Manage your money people, it’s important.

This morning I witnessed another fine example of people not really caring about their personal finances, or at the very least ignoring the problems they may have. I was in the break room at work, we have Burrito vendors come out during the week. The vendor is sitting there and an employee walks in and first asks if they take checks, the vendor replies “Yes.” To me, not a huge red flag, not a lot of people with cash on hand and if they really want a Burrito they might need to write a check.

Then, that question was followed up with, “can you just take my debit card number?” Again the vendor replied “yes,” on a side note I think this is just dumbfounding that people are so trusting, but hey. After that response the employee then asks, “will you run it today or tomorrow?” Leading one to believe that this $3.00 burrito may very well overdraw the account or that the account is already overdrawn.

I have to tell you, if you can’t afford a $3.00 burrito, it is time to sit down and go over everything. I’m not saying you should be able to buy a $3.00 burrito with no difficulty, but manage your personal finances. The economy is in the toilet, and if you have a good job there is no reason you shouldn’t be solvent and saving. You can still spend money, but you might be more careful about what you are spending your money on and keeping track of actual costs.

We are rapidly approaching the holiday season, one of the most popular things for people to do when personal finances are in bad shape is say “F it, I will deal with it later” and spend like mad. Don’t, there are other options. I was in a tight situation some years ago and instead of going out and buying gifts on the lists of my family members I chose to try and make gifts, or do something meaningful.

Remember, the holidays are not always about tangible material items, though we sure make it seem that way. November 1 is right around the corner, it’s a good time to take a look at your finances, and your plan for the next two months. Most families set budgets, if you don’t already, now is a good time to start.

Most of all, never feel pressured by family or friends about money. Either you can afford something or you can’t with your budget. No shame in saying no, or not this month or whatever response you like to use. I spent a good part of my 20’s in big debt, worked my ass off to get rid of it and stay out of it.

I am not rich, and I can’t say I am wealthy by most standards, but I don’t live beyond my means. it does take discipline and it’s not easy, but in the long run, your life and your families life will be much better by showing restraint and responsibility.

The near future is pretty bleak for the economy, it’s depressing and not taking vacations, making purchases and all that really adds up and makes life hard. Just remember, this is all going to get better, but it might be a year or two before we really start to see any improvement.

Keep putting money away for retirement, keep putting money away for emergencies. If you aren’t comfortable putting your new retirement contributions into stocks and mutual funds try and keep them in a money market or something similar. There is still risk, but a lot less. Also, IRA’s at banks have a yield, but are insured so that is another alternative.

One last thing, personal finances are just that, personal. They aren’t anyone’s business but yours. If you need help or guidance, don’t be afraid to ask, just ask the right people. Don’t ask your friend with $15K in revolving debt. It is even worth spending a little bit to speak to a financial planner or if you are in debt talk with an organization like Consumer Credit Counseling Services.

In the end, yes this post is about a person not having the money for a $3.00 burrito yet deciding to go into debt over it. However, this is just a small example of the larger problem we are seeing right now and it is really really important we stay focused on personal finances and protect ourselves as best we can against this horribly beat down economy.

Undecided and American

I hate to delve into politics again, but it seems like no matter what it is unavoidable. I will keep it short and sweet. Since I am undecided and an independent I have been trying to take what time I can to research the candidates and their “plans.”

One thing I have learned, is read between the lines, there is some tiny print there. I am bit biased though I’m sure my post will seem that way. If it makes you unhappy or you think I am wrong, feel free to show me the FACTS that make me incorrect.

Okay, hot topics for me in this election, 1. Spending/Economy, 2. Health Care, 3. Military.

Seems odd to many, but I could really give a rats ass bout all the other stuff, it’s all about the basics, money, health and security. The rest can come later after we fix a few messes. I believe each candidate needs to have just a basics approach to bettering our country and that needs to begin with fixing decades of problems. We need to take care of us.

I sent Barack Obama an email, and I got a response signed by him, whether or not it was him remains to be seen. I am sure it was just someone working for his office, it was partially canned but you could tell some was actually free formed. This is always nice because it means they may have actually read my email and considered my questions.

They did TRY to answer my questions, but just like the debates, nothing specific. My biggest question was, how does he believe we can afford most of his items, or any for that matter when he touts fixing the problems with overspending in the government. The response in summary was that it would rely on the repeal of the current tax break for those making over $250K per year. The response claimed that would be enough tax revenue to cover the up front costs of updating our government medical systems with a new IT system.

I only point this one out, because I find it hard to believe that this would be enough money since all the responses I got target this group for the tax money.

Which has lead me into another thought, had this discussion with my Dad the other day too. Think about it, $250,000.00. That’s a lot of money for you and me middle class people…as individuals. However, what about as families? Look up and down your street, look at your relatives. I bet there are plenty of people you know that are in that tax bracket as a household, and that is the target.

While I will admit we’re not quite there, it’s not unrealistic to expect to be there in the future. Basically these people are made out to be bad guys. They are probably some of the hardest working people in America. Hell, a married couple with 3 – 5 kids, I’m not going to say they are living check to check but I would almost bet they aren’t living in a mansion and driving a Ferrari.

Don’t get me wrong, if your household is bringing in $250K / year you are doing good, but you are also taxed heavily as is.

On the note of taxes…other things included, there will be taxes in other places to cover the costs of proposed items in the plan. While the “middle” class may not have more of that take home pay whittled down from income taxes, be prepared to pay higher costs elsewhere…the businesses and other places that will be paying the higher taxes which will translate into higher prices for us middle class.

Moving along, Military, Obama’s straight response was to just yank everyone from Iraq and that will solve our military problems. Not verbatim, but that is the gist of it. In fact, here is the actual response to my question of “How do we modernize and strengthen our military.?”

And we must end a war in Iraq that John McCain wants to continue, a war that should never have been authorized and never been waged, and has cost us over one trillion dollars in addition to the incalculable human toll. The peace dividend we will realize from ending this war is an important part of putting our fiscal house in order.

Nothing there really addressed my question. At this point you might be asking, what about the first point I made about spending and the economy. His responses were good, attempt to have investigations and committees to look into the out of control spending in the government and how to reign that in.

In the end, everything costs money, and both candidates have way to broad of plans to even consider getting a fraction of them complete without hurting us more. I will post more as I am sending a similar email to McCain.

I just see these ads on TV and the debates and talk to people and I think some folks just listen to the ads and the debates and don’t think about that these guys are just like car sales men. They are telling you what you want to here knowing they don’t have to in any way shape or form follow through with what they say ther are going to do.

They all have agendas and it’s not always in our best interest. Take this with a grain of salt and I would love to talk more but I am tired and busy. I will try to offer equal time to the candidates ;).

I am still undecided and keep in mind my skepticism towards McCain is the same as that for Obama. I am a registered voter but I am not a Republican and I am not Democrat, I just vote for who I feel is the best overall candidate for our country.

Don’t think about the last 8 years, think about the next four. It’s almost over, take the parties out of it, look at the candidates, their plans and how they plan to achieve their goals, how they will work with congress and do they really care about this country or themselves.

Be good.

I am fed up with the media spin!

Recession! Recession! Recession! Today I run through my daily routine of reading the news. I hit up my local news station site, 9news.com, I notice an article that is entitled: Bernanke warns of possible recession. Immediately I’m like, well this can’t be good. If BB is dropping the R word in front of congress then we might really be in some trouble.

Being interested I get into reading the article, well midway through the second paragraph:

…Bernanke didn’t use the word recession.

Then onto the third paragraph I see

Under one rule, six straight months of declining GDP, would constitute a recession.

Of course that is what is reported by the news source, not Ben Bernanke’s words. Then the article (which I hope you’ve read by now to understand by tirade) moves on to talk about how BB thinks we’ll actually get some decent growth this year. So yeah, 2008 is off to a sluggish start, we did have positive, albeit slowed growth for the first quarter, but we haven’t totally stalled.

I’m not about to delve into a debate on economics, the government or what the future holds for the housing and financial markets, but I will gladly entertain your remarks about the media and their constant grab for sensationalism. Why would you title an article this way when BB never even said that? Here, let me answer that, because a lot of American’s are on the edge of their seat every time someone uses the term Recession. I’m not sure why, the term has been used loosely for the last 9 months.

It’s a lot different today than it was ten years ago. We have instant access to information, good or bad. The media understands this and like any other business they need to make money. They make money by roping you in and keeping you captivated, from airing gruesome pile-ups on the highway, to heart wrenching stories about puppies from broken homes. They take a story, embellish the telling of it and increase viewership which in turn allows them to sell advertisements. This is where they get a lot of money.

My point here is, if you read something that is clearly distorting reality, by misleading the reader/viewer call them out. Their job is to report the news, unbiased and accurately. Car dealers and retailers get sued for false advertising, the press should be held to similar standards. If you are going to intentionally sensationalize a headline only to have the reader find out that the title is inaccurate then you are misleading your reader.

I’m done.