due to the political nature of life.   Your local Mayor, State representative, Senator or Governor wants to achieve successes now rather than build for long-term success and growth, so you will be more likely to reelect him or her the next time you go to the polls.  I know that in my community, we would rather achieve a big deal in 2017 than work on two big deals for 2020.
  3. Economic development is not fun and easy like you may think.  It is a labor-intensive, boring and extremely tough and fiercely competitive business.  I can vouch for that a million times over.  For every ribbon-cutting attended by Chamber of Commerce representatives and elected officials, there may be dozens of very mundane and stressful background work that your local economic developer has put in “behind the scenes.”                                                                                                                               A long meeting about how to fund an extension of a sanitary sewer line, or how to engineer the property to best retain storm water run-off or arguing with local road officials about obtaining access to the site are not the kind of things that would make for compelling reality television, but are the kind of things that I often strive to assist with many months or sometimes years before the cameras capture the smiling faces of local yokels with the new business.
Image result for ribbon cutting chamber of commerce
Source: Jefferson, TN Chamber of Commerce

Your Own Credit Analysis

Reviewing profit and loss statements including, but not limited to, cost of goods sold (COGS), net operating income (NOI), operating expenses, debt service, cash flow and ultimately calculating a business’s debt capacity got me thinking about my own family’s income, costs, operating expenses, debt service and debt capacity.

Not since the last time we refinanced our home about seven years ago did we take a comprehensive look at our balance sheet.

Completing this training got me thinking about taking a cold, hard look at our middle class family’s balance sheet.  I do need to refinance our home again, and soon, so I might as well take a look at our finances before we have to disclose it all to some mortgage guy or gal.

I stayed at a super funky hotel that was previously nice, but a few decades back.  My wife and I enjoy watching Gordon Ramsay’s show, Hotel Hell, and this one could use a serious dose of his sarcasm, cursing and, ultimately, his guidance and help. Image result for gordon ramsay hotel hell

One of the few things that I did enjoy was my complementary copies of both USA Today, which is standard for nearly 100% of the hotels in our country, and the Wall Street Journal, which is not always provided.

So I did keep up with the continuing saga of Trump versus the FBI and many other matters of interest this past week.

Image result for trump vs fbi
Source: Political INBOX

An item that caught my eye in both papers this past Thursday was that U.S. household debt has topped the previous record in 2008, having increased $149 billion in the first quarter of this year to $12.73 trillion.

While mortgages like mine still comprise the majority of the obligations, they now represent a lower share than in 1998, with student loan debt and auto debt making comprising a much higher share.

Even though I think of myself as generally fiscally prudent, I learned that I owe more than the average American in comparison to my family’s household income.

In 2008, household debt represented nearly 100% of household income, whereas it is about 80% today.Image result for debt to income ratio

Although Your Truly Middle Class Guy and my family do not currently have an auto loan (although we need to get a new car and soon will) or any student debt, our $131,000 mortgage balance represents about 117% of our income of about $112,000.

Speaking of credit analysis, for our family to meet the U.S. average of 80%, we would need to either increase our income to around $162,000 to have a 1.25 income to debt ratio, or decrease our total debt to only about $90,000 or 80% of our annual household income.

What I would prefer is some combination, creatively visualizing myself making more through my writing to about $130,000 per year total, while reducing my family’s debt to under $100,000, which I would currently consider making great leeway in chipping away at our mortgage.

Of course, people like my mother, who paid off her mortgage with my father twenty-seven years ago, and my father-in-law who paid his off years ago as well, skew the statistics.

I suspect that there are people out there, maybe you, who owe two or three times as much as your family’s household income.

When we first purchased our house just ten days before 9/11, we borrowed about $160,000 on a $200,000 home against my salary of about $50,000. We also had car payments at the time, and I can assure you that things were very tight financially.

Things are still tight, but both our household income and our expenditures have doubled since that time.

I hope that this provides at least a little food for thought for my few dozen loyal readers, and the best thing about it for you is that you did not have to sit through three days of credit analysis.

As time passes, I will probably forget most of what we learned, anyway, but I will definitely remember all the beer.

Image result for all the beer meme

 

 

 

Plan For A Busy Week

I write often about what I have learned from others by reading their books, or from an article or blog post.

One thing that I have read a few suggest, but that I have utilized myself many times, is to plan out my week.

I typically use two calendars, an At-A-Glance monthly calendar that I leave at work, and a smaller weekly calendar that I carry in my briefcase, thus I can reference it at home.

My At-A-Glance calendars for this year.

I also use an Outlook calendar at work, which has been mandated as of about a year ago.  I’ve got calendars telling me what to do and when and where all over the place.

Despite all that, I do not always have a good place to write down a combination of work-related and personal items.  Things like reminders to pay our son’s college tuition and to pay myself first.

I attended a short workshop a few years ago, and the woman who headed it gave out some handy tips as well as handing out a “7 DAYS A WEEK” sheet that I made about a hundred copies of, and use when I have a challenging week like this one, filled with before and after work things to go to, as well as many meetings during the work week.

I want to note a few things:

  1. I used initials on this version, whereas on the original version I wrote the actual names.
  2. For my meeting with the potential brew pub this past Monday, I wrote the pub’s real name.
  3. I wrote the college name and the high school name instead of “concert at college” or “concert at HS.”
  4. I had to write down my plan to mow the lawn this past Tuesday, which made me feel like I accomplished something after I completed the completely mundane task of mowing our backyard.  Long story, but the short is that I purchased a small gas-powered push mower for our 1/3- acre lot last summer, and neither the mower nor I were up to mowing the front and the back.
  5. I wrote down to pay myself first on Thursday, before payday on Friday, and I sent $300 to my IRA instead of the usual $250, due to receiving a small raise this month.
  6. I did not get home until past 11:00 p.m. from my son’s college on Wednesday night, barely slept at all, woke up at 5:45 on Thursday morning, and was neatly groomed and wearing my suit at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting by 7:00 a.m. the next morning.
  7. I picked up our son from college on Friday after work, and then raced to a concert to hear our daughter play her trombone in a concert directly upon returning home.
  8. I had a lot busier week at work than a quick glance at this indicates. Besides the scheduled meetings, I had a few other prospective businesses drop in on me unannounced, including a fencing company and a potential comic book store.  I also fielded numerous calls of a wide variety.
  9. I did take a public speaking seminar this past week, which was great.  I thought that I was already the best guy in town at this, but apparently I was not and received many helpful hints.
  10. The administrative staff meeting that I was told to attend this past Tuesday included talking about the threat of a lawsuit brought up by a businessperson who is very upset with both my employer and me personally, so that was not very fun.

The good points were attending one of my son’s jazz concerts at his college this week, attending my daughter’s jazz concert last night, and attending her last dance company recital earlier today.

When we got back, I accomplished the mundane task of mowing our front yard, and I also spread weed and seed on the spots where most of the dandelions were growing.  It was not on my to-do list, but I did it anyway, since I want at least our front yard to look nice when my mother and her dog come by to visit tomorrow for the Mother’s Day brunch that I am coordinating.

Image result for mariano's fruit salad
Source: Ravings by Rae

It must be a money saver for me and my two children to put together the brunch this year, since the total grocery bill at Mariano’s, where I just returned from a few minutes before writing this, was about $80 and should feed five of us.  Most of the brunch spots around here go for $40 to $60 per person.

Image result for spinach omelet
I make a mean spinach omelet.               Source: Cooking Channel

Our brunch menu tomorrow will be spinach omelettes, a huge fruit salad, pancakes and bacon, and smoked salmon and bagels as a testament to my mother’s and my Jewish heritage.  Granted, the smoked salmon is prepackaged, the brand being Cambridge House, and I only purchased 4 ounces for $7.99, but we’ve had it before and it is about the best that we can get out here in suburbia.Image result for cambridge house smoked salmon

I also purchased some Schofferhofer grapefruit beer, which I am enjoying now and believe that I will have with my brunch tomorrow, as well.

Image result for schofferhofer

I never said that I am a fancy kind of guy.  We only have champagne once per year on New Year’s eve, and we usually get cheap stuff and end up pouring half of it out anyway.

For Mother’s Day gifts, I purchased two large potted flower arrangements for my wife, and one for my own mother.

I purchased them at the Home Depot, which may not be the first place that comes to your mind when you think of shopping for Mother’s Day, but that store and Menard’s are the two that come to my mind first, being the Middle Class Guy that I am.

I’m not sure, but I think that I have purchased plants, flowers and gardening supplies for both my wife and my mother for the past ten or so Mother’s Days.

Looking for greeting cards is one of the more frustrating things in life, but I found one decent enough to give my wife since it had Minnie Mouse on the cover, and she adores all things Disney.

I’ll get the two kids to sign it when my daughter gets home from attending her BFF’s dance recital tonight, sign our baby’s signature paw print for her, since she cannot sign for herself, and then try to get some decent rest so I can be a great husband and son tomorrow, which would help me accomplish one of my goals and Resolutions.

Wish me luck!

Image result for wish me luck
Source: steemit.com

 

 

 

 

$11 Out, Only $9.5 In

Image result for money flowing
More money flowed out than in last month.

I got my bank statement last week and, as I had thought, about $11K left the account last month with $9.5K going in.  I do not refer to it as spending $11,000, since much of it was not spending.

I realize that is not sustainable.  If a Middle Class family consistently spent $1,500 more per month than it takes in, it would not take long for its funds to expire.

But let me explain.

First of all, I have wholeheartedly adopted the Pay Yourself First philosophy as I read about in numerous financial books, blogs and articles.

Image result for pay yourself first
Source: www.bizepic.com

I paid “ourselves” first on both April paydays, on the 14th and the 28th. On the 14th, I paid both my wife’s and my own Roth IRA $250 each, and I paid myself another $250 first on the 28th.

If you are not in the habit of paying yourself first, you may consider those investments $750 that one could spend otherwise, like for a lease for a cool car, a new iPhone, perhaps a new TV or a few nights at a nice hotel.

I did not pay for a new car, phone, TV or spend any nights at a nice hotel, but I did pay my future self $500 and my wife $250.  Not a different future wife, but the future self of my one wife.

I also sent an “extra” $250 to our mortgage, although I use quotes around extra.  Our typical payment is around $700 per month, with only about $300 going toward principal and about $400 in interest.

Our March statement came in the mail showing a balance of $131,250, so I wanted to make it a nicer, more even number.  When the balance is three hundred or less over an even thousand, I like to send a check to round it out.  Some sunny day, we’ll pay off our mortgage and hopefully those extra payments here and there will help us do so sooner rather than later.

Consider that an “extra” thousand that we sent out, adding the additional mortgage principal payment to the amount that we paid ourselves.

With a son in college that costs us about $25,000 per year and our daughter well on her way to a competitive college, I do my best to save money for their education.

To do so, I have automatically contributed to their 529 accounts for many years on the first of the month.  I do not even really consider this extra spending, but if you want to split hairs, we would not contribute to that account if it was between that or paying our mortgage or buying food.

I currently send $400 to our daughter’s account on the first of every month, so you could bump that number up to $1,400 in payments that those in lower income brackets than ours most likely would not have paid out.

Interestingly enough, had I not paid ourselves first, sent an extra principal payment and contributed to our daughter’s 529 account, we would have broken dead even for the second month in a row almost to the dollar.  Our checking account would have had $9,513 in and $9,505 out.

I should also mention that the $9,500 in was not all from income.  I transfer $2,000 per month from our son’s 529 account, in tandem with making a $2,400 monthly payment to his college.

Other “extra” expenses that we had in April included four big ones:

  • I sent a check for $1,860 to the IRS due to making untaxed income on some savings bonds for our son, a profitable stock trade that I made last year, and about $2,000 in income from one of my late father’s projects from many years ago.
  • $600 to Abt Appliances for a new washing machine after our old one called it quits.  We had the old one since we moved in ten days before 9/11, and we really do not know how old it was then.
  • $625 for my root canal, which still does not have a cap.  Because I went well beyond my dental insurance limit this year, I must wait until January to complete it.  But I have gone to the dentist seven times this year, and plan to return for one additional cleaning on my dime over the summer.
  • $415 in repairs at Car-X.  We had our clunker Chrysler Town & Country minivan repaired in order to pass Illinois emissions.
  • Incidentally, we paid over $100 each for two license plate stickers for our two running cars.

I could go on and on, detailing our every purchase and expense, but my point is that I still remain surprised at all the articles about the high percentage of Americans who would not be able to come up with some amount like $500, $1,000 or $2,000.

My family’s income is just over $100K, and we had to shell out $3,500 in extra expenses, made a tuition payment and still socked away $750 for our IRAs and $400 for our daughter’s college account.

What didn’t we buy?

Everything else.

Truth be told, we need to start spending on much needed home-related repairs inside and out.

Life can be expensive for a middle aged Middle Class Guy living in the middle of the Midwest.

I have read dozens, perhaps hundreds, maybe even thousands of articles, blog posts and books related to budgeting, cutting back, how to become wealthier, how to live better, how to be more frugal and I could go on and on.

What every single one of them advises includes spending less than you make.  That is a philosophy that I embrace, and it is actually one that helped me save quite a bit for my children’s college accounts considering our Middle Class income over the years.

I just hope to report about $1,500 less flowing out of our account than coming in during the course of a month before the year is through.

 

 

 

Creatively Visualizing a Better Future

Yes, this is the Middle Class Guy blog, but sometimes I read something geared towards women and feel it worth sharing.

Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain is not specifically written for women, but after reading it and visiting her Facebook page and Twitter feed, damned if I could find a photo of a man or one Like or comment by one.

This book was originally published in 1978 when Ms. Gawain was merely thirty years old.  I was seven years old.

Anyway, I paid fifty cents for this book at a library book sale (paperbacks fifty cents, hardcovers for a buck), read this motivational book for chicks and picked up a few pointers.

Gawain’s book is about learning how to use your natural creative imagination in a more conscious way as a technique to create what you truly want – love, fulfillment, enjoyment, satisfying relationships, rewarding work, self-expression, health, beauty, prosperity, harmony and inner peace.  Things that would appeal to a Middle Class Guy or a man of any social or economic class.

In creative visualization, you use your imagination to create a clear image, idea, or feeling of something that you wish to manifest.  Then you continue to focus on the idea, feeling, or picture regularly, giving it positive energy until it becomes objective reality.

In other words, until you actually achieve what you have been imagining.

I know what you’re thinking.  What a fruitcake, new-agey thing.

If one could achieve success simply by imagining it, focusing on it and giving it positive energy, I would be a multi-millionaire like Ms. Gawain.

Perhaps I’ll write a similar book.  What do you think about the title “Visualizing Success for the Middle Class” or “Visualize Your Way to Wealth and Well-Being”?  I think both of those names, with a cool book cover and pages and pages of mumbo jumbo might just do well.

Perhaps I can generate some B.S. new age book or articles just by using this New-Age Bullshit Generator.

I clicked on the “Reionize Electrons” button on this page, which generated the following:

You and I are lifeforms of the quantum cycle.

Transcendence requires exploration. Flow is the truth of guidance, and of us.

It is in flowering that we are awakened.

Suffering is born in the gap where presence has been excluded. The complexity of the present time seems to demand an ennobling of our brains if we are going to survive. Yes, it is possible to shatter the things that can eliminate us, but not without coherence on our side.

The planet is bursting with ultrasonic energy. This life is nothing short of a maturing harmonizing of magical serenity. Hope is the driver of complexity.

The goal of pulses is to plant the seeds of gratitude rather than stagnation. To follow the quest is to become one with it. Consciousness consists of electromagnetic resonance of quantum energy. “Quantum” means an evolving of the sublime.

Throughout history, humans have been interacting with the stratosphere via bio-electricity.

Have you found your myth? Wanderer, look within and empower yourself. Although you may not realize it, you are magical.

It is a sign of things to come. The quantum shift of life-force is now happening worldwide. We must learn how to lead karmic lives in the face of selfishness.

Wow!  I seriously might just generate a few dozen of these, post them into an eBook, along with a stock photo of a wise looking dude with an awesome beard.

Image result for wise man with beard
beardpictures.com/portfolio/old-wise-indian-man-with-beard

I might even use some of my own words, but I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that it would sell a few copies per month.  Probably more than the 600-page book that I spent six years writing.

I did like six things that Gawain wrote in this book, so assuming that you do not wish to obtain and read this new-age motivational book geared towards women, here are some points that apply to those of us with penises, as well.

Ideas Are Like Blueprints

Image result for blueprints
Source: ootboxford.bandcamp.com/album/blueprints

I rather like this concept.  Gawain writes that the idea is like a blueprint; it creates an image of the form, which then magnetizes and guides the physical energy to flow into that form, and eventually manifests itself on the physical plane.

I ask you – Gawain’s writing or the New Age Bullshit Generator?

Upon writing her words, I take it back.  The concept of ideas as blueprints is cool, but the New Age Bullshit language that she uses makes it sound very fruity.

Moving on…

Relaxation is Important

Gawain urges the reader to do creative visualization at night just before sleeping, or in the morning just after awakening, because at those times the mind and body are already deeply relaxed and receptive.

For us Middle Class Guys, not so much in the morning.  The morning is spent preparing for work and helping with the kids a bit.  Not doing yoga and reflecting on life, like the multimillionaire author on an idyllic property in California or Hawaii.

My mornings are spent shitting, shaving, bathing, sometimes helping with our daughter (son’s away at college), putting together my lunch, tending to our dog, drinking coffee and gathering things that I may need for my workday.  All in short order, since I am generally a poor sleeper and dragging myself through most weekday mornings.

For a few minutes before going to sleep, I do practice creative visualization although I have always thought of it as fantasizing.

Being, Doing and Having

Gawain writes that often people attempt to live their lives backward: trying to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so that they will be happier.

Image result for ass backwards meme

She considers this ass-backwards, urging us to first be who we really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.

Not a bad point.

Go With the Flow, Dude

Image result for go with the flow

Gawain’s popularity and success was largely due to re-wording Eastern philosophy.

She urges the reader to the way of the Tao – “going with the flow.”

Thus, you do not have to exert effort to get where you want to go; simply keep clearly in your mind where you would like to go, and then patiently and harmoniously….

Wait a second.  That is too much B.S. for me to repeat.  I am a Middle Class Guy who believes in hard work, persistence and determination, not the river of life getting me where I want to go by following the flow.  It was going with the flow that got me to where I am now.

There must be something else worthwhile in this top-selling book.

Simple Pleasures

I agree that we need to reclaim our ability to appreciate and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

She writes that many of us in the industrialized world need to cultivate a simpler, more natural lifestyle.

Considering where I live with my family, amen to that!  I am smack dab in the middle of miles upon miles of endless suburbia: subdivisions, strip malls, car dealerships, restaurants of all sorts, industrial parks, you name it.

After our basic needs are met, the experience of abundance has more to do with expressing our creative gifts in satisfying ways, and learning to give and receive in a balanced way, than it has to do with extravagant consumerism.

Something that Gawain and I agree on, and you should too.

A Mental Sanctuary

I apologize if this comes across as too New Agey again, but remember that Gawain wrote it and I am just agreeing.

She writes of the need to create a sanctuary within yourself where you can go anytime you want to.  Wherever it is, it should feel comfortable, pleasant and peaceful to you.

She goes on to describe how to use this sanctuary, but even a meat-and-potatoes Middle Class Guy like Yours Truly has used this from time to time.

The first time I recall using it was lying within a MRI tube for about a half hour.  I kept going to my happy place, only to be interrupted by the technician checking on me every time I was totally relaxed.

I have used this twice more since starting this blog.  Once, right before getting scoped up the wazoo, and another time before getting scoped up the front end.  Both situations were stressful for me, but I thought about going to my favorite place both times to help myself relax.

As the prior point on simple pleasures makes, I will not tell of the exact location of my happy place here, but it is a spot of great natural beauty that I have loved for decades.  I take great pleasure in going there, and there is no admission fee, shops, places to eat or houses nearby.

I may ask my kids to scatter my ashes there someday.

Creative Visualization Notebook

My favorite advice in this book is to start a notebook that can serve as your creative visualization notebook.

Let me state here that I have kept such notebooks for about five years now, although I never thought of the term “creative visualization” before picking up and reading this book.

In my notebooks, which I have taken to changing every year for about the past four, I jot down ideas for blog posts, list out some financial goals, track some investments, write ideas for apps, write some notes on books that I have read, and the like.

Most of the rest of this book resembles whatever would be randomly generated by the New Age Bullshit Generator.

For fun, here is an excerpt of another one:

Where there is delusion, consciousness cannot thrive. You may be ruled by discontinuity without realizing it. Do not let it eradicate the truth of your path. Ego is born in the gap where consciousness has been excluded.

It can be difficult to know where to begin.

The dreamscape is calling to you via supercharged waveforms. Can you hear it? Entity, look within and synergize yourself. Have you found your vision quest?

Without gratitude, one cannot heal. Yes, it is possible to erase the things that can obliterate us, but not without karma on our side. You must take a stand against yearning.

I seriously think that I should write a New Age book comprised of these.  It might even rival Ms. Gawain’s book, but I could never make as much as she did by being one of the first BSers to cash in on this stuff.

Good for her!

A Peek Into TJ’s Diary

I read someone else’s diary.

Not my daughter’s or wife’s.  Not some relative’s or friend’s, but Tim Johnston’s Diary Of A Job Search

Image result for diary of a job search tim johnston

Although I was not, technically, doing a job search in the same sense that Johnston was during the writing of this book, i figured that I fit the “fed up” category at the time, and what Middle Class Guy couldn’t use some tips for getting a better job?

Although I am hitting my twelve-year anniversary at my job this month, and have nine long years to go either at my current place of work or another Illinois municipal government whose employees contribute to IMRF, I still hope to get a better job at some point.

By better, I primarily mean a better job title with more of a say in what transpires in a town with the accompanying pay raise.

Johnston detailed a competitive job market that had changed significantly since his last job search.  Published fourteen years ago in 2003, he referenced the dot-com bubble that had just popped, not knowing that a far worse Recession was about five years away at the time.The book is interesting in many ways, with timeless advice whether written in 2003 or read in 2017 or beyond.

I will share a few key points, all of which are good to keep in mind when you are searching for a job, whether you are unemployed or have been steadily employed for twenty-four straight years since graduation from college.

It’s All About the Money

Johnston writes about how money is a touchy subject for jobless professionals.

No kidding!

This month alone, our suburban middle class lifestyle is costing us around $10,000, which is fairly ordinary for us these days.  Had you told me that we would be sending that much money out of our checking account fifteen or even ten years ago, I would have thought you nuts.

My biggest worry about getting laid off is obviously the money.  My wife works part-time during the school year and earns somewhere between $3,000 and $4,000 per year.

I make over $100,000, which obviously pays the bills and keeps our family in the middle class lifestyle that we have become accustomed to.

Johnston writes that finances are among the top worries after a job loss. Fears that normally remain in check can run amok – can you pay your bills?  How will you make ends meet?

Image result for making ends meet
Source: organisedcastle.wordpress.com

Even level-headed guys like me find it difficult to think clearly about their financial situations after they’ve lost a job.

He writes that financial issues are a source of conflicts in many families, and these problems are likely to intensify if you become unemployed.  When emotions are running high, it can be tough to establish new rules for spending.

As much as I try to keep our family’s spending in check, I cannot even fathom what it would be like without my steady paycheck.

Zero Feedback

Johnston writes about not receiving any feedback at all.  Not even a “thank you for applying” or “we received your application” note.

He notes that it is unlikely that you will hear back from an interviewer.  As layoffs continue and everyone is expected to accomplish more with less, human resource managers do not have the time to follow-up with applicants.

They are not rewarded for such acts of kindness, only for bringing in more candidates for interviews.

Personally, I have applied for many jobs in the past where I never even received a rejection letter.  I usually did receive a rejection letter for positions that I did apply and interview for.  At one point, I kept dozens of them for motivation before realizing that such a large amount of documentation of rejection brought me down more than it motivated me.

At least there was some feedback.

The Salary Issue

This book documents an applicant who was hit with the salary history/requirement question fifteen seconds into a call from a human resource person at a defense contractor.

This happened to me once, about two years ago, at the last position that I applied and interviewed for.

Interestingly enough, I was ultimately offered this “better” position, but elected not to take it due to quality of life issues.  Namely, I would have had to drive for an extra hour every day (half hour more each way) as well as work an extra hour every day (half hour earlier and half hour later).

Although I sometimes wonder what that job may have been like, I feel like I made the right decision,

When the young woman human resource director called me one evening when I was in the park walking my dog, she brought up the salary question.

I had just inched up to about $100,000 even at my current job.  While filling out the application for that particular job, which had a listed salary of $80,000 to $110,000 depending on qualifications, there was a space for “expected salary.”

Of course, I wrote $110,000.

The young lady whom I could immediately tell had far less experience negotiating than I had announced that I should not expect to be paid $110,000.

“Okay…” I said, rather than questioning why.  The interview that we were scheduling would include the City Manager, and I knew that if they really wanted to hire me, I would demand the $110 K and not take the job otherwise.

“There are other candidates who make more than you do now,” she explained, as if that would make me accept less of a salary.

Rather than tell her the truth, that I don’t give a Flying Fuck how much more the other candidates make, I went ahead and scheduled the interview.

As I suspected, the young HR rep was the not the most important person in the four-person interview.

They liked me a lot, invited me back, and then liked me even more.  I had then and I still have the experience, knowledge and people skills to be the Economic Development Director of a small to mid-sized city.

When the young HR woman called to say that I was one out of two final candidates whom the Mayor and one of the Alderman wanted to meet with, I made the painful call of withdrawing myself for consideration.

When asked why, I told her that I loved the town, liked the people who I had interviewed with, but it was just too far for me.  Although Google Maps and Mapquest had both ballparked my commute at about 48 minutes, in actuality it had been over an hour each way each of the four trips that I had made.

Plus, their City hall hours were 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., rather than the 8:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. that I have become accustomed to.

Overall, every work day would have been two hours longer than the one I have now.

What’s my point?

If someone presses you right away on the phone about salary requirements, do your best not to negotiate against yourself.  I would have told the young HR woman just that, that I am not in the habit of selling myself short.  However, you can bet that if I had been unemployed at the time, I would have jumped at the minimum salary for that position, around $80,000.

Two Processes

Johnston writes about the two processes that he used to land another job.

There was a superficial, mechanical one – the Internet searches, sending out resumes, phone calls, working with recruiters and going on interviews.

The second process was a deeper, spiritual process which he felt was the real search – the process of self-discovery, transformation and reinvention.

I will not list out the dozens of stories that led him to this conclusion, but it included a massive amount of networking, soul-searching and support from his family, including a stint living with the in-laws.

Johnston writes “my own transformation required that I circle the globe of self-identity, only to return to a spot not far from where I’d started.”

Ultimately, he landed a position as the chief information officer of a $100 million human-services organization.

Bags of Aches and Pains

Johnston writes that once he was employed once again, he was amazed to rediscover how many people are either indifferent about their jobs or actually dislike them.

They have “allowed themselves to be reduced to bags of minor aches, pains and complaints.”

When I find myself hating my job next week, next month, next year and years from now, I am going to remind myself not to be that bag of aches and pains.

Employed or not, life is hard.  But us employed Middle Class Guys need to remind ourselves every so often to be grateful to be remain gainfully employed.

Don’t Let Them Smell Desperation

I go to a local library during my lunch hour a lot.  A few times per week for over the past ten years.

There’s a guy who is there every single f-ing day.  He’s about my age but looks older.  He showed up at the library about two years ago and has not left.

I hear him on the phone a lot trying to arrange for a job interview or following up with places where he applied, giving his name and asking if they have had a chance to review his resume.

I admire his tenacity, yet he looks and sounds desperate.  He does not sound like a confident potential employee when he calls despite his best effort.

I have not spoken with this guy once.  He acts as if he is a world unto himself, and I have witnessed both his appearance and demeanor diminish over the past two years.

I am not being judgmental; I feel sorry for the guy.  I can see him becoming more and more desperate as I seek out my favorite reading area during the lunch hours when I do not walk.

Johnston writes of this, never letting a potential employer smell your desperation.  Be comfortable with where and who you are, and people will be drawn to you, instead of repelled by you.

Image result for don't smell desperate

Perhaps I should hand Johnston’s book to this guy, but I am afraid that he would hit me in the face with it and curse me out instead of thanking me and reading it.

Feed and Water Your Network

This is something that I have been doing for a few years, long before reading Johnston’s or anybody else’s book.

As an economic developer in a busy developing area, I work and network with a wide variety of players including industrialists, entrepreneurs, real estate developers, restaurateurs, about a gazillion brokers, realtors, appraisers, attorneys, bankers, officials of other government entities, consultants, contractors, marketing people and more.

I treat each and every one of them as if they might make a decision in the future about whether or not to provide a reference for me or even to hire me.

Johnston writes that networking isn’t vulgar, and that now that he is employed again, he is committed to the careful feeding and watering of his network.

He will try to connect more with others during good times and support others who are going through hard times so he, himself, will have more folks to lean on when he inevitably hits another rough patch.

In Conclusion…

Even though I have been gainfully employed for twenty-four straight years as of this month, I still occasionally read books about job hunting.

I still aspire for a better job, but admit that the likelihood diminishes with each passing year.

What does not diminish, but grows is the possibility of my becoming successful with my writing as a supplement and lead-in to my post-local Illinois government career.

I realize that change is the only constant that you can count on in life and in business.  As a middle aged guy who has been around the block a few times, if you have not adopted this mindset by now, you probably will not be very valuable or remain long at your next employer.

Think of yourself as a company of one.  As Ed Slott wrote in Stay Rich For Life!, we are in a YOYO economy as in “You’re On Your Own.”

Finally, Johnston quotes management guru Tom Peters, who gives this scary advice: “Assume that the dreaded post-reengineering pink slip lands on your desk at 5 P.M. today, and then take a cold, cruel future employer’s look at the state of your resume now.”

Image result for pink slip
Source: timelesshrsolutions.com

Even though I am not applying for any positions at the time being, I think that I’ll begin dusting off my resume very soon.

 

 

Trying to Stay Out of My Own Way

Image result for i'm in my own way
Source:: cassieleung.com

Sometimes you realize that the main person standing in between you and a more successful you is…you.

I am a Middle Class Guy and have been one since I was born around Thanksgiving back in 1970.  I have embraced the Midwest work ethic into my middle age, hoping to scratch ahead some day but mostly feeling like I am running in place.

I am but one in a multitude of people with my fair share of inherent talents who is nonetheless plagued by insecurities about myself.  I know that I am not the only one constantly striving to prove myself to others, and a psychologist would probably tell me that part of that is in compensation for my lifelong reservations about myself.

This will end up being another soul-searching post in my effort with you to be the best person that we believe ourselves to be.  Perhaps the self that you and I believe ourselves to be the real you and me is not.

Yes, I have been gainfully employed for twenty-four years as of this month, I will have been married for twenty-one years as of next month, and my wife and I have two fine children.

We own a tract house in the suburbs in need of major repairs and three junker cars, one of which was repaired last month in order to pass Illinois emissions and another car that is no longer operable and soon to be donated or sold for parts.

I am not saying that things are terrible for me and my family; I am just saying that they are not everything that I thought it would be at this point in our lives and I know that things could and should be better.

In Comparison

As an economic development professional, I am constantly meeting with business owners, developers and many others affiliated with that field.

When I meet with a successful entrepreneurial business owner younger than myself, like I did earlier today, I cannot help but compare where I am at in life with where I think I should be.

True, I have worked with numerous business owners who have lost their shirts, become foreclosed on, suffered divorces and family strife due to failed businesses, but I choose not to compare myself with them.

Instead, I select people with whom I compare unfavorably.  I always choose only those with characteristics I envy and those who seem to be what I am  not – successful, wealthy, handsome and without the weight of the world, or at least the community that they work for, on their shoulders.

Yet even at the ripe old age of forty-six, I still want to prove my worth by becoming successful.

Reading many books about changing my attitude, and perhaps helping you change yours, for the better is my first step in this direction.

My Mid-Life Crisis

Change, learning, growth and self-discovery are all labels for a single process.

This process requires acting and being seen as someone different than you have ever been – the “old you” must be encouraged to step down and allow the “new you” to take its place.

Image result for get out of your own way tom rusk

In his 1996 book Get Out of Your Own Way! by Tom Rusk, M.D., the author writes that the phrase “identity crisis” usually has a negative connotation, but the truth is these crises are essential for growth.

identity crises occur naturally in adolescence and in other normal transition times like mid-life.

I am dealing with my own midlife crisis, if you want to call it that, by reading many self-improvement books and doing my best to embrace at least something from each of them.

As my readers know, I read for several hours every day and feel like I have been learning quite a bit, and it has been helping me deal with stressful situations in my personal and work life.

As I wrote in one of my first posts, starting a blog is a much better way of dealing with an “identity crisis” or “change” or “self-discovery” than purchasing a Corvette or having an affair.

Embarrassment

Dr. Rusk writes about one of his patients whose work had not been giving him any real satisfaction for quite some time.

Put me squarely in that box.  I am lucky to have two or three satisfying work days per year.  I need the paycheck, so I keep working hard, but satisfaction at work is highly elusive.

Rusk’s patient was not challenging himself and thus felt no self-respect. Once he began to sort out his feeling, he was ashamed and embarrassed about the lackluster effort he had been putting forth.

This was a good book for me to re-read recently, because it provided a possible reason why I have not been feeling any satisfaction at work for quite some time,

Rusk writes that the next time you feel ashamed, ask yourself if you’re ashamed about your efforts or the result of your efforts.

If you are ashamed of your efforts, then your embarrassment is a valuable message.  It means that you should try harder.  If you have done your best and still fall short of your expectations, then it is time to either revise those expectations or find a better way to do what you are trying to do.

Change Causes Discomfort

We are currently going through rapid change at my place of work.

Although I try hard to be an adaptable Middle Class Guy, changing the way you do things after twelve years of being told to do things a certain way is very difficult.  I can only imagine what it must be like for my colleagues who have been there for twenty years or more.

In some ways things are improving, but in others changes are being made for the sake of change.

Rusk writes that to change, you must be willing to try new attitudes and actions more likely to satisfy your needs and give you self-respect despite your fears.

Discomfort is not necessarily a bad thing.  Rusk asks if you feel discomfort because you are acting in ways that you feel are wrong (like I often feel these days) or because you are acting in new ways that are better but unfamiliar.

Things that make you go hmmm…

Image result for things that make you go hmmm
Source: gracepointvegas.com/things-that-make-you-go-hmmm

Success is Not Fulfillment

Success can give you a sense of accomplishment and confidence in a particular ability.  Financial success allows you freedom – the money and time to use as you please.

This is not a blog for those who have already achieved such great success and wealth from business that it is now time to ponder and question the greater meaning of your life.

That post may come years from now if and when I actually achieve financial success.

Success is a necessary ingredient for fulfillment in work, and fulfillment in work is necessary for an overall sense of well-being for Middle Class Guys like you and me.

Dr. Rusk writes that Success is Not Fulfillment.  Success alone is never enough.  Many people are successful, but far fewer feel fulfilled.

Rusk’s Recipe

Not just pointing out how painful change can be and how success does not equal fulfillment, Dr. Rusk does provide his recipe for well-being near the end of Get Out of Your Own Way!

This will be delved into deeper in a future post.  I realize that I have written that phrase dozens of times, but I actually do plan on going back at some point to take stock of all the future post topics that I have alluded to.

The five ingredients of Rusk’s Recipe are (1) Fulfillment in your endeavors; (2) Intimacy in relationships; (3) Personal growth; (4) Rest; and (5) Recreation.

Mix those five ingredients together and Yours Truly Middle Class Guy also believes that you and I could actually attain a sense of well-being.

Savage Nudity

Middle Class Guy Disclaimer: I will read something whether it’s written by someone left of Bernie Sanders, someone right of the President or somewhere in between.  What I want is to learn something from people who I talk to and whose works I read.    The good news is, once you have discovered this blog post or future eBook, you do not have to read all the things that I did, yet you can learn some of the most important points from a wide variety of people.  Disclaimer over.

For years, I picked up our son after jazz band rehearsals that ended at 9:00 p.m. on Monday nights.  This being the northwest burbs of Chicago and the band meeting throughout the school year, this included a lot of cold, dark nights waiting in my car behind the back of the high school where he graduated from last June, and where our daughter will be enrolling this August.

Not having had a working CD player in either of my two clunkers for years, and both cars far older than XM or satellite radio, I would flip stations for anywhere from the fifteen minutes to a half hour that I would end up waiting behind the school on all those long Monday nights, sometimes going straight there after one of my night meetings after a twelve-hour workday.

That is how it came about that I ended up listening to Savage Nation with Michael Savage quite a bit on WLS AM 890 in the Chicago radio market.

                  Savage Nation with Michael Savage

I would hear him bashing Obama for the years that I was picking up my son, and it would pique my interest enough to listen to the guy for a while.
He also rails against other things that conservatives rant about like immigrants, the welfare system, healthcare policy and the like.

When the show goes to break, a very gruff voice loudly says “Savage!” and then it usually goes to a commercial where Michael Savage, himself, would be shilling investing in gold through Swiss America, something that I like but would not buy because this schmuck gets paid to promote it.

So after listening to this guy a few dozen times totaling several hours, I could not pass up picking up his 2008 book, Psychological Nudity, when I saw it on sale for a few bucks at a used bookstore last year.

The copy that I purchased happens to be a first printing of the first edition, and was signed by Savage.  That, and a listing on eBay, will get you about five bucks.  Instead, I will add it to my impressive growing pile of books to donate this summer.

Image result for michael savage psychological nudity

Despite not buying into all of Savage’s rhetoric, I reread this book over the past few days and thoroughly enjoyed his writing and many of his stories.

I will share a few with you.

Great First Line

Savage captured my attention right away: “Each day is an adventure into the unknown.  There are many ‘stories’ in everyday occurrences: every day brings the opportunity for joy, compassion, redemption.  By listening, we can learn to hear again.  By observing, we can learn to see again.  By conversing, we can learn to speak again.”

Truth be told, that opening thought would have justified the three dollar purchase price to me.

First Mortgage

Having written this book in the throes of the subprime mortgage crisis, Savage writes about his own philosophy on the topic, specifically the huge mistake that I agree was made in giving mortgage loans without requiring documentation or requiring creditworthiness to anybody who could sign their name, including illegal aliens and unqualified minorities.

Savage writes of his father’s first mortgage on a house that he purchased for $14,500 in Queens, New York, back in 1955.  His father put down 20 or 25 percent, then proceeded to work his ass off and pay off the house.

Much like the house where my mother still lives.  My parents purchased it for about $35,000, my mother recalls, in 1974 before I turned four years old.  That was even before my sister (1975) brother (1977) were born.

I was going to write about it in an upcoming post, but the short of it is that they put twenty percent down, took out a twenty year mortgage, and paid it off early, at the end of 1990.  End of story, as Savage writes.

If you did not have adequate income, credit and a good down payment, you were not going to get the mortgage loan in 1955 or 1973 or even 1998, when my wife and I purchased our first non-rental home, an 800 square foot condominium.

You Don’t Know What Tomorrow Will Bring

Savage writes that everyone thinks they’re going to live to a ripe old age. You’ll get a little ill – not totally ill, not horribly ill with cancer or a heart attack, nothing like that.

You’ll be surrounded by loved ones who visit you at a resort somewhere or a retirement community.  You’ll die in your sleep at 99 years old with your loved ones there to comfort you.

Who you kidding?!

Savage writes the truth – that one out of a million go that way, but it is not happening to you.  More likely, you and I will suffer a horrendous, slow death, either from cancer or some other debilitating disease, maybe Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or some combination thereof.

You’ll be left alone or beaten or robbed by some orderly who is just a wayward kid right now or perhaps someone in prison or on probation who will get hired at the nursing home for little more than minimum wage.

Sounds rough?  It is, but I have been with more than one relative who went out that way.  I could list them, but five of my relatives come to mind who suffered this fate.

As Savage writes, the grim reaper comes around and he gets closer and closer.

This story is not just to make you depressed, but to ask yourself what it is that you want to do with the rest of your life.

Working the System

This would be one of the least favorite stories for liberals, but Savage wrote about when he started out as a social worker in New York right out of college.

He had no furniture in his own apartment and was only making about $5,500 per year, when he was directed to cut a check to a welfare recipient couple for nearly that same amount so that they could furnish their apartment that they were also receiving vouchers for.

I would like to say that type of working the system does not happen anymore and that all welfare recipients are truly deserving, but I know that not to be true.

I, myself, worked with hundreds of welfare recipients for eight years as a probation officer and I can vouch that, yes, there is a fairly sizable portion of recipients who are completely disinclined and unmotivated to work for a living as long as welfare programs continue paying them not to.

He writes in a later story that he achieved with hard work, dedication, sweat, tears and pain.  He does not now, nor has he ever, expected someone to hand him an entitlement, especially not the government.

Like my father used to tell me, fight and work for what you want in life. Nobody is going to hand anything to you.

He Had His Share

Savage tells a story about an undertaker in his neighborhood growing up.

While others bragged about women where he grew up, as guys do everywhere, the undertaker simply said “I had my share” when asked.

The story is worth repeating because Savage claims that it was the most dignified thing a man ever said to him.

Middle aged guys like me do not really talk about that with other middle aged guys.  Men who I associate with have mostly all been married for several decades, and it just is not that exciting to hear about how they had sex with their wives.  I do not really want to hear it, anyway.

Plenty of that kind of talk went on while I was growing up, ever since junior high.  It reached its peak in my college years, and tailed off as years went by while I was working.

Separate Bedrooms

I do not want to share every personal detail, but sometimes my wife and I are not compatible sleeping partners anymore.

I will not say why with her, but for me it is fidgeting constantly while I sleep and getting up at least once per night to empty my bladder due to my enlarged prostate.  Many times twice.

Savage makes it somewhat humorous by writing that it’s only poor couples who sleep in the same bed their whole lives, generally.  “Not everybody, don’t get me wrong” he writes.  “But generally it’s a mark of poverty to have to share a bed with someone your whole life.”

He writes that you can still get together when you want, but you have two different lives, two different minds.  Why do you have to share every second in the bedroom?

You Are the Art Lover

Savage writes of visiting an art exhibit that was comprised of a rich woman’s clothes, including a collection of her shoes and a dress in a showcase.

For a woman’s shoes to be exhibited next to paintings by Masters like Hopper and Church was very upsetting to him.  He voiced his outrage while there.  The guard agreed with him, as would I.

The interesting point that he made is that he is not an art expert by any means, but then, there are no art experts.  Ultimately, you and I are the best judges of whether a piece of art is really a piece of art.

It is the average Middle Class Guy or Gal like you or me.  It is not an academic who judges the worthiness of art any more than they should judge the worthiness of a baseball player.

Rather Pay for Care than a Car

In “No Assisted Living,” Savage writes about exactly the way I feel.  The last place that I want to end up is in one of those shitty assisted living facilities.

It costs an arm and a leg and you get treated in a subhuman manner by low-paid marginal employees who couldn’t give a shit.  Most of them would rather see you die if they could get an extra twenty bucks.

Too cynical?  I have visited five people in such facilities, and it was the rare employee who could give a damn.  The facility where both of my grandfathers and my father ended up costed over $10,000 per month and was supposed to be “good.”

From having spent hundreds of hours at that so-called “good” facility, I would not even want to see what a “not good” one would look like.

Savage does not like men who, at 50, say “Well, at my age” or “I’ve already got one foot in the grave.”

Image result for one foot in the grave
Source: accessibleaction.com/one-foot-in-the-grave

I do not say that, but sometimes feel like it.

Why think that way?  You’re just going to speed up your own aging and die young if you think that way, he writes.

He vows never to go into assisted living.  He wants to stay in his house, like both of my grandfathers did until near the very end.

Like me, Savage does not want to be around a hospital.  The other people smell like piss and mothballs.

Get around-the-clock care if you can.  Easy for him to say, he has far transcended the Middle Class and doubtlessly has millions stashed away in numerous accounts.

I love the last lines in this story: “Get around-the-clock care if you can. I’ll make sure that I put it away for that.  Another car?  I’d rather pay for care.”

Adieu Savage

I can’t say that I ever plan on listening to Savage Nation again or reading another one of his books.

I despise drug dealers more than most people, but it is hard for me to like a guy who supports Philippine Dictator Rodrigo Duterte’s unscrupulous extrajudicial killing of all drug dealers and users, without any due process, as recently as last week per this transcript provided by Media Matters:

SAVAGE: Oh yeah, the libs don’t like that at all. They’re calling him a fascist. See, liberals like drug, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll. The more, the better. The more dead children, the better. The more STDs, the better. The more cross-minded people there are the better. The more twisted, the better. The sicker the people are, the better. The more disease, the better. That’s because of lawyers and the ACLU, in my estimation. Denise, that’s a sad story, but you made your case.

What is the argument against the death penalty for drug dealers? Tell me the argument against it. I don’t know the argument against it. There must be one. There must be a liberal lawyer out there who defends drug dealers who can help us with it. What would be the argument against that? [Westwood One, The Savage Nation, 4/27/17]

Honestly, I would not have a problem for long prison sentences for drug dealers, and I do not mean parole after two years of a ten year sentence.  I mean doing the ten years!  But Savage takes it too far when he supports a guy who allows the indiscriminate killing of drug users without any due process at all.

Savage was someone who I listened to when I got caught up in his ranting late on Monday nights while waiting for my son to emerge from jazz rehearsals, and I found his book amusing and entertaining.

Other than that,

Eutemia I Regular