Not Saving Could Cost You Your Life

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I am glued to my screen, just like every other American, watching in horror as disaster after disaster ravage the Caribbean and southern states. As I see the images unfold, I watch with sadness but also with frustration as news networks routinely interview people who refuse to refuse to evacuate.

While I understand that some are not leaving because of pride and in part because they may believe that the media is overplaying the seriousness of the storm, I’m also starting to realize that some people are not leaving because they simply cannot afford to. They don’t have the extra funds to cover hotels, gas, and food on the road. While that is not an adequate excuse given that shelters are free, it doesn’t change the fact that shelters do have capacity limits and there will always be a significant number of people who have to pay for a hotel out of pocket.

Despite the glamour of South Beach, the city of Miami which is projected to be one of the most affected parts of the state has its underclass. With Florida having a sizable senior population on fixed income, the fact that it is a red state where wages are lower and the fact that there is a large immigrant population all mean that many of those in the affected areas do not have a lot of disposable income. That usually means that people are not saving like they should be. I am certain I have said this in the past, but if I have not, let me say it now: in a capitalist society, a lack of resources can be dangerous if not downright fatal. Even when hotels are $50/night, that seemingly bargain basement price can seem like an insurmountable sum for someone who is in the red every month.

This storm was announced 2 weeks ago and some people still couldn’t make it happen. The very nature of an emergency is that it is unexpected. We can’t possibly know when every tragedy is going to happen. The best we can do is to be prepared to minimize its impact. Stay out of debt, save and have a plan that fits with the risks of your specific region. Government resources are limited and we cannot anticipate that we will always get help in a timely fashion or that assistance will come at all. Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. Let this be your wake up call.

My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by our recent natural disasters, including the recent earthquake in Mexico. If you are in a position to donate, do so at your local level so most of your funds can actually do some good rather than getting eaten up by large overhead at giant corporations. If you can’t afford to donate, volunteer your time. If you’re too far, please remember people always get hurt in these tragedies and you can give blood no matter where you are in the country.

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Demanding Due Dilligence is NOT Victim Blaming

By now most of you have heard of the 10-month old who died (likely a painful and horrible death) after being sexually assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend. If you haven’t heard yet, you will soon. Everyone is angry and rightly so. This male creature, as I dare not call him a man, is evidently a sick person, with no conscience, and probably can’t even be rehabilitated. I may not be a health care provider but I am not stupid and anyone who would ever commit such a despicable act has to be beyond redemption. How many people with healthy brains and  true humanity would ever do something as deplorable and sickening as sexually violating a baby and leaving her to die? But this is not about him. This is about little Emmaleigh and other victims like her. So we are going to talk about that a bit.

I know this is going to be an unpopular opinion because keyboard activists are misguided and have misaligned priorities. However, this is not about your feelings. The lives of the murdered and raped children supersede your sensibilities.

I feel for the baby’s mother. She waited 9 months to meet her baby, nurtured her for 10-months only to watch her die at the hands of a man that she brought into her life. However, I have to ask: where was the mother in all of this? Why did she leave her baby with this man unsupervised? While she couldn’t have possibly known he would rape her, there are a multitude of stories out there that report on men killing, beating or abusing children, particularly  children that their girlfriends had from previous relationships. Knowing those facts, a wise woman would take extra precautions to protect her flesh and blood. Mothers have a responsibility to screen and vet all of their partners to an extent they normally wouldn’t if they were child free. Why? Because your kids don’t have a choice in who they frequent and since you make that decision for them, the least you can do is take steps to ensure their safety. As a woman, you can’t let your desire for penis overrule your protective instincts. Your children are vulnerable until they can make their own choices. As long as you’re making decisions for them, they are going to suffer the consequences of your actions.

I’m sure some of the belligerents will accuse me of victim blaming, in which case I will be pointing out that the mother is not dead or a rape victim. Unless they can point to where I blame Emmaleigh for her own abuse, they’d be better off not wasting their energy on false accusations.

Others might point out that biological fathers also kill. Of course they do, but that’s not the topic at hand is it? That’s nothing more than a straw man argument. I don’t care for anecdotal evidence of great step dads and terrible biological dads, because none of those negate this tragedy. No matter how good of a step father you are or your mom’s husband was, that won’t bring back this little girl, and it will not restore the broken little girls who have been raped. They also don’t change the statistics. Regardless of what we think biological fathers might do, we still have a responsibility to create a safe environment for those we bring into the world. Not that this is the point I’m trying to make, but maybe we shouldn’t be procreating with losers either.

We understand statiscal relevance in all aspects in life, except when it’s time to establish true accountability. People die in car accidents and people die in shark attacks. When you drive to the beach, you wear your seatbelt but you rarely thing of a shark unless you see one. That’s because you know that dying in a car accident is infinitely more likely to happen, so you protect yourself. A shark attack is not impossible, yet it is so unlikely it doesn’t stop you from enjoying the ocean. So how is it different?

I refuse to let my sympathy for her pain blind me to her missteps. She might have suffered loss, but she can rebuild. That will never be an option for her daughter.

Screen your mates (before and after motherhood). Give your children a chance.

You’re on Notice

 

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It wasn’t too long ago that I talked about the importance of never getting comfortable with your level or source(s) of income. I’m a big promoter of always seeking different income streams as well as seeing how you can get raises. Your ultimate goal should be to be in control of an amount of income that covers your cost of living. That’s true financial independence. That way, if you continue to work, you are working because you want to and you can stop at any time. Most importantly, if you’re involuntarily out of work, you’re not likely to be homeless in 3 months.

I also talked about my experience using a Bank of America ATM with a remote teller (Teller Asssist), and the potential threat they pose to many retail banking jobs.

Here it is: CNN is reporting that within the next 10 years, 30% of bank jobs could be obsolete. Very alarming.

These are routine repetitive jobs that we could anticipate being replaced. They are customer service jobs that provide an experience as well as a service. Well, I used one of these machines, and I got the experience. The woman on the screen was sufficiently pleasant and helpful for me to not care that we were interacting on camera rather than in person.

Technology has done it: using machines to provide services that could only be delivered in person. If you have a lower skilled job, this should be your wake up call. Save, invest and set yourself free from the bondage of debt. Otherwise, you might find yourself with a negative net worth an no income.

What Is Middle Class?

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I love election season. It’s the time of year that the middle class gets the most attention. We finally get to be the belles of the ball! The rest of the time, billionaires are being pampered with corporate subsidies and the poor are trying to access government resources to close the financial gaps preventing them from getting basics necessities. We, on the other hand, get the typical middle child treatment of abandonment. But at election time? Oh-wee! Everyone is talking about us.

So it wasn’t surprising to me when I saw a New York Times article telling Hillary that she was wrong about the middle class. “$250k a year is not middle class”, the article said. So I decided to do some googling.

A Pew research website shows that people (or households) in that income bracket are in the top 21% of earners in this country. That’s 5 times the median income. But before we take the Pew’s statistics as irrefutable evidence that the Ed Op piece is correct, we need to go beneath the surface.

As someone who encourages people to be frugal and ains to maximize her own wealth by shifting towards a more efficient lifestyle, I would never consider someone (or a family) in a $250k income bracket “struggling”. However, stating they’re a “top income earner” is misleading and doesn’t account for some very important factors.

Being richER than someone else doesn’t actually make you rich. If you’re on food stamps and are living with a family of 4 in a 700 square foot studio on one income, are you rich? The homeless guy down the street might think so because you have a place to live at all, but that doesn’t make it true. But it might seem that way if we categorize rich and poor by splitting them into 2 groups of “homeless vs. a roof over your head.”

That’s one of the flaws of the Pew’s tiered system of assessing class based on income levels. Saying that I’m in the “upper 21% of earners” puts me in the same category as Donald Trump despite the fact that I do not have the same access to the all (or even most of) luxuries and benefits that being in that class offers. For example, I can afford an Über, but not a full time chauffeur. I can afford a gun, but not a body guard. I can afford a few meals out, but not a cook.

Furthermore, while 250k a year will give any sensible person a good quality of life, we all know that $250k in NYC is not the same as $250k in OKC. Someone earning $250k a year in Oklahoma might be one of the wealthier residents in the neighborhood. But how far would that money take you in D.C.? Or even in Boston? In a nice part of town in my state, anything less than a million won’t get you a mansion. An 1,800 square foot house in Wellesley (a desirable suburb of Boston) went on the market for over $800k, with property taxes being over $8k a year. A 2-bedroom apartment with access to the city (not IN the city, meaning a 20 minute train ride) and close to public transportation, averages out to $2,000 a month. That’s just my state, which is pretty moderate. Because, who knows what’s going on out in San Francisco.

These factors are why I think we should formally get away from the three-tier system of upper, middle and lower classes. I’ve been lower class, but I’ve never been hungry or homeless. And I think people who have would resent me saying that I “identify with the struggle”, just like I resent being lumped with 7-figure earners who charter private jets to Vegas. While I don’t expect the Pew to adjust their stratification by adjusting for local economic factors, they should consider revamping their calculations to split the three major groups into subcategories.

Don’t get me wrong, I could live on $250,000 anywhere. I would live, and I would live well. But, my location would be the determining factor of which income class I consider myself to be a member.

Say ‘No’ to Celebrity Worship

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#LEMONADE

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Beyonce fan or not, you know that this past weekend she released a new album. Whether or not you watched the accompanying video, you know that it was on HBO, you know it was star-studded and that it was the height of artistry. After all, it is Beyonce. Everyone is talking about it. She’s incredibly talented, brilliant and hardworking. She managed to transform herself from a Houston girl’s group lead singer to a half-billion dollar entity. She’s such a shrewd businesswoman that her public image is more of a brand than just a person. If you have any doubt about her appeal, say something negative about her and watch her fans destroy you.

While I’m no stan, I like Bey. You see her work ethic and you think “hastag, life goals”. She routinely position herself to capitalize on everything happening in our world. She’s incredibly raw and honest in her artistic expressions, willing to step away, even if momentarily, from the “all is well” rhetoric so prevalent in the media today. She has managed to keep her privacy while still showing pain and realism in her art. Bey is somehow both “King” and relatable. Out of this world and one of us. All at the same time. Her enormous success has granted her the power to control her image and access to her in general. But today, I’m not here to talk about Beyonce. Because she already has it figured out. I’m here to talk about those who haven’t figured out their own lives, but are busy on a witch hunt for Becky with the good hair.

Although it has not been confirmed that she’s even speaking about a specific incident, there has been a lot of speculation. For the sake of this argument, I’m going along with that, and dismissing the possibility that she’s speaking in general terms on behalf of other women.

I’m starting to realize that some people love these celebrities more than they love themselves. Here’s a woman who has a healthy and lucrative outlet for pain, speaking her truth.  She’s calling out the cheater. She loves herself enough to let him know she’s over the BS. In other words, she’s handling it and doing it well. How many of the women who have no vested interest in the relationship have the courage to confront their own abusers or their own cheating partners with the same gusto they’re attacking the alleged homewrecker? How much better would their lives be if they dedicated a fraction of their “stanning” efforts to self-improvements? How many of them are in healthy relationships if they’re paired up at all?

When you are so busy worshiping people that it interferes with your ability to love yourself, you don’t have time to appreciate their substance and learn from them. So say no to celebrity worship. Your time is better spent admiring them, studying them and attempting to replicate their success. Work on yourself. Live your own truth. Take back your power. Bey’s got it covered.

Why I don’t trust people with bad hair cuts

I try not to get political. In part because people tend to be too entirely consumed by politics while most of the things that happen in Washington have little to no effect on them. Outside of tax laws, very few of us are impacted by federal politics daily, yet, man of us allow it to dominate our conversations, determine how we treat others, and influence our relationship with those with opposing views. I know enough to make an informed decision at the polls, but I am not naive enough to take my eyes of my local municipal and state officials (whose policies impact every moment of my life) to worry about D.C.

With that said, on the global stage, the short, little rolly-polly crazy pillisbury dough boy looking man in North Korea needs a straight jacket. CNN just reported that his daring missile tests, despite their continuous failures, keep getting more serious and traveling further.

That’s why I don’t trust people with bad hair cuts. Sane people simply don’t show their face in public looking like that.

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