Allowance Day

Image result for allowance day
Source: Sheknows.com

Allowance Every Saturday.  

Growing up, my father gave me and my younger siblings allowance every Saturday morning.  We received different amounts based on our age, and it increased over the years until our college years when money was still given to us but was not called “allowance.”  It became “spending money.”

I still remember when I made the huge leap to ten bucks per week some time during my high school years, but I cannot recall exactly when and, besides, that was a lot more money in the late 80’s than it is now.  Also, I used my own money to pay City bus fare sometimes and to use the pay phones at my high school to call my parents for a ride home after track and cross-country practice when someone else could not give me a ride or when I was too tired and cold to ride the City bus.

As a middle aged Middle Class Guy, I continue the tradition by paying each of my two children an allowance every Saturday, too.  I do not technically pay my son an allowance, but do hand him multiples of twenty dollar bills most Sunday evenings as I drop him off at college.

I say multiples because I did not give him any on several Sundays, a big fat zero, I gave him a lone twenty spot several times including last Sunday, I am going to hand him five twenties this coming Sunday night, and sometimes I give him more depending on what he has coming the following school week.

He eats nearly every meal at the food service on his campus and he does not drink alcohol or smoke weed (most of the others in his dorm do both) like I did many college freshman nights, so he does not spend much money besides on the basics.  You can’t when you only have forty or fifty in cash and no checks or debit or credit card.  As a matter of fact, last week I ordered him to leave the campus during the week to get a bite to eat in the nice downtown for the City where he goes to school.

Our daughter is thirteen and I technically pay her a $6.50 weekly allowance, or fifty cents per year of her age.  Most weeks, I give her a ten and ask her to give me three back.  I also skip a lot of weeks due to my forgetfulness or my, her or our family’s busyness, so I pay her fourteen or sometimes fifteen every other week.

My reasoning for the allowance amount is that I read an article about it long, long ago, perhaps fifteen years ago in Money magazine.  Like all books, articles and blog posts about paying your children allowance, the article specified that there was no one right amount and that different families in different circumstances viewed and used an allowance in different ways.

The article suggested that you pay your children fifty cents per year of their age until age ten, when you could or should raise it to one dollar per year.  $10 when they are ten years old, $11 when they reach eleven and so on and so forth.  I took the advice and started giving my four year old son two dollars per week, which he saved to purchase wooden Brio and Thomas the Tank Engine trains.

In the ensuing years, he saved his allowance for the purchase of dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes and then it was for the purchase of rocks and minerals and then many many (I have to stress many) Lego sets.

Cumulatively, between splitting the cost with our son between our money and his, saved by allowance and family gifts and small-paying “extra” jobs that we gave him, like gathering sticks in the back yard, we spent thousands and I do mean thousands of dollars on wooden trains and Legos.

Meanwhile, our now 13-year-old daughter discovered that she loved purchasing stickers and plastic ponies at Michaels.  At the age of three or so, when our son was about eight, I started giving her an allowance, too.

On a typical Saturday morning five years ago, when our son was thirteen and our daughter was eight, I would pay him $6.50 (sometimes $7 if I could not find two quarters or if he did not have two quarters in change) and our daughter four singles.

This would often take me holding on to singles throughout the week as I got change for coffee in the morning or sandwiches for lunch.  If I had to seek reimbursement from our petty cash fund at work, I would always request singles, telling the accounting manager that the singles were great, since I could use them to pay my kids’ allowance.

By saying this over the years, it came to be known that I paid (and still do with our daughter) my children an allowance so, ironically, I had two different people in my organization’s Finance Department ask me for advice on how much to pay their own children for allowance.

I told them how much I paid them and why, and even that the article suggested upping the amount to one dollar per year of age at ten, which I never did. Thus, what I paid my own two children resulted in what four more children, two each for two colleagues’ children, received each Saturday.

What Others Say

I have broached the subject of allowance a very limited amount of times with family friends and a few neighbors.  Thus, what I report on their comments does not nearly constitute a scientific report.

Neighbors of ours who we are just somewhat friendly with, the mother of Polish descent and the father one of the working class white men who our recently-elected President would appeal to, discussed allowance with us once.  They have three children and the discussion arose when their three children were out doing yard work one day and we were chatting.  I mentioned that our son was going to do some work for us, too, to have him qualify for a full allowance that week.

The mother proceeded to tell me a popular notion among many people, which was that they did not pay their children allowance, that they were expected to help around the house without thoughts of compensation, and that they would give them the money that they needed anyway.  While I do respect all three notions, I like to use allowance to instill the notion of saving up for something rather than instant gratification.

I hope that this rubs off on them.  Despite our very middle class income and existence, we still prefer to purchase items in cash if we can rather than on credit, so we want to pass along that value to our children.

Many a time one of them wanted a new $50 video game.  I would ask, “How much do you have saved?”

“I think thirty dollars,” my son might have said about eight years ago.

“Well, if you need twenty more dollars, I will pay the tax, but you have to save up for four more weeks.”

After some hemming and hawing, we would return home without the latest video game, but return four weeks later with fifty dollars cash in hand at Target or GameStop or Toys R Us or wherever we were purchasing said game.  Same for a new Lego set or whatever.

Other friends of ours were still paying their teen-age son something like a dollar or two per week up to a few years ago.  This kid attends the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana now.  But a few years ago, saving up for something that was twenty dollars would mean that he would have to do specific paying jobs for his parents.  I kind of like this notion, although I do not employ it.

How Much, How Often, and How Come

I picked up a cheap paperback about ten years ago, and am ready to move it along after this post.  It is called Kids’ Allowances: How Much, How Often, and How Come by David McCurrach.  He is the editor of Kids’ Money and you can find an article about allowance on the site.

Image result for kids allowances how much, how often and how come

I will not regurgitate the book for you or share the ten most interesting points, but I will share that the primary determinants of the allowance amounts per a survey of parents showed that four major ways comprised 80%, while the remaining 20% were divided among seven other tacks.

Age – 28%.  The most common way is to base allowance amounts on their children’s ages.  It could be one dollar per age per week, the grade they are in or similar factors.

Behavior – 26%.  This can factor in grades, chores and behavior.  We have used this as a negative, taking away allowance for sassing off or other minor and a few major offenses.  I could count on my hands how many times we have taken allowance away.  My son did something once where he lost it for a few months, but he was reinstated and has been a model citizen since.

Arbitrary – 14%.  Some parents do not base it on anything, just the amount that they feel is appropriate.  I am soon to shift to this, planning on raising our daughter’s allowance to $10 this June when she turns fourteen.  This is partly because I have read more sources suggest one dollar per year of age than the fifty cents that I have used for years, but I am not ready to start giving her fourteen dollars every week (yet).

Needs – 11%.  I do have one colleague who could be argued to be upper class, who gave each of her kids upwards of a hundred bucks each per week growing up.  They are both in college now.  However, she mentioned that they would purchase their own clothes and provide for their own lunches, whether they would buy them or make them.

There is something to be said for this method.  Both my colleague and her husband worked their own ways through both undergraduate and graduate school, and their children are doing much the same now.  Things that make you go “Hmm.”

Other – 20%.  Other factors were listed as Resources, Negotiation, Other Parents, Wrong, Miscellaneous and Reasonableness.

How Often  

Easy: once per week.  Yes, I did receive advances on rare occasions, and I have also granted one-week advances when we were in stores and an item that one of our children wanted to buy was just a few bucks beyond what they had.

In general, I try to remember to pay out allowance every week, just like my father did.  The funny thing is, my children have never really asked for it if I forget.  Sometimes, we would both forget for several weeks.  I try to pay it out every week, so I do not have to go back and calculate how many allowances I “owe.”  I truly believe it important for everyone to have their own money, so my children are the last people that I want to shortchange.

How Come

I am not going to reinvent the wheel here.  There are lots of reasons and many articles on the topic, but here are five good reasons from an article The Big Five, per an article on Moneyning.com:

Teach the Concept of Budgeting

An allowance is one of the best tools we have for teaching our kids the concept of budgeting. It’s not the only tool, of course. You can go into a store and give them a budget for that store, and it will work too. I often do that. But a regular, monthly allowance works nicely because it consistently reinforces the idea that they have a budget, and they need to find a way to fit their monthly purchases into that budget, because if they spend it all on the first day of the month, they would need to wait an entire month until they have money again.

Avoid Unnecessary Purchases

This is one of my favorite reasons for giving an allowance. Now that they get an allowance, we still buy their necessities (food of course, basic clothing and shoes, school supplies and books) but they need to pay for the extras. What are extras? Extras include Nintendo games, a Webkinz membership, fashion accessories, candy, and any other purchase which is not a necessity.

The beauty of the allowance system is, that when it comes out of their own pockets, the children are much more selective about their purchases. When it’s our money, they want to buy everything in sight, but when it comes out of their own allowance, they think twice before buying an item.

Teach Them To Save Towards a Bigger Goal
My kids receive $10 per month each, in addition to birthday and holiday gifts. They may also earn extra money when they do extra chores beyond their daily chores. Since we buy the basics, this gives them a nice amount of cash, especially if they manage to save. In fact, one of the best things about an allowance is that it enables kids to see very clearly that if they delay gratification for a while, those $10 will grow to $30, and combined with cash gifts they could find themselves being able to afford VERY nice items – whether clothing, accessories for their room or computer games.
Image result for kid saving money
Source: http://thenextfamily.com
Teach Them Responsibility

Now that the children have their own money, they learn responsible behavior and taking responsibility for one’s actions. For example, one of my kids used to always forget her jacket at school. When she was younger, there wasn’t much I could do except buying her new jackets. Last year, I told her that she may lose a jacket ONCE and we will buy her a new jacket, after all we all make mistakes, but if she loses it more than once, she would have to participate in the purchase of a new jacket.

She hasn’t lost a jacket since.

Give them Independence

Kids have so little independence these days. An allowance is a wonderful way to give them complete control over something and enable them to make their own decisions. I try very hard not to interfere with my kids’ decisions on what to do with their allowance. As long as they’re not buying something dangerous or inappropriate for a child, they can do whatever they want with their allowance. They love this independence and they absolutely do not abuse it – on the contrary, they are very responsible with their money and they spend it carefully and wisely.

There are other reasons, of course, but I like those five.  It teaches them to save, it teaches something about budgeting and helps them learn the value of a dollar, which changes a lot over the years.  When my son described a $200 Lego set (which would now be worth thousands if still in the box!) as not too expensive about seven years ago at the age of eleven, it was surprising to me.

I only made one purchase of that magnitude in my entire childhood, and that was a Red Line BMX bike that I saved for several years for by shoveling three or four neighbors’ sidewalks every time that it snowed.  It just doesn’t go as far as it used to in the seventies and eighties.  Just like the seven bucks that I will pay my daughter today will seem like a mere pittance twenty-five years from now.

Oh well.  Enough writing for today – time to pay my daughter her allowance.  I do not know who will be happier about her raise to ten bucks a week this June, her or me.

Maybe I will keep it at seven, after all, but will make sure to set aside an extra fiver for her to do little paying jobs for us around the house and yard.  We shall see, but I do believe that it is important to continue paying allowance, just like my Dear Old Dad paid me many moons ago.

 

 

From Abundance to Zeppoles: My Middle Class Week

Greetings from your humble Middle Class Guy.

It’s like a Friday to me this Thursday because I am taking off tomorrow. My son is home on spring break and I wanted to spend at least an extra hour or two with him, so I am taking tomorrow, March 24th, 2017 off.  My second “vacation day” of the year, with two more scheduled next Thursday and Friday during my daughter’s spring break.  One of my Goals or Resolutions is to take twenty vacation days this year, something that I have never done since I started the grind of my career in 1993, twenty-four years ago this spring.

I love letters, words and alliteration, and never having known the word or eaten a Zeppole before this week, and reading abundance by by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler most of this week, I could not help but think of my week as A to Z.  I do not want to bother thinking of every letter, so here goes the abbreviated version:

Abundance  

Image result for abundance book

I have not shared what I have learned from a book for a while, but I have continued reading like mad.  As a matter of fact, since finishing Len Deighton’s Spy Hook about a week ago, I have been plowing through three or four books simultaneously.

I purchased and have been reading abundance by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler and will finish it over this weekend, list it on eBay, and then post about it hopefully before somebody buys it.  I find this book interesting and look forward to sharing some things about it.

Bang Bang at Bonefish

I have referenced Bonefish Grill a few times in the past.  I typically take my wife there a few times per year on dates and take the kids with us a few times, too.  It may be our favorite sit-down restaurant considering we go to quick casual and do take-out at least eighteen times per month, like the average American.

For years, Bonefish Grill offered their signature Bang Bang shrimp for $5 each Wednesday and just kicked it up to $6.  I made a reservation and took the four of us out last night.  Of course, we ordered a few more things so the $24 plus drinks that I figured we would spend turned into $52 plus a $10 tip.  Still not bad for four people at Bonefish Grill, but twice as much as we would typically spend at Panera, Jersey Mike’s, Panda Express, Noodles & Company or one of our other usual neighborhood places.

I got upsold to the dinner package including fries and mac & cheese in addition to the Bang Bang shrimp.

Comcast

Personally, I hate Comcast.  I could and should write a long post why, but suffice it to say that I have been a customer for many years despite my hate of that company.

At work, I recently had a lunch meeting with two local Comcast advertising representatives and just signed a contract yesterday to run ads for the first three weeks of April in two local cable areas to the tune of about $6,500.  The contract is in my desk and I am at home, so I do not have all of the details, but it is a 30-second ad and I will be working with the producers on a script and the shots that I want featured next week.

I have run ads quite a few times before, so I know how it works and probably will do a post about it.  Some readers may find the world of cable TV advertising at least a little interesting.

Dentist

My long procrastination and fear of going to the dentist is costing me in 2017.  Having decided to finally face the music, I went to the dentist for the fifth time this year yesterday.

Yesterday was easy peasy, just a teeth cleaning.  Boy, did they need cleaning.

Not so easy is that I just scheduled my much-needed root canal for May.  I have never had one before, so I am not too happy about it.  Adding a little insult to the injury, I have now used up $1,200 out of my $1,500 in annual benefits for my Dental PPO.  I have paid somewhat less than $1,200 out of pocket, but not by much.  The dental office manager informed me that the root canal is $1,163, so I will be paying nearly $900 out of my own pocket for the privilege of getting the root canal done.

Such is the price for my years and years of avoiding the dentist.


After not selling anything on ebay for years, I listed six books on Sunday. My wife and I spent one year selling a lot of stuff on ebay, only to find that once ebay and PayPal take their cuts, there is not much left if you sell a five dollar item.  At the end of the year, Uncle Sam takes a cut, too.  God forbid you underestimate shipping costs, like I do, and you can wind up spending too much time chasing one or two measly bucks.  But that is what I am doing now.

One thing that I am is an extremely avid buyer, reader and collector (hoarder?) of books.  I figured that I could lighten the load and perhaps make a few bucks for my efforts.

I have books piled everywhere, in most rooms, in my two vehicles including my inoperable Nissan, under my desk at work, under dressers at home.  What can I say?  I love books.

One of the eight books that I listed is leather bound and older, but I do not mind parting with it.  It already has a bid of $27 with two days to go, so I’ll be shipping at least one.  It is technically my wife’s ebay account, since she started it and also has a PayPal account.

If you have never sold anything on ebay, here is what it looks like on “My eBay Selling” page:

Monthly Selling Limits
You can sell up to 100 items or up to $5,000.00 per month, whichever comes first.
Your March selling activity
Items Amount
You have sold
$0.00
You have listed (active)
8
$53.44
You can list
92
$4,946.56
Out of 100 Out of $5,000.00
Totals
Current
Listed 8
Will sell 1
Bids 2
Amount $27.00
Sold (last 31 days)
Listed 0
Sold 0
Amount $0.00
Payments (last 31 days)
Received
$0.00
Not received
$0.00
Total sales:
$27.00
Ideal Amount of Hours Worked

I read several articles about the ideal number of hours to work over the past year.  These articles included “Is Full-Time Work Bad Four Our Brains?” by Georgina Kenyon on BBC, ‘3 days, 25 hrs the ideal work week for best performance’ on the Daily Sabah website and Working more than 39 hours a week ‘damages physical and mental health’, study finds by Dana McCauley on News.com.

The gist of these articles is that middle aged guys like Yours Truly are best served by working about twenty-five hours per week and that once you hit the typical forty-hour workweek amount, your concentration and productivity begins to tail off.  Tell me about it!

Like most Middle Class Guys, I have logged my share of fifty hour workweeks, although I have almost never worked longer than that.  I used to routinely work ten hour days at my last place of work, although being paid for forty, but I needed my job and was an appointed “at will” employee, like I am now.  With a stay-at-home wife, two young children, and mounting bills, what choice did I and do I have?  When the bosses want me to work extra hours, work them I do.

Not this week.

This week, I took off two hours early yesterday to go to the dentist and am taking tomorrow off.  I worked eight hour shifts the other three days, with one hour for lunch each day.

By my calculations, I worked seven hours on Monday, Tuesday and today and only five hours yesterday for a grand total of twenty-six hours working.

I was actually very energetic, hard-working and productive this week.  I know that I will be missed at some point tomorrow, but I feel like this was my ideal number of hours worked.  Unfortunately, the world, including my employer, feels that it takes a minimum of forty hours of phone calls, emails, texts, social media posts, and meeting after meeting to be productive.

Jazz

My son is a music major and plays jazz trumpet.  Thus, I have become heavily into jazz over the years of hearing him play with various groups, combos, trios, quartets, quintets, sextets, and the like.  We have also gone to a lot of great jazz concerts together.

I listen to jazz on YouTube a lot while I am at work, and I have a number of go-to tunes that I especially like.  Last week, I heard a sextet play Clifford Brown’s Delilah and have been listening to it every day since.

If you like jazz at all, give this recording from the fifties a try.  If you do not, just keep reading.

Krause

Jerry Krause, the General Manager of the Bulls when I was in my teens and college years, made the draft picks and trades that turned the one man show that MJ was into a Dynasty.  He passed away early this week and I have heard a lot about him since, including some touching comments by the architect of this current disaster, John Paxson.

Image result for jerry krause r.i.p.

Never having been a hoopster or coming close to looking the part, Krause brought in players like Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Dennis Rodman, Bill Cartwright and even current GM John Paxson to surround the greatest player ever with.  He never hit the shots that Johnny P could hit, but Johnny P could never make the GM moves that Krause could.

R.I.P. Mr. Krause.

Mid-Week Leadership Caffeine

I often refer to the many magazines that I subscribe to at home and at work, and the dozens upon dozens of blogs and e-newsletters that I get.

I have been getting one called Mid-Week Leadership Caffeine from someone named Art Petty for quite some time.  It’s one of those ones that you may read once and then delete for years and years.

5 Espresso Shots of Ideas

I thought that I might as well take a look yesterday, and read an interesting article called “6 Ways to Know You Need A Course Correction” published on  on LinkedIn.

It is one of those simple little list articles, but he did write something that hit home when he writes that he lived in the future rather than the present:  “I spent much of my life thinking about what I was going to do tomorrow. Now that I’m older, I’ve come face-to-face with the reality that my days won’t go on forever; I wish I had learned to savor every special moment as it happened.”

I have read that a million times, but it may take a million more times reading it before you and I can embrace it.

If you are interested in getting little tidbits from Art Petty every Wednesday, you can sign up here.

Note to Self 

Note to Self is another blog that I subscribed to after hearing about a challenge that they issued earlier this year to lay off of the Internet and social media for a week.  They challenged people to take better control of their own digital footprint.

Also, they provide a lot of advice on how to minimize being monitored at all times and about privacy and other topics that I am interested in.  I have not looked at their emails much, but plan on engaging with it more in the coming weeks.

I could write at length about many of their topics, but for this Middle Class Guy week, I will just share some of this week’s post from them:

TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT

You know those ads that follow you around the Internet? You’ve been browsing for something online, or even in a store. And then an ad for that very item shows up in your Facebook feed.

Antonio García Martínez is to blame.

Listen to Note to Self

Antonio was an ads guy at Facebook. Pre-IPO. But he was also in deep cover—as an author, taking notes and taking names. Waiting to write a tell-all once he cashed in his chips. Stories of Face-versaries instead of birthdays, what it means to get an email from Zuck, and the cult of changing the world.

The book he wrote is called Chaos Monkeys. And he assumed it would burn every bridge he had in tech. Turns out, it takes a lot to get the cold shoulder in Silicon Valley. Especially when your book is a best seller.

DON’T I RECOGNIZE YOU?

Algorithms can get a lot from your photos. They can ID who’s in the shot. Location, date and time. Machines also know how much pain you’re in. If the bar you’re in is a gay bar. Maybe even what disease you have.

And we do mean *your* photos. Send us some pics. Big data expert Andreas Weigend is going to read them like an algorithm, and he’ll give you his data-translation in an upcoming show. Email us at notetoself@wnyc.org.

Procrastination

I am a Master Procrastinator.  I have procrastinated about getting our minivan fixed, getting my Nissan towed away, cleaning out my piles of books, getting a new bed for our daughter, getting our siding cleaned, making an appointment with my PCP to refill my Lisinopril, finishing about a dozen projects at work, filing the FAFSA, sending our return and a check to the IRS, helping my mom with another dozen tasks at her house, visiting my brother at his new house in Ohio, shaping up an ebook that I posted at least five years ago and I could probably think of dozens more things if I sat here long enough.

Image result for master procrastinator
Source: velken69.deviantart.com

I am not even sure of the main things that I am procrastinating on this week, but I know that it is a lot.  Oh yeah, getting our minivan fixed and getting a present for my wife’s upcoming birthday.

Royalty

Speaking of my ebook, I posted one on Amazon about ten years ago and have not looked at it since.  It is no best-seller, but consistently sells one or two per month, gaining me about four dollars.  Not something to brag about.

I will not even mention its title or the nom de plume that I used.

I do not have a problem with putting words on a screen, but just did not do it for several years.  The book is around five hundred pages and I wrote over 700 by hand, I do not even have a cover on it, which is something that I have procrastinated about for nearly ten years now.  Truthfully, I do not know how anyone actually finds it and I might have to ask my wife to purchase a copy so I can read it.

Anyway, I am getting my monthly four bucks for it soon per the email that I got from Amazon this week and I am sharing it for those of you who have never seen or received a royalty payment even though this is still $4,995 away from my goal of making five thousand bucks per month for writing:

Amazon Accounts Payable <noreply@amazon.com>

To ~WF_ADHOC-87883230
Mar 21 at 7:38 PM

I am not going anywhere spectacular and will probably have to drop my family’s lemon Chrysler minivan at the mechanic’s tomorrow, but I am officially taking my second vacation day of the year tomorrow.  The first one was spent chaperoning middle school kids to the Museum of Natural History in Chicago in mid-February.

I am excited about not having to get up early, and I purchased some smoked salmon for my breakfast tomorrow, so things should at least start out well tomorrow.

It is supposed to be around seventy degrees here tomorrow, so it will be a good day to take my puppy on some long walks and generally enjoy being out of doors instead of in my office doing task after task after meeting after email after call after call….

Since tomorrow is being predicted as being so nice, I want to finish this post tonight and not think about my blog for even one second tomorrow.

Zeppoles

3,100 words later, the Zeppoles.

A woman of Italian descent brought these into our office earlier this week, explaining that they were in celebration of St. Joseph’s Day.

Not being of Italian descent, although I enjoy food and treats from all cultures, I somehow missed Zeppoles until this year.

After I told my wife about it, she saw a local Italian bakery promoting them on Facebook and mentioned that it might be nice if I stopped there on the way home.

I bought 8 Zeppoles this week

I ordered eight of them, not being able to decide on what flavors.  I did bring two of them to neighbors, also.  The Zeppoles were not the favorite thing that any of us have had, so next year I think that I will just eat the ones that my co-worker brings in.

Thank you for reading about my week if you made it this far.

Signing off,

Signature

 

Are You Okay With Your Savings?

I read an interesting article called “Americans have a big disconnect about saving money” by Jill Cornfield on Bankrate.com today.

Ms. Cornfield writes “Bankrate’s new survey finds that, for the first time, more Americans feel comfortable with their savings than feel uncomfortable. Yet they don’t seem to be saving more. Compared to last year, there’s been no improvement in the percentage who say they’re not saving anything, and fewer people say they’re putting away more than 10 percent of what they earn.”

The gist of the article is that people in the survey feel better about their savings, yet have not been saving any more than in prior years.

I can list out the reasons, but they are the same ones that you would guess: 38% due to too many expenses, 16% haven’t gotten around to it, 16% job isn’t good enough (which is tied in with too many expenses), 13% too much debt, 5% “don’t need to save more” and four percent “other.”

The percentage of respondents who save more than 10 percent of their income has slipped, from 28 percent last year to 25 percent this year. Almost half of people save 5% or less of their income.

Image result for keeping up with the joneses
Source: Toonopedia

It seems that middle- and upper-income people have a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses problem. We’re talking about households with incomes of $50,000 and higher. Two in 5 of these respondents say the main reason they don’t save more money is that they “have a lot of expenses.”

Who doesn’t have a lot of expenses?

I will share right now that my own family’s monthly expenses typically range anywhere from a low of around $6,000 to twice that amount per month. If you are in the upper middle class or upper class (seriously, why would you read this if you are in the upper class?), that might not sound like that much, but to us middle classers, it is a nearly crushing amount.

If I fall off of the money-making treadmill, it would crumble fast.

Image result for money treadmill
Source: www.pinterest.com/thepeacefulmom

Even with all of our expenses, I still manage to sock away some money.  I am no spring chicken, mind you, but I have always tried to save a little, even when I was a young guy in my early thirties with two kids, a stay-at-home wife and trying to support a suburban lifestyle.  I recall some months only being able to invest a hundred or two hundred bucks, but I continued investing more as my income rose.

Also, as you know if you have read previous posts, I drive a car that many folks would be embarrassed to, but I love it.  It is a 1998 Subaru.  We also still own tube TVs and use pay-as-we-go Tracfones.  I do not want to come across as a cheapskate.  We have gone on some pretty good vacations, we eat pretty well and we attend a lot of school-related and non-school-related events like concerts and plays.

So this Bankrate.com survey shows that respondents feel good about it at an all-time high for this particular survey.

“The Bankrate.com Financial Security Index reached a record high of 106.5. For the first time, respondents noted year-over-year improvement in all five things we measure to gauge Americans’ financial well-being, including: comfort with their savings, comfort with their debt, net worth, job security and overall financial situation. Both men and women indicate improved feelings of financial security over the past year.”

I cannot say that I feel this way.  I have been reading that the average American who actually has retirement savings has in the range of $60,000.  I sure don’t have that much saved.

Yesterday’s post referenced the 30% who consider themselves upper class (1.8%) or upper middle class (28%).  The many people who I know in these income and social classes do, indeed, seem to feel fairly satisfied with their finances as far as I can tell.  Higher income people in my workplace and the business owners and professionals that I know personally seem to be taking great vacations several times per year, I can see their new cars, I hear about the upgrades that they are doing with their homes, they get the newest iPhone every year, and their typical outfits cost more than my wardrobe.  It must be nice.

On the flip side, the same bank promoting website, Bankrate.com, posted this article two short months ago claiming that six in ten Americans do not even have $500 in savings.  How could this be?!  Are you, my Dear Reader, in this boat that you could not even swing a $500 car repair?  I have to pay for two car repairs in this range, most likely by the end of this month. And that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

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Source: www.autostraddle.com

If you cannot come up with $500 in a pinch, but drive a newer car, just went on a Las Vegas vacation, own a high-definition TV or own an iPhone, shame on you!

My suggestion is that next time you are in a store or shopping on Amazon and getting ready to pull out the plastic to purchase $100 jeans, new shoes, a new video game, or at the liquor store getting ready to drop $100 on booze, to put it back down, go home, log onto your bank’s website, and transfer that amount into savings.  If you do not have a savings or money market account or an investment account, get one.

Sorry for being so harsh, but if you aren’t able to draw cash for something, it can derail you financially if you put it on credit card.  The original $500 expense can quickly become a $600 debt if you do not pay it off, and soon.

Most adults or a family member face a major financial expenditure in any given year.  If you are human, have a pet, kids, a house or a place to live, something is going to happen that will cost you money.  Better to be able to replace your stove or furnace, like we had to in the past year, than buy the newest gadget.  The gadgets are great, but will not cook your food or keep your family warm in a harsh Midwest winter.  If you are reading this in Arizona, flip that to a new air conditioner.

So What Am I Saying?

The same thing that I have read in about a hundred self-help type books that I read last year and have continued to read the first quarter of this year.

If you only make $35,000 per year, of course you are not going to be able to save $10,000 per year.  But if you make $50,000, you should be able to save one or two grand.  Or at least the $500 the article said people did not have saved.

I do not subscribe to the “cut out buying coffee” or “don’t go out for lunch” ideas that so many pundits advise.  Why bother living if you can’t buy coffee out a few times per week or go out to lunch?  But by the same token, no need to purchase a $4 latte at Starbucks every day or go out for a $10 or more lunch five days per week.  Me spending an extra $4 on coffee for the entire week out of home would be a lot, and I have gone out for lunch an average of once per week for the last fifteen years, and it does not bother me one bit.

I am saying to try to save something.  If you read this when it is posted, in late March 2017, you have over nine months left to save $1,000 by January 1st of 2018 if you like that amount.  That is $100 per month if you make your first investment before the end of this month, plus $100 per month for April through December.  Multiply that by five if you are aiming for $5,000 or ten if you are shooting for ten grand.  Divide it by half if you would be happy to have saved $500.

I will close tonight’s mini rant by sharing my own savings this month.  On the first of the month, I automatically invest $400 in our daughter’s 529 account.  A post for another day, but that amount has varied and for about four years straight, I automatically invested $500 per month for each of my kids’ 529 accounts.  You could say that I automatically invested $1,000, or nearly 20% of our take-home pay into our children’s college accounts.  In retrospect, I would call that excessive, but I am currently able to pay for our son’s private college without him borrowing anything.

I have invested in my and my wife’s Roth IRA accounts sporadically over the years, $250 here, $500 there, occasionally $1,000 into an account.

After reading Start Late, Finish Rich: A No-Fail Plan for Achieving Financial Freedom At Any Age by David Bach about a year ago, I decided to pay myself first with every paycheck as he advises.  I do not invest the amount that Bach would advise for a man my age.

Bach advises for you to pay yourself the first hour of every working day if you are in your twenties, but to pay yourself double that if you are starting late, like I am.  Now I am going to share that I do not believe that I will become rich by this method.

Like the 38% in the Bankrate survey who claim too many expenses and the 16% who claim that their job is not good enough, I could not possibly invest two hours worth of pay per day or one quarter of my pretax income into a savings account.  That would be great to do that, but that would mean $1,000 of my nearly $3,000 take-home pay per check.  I could, but we would get foreclosed on and have to cut out many other things.  We could survive on it, but not thrive.

What I actually do is pay myself for the first half hour of the day, typically spent consuming coffee and going through emails, which is roughly $25 out of my $50 hourly pay, or $250 per paycheck.

This month, being one of those rare “three check months” with my paydays having already fallen on the 3rd and 17th, with another scheduled for the 31st, has led me to invest a little extra.

I sent $250 to the Blue Chip Growth fund in my T. Rowe Price Roth IRA on the 3rd, sent a paper check in the amount of $350 to my wife’s Vanguard 500 Index fund for her Roth IRA a few days ago, and intend to send $250 to the Capital Appreciation fund, the other half of my T. Rowe Price Roth IRA, next week.  I am also stashing away $150 out of the $500 cash that I withdrew.  More on that when I have a decent amount to report.

Grand total, $1,250 invested plus $150 cash saved in a month when I also had to make a tuition payment and will be sending almost $2,000 to the IRS.  In a month when my wife and I will combine for about $9,000 take-home pay plus a $2,000 transfer from our son’s 529 account.  I would not put myself in the category of “satisfied with my savings” in the Bankrate.com survey.  With twice that amount, maybe.

Sound like a wealthy investor to you?  Hardly.

Just a middle aged Middle Class Guy living and working hard in the Midwest.

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What Went Wrong With the Middle Class

So why does the Middle Class, which I am a proud card carrying member of, continue to decline?

fake credit card - middle class Guy credit bureau

That would be an interesting book topic, but since this is the Middle Class Guy blog, I will touch lightly upon several things that “went wrong” and have caused the number of us that live in the Middle Class regions to dwindle in the Good Old U.S. of A.

Definition

Many articles that I read online and the topic of some of my past and future posts are relating to the definition of who is middle class.  If everyone in the country was very poor, except for a small percentage of very elite, very wealthy 1% types, living in District 1 and the Capital in the dystopian Hunger Games, does that make everyone middle class?

The term “middle class” conjures up various images for politicians, economists, professors, reporters and ordinary folks like you and me.  Many families with incomes around $200,000 consider themselves middle class, while you and I might think of that as very wealthy.

I use the Pew Research numbers, based upon the number in your household, which for a family of four like mine includes incomes ranging from $48,000 to $144,000.  While there are many other factors to consider when considering “class,” most every report that you can find links the definition to household family income, which in turns corresponds closely to the lifestyles represented by the various classes.

Where’s The New Jobs and Where is My Money Going?

What is the rate that new middle class jobs are being created?  The way I see it, there are more and more people gravitating to the upper class tier, in jobs like doctors, lawyers, engineers and financial types pulling farther and farther ahead.  What do I say to that?  Good for them.

But where are the new mid-range jobs being created?  It seems like they are not.  With so many people downsized over the years due to their jobs being shipped overseas or being lost to advances in automation, it is my opinion that these millions of manufacturing jobs are never coming back no matter what the politicians promise.

Take a look at any of these post-industrial towns that struggle and put the current President in office and you will see and hear about the companies that were once there.  Sometimes the jobs were in printing, sometimes they were making auto parts, sometimes they were producing clothes, but the one thing that they have in common is that they are gone and not coming back.

These were not just the “working class” jobs of blue collar workers without college educations, too.  My profession is in economic development, and I can tell you from vast experience that a factory with 300 workers would also include thirty or more white collar types like line managers, finance professionals, human resource managers, engineers, quality control professionals, marketing people, sales people, etc.

Many debt-laden college educated Millennials are taking jobs that do not require college degrees and/or are working in the so-called “gig economy.”

Hyped for years and years as the new way to work, you do not hear so many good things about the highly exploited workers of the gig economy these days.  What the gig economy sounds like to me after I have been reading, hearing about and studying it for several years, is the greatest way yet to exploit the working class that really fancies itself the middle class.

For every story you hear of someone making millions on Fiverr, TaskRabbit, Udemy or Uber, there are a thousand people working hard for paltry pay and no benefits.

Think Uber or Airbnb are the only platforms for gig economy workers? Wrong. Here are nearly two dozen gig websites where you can find work.

After you and I make our humble wages, how much of it goes to the tax collector to pay off bloated pensions and public debt so high that it can never really be paid off?

When I consider having just paid my Crook County property taxes, getting ready to send nearly $2,000 to the IRS (future post on that), and how much gets deducted from my paycheck by the State, Fed, FICA and Social Security, I should feel blessed that they did not take it all.

When it is all said and done, like many middle class families, when real estate taxes, sales taxes, gasoline taxes, taxes on our utilities and all of the other taxes taken straight from my wife’s and my paychecks are tallied, our overall tax burden is about one-third of our income.

Downward Mobility

Millions of Americans have been forced out of solid, middle class jobs into lower-paying service industry jobs.  While higher-paying manufacturing jobs continue to decline year after year and decade after decade, the reports that come out nowadays tout near full employment:

“The U.S. economy added a healthy 235,000 jobs in February, according to government data released Friday morning, surpassing economists’ expectations and likely clearing the way for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this month.

The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.7 percent, compared with 4.8 percent in January, and wages rose by 6 cents to $26.09 in February, after a 5-cent increase the month before.”  -Washington Post  March 10, 2017

The industries adding jobs are mostly retail and service job, many of which are home health aid workers and restaurant staff.  Many of these jobs fall under what those workers parents and even grandparents earned.

Even though I have a solidly Middle Class job, I too earn less than my father and grandfathers earned, adjusted for inflation in the case of my grandfathers.  My father earned more than I do now twenty-five years ago, but that was a special case.  He worked like a madman for himself, not for local government agencies like I have for twenty-four years.  He passed away too young and never had the benefit of being retired for even one day.

Becoming Wealthier

Over 30% of Americans are now either upper class or upper middle class.

According to a CNN Money article by Tami Luhby last June, “The upper middle class grew to 29.4% of the population in 2014, up from 12.9% in 1979, according to a new Urban Institute report. It defines this group as having household income of between $100,000 and $350,000 for a three-person family.  The rich also expanded their ranks, to 1.8%, up from 0.1%.”

As I mentioned before, even though our Middle Class family’s income is slightly higher than $100,000, there are four of us and we live in a highly taxed area, Crook County in the State with the highest property taxes in the country.

I know that $100,000 would go a Hell of a long way in most of Missouri, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio in the Midwest, in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, it does not go so far.  We do not have San Francisco or Hawaii prices here, mind you, but they are plenty high.

Meanwhile, as an economic development professional in a solid middle class community , I meet more and more millionaires the longer I am there.

While us Middle Class folks and those unfortunates in the “working class” and those who would love to even have a job get squeezed harder and harder every year, new jobs paying hundreds per hour are being created for a select group of professionals.  Doctors, lawyers, investment advisers, investment bankers, petroleum engineers, property receivers, and a newer title in the financial sector the last several years, “financial engineers” are doing just fine.

At Least You Will Have a Pension?

While not quite the Holy Grail, I am seeking something very elusive but I know that it exists.  A funded pension that will actually get paid.

I know what you are thinking.  “I don’t get a freakin’ pension, so who does this Middle Class Guy think he is?!  Writing about getting a pension!  It’s lazy government workers like him who are bankrupting Illinois and the country!”

Hold on a second.

I have been working my ass off for twenty-four years as of this May.  My boss has bosses, who also has bosses.  Everything that I do is publicly scrutinized.  I have meetings upon meetings upon filing reports upon filing reports about my reports.  I email my activities to my bosses every single week, sometimes more than once.  I answer to my boss, to his boss, and to her bosses, to a public commission and to elected officials.  Residents of the community that I work for call, email and drop in constantly to complain or give me the same suggestions that I thought of, myself, over a decade ago.

If I can survive this kind of job in this type of political climate for thirty-three years, I get a pension.

Illinois-Municipal-Retirement-Fund-success-should-guide-lawmakers.jpg

I say thirty-three years because the moment that I turn fifty-five, I am out of there.  Even with that pension, we would not be able to meet our financial obligations, thus I will work in another industry or capacity, or even start my own business or write full-time.

I am not necessarily looking forward to eight-and-a-half more years going by, but at least there is some silver lining around the cloud that my stressful job has become.

Before I write about how f-ed up the public pension systems are, I issue this disclaimer that the pension system that I contribute is well-funded at present and is not bankrupting this f-ed up State.

 Because most other public pension systems are underfunded, taxpayers eventually end up on the hook to provide the additional money needed to pay the promised benefits.  Nearly every one who works for local, state and federal governments is covered by a pension plan that guarantees some fixed payment every month.  This is called a defined benefit plan, and what I contribute toward through IMRF.

But these days, only about a third of workers in private industry are covered by private pensions.

An article on protectpensions.org explains how the number of private sector workers with pensions dropped from 88 percent to 33 percent better than I could, but suffice it to say, I will find myself in the minority some day if I can survive nine more years at my employer or another within the same system and draw a pension of about $6,500 or so per month.

I am not counting on it, though.  Nine years is a long time to last in a highly volatile, political climate where people question everything that you say and do, right or wrong.

As my wise Mama says…

Image result for don't count your chickens before they hatch meme

Pizza on Pay Day, Plus a Few

I enjoyed my Schizophrenic Mid-Monthish Tweener Thursday post so much, jumping from topic to topic, that I am going to do the same thing tonight.  That is, combining a few future posts into one so maybe I do not have to go through the trouble of long explanations of all of them, just a short and sweet bit on each.

Pay Day!

This past Friday was pay day, so we may actually go ahead with some of the never-ending car repairs that our two running cars (Trusty Old Subaru and Chrysler Lemony Minivan) can continue running for a while.

We very temporarily have over ten grand in checking as of this minute, but that will be quickly depleted by at least three grand by two weeks from today and as I am forced to pay the never-ending parade of bills for the rest of the month.  All three of our credit card payments are due late in the month, and that will put quite a dent in the old Middle Class Guy pot o’ gold.

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Our little Pot o’ Gold will be quickly depleted.

The one bit of good “spending” of this pay day is that I mailed an old-fashioned paper check to Vanguard yesterday for my wife’s Roth IRA account in the amount of $350.  Judging from many past mailings to the financial giant, it probably will not process until Thursday or Friday, but I am keeping up the “Pay Yourself First” mantra that I have read in not one, not ten, but dozens of financial advice books, columns, blog posts and newsletters.  Some financial pundits have made millions by basically turning that mantra into the aforesaid books, columns, blog posts and newsletters.

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Source: Under 30 Wealth

Pizza

We had Lou Malnati’s pizza Friday after work.  Our son is home from college, his spring break having started a few hours ago.  No, he is not driving to South Beach with his buddies.  No, we are not going somewhere warm to relax for a week as a family.  This is because our daughter’s spring break is the following week.  For five straight nights, she is in the orchestra pit for a musical production at her school.  We attended last night and it was fantastic.  Especially the lead trombone part!

So, our daughter was out Friday night until late, our son was at our house with his girlfriend, and my wife asked if I would mind picking up Lou’s on the way home, as I have done about three times per month so far this year.

Here’s the email from my order Friday afternoon:

To The Middle Class Guy                               Today at 4:39 PM

My Schizophrenic Mid-Monthish Post

For any future readers in whatever format and on whatever device, this is being written Mid-Monthish on March 16th, 2017 by a middle aged, Middle Class Guy residing in the Midwest.  Today is a Thursday.

I often allude to future posts and am currently sitting on approximately 5,000 topics that I want to write about.

To alleviate some of those, I am going to jump around on random topics and thoughts since I cannot decide which one of the twenty or so most imminent posts to work on right now.  Consider this a preview or a glimpse into my mind, if you will.

If anybody ever needed lists of ideas for blog posts or wanted me to write 1,000+ word posts for $50 bucks each, I could crank them out non-stop.

Years Late and a Hundred Grand Short

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You have undoubtedly heard the expression “A Day Late and a Dollar Short.”  I have used it many times, myself, when dealing with my so-called clients when I worked in the so-called field of “community corrections.”

While reading an article that I currently cannot locate, but will prior to my longer post on the topic, it dawned on me that I am not just a day late and a dollar short.  I am years late and thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars short.

The article in question details how some teens were making more than $10,000 per month just by posting stupid jokes and the like on Instagram. I, of course, knew that Instagram existed but had never and still have never looked at it or wanted to.

How could some teens make more money than I do just be finding jokes and photos and the like and sharing them?  It fascinated me and made me think, “Yeah, I could do that.  Why work so hard and grind day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year when I could just re-post funny or interesting things that I found posted by others on social media?”

I’ll tell you why.  Because I am a middle aged guy and have no desire to search Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or whatever for something viral to post to my own site.  What I find interesting might not draw lots of viewers who view lots of ads.  I’m not sure how I would put ads on it or force people to view them.

I started a blog aimed for middle aged, middle class guys in fall 2016.  If that isn’t years late, I do not know what is.

I have yet to make any money on Middle Class Guy, so I am about five thousand dollars short per month of the five thousand that I ultimately want and need to make online via writing.

I’m years late and a hundred grand short.

I’m a Book Junkie

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Source: Etsy

I have been reading like mad again and purchasing more books than I am giving away again.  It may be a blip in my Resolutions, or it may just be reverting to my same old way of turning the car into where the book sale is or the Goodwill or the Half Price Books.  I just buy one here and two there and, before you know it, I have purchased fifteen more books this month.

I just finished a masterful spy novel, Spy Hook by Len Deighton this morning after reading it for an hour or two per day for the last week or so. I am also in the middle of a dozen more books, that I jump back and forth between depending on my mood.

Also, I should note that Spy Hook is the first book out of a trilogy by Len Deighton, the other two appropriately titled Spy Line and Spy Sinker, so I am obligated to read those two, as well, in the near future.

They are all piled up on my side table next to our bed, and I suppose that my wife has accepted that about me.  I do intend on writing about most, if not all of them, in the coming weeks, so I still plan on “moving them along” and accomplishing my goal of donating fifty more books than I acquire in 2017, but I am going to have to pick up the donating.

The list of books that I am reading create an eclectic list, and here are a few of them:

  1. Saving For Retirement (without living like a pauper or winning the lottery) by Gail MarksJarvis (2007)
  2. By-Line: Ernest Hemingway edited by William White (2003)
  3. The Greening of America by Charles A. Reich (1970)
  4. The Wealth Cure: Putting Money In Its Place by Hill Harper (2011)
  5. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller (2009)
  6. The Moses Expedition by Juan Gomez-Jurado (2007)
  7. The Aftermath: Living With the Holocaust by Aaron Hass (1995)
  8. Motivating the “What’s In It For Me?” Workforce by Cam Marston (2007)
  9. Kids’ Allowances: How Much, How Often, and How Come by David McCurrach (2000)
  10. You’ve Earned It, Don’t Lose It: Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make When You Retire by Suze Orman (1998)
  11. Exit Ghost by Phillip Roth (2007)
  12. Organize Yourself! by Ronni Eisenberg (1997)
  13. Winning With People by John C. Maxwell (2004)
  14. Master-Mind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova (2013)
  15. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath (2010)

These are not the only books that I have been reading, and I have not finished any of the above fifteen yet, but pick them up here and there, bring them with me to work or in the tub or page through them at night, but as I finish them in the coming weeks, I look forward to sharing some of the highlights.

Besides reading all of these books, I have been spending an hour or so per day reading articles in newsletters, in my Yahoo! feed, in trade publications, in the local newspapers and in the magazines that never stop showing up to my house and office.

I have probably spent three hours or more reading per day since the first of the month on average.  I am an avid reader, and the odd list of what I have been reading does little to dispel the schizophrenic notion of this post.

SNL

I have an upcoming post about the show that has been poking fun at Trump and his brethren most Saturday nights.  I have watched the show off and on for over thirty years now, and have a lot of thoughts about it.

I began watching it in 1983 as a babysitter, before I turned thirteen.  I remember my mind being blown and that cast remains my favorite to this day, but probably more because it is the first one that I watched and not necessarily the best.

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Source: www.lancasteronline.com

Allowance

I collected an allowance nearly every Saturday from the age of about five until I was eighteen.  While in college, my parents would give me a few hundred here and a few hundred there, not necessarily called “allowance” but fulfilling my same need for some spending money.

As an adult, I have paid out allowance since our eighteen-year-old son was about five and now give him spending money at college.  I pay our daughter an allowance and will post my thoughts on that topic soon.

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Source: Babble.com

Can’t Prove that I Am A Citizen

I hope that INS does not read this, but I am not sure that I can prove my citizenship.

I was born in a local Illinois hospital in late 1970 and I have never been out of the country since.  I have gone to the Bahamas once, which I just looked up does now require a passport, but we did not have them over twenty-five years ago when my parents took me and my two siblings there for a week.  Come to think of it, it was winter break when it turned to 1990.

My parents had just paid off their house, that my mother still lives in, and they took us there to celebrate and relax.  I had been very sick with mono the week before during finals of my sophomore year of college and remember relaxing in the Bahamas with my brother and sister very well, twenty-seven years later.

We have gone to Puerto Rico twice, which is a U.S. territory.  No passport required then, now or ever.

I have held a valid Illinois driver’s license since 1987.  Thirty years with almost no moving violations.  Actually just one or two, and I attended a safety class so it did not go on my record.

However, I thought it a funny post about getting pulled over by a cop of Middle Eastern descent (there must be a few around) and asked to prove my citizenship.

Although I am Jewish and some right wing-minded folks would question my “whiteness,” if you saw me, you would not know if I was of Jewish, Polish, Italian or some other European descent.  I’m a white dude.

I do not look of Mexican or Middle Eastern/Arabian descent at all.  But if asked to prove my citizenship, I’m not sure that I could.

I do own a social security card, which my mother just gave me a few years ago when I was about forty, but I do not possess a birth certificate.  There may be one at my mother’s house, but neither of us really know where.

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Source: www.Passportinfo.com

I was born in Crook County, often referred to as Cook County, and actually called their vital records office earlier this week.  I was informed that I could obtain my birth certificate at local branch courthouses, which I intend to pursue at some point this year, since it would probably be a good thing to have.  I do not intend to carry it with me, but perhaps my wife or one of my children could dig it out and send it to the Feds or local police before they ship me away.

Just kidding, but I looked it up, and holding an Illinois driver’s license does not prove that I am a citizen even though I currently write this about thirty miles away from where I was born over forty-six years ago and I have remained an Illinois resident ever since, with a four-and-a-half year stint as a Cheesehead while attending the UW.

Change is Hard

We are going though a lot of changes at my place of work.

You guessed it, they want more productivity, communications and accountability, but do not want to increase labor and equipment costs.

Story of my place of work, story of your place of work, story of the U.S. of A.

I told one of the bosses that I am not a “Who Moved My Cheese?” kind of guy, but that I also do not like change for the sake of change, which it seems like this is.  Just because you change long-standing methods of operation does not mean that you are improving it.

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Whatever.  A quote in Len Deighton’s 1988 spy novel that I just finished this morning hit home for me even more than the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard that I have been reading to help me cope with these major changes to “the way we’ve always done it.”

Like nearly every spy novel that I have read, the main character, Bernard Samson, is at great odds with the masters of his service, in this case the British during the Cold War.  Even though, in these books, his seemingly outlandish accusations against more senior bureaucrats in his agency are (of course) true, as he keeps stirring the pot.

Warning: if you ever plan on reading this book, skip the next two paragraphs.

In Chapter 20, when a trusted associate of the main character who was supposedly dead shows up out of the blue to save his life in the one life-or-death struggle in this book (and Bernie Samson is no James Bond, Gabriel Allon or Jason Bourne.  He would have been easily killed in this instance), Bernard poses many unanswered questions.

What his come-back-to-life friend tells him is this: “Bernie, it’s time you realized that the Department isn’t run for your benefit.  There’s nothing in Command Rules that says we have to clear everything with Bernard Samson before an operation is okayed.”

Well, upon reading that in a local library during my lunch break yesterday, I came to realize that I was hired by my employer to carry out their policies, not necessarily to make them.  Although I exercise a great amount of discretion in my job, it is still up to the Powers that Be to make the rules and regulations and, if I am asked to weigh in, to provide my thoughtful and well-researched input based on my skill set, knowledge and experience.

If someone is going to move my cheese, I am going to move along with it instead of crying over it.  That is called survival in a tough position at a difficult place of work, but if you are middle aged or older and refuse to move, there’s always sitting at home unemployed instead.

I Hate Retail Reps

Part of my job is soliciting new retail.  If you have ever encountered a used car salesman (sorry used car salesmen if you are reading this) who had not made a sale for a while and was on the brink of foreclosure and divorce, you almost have an approximation of a typical retail broker.

The other half of them are so rich and successful and used to people kissing their behinds that they might not even return a “Hello” to you if you say it directly to their face.  I could name names, but I won’t (yet).

If you represent Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Starbucks, Chipotle or any one of the hundreds of expanding retailers that anyone and everyone wants to bring to their towns or their shopping centers, I supposed that it is well within your rights to act the jerk.

I am used to that and typically do not mind it, but for the fact that I sat in traffic for nearly two hours this past Tuesday morning (75 minutes getting home in the evening) to attend a retail trade show in Chicago.  Yes, it is Chicago and yes, it was snowing but my God!  I spent nearly four hours driving on Tuesday for a total of about sixty miles, all to spend a few minutes schmoozing some retail reps so full of themselves you would think they were all mini Trumps.

I met with several mini Trumps on Tuesday.                                 Source: Huffington Post

A Generation Called X

Nobody can help when, where and to whom they were born.

I happened to have been born into Generation X.

Although we constantly hear and read about Millennials and the Baby Boomers, there are millions of us Gen Xers, and I had never thought much about it until a few years ago.

My wife and I came of age in the eighties, which are now looked at nostalgically like the fifties were when we were kids.  For me, to think of the eighties as we once thought of the fifties, when our parents came of age, is crazy.

I have read several articles about Generation X lately and will be sharing my thoughts on it.

Image result for generation x
Source: Your Brand Exposed

Today Was a Tweener Thursday

Years ago, I noticed that I was having a lot of “Tweener” Thursdays.  I was trying to characterize my Thursdays at the time, and have been thinking that ever since.

I have kept an Ideas notebook each of the past five years or so, jotting down random and not-so-random ideas for blog posts, apps to develop, book titles and plots, investment strategies, notations about interesting things that I read in publications, blogs or heard on the radio, stock prices, lists of bills to pay and much, much more.

About four years ago I came up with the idea that, if I could develop a popular website, app or company that was very popular one day per week, say Thursdays, that I could make quite a living one seventh of the time or more.

If you sold 1,000 items priced at one dollar each every Thursday, you would be doing alright.  2,000 items for two dollars each would be four times as nice.

So I set out the way I normally do when I am trying to think of a snappy title or slogan or alliteration.  I went to my dictionary.  To be more precise, one of my many dictionaries, I believe this one about a fifty year old thick leather Merriam-Webster volume.

I just located the notebook from 2013 after a search through some drawers, and found the following notation on September 5, 2013:

“Having Another Tweener Thursday”

“Th” Thursday words: Throw, Third, Thorny, Thrilling or Thralling, Thrifty, Thirsty, Thermal, Therapy and Theater.

I placed an *asterisk next to Thirsty, thinking that I hit on something.

Imagine my surprise a few Thursdays later while sitting and reading in a park hearing two young, trendy new mothers talking about where they were going out for Thirsty Thursday that night.

Another case of years late and thousands short.

I am not sure what I intended to do.  I just looked it up, and the domain name ThirstyThursday.com is for sale, but I doubt that anyone wants to pay much for it.  I certainly do not.

Image result for thirsty thursday
Source: www.themeyersvilleinn.com

But what I have experienced many, many Thursdays since is a “Tweener” day.  Not as busy as my typical Wednesday, filled with meetings, phone calls and reports, and Friday, which we all like best.  I have an important meeting tomorrow, as well, with one of the underbosses to go over my “new strategy,” even though it is the same thing that I have been doing for sixteen years, but with some different catch phrases and buzz words.

Today was just a filler day in between.  A “Tweener” Thursday.

I’ll do the full post some upcoming Thursday.

100 Nights of Sleep

We buy cases of bottled water every week from various stores, and the water that we drink at home is filtered with Brita.

We were out of water for me to drink at work and for us to take with us on the go, so I stopped at Walgreens on the way home from work yesterday for water, and also purchased the Walgreens version of Tylenol, or Acetaminophen with Diphenhydramine.

Because I had experienced stomach problems late last year, which led to a referral for a colonoscopy, after which the butt doctor told me not to consume Advil or other NSAID products anymore, I have now switched to Tylenol-type pain relievers.

Mind you, I only take these once every three nights or so, when the combination of sleepless nights, ankle pain and other aches and pains make it hard for me to sleep without it.

I took one tonight, and figure that there are about nine and a half months left and there are now 290 days left this year per timeanddate.com, so I intend this package to last through 2017.  I acknowledge that it may not, but I intend it to.

I just popped one at about 10:30 tonight, so I hope that it helps me get about six hours of sleep tonight if I am lucky.

Thanks for reading my schizo mid-monthish ideas.  I have hundreds more but worked nine hours today, went grocery shopping after work and have typed this for more than two hours and want to read more, so…

Image result for tigger ta ta for now

Ta Ta For Now.

 

Part of a Shrinking Class

Image result for shrinking middle class
Source: www.sprottmoney.com

Us American Middle Classers are shrinking.

The share of American adults in middle-income households decreased, from 55% in 2000 to 51% in 2014, Pew Research Center reports. At the same time, the share of adults in the upper-income tier increased from 17% to 20%.

I often read and think about class issues as you may surmise, considering the name of the blog that I finally selected after contemplating various names for years is Middle Class Guy.

If I were an Upper Class Guy, I would not bother typing words into this WordPress website via thoughts in my head communicated to my fingers on my Dell laptop’s keyboard.  I would be enjoying an upper class lifestyle and, honestly, would probably be swimming laps in my pool this evening or possibly dining at a fine establishment with my wife and/or friends. Perhaps attending a gala of some sort or the symphony or a a sporting event.

Not getting ready to watch a movie on our tube TV, although I have nothing bad to say about that TV that has lasted far longer than any tube TV should.

If I were a Lower Class Guy, I probably would not have spent the money on purchasing a domain name for three years and would be too busy trying to make ends meet to share my troubles with whoever stumbles across these posts.

I read an article on CNBC by Kathleen Elkins today via my Yahoo! feed entitled “Here’s how much you have to earn to be considered middle class.”

At least Ms. Elkins did mention that income is but a part of class structure.

I have often wondered about that.  If I have met much of the criteria of the “How to Tell if You Are Middle Class” articles for many years and if I was born, raised and came of age as a Middle Class Guy, would I cease to be middle class next month should I be fired and become unemployed and go from making around one hundred grand per year to zero?

By most of the articles on our class, the answer would be a resounding Yes.

Even though I have worked for twenty-four years (as of this May) post college, obtained a master’s degree, become married and have remained married for over twenty years, had two children, have saved around $200,000 for my two kids’ college accounts, saved some for retirement even though I most likely should have saved more for retirement and less for college, “own” my house, go on vacations, shop at Kohl’s and Target, eat at quick casual places 18 times or more per month, and shell out plus or minus ten grand per month just to live our suburban Middle Class lives, should I lose my job and income unexpectedly, I would be relegated to low class after spending nearly five decades as a Middle Class Guy.

I suppose to be more precise, I started as a lower Middle Class baby, was raised a rising into a more solid Middle Class kid, was a very solidly Middle Class high school kid, made it almost into the Upper Middle Class as a college kid, went back to lower Middle Class with my first several shitty jobs out of college, and have worked hard to remain solidly Middle Class for the past eighteen or so years.

Even though I am closer to fifty years old than forty, I still aspire to rising to Upper Middle Class status, which by my own definition would require me to make about twice as much as I do now, which is doubtful to come to fruition.

I am a long-time Middle Class Guy and will most likely spend the remainder of my life as one.  But I do take issue with simplifying it into what one’s income is.

The much-cited Pew Research Center report showed this table in 2014, indicating a very slight one percent uptick in adults in the lower income tier and a three percent increase in the percentage of adults in the upper income tier.  Thus, us middle income people declined by that four percent to 51%.Share of American adults living in middle-income households has fallen

In late 2015, Pew reported that the trend continued, and less than fifty percent are now middle income, per this CNBC article.

According to the article, “The beginning of 2015 saw 120.8 million adults living in middle-income homes, compared with 121.3 million Americans living in lower- and upper-income households, a significant shift that “could signal a tipping point.”

The article further points out that “the hollowing of the American middle class has proceeded steadily for more than four decades,” and that the share of Americans residing in middle-income homes “has fallen from 61 percent in 1971 to 50 percent in 2015.”

Here’s the breakdown of how much you have to earn each year to qualify as middle-income, depending on the size of your family:

Household of one: $24,042 to $72,126

Household of two: $34,000 to $102,001

Household of three: $41,641 to $124,925

Household of four: $48,083 to $144,251

Household of five: $53,759 to $161,277

The thing that I find interesting about this is that it breaks it down by household size.  My job would not pay me a dollar more or a dollar less if I was single or married with six kids, but my status as a middle-income earner would change by household size.

However, my salary is a little higher than the $102,001 cited as the high end of a middle -income earner in a Household of two.  But since we have a household of four, I fall nearly forty thousand dollars shy of the $144,251 cited as the upper range.

Further proof of my Middle Classiness.

Of course, there are many more factors to consider when it comes to one’s social class.  One’s education, vocabulary, habits, values, ethics, shopping habits (which granted is income-related), hobbies and interests are just a few.  I suppose that you or I could think of many others.

I do see how it would be very difficult to make it in many parts of the country on $48,000 or less for a family of four.  Not to complain, but where we live, it is not easy to get by on twice that amount.

Notre Dame Professor James X. Sullivan delineates class structures by a family’s consumption rather than income and includes spending on food, transportation, entertainment, housing and other items. It excludes health care expenses and education, which Sullivan says might be considered investments. He defines the middle class as those in the middle fifth of spending.

The former President formed a task force to study and help the middle class and defined us Middle Classers through our aspirations, namely:

Home Ownership or as I call it home “ownership” since my lender still has more equity in our house after we have lived here for fifteen years, never missing a mortgage payment, than we do.  Basically, our house is worth around $230 to $240 K and we owe about $130 K.

Image result for home "ownership"

Car Ownership.  Despite all of our cars’ problems, and believe me, they have problems, we own them.  My Nissan is no longer drivable.  My trusty old Subaru has steering problems now and our van needs repair very soon to pass Illinois emissions this month.  However, we do meet this criteria and own them all, not having made any car payments for about three years now.

Health and Retirement Security.  I am not sure what to write about this because, as they say, “here today, gone tomorrow.”  Today we have health insurance, although a very difficult to deal with H.M.O.  We need referrals to get our referrals, and none of our doctors like dealing with our particular H.M.O.  But, we do have it and my employer currently pays about seventy percent of the premiums every month, with about four hundred or so deducted from my checks per month.

“Retirement Security” is an oxymoron for most of us middle class people, but I suppose that I technically would qualify for this, having contributed to a defined benefit pension plan for nearly twenty-four years.  Again, if I lost my job, getting a meager pension ten years from now and social security, if it exists twenty years from now, would not be close to enough to live on, but if I can survive ten more years of doing what I do, I would have that “retirement security” that most of us Middle Class Guys can only dream of.

Family Vacations.  We may not be able to check this box off this year, although I hope to take my family to the country some time this summer. Hopefully one of my favorite areas, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  We do not make it there every August, but have for several years running.

Image result for michigan u.p.
Source: www.yooper-michigan.com

We have taken the kids to Disney World six times and, as I often write, that will be the subject of at least one future post.  We stayed on grounds all six times, in a Moderate resort since we are Middle Class people and not wealthy enough to stay at the Deluxe resort where I want to, the Polynesian or the Wilderness Lodge.  We don’t want to stay in one of the Value resorts for a host of reasons, but those are good for middle class families, as well.

Last Spring break, we traveled to Lake Havasu City, Arizona, via Las Vegas. We had a fantastic time and we would be going again in a little over a week except for the fact that our son’s college will be on spring break next week, and our daughter’s school district will be on spring break the following week.  We are not the kind of family to go on a great vacation without both of our kids, so alas and alack, we are staying around home this month.

Image result for lake havasu city
Source: Havasu Realty

A College Education for the Kids.  This is a big one for me.  When I graduated from high school, there was no question about my next step being going to University in the fall.  It was simply a question of which one.  Every single one of my friends and teammates from high school went straight to a four year University or college.  I never knew that everyone did not do the same.

Long story short, I ended up at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Four-and-a-half years later, I left with a Bachelor’s degree.  I also had a very close girlfriend at the time of graduation, who has now been my spouse for nearly twenty-one years.

After toiling at deader than dead-end jobs for a few years in the early nineties after gaining my B.A., I enrolled part-time in a Master’s degree program at the University of Illinois at Chicago while working full-time at a very difficult job that I hated.  Four years later, I had a Master’s degree in hand. Our son was born two months later.

Why I mention that is that we want and expect the same for our own children.  It is a middle class imperative and, like me in the 80’s, the vast majority of our son’s friends and band mates went straight to solid, and some not-so-solid colleges and universities.

Even though we both concede that gaining a Bachelor’s degree is by no means the key to wealth and success, we both view it as a necessity, much the same way that high school graduation was in decades past.

Without that piece of paper saying that you were able to complete assignments and other tasks on time, and in many cases assume tens of thousands in debt, it is that much harder.

Again, I fully acknowledge that there are many highly successful people without college degrees.  Even some tech billionaires.  But for the vast, vast majority of us Middle Class Guys and those who strive to gain entry to the Middle Class or the Upper Class by lifestyle and/or income, a college degree is a must.  Especially if you want to be a lawyer (like my brother), an educator (like my sister and her husband), and I.T. geek (like my best friend), an accountant (like my uncle), a doctor (like many of my Mom’s cousins), an engineer or many other professional jobs.

Thus, I began squirreling away a few hundred here, five hundred there, month after month after month for years and years.

As those of you who have read previous posts, I have alluded to a goal that I sent when our children were young to save $100,000 per kid for their college.  I have achieved that goal for our son, and currently send about $2,300 per month to our son’s private college about a half hour away from our home.

Our daughter will be graduating from eighth grade in a few months, and I should be hitting my savings goal for her by the end of 2018, when she will be in the middle of her sophomore year of high school.  That is, if I remain gainfully employed and continue sending $400 per month to her Bright Start account automatically on the first of every month.

I do not think that even that huge amount of savings for two kids by a Middle Class Guy is enough to cover their entire higher educations, but it is a damned good start!

Any way you look at it, I am a Middle Class Guy.  I have worked hard for over two decades, I save for retirement but not enough, I have saved as much as we possibly could for our kids’ college accounts, we drive three shitty as Hell cars that would not really qualify for middle class status, and we still watch tube TVs and most of our furniture needs replacing.

Nonetheless, if you want to qualify us by income per Pew Research’s criteria, we fit well within the $48,083 to $144,251 range.  I hope to surpass that number some day, which could only be due to my after-work writing making some extra dough, but I am a long, long way away.

 

Typical Banking Month: 9 grand in and 10 grand out

Image result for money flying away
Source: www.plan-wisely.com

To be technical, going over our bank statement that was provided this past Thursday, $8,965.68 was added to our account from February 9th through March 8th, and $10,632.31 left the account during those same 28 days.

Beginning Balance on Feb 9 $11,807.50

Deposits / Credits 8,965.68

Card Withdrawals 1,726.98 – Other Withdrawals 5,898.90 –               Checks Paid 3,006.53 –

Ending Balance on Mar 8, 2017 $ 10,140.77

I do not know how this looks to you, but it looks extremely Middle Class Guyish to me.  If you struggle big time to make ends meet and only have a couple hundred bucks to your name at the end of the month, this may look like a huge amount.

If you are a Middle Class Guy with full-time, gainful employment and have a Middle Class Gal spouse with full-time, gainful employment and live in a nice house, own nice cars and buy nice things, the slightly-less-than-nine grand deposited into our account may not look like much. Also, some of that was not from income, but from savings.

I follow Frugal Friends 1 on Twitter and read a post earlier this year by a woman who wrote about getting by on about $1,500 per month total.  I was flummoxed, but read that it is just her and her husband, they live in a tiny house somewhere cheap in the country, and they go on the cheap to the extreme with their groceries with Ramen Noodles, rice and such for most meals.

Image result for ramen noodles
You can save a lot be eating Ramens, like I ate in college for years. Source: www.kshb.com

We easily spend $1,500 per kid, per month, all told.  I am not complaining about it, just stating a fact.  How much one earns from similar jobs and the overall cost of living varies greatly from place to place, as you know.  A $100,000 per year job in San Francisco may pay only $40,000 in Nashville. Property taxes on a great house like my sister’s in New Orleans may be only $3,000 per year, while mine are double that for a house in need of much repairs and valued at only half of hers, but located in the Chicago suburbs.

On the other end of the spectrum, I know many people who spend way more than we do and live in beautiful homes, drive great newer cars, go on vacations to exotic locales, drop a hundred bucks per person at nice restaurants weekly, go golfing, boating and a few who even own and fly planes.  My family is not in that tax bracket.

These families that we know can be summarized by these four groups:

  1. Both spouses are working at good jobs in the private or public sector making six figures each and spend as if they make even more than that.
  2. One spouse works, always the man, in a career like a doctor, lawyer, developer, software designer, successful business owner or financial person like in bond sales or trading.
  3. They made big money the old-fashioned way: it was passed down by their parents or grandparents.
  4. They spend like they make $250,000 per year but make $125,000 per year, fueling their consumption by debt and some day will have to pay the piper.

Image result for time to pay the piper

I also want to clarify a few things.  One, we do not always have more going out than coming in because that would not be feasible over the long-run. We are not the State of Illinois or City of Chicago government, after all.

There were a few months last year when we took in a thousand or sometimes several thousand more than what went out, thus the ending balance for most of our statements somewhere between $7,000 and $15,000 depending upon a myriad of factors month to month.

Two, I do not say we “spent” over ten grand because the money that went out included the automatic $400 that I contribute to our daughter’s 529 Plan on the first of every month, and the $250 that I “paid myself” to my Roth IRA on the two pay days in this time span, to the T. Rowe Price Blue Chip Growth fund on February 17th and to its Capital Appreciation fund on March 6th.

We made a monthly payment of about $2,300 even to our son’s college on Valentine’s Day.  It is due on the 15th of every month and I initiate the electronic payment on the 10th every month, as it takes about four days to clear.

Our mortgage payment of about $700 per month gets deducted automatically the first of every month.

Also, we do not escrow for our property taxes and live in Crook County.  I had to stroke a check for $2,909.53 on February 21st, which alone made up about 30% of our “spending.”

Utilities came out to about $270, Comcast zapped us automatically for almost another $200, we ate out at least 18 times between the four of us for another $500 or so, and I spent about $400 on my co-payments at the dentist.

We paid over $1,200 between our three credit cards, paying each of the three off in full as I strive to every month.  Those payments covered more meals out, some clothes at Kohl’s, the $200 monthly payment for our daughter’s braces, the $200 monthly payment to her dance studio and God knows what else.

Gas for our cars came to another couple hundred, private music lessons a few hundred, everything we did was a few hundred.  Ultimately, it comes out to nearly eleven grand.

On the plus side, my wife and I each had two paychecks and I must report that two out of the nine grand deposited was a transfer from one of our son’s two 529 plans, also transferred on the 10th of the month to coincide with the transfer to the school on or about the same day.  The two grand in from the 529 and the $2,300 out has become a routine monthly expense for us.

I am sharing this to put my money where my mouth is.  I intend to write more about saving and paying for college, a subject near and dear to me.  I hate almost everything about Crook County, Illinois and share the details of what is to me a painful expenditure twice per year when I have to shell out around three grand.

Just when I begin to feel like we are making a bit of headway and can pop for some much-needed car repairs, home improvements or even a new car or TV, I get walloped by the local taxing districts.

Image result for hurts to pay taxes
I was feeling the pinch from property taxes last month.                                 Source: Foxbusiness.com

I understand the need for local taxing districts to collect taxes.  It pays for local governments, schools, libraries, park districts and even Townships in Illinois.  But it sure does hurt when you have about $10,000 in the bank and have to send $3,000 to the County Treasurer.

I hope to do another similar post some time later this year about how a few grand more came in then went out, but the way things are going, it may be a while.

Drinking on the Job

Image result for man drinking in office

I don’t mean that kind of drinking, although there are many afternoons when I wish that I could take a little nip to help take off the edge.

I have been drinking a lot in my office for many years and lately the detritus of my heavy drinking has been piling up to the point that I have been recycling a dozen or more items by Thursday most weeks.

Two weeks ago, I had coffee from several different sources “outside of home” after drinking the Dunkin’ Donuts that my wife brews daily all five work days last week.

I even had a rather large iced Green Mountain coffee from Sonic one day that week for only $1.49.  I also had a “free” coffee from 7-Eleven and tried a medium iced coffee from Burger King, which was a little out of my way.  The other two days, my additional coffee at work consisted of a bottled iced frappuccino purchased at Walgreens a few weeks ago and one day I consumed the foul coffee from our break room at work, although I sweetened it with pumpkin spice creamer purchased at Aldi following a visit to my dentist for $2.19.  That was for the creamer, not the visit to the dentist.  That was several hundred dollars.

The weeks before were similar, with the addition of small cans of V-8 after reading how coffee, beer and tomato juice is good for my heart last fall.  The blue bottle below is a water bottle that I use a lot to avoid drinking the water at work, and the silver colored travel mug is an “extra” one that I use occasionally.  I use my regular travel mug every day and have for at least ten years.

I’ve been drinking on the job a lot.

The Thursday before, I also had quite a collection of left overs from my heavy drinking on the job.  Many bottles of water from Walgreens and Mariano’s, more V-8s, and two travel mugs used to bring extra coffee from home to work.

More water, more V-8s and more frappies.

This past week, my drinking got out of hand.  I had a V-8 all five days, I was “elected” to purchase shakes from Steak n’ Shake for the seven people in our office yesterday afternoon (three were out) during Happy Hour from 2 to 5, after a young Millennial who I study bought them for us back on Monday, and I had coffee outside of home all five days including my second “free” one from 7-Eleven and an extra large coffee from Dunkin’ Friday morning.

This past week got out of hand with drinking on the job.

I ended the week by consuming a beer in the bathtub while reading an old, but great, spy novel from about 9 to 10 p.m.  In case you are wondering, the novel is Spy Hook by Len Deighton.  I have read many of his other books, as well as nearly everything by the ultimate master, John Le Carre, and by my current favorite, Daniel Silva.

Image result for len deighton spy hook

I had not been able to consume that one beer for ten days, looking at it longingly in our fridge.  The reason being that I will not drink and drive, not even one beer, and I had somewhere to drive every single evening from March 2nd through 10th.  The last night that I did not have to drive anywhere was after taking March 1st off after having a cystoscopy done in the morning.

Also, I should add that I have been ignoring my blogging a bit, choosing to read every night like I have for many years after getting home from whatever activity we were at, including two concerts and one entire day spent at a dance competition (last Sunday).

I have been reading like mad, and am in various stages of about ten books right now in addition to Deighton’s 1988 masterpiece.  Never mind that the spies communicated in 1988 ways instead of encrypted emails or texts.  The plot and character development is superior to 99.9% of books written in 2017.

I digress.

I may not cut down on my drinking on the job, but I will strive to not have the bottles pile up in the corner of my desk from now on.  It’s a small step, but as a wise man once said…

I Got Scoped

I want to tell you few readers about how I started this month.

Ever heard of a cystoscopy?

I had not until my doctor referred me to a urologist following a physical several months ago, I went to see the guy, he tested my pee and listened to my issue of waking up every night to urinate and ordered one of these tests.

It was scheduled for around Valentine’s Day, but I had other, better things to do than to have a scope shoved up my dick, like having my gums fixed, working like a dog, attending my kids’ concerts and dance competitions, and living my busy Middle Class Guy life.

I rescheduled it for March 1st, realizing that I could only put it off for so long and what better way to kick off a new month?

So I started this month on the first a week ago Wednesday by submitting to this test.  Not that I was happy about the prospect of the young Korean doctor sticking a scope in my penis, but it was even more awkward when a Eastern European nurse just a few years older than me (at least it was not a hot young woman) was sent in to prep me by cleaning my goods and rubbing some lidocaine on it.

Image result for cystoscopy
Source: One Healthcare

After waiting a good ten minutes with my numb penis exposed under the sheet, the doctor and nurse returned, the doctor checked out my backside to feel for my prostate, then proceeded to do the test as depicted above.

Take it from me, there are more fun things to have done to you than this.  But like I have seen several other men write on various websites, it was not really as bad as it sounds.  I thought that it would be more painful than it was.  I won’t lie and say that I did not feel some pain when the doctor moved the scope around poking at my bladder, but I think that my tension and anxiety about it made it worse than it should have been.

The good news is that I do not have any kidney stones or signs of prostate cancer. Even though I am “only” forty-six, I realize that people my age and younger have been diagnosed with the Big C, and that is always something to be frightened of when you go for this type of test.

The bad news is that I have a “slightly enlarged” prostate, which I could have told you without the test.  I was advised to seek out legitimate saw palmetto and to take two per day more or less forever.   I write “legitimate” because the doctor handed me a pamphlet about it and told me that he participated in a study at the University of Chicago decades ago that determined that many items labeled saw palmetto do not actually contain the amounts claimed.

He told me that if it does not lead to the desired effect, that he could proscribe Flomax if I want him to in about six months.

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I am already taking Lisinopril daily for my blood pressure and two Fiber pills every morning to help with hemorrhoids that were diagnosed after my Shitty Day last December.  Now add two saw palmetto pills from a bottle that I purchased at Fruitful Yield months ago after going to Massage Envy, hoping to avoid the whole urologist poking around that I was recently subjected to.

I hope that taking the saw palmetto works, but do not really expect it to. Most likely, I will continue waking up around 3:00 to 4:00 a.m. every morning to pee, will try a while to get back to sleep, and continue being tired most weekday mornings.  That is just one of the reasons why I drink so much coffee.

Even if it does not work, I will not agree to undergoing another cystoscopy or colonoscopy for three-and-a-half years until I turn fifty.

Something to look forward to when turning the Big Five-Oh!

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Source: Remodeling Magazine