Categories
Financial

Our Economy

I have been so confused lately…

Is Obama right about the success of the BILLIONS put into the system? Is Warren Buffet right? First Warren says it’s not working, and then last week he said it is. Does that mean his friend Barack called him and begged him not to tank the economy worse than it is, so he recanted on what he said originally? I’m so confused. So, I e-mailed my friend Manisha Thakor, who is on TV all the time because she’s a smart money girl from Harvard. (Manisha, I meant to tell you that you sit too close to the web cam and your face looks too big when you are on TV.)

I said, “What is the deal Manisha?” Here is her answer.

Chris, here’s the issue on the economy:  It’s basically like someone who kept their energy level high through caffeine & sugar, and is now cutting way back on that and trying to drive their energy level through sleep, exercise, and nutrition.  It will work… but there’s a withdrawal period that sucks and then a time lag before the new program kicks in. In the U.S., the consumer has been an outsized driver of Gross Domestic Product (relative to other developed countries) for a good 15 years. The only way consumers were able to spend like such crazy folk was by spending more than they earned, year after year.  It started off slowly in the late ’80s/early ’90s and really reached a crescendo this decade when the savings rate went negative.  With the consumer slowing back, the only possible outcome is that economic growth slows in the short run.  HOWEVER, if we thread that proverbial needle it is possible that we will re-emerge in 5 or so years with a MUCH more sustainable, 3-legged stool driving economic growth, ie a more healthy balance between consumer, business, and government spending. 

Manisha knows me. Caffeine? Sugar? Exercise? Nutrition? Ok, now I get it. Why didn’t you say so in the first place. I feel so much better. Maybe she’s right and maybe she’s wrong, but at least I get it. 

So, I thought it important to pass this clear information on to some of you like-minded confused souls so you can get it too! Now, obviously, I have no idea if Manisha is right that re-working the base from which our economy grows will work, or whether we can sustain ourselves in the meantime and not go under, however at least I now have a visual image to relate it all to.

Why didn’t they just say that in the first place and save me so much angst?

Categories
Business Financial Women

Sotomayor & Her Finances

My friend, and amazing financial planning expert, Manisha Thakor, did a column on her blog about Justice to be Sotomayor, and her personal finances or lack thereof. Apparently, the Justice elect, (or is it Justice in Waiting?), owes more on her house than her original mortgage and has credit card debt which adds up to close to her total cash savings of $35,000. Another friend said she is a gambler, but that friend is a staunch Republican who would be happy if the bench was filled with all white men who look like her father, so I can’t vouch for that comment. 

Here are the facts. She makes about $200,000 a year, has no children and savings of $32,000. Her worth is all in the apartment she has in Greenwich Village, which has a mortgage ($349,000). Ready for the next part? She supports her mother, and she has helped friends and family financially. She also gives a lot of her money away. She is worth around $700,000, which is basically the market value of her apartment. Bottom line? She has no money.

Women and money are absolutely not reconcilable. We just don’t make sense money-wise.

Twenty years ago, I carried around my divorce settlement check in my winter coat pocket for three months. Every day, when I put on the coat, I felt the certified check in the pocket and thought to myself, “Self, best get this check in the bank today.” Every single day. And, I’m not a stupid person, although you might not realize that from some of the postings on this blog. Spring arrived and I had no other option than to deposit it. In addition, when I went to interview a financial manager, I asked him probing questions such as, “Why, if I will have all this money in your bank, are you going to charge me $.25 per check?” Do not judge me.

I know women who have made millions of dollars working 24/7 and have no idea how much money they have in the bank. And what they do have is in CD’s not even earning the cost of inflation. I have friends who have turned over their hard earned money to new boyfriends trusting them when they have no reason to do so.

Women and money. 

And then there is that idiot, Susie Orman, who takes the soul out of finance. She is definitely not a Susie. She’s a Suzanne, and I don’t want to listen to her ranting about money without heart. Plus, she’s so bossy. I hate that. Talk about sucking the joy out of life. Let’s look at her life. Alone. Running all over the country bossing everyone she meets around pretending she knows everything. If she is so smart, how come she didn’t tell everyone last spring to sell all their stocks the way George Soros did?

Did you know that companies and organizations doing loans in third world countries make the loans to women because they actually use the money to start businesses, pay it back on time, and build incomes that support their families? And, when they loaned it to men, the guys blew the money. So, again, we work hard to make the money, but not to manage it.  

The long and short of it is, maybe the Justice in Waiting has it right? Use the money for what it was made for – to provide items needed to live. To help support family and friends. To put clothes on our backs and too much food in our stomachs. Ms. Sotomayor has no ties to money. She owns no stocks, owes no one anything except the bank for her mortgage. She lives her life unencumbered by financial restraints and time commitments that managing a burgeoning portfolio demand. 

The more I think about it, the more I like her style. Nothing like a mirror image on the bench.


Categories
Business Financial Politics

Please Mr. President, I Don’t Want To Own GM.

I was driving to New York City today on the crowded Long Island expressway with a friend. I started to look at all the cars around us, turned to her and said, “I don’t want to own GM. I sold my jeep last year because I have this large car and felt two vehicles was more than I could handle. I want to return GM and get our money back. Are you with me?”

She looked across at me for a what seemed to be a long while and said, “Do I need to worry about you running into the median? If I do, tell me quick so I can get out of the car before you go.”

“Listen, hear me out. I don’t take care of the car I already own. I forget to change the oil even though every time I turn the car on the ‘change oil’ light comes on. I promise myself I will call as soon as I get somewhere I can call without being arrested for being on my cell phone while driving. It’s like the promise I made every year not to eat Sarah’s Halloween candy and lie to her about her memory of having gotten Peanut Butter Cups. I’m a vessel filled with broken promises, and I can see they are just like me. It takes one to know one.” Big breath. 

“Judging from the way our government handles itself, you are right. They are just like you.”

Ray Young, and boy is he!
Ray Young, and boy is he!

“Well, there you have it. There might still be time, and I want to call someone and recommend we return it. After all, let’s think this thing through. It’s not just irresponsible me, the owner, and the lying government who made me buy it. It seems like everyone who f&*#d up the company is still there too. I saw the Chief Financial Officer, Ray Young, on TV the other day. His last name says it all. And, he ended the interview saying, ‘I want to thank the American people for investing and believing in us. I know we can turn this around.’ Well, I have yet to meet one American who chose to invest in GM. I hate it when people thank you for something they know you didn’t want to do. It’s SO disingenuous. And, he’s maybe ten years old. And, he has pimples. I never did anything smart when I was young enough to have pimples. I don’t believe in him. I don’t believe in GM, and I think if they could have turned it around, they would have already done it.”

“Look, can we talk about something else?”

“No.”

“Alright. I might mention, I own all GM cars.”

“Well, aren’t you stupid? At least I was smart enough to buy an Audi.” What I didn’t mention is that I bought the Audi because another friend told me that Audi doesn’t charge for tune ups and check ups for your car. Ever. Then I found out that they stopped that policy four months before I became part of their family – yet another glowing example of me not doing the research necessary to protect myself. 

The conversation bothered me all day.

Billion Dollar Look? Yikes!!!!
Billion Dollar Look? Yikes!!!!

I’m in marketing and strategy by trade. So, if I can’t return GM, I decide to take a look at what I can do to assist with the new GM that I now own. You have to work with what you have, not what you wish you didn’t have. I go and look up the new ad campaign that starts tomorrow. Continue to read if you want to get really depressed.

Following is some of the text that accompanies images throughout the ad such as a person running who only has one leg. (I swear. Could I make this up?)

“Let’s be completely honest. No company wants to go through this. 

But we’re not witnessing the end of the American car.

We’re witnessing the rebirth of the American car.

General Motors needs to start over. There was a time when eight brands made sense. Not anymore.

There was a time when our cost structure could compete world wide. Not anymore.

Reinvention is the only way we can fix this. <image of football player throwing ball and fade in American flag>

And, fix it we will. Here is what the new GM is going to be. Fewer, stronger brands. Fewer, stronger models. Greater efficiency. 

Leaner, greener, faster, smarter.

This is not about going out of business, this is about getting down to business.”  

I don’t want to waste anymore time reviewing the ad other than to say, this is absolutely about going out of business, not about getting down to business. Please do not insult my intelligence. I don’t want to end on a negative note, so I came up with my own ad which I’m sure will have stronger results. 

A picture of a thousand people standing there looking stunned. Voice over…

“If you owned a hardware store, would you buy nails from the competition down the street? We thought not. Buy GM. You own it.”

End ad. I timed it. It’s well within the 15 seconds cheap ad rate. In fact, if you don’t pause, you can say it twice in fifteen seconds getting double our money’s worth. Their ad is an expensive minute. I think mine will sell more cars. It will clearly be cheaper to produce and cheaper to run, which is what the cars should have been in the first place. 





Categories
Business Financial

Middle Class Millionaires

I was on the phone yesterday with a friend who I work with from the west coast who said something about Middle Class Millionaires.

“What the hell is a Middle Class Millionaire?”

“You know what I mean,” he replied. “People who have a few million but don’t fly first class and take the garbage to the curb -Middle Class Millionaires. You know once you start riding business class, you rarely go back to coach. And, once  you move to first class, you don’t go back to business. When you start doing private jets, that’s it, you are no longer a Middle Class Millionaire.”

I started to think about it and called my friend whose husband is a very successful lawyer. They have a lot of money now, but she has trouble with it because she grew up ‘southern poor’.

“Do you fly  coach?”

“If it’s a short flight I do.”

“Oh, that’s interesting.”

“If the flight is under four hours, I will fly coach.”

Silly me yet again. I’m thinking the short flight from Laguardia to her house in Martha’s Vineyard and she’s talking all the way to Aspen.

I tell her about Middle Class Millionaires, and we start talking about her recent quest to learn sailing. I remark about how amazing it is that at our age that she is out struggling with the boat while I would prefer to sit and watch New York City Housewives. She says it’s because she grew up poor and didn’t do these things, while I did them, and so she is making up for lost time. But, she brings her poorness to her new endeavors for sure.

“Bob (the husband) doesn’t really want to sail with me. I was leaving for sailing Sunday (from their house on the Vineyard, I might add, which is on the water) and he is watching me carry the oars over my shoulder toward the car from the porch, and he says ‘Are you sure you don’t want me to come with you?’ I said, ‘No, I’m fine,’ and he says, ‘Debbie you are wheezing.'”

Unfortunately, due to a problem Debbie had putting Vicks Vapo-Rub on her upper lip for years to clear her nasal passages, she now has trouble breathing. I think she should sue Vicks so she could be bigger than a Middle Class Millionaire, but she’s not there yet.

So, I say, “Well, you have your cell if you get in trouble alone out there.”

“No, I would never take my IPhone on a boat. I might lose it overboard.”

“Ok, so you should die rather than lose your IPhone and have to pay $300 to replace it? This gives a whole new meaning to Middle Class Millionaires.”

I have another friend who has made millions herself (I’m so proud; how many women in business do you know who worked for a large company who took home more than a million dollar salary?). She is as cheap as a free hand out by the subway station. She doesn’t have HBO on her cable, but she has five residences (granted they are selling two, and one is in contract, but it’s accurate in this moment in time). She cuts out and carries grocery coupons. She buys candy on sale and holds it up and says, “This whole bag of Tootsie Rolls was only $2.00. Isn’t that great?!” She actually looks like a cat who has dropped off the mouse it took him years to catch. Her husband refuses to go with her to the grocery store because it’s too embarrassing. He and I are in perfect synch. I personally think he should have married me instead of her.

I think I’ve made my point. How we treat our money is not based on how much we have, but rather from whence we come. Not sure what all these assumptions mean exactly, but I think it’s a sociological dissertation for sure. And, I’m going to continue to gather information about it.



Categories
Business Financial Politics

Western Union: Modern Day Money Launderers

We have to start thinking about Western Union. To show how out of touch I am, I figured they were out of business, or close to it. I would have said they must be hanging on by a thread, possibly part of the bail out so downtrodden are they with the lack of need for wiring things. With email, faxes, and phones reaching across waters previously unreachable, what need is there for Western Union? Silly me. 

Did you know…

Last year, US migrants sent 300,000,000,000 (Yep BILLIONS) back to their families in third world countries and guess who carried the cash, or the lion’s share of it? Yep, West Union. 

Western Union has five times as many locations as MacDonald’s, Starbucks, Burger King and Wal-Mart combined. Huh? This gives new irrelevance to the Big Mac for sure. Where are these locations? I think it might be like Nielsen Boxes. Have you ever met anyone who has a Nielsen box in their home? Didn’t think so. But you know they are out there, you just don’t know where.

And, guess what else? I was right. When the Internet boom hit, Western Union went out of business. Not so much now. In 2008, Western Union had revenues of $6.3 billion and posted an operating income margin of 26%.

I discovered the nature of Western Union’s purpose during a conversation today with a police person. We were talking about all the issues wrapped up with the illegal work force that is so prevalent in the Hamptons. He was lamenting the lack of money that goes to the workers coming back into the system that they use in such abundance. (They do use the emergency room as their personal doctor waiting room.) I knew they sent the  money back to their Mothership. I got that. But I guess I assumed it was sent in boxes wrapped in cut up grocery bags and string. Sometimes my own stupidity surprises even me. But who’s the stupid one? If we know the illegal-untaxed money is heading out through a publicly traded company, why don’t we shut it down?

“Global Migration is the cornerstone of how we’ve grown,” said Christina Gold, Western Union’s chief executive. Let me translate.  “Money laundering is the cornerstone of how we’ve grown.” And, to top it off, this will come as no surprise, Western Union spends millions and millions of dollars in Washington in immigrant support through political action groups. This part really excites me. I always wanted my own “follow the money” scenario. It made Woodward a famous writer, so it could work for me. It’s an awful lot of money though. I think Woodward only had to follow a few hundred thousand. No way I can keep up. 

Ok, so anyway, my new best friend police officer said they (not sure who they are; I’m still new in all this) want to start taxing Western Union 11% on each transaction out of the country. One percent would go to the local police department, 6% would go to local school education, and 5% to the local hospitals and health services, all of which serve this constituency. Since Western Union’s profit margin was 26% last year, seems to me they can give back 11% to be able to keep laundering money legally. Makes sense right? Or maybe not. I don’t know.

Either way, I checked the stock and it’s $16 and change. I might buy some on Monday. Oh, wait, that would be so two-faced. I’m not doing it.

Categories
Financial Politics

The United States and Numbers

Does it bother anyone out there in the Minnesota’s hinterlands that it’s now six months and one day (see how accurate math outside the government is?) past the election and you still don’t know exactly how many people in Minnesota voted for Al Franken and how many voted for Norm Coleman? I live in New York where I suspect we fix elections before they happen so we avoid these messy aftermath issues, but if I lived in Minnesota I’d be opening my window (I think it’s warm enough now) and screaming that line about not taking it anymore. Rise up, Minnesotians, be heard!

Voting is really very simple. You either push a lever or check a box in person or send in an envelope with your vote.  Minnesota’s election boards says that 2.8 million people voted. Already I’m nervous.What are the odds that exactly 2,800,000 people voted? It had to be 2,857,394 or something. And, each time they come up with a voting number for the Senate race, it’s a little different than the time before. “The gap is widening with each new recount” they say with pride, and that’s supposed to make me feel better about the accuracy of the results? Everyone knows that if the balance sheet is off a penny it could mean it’s off by millions. Just get the same count twice, and I’ll feel better.

Last week more than 42,000,000 votes were cast (see TV rounds out the number too but they tell you they rounded it out) on American Idol. You vote by calling in. You vote by sending a text, or you vote online at the website. Twenty-four hours later we hear the news. What’s his name or other was voted out. I know you must be reading this paragraph thinking to yourself, “Wait a minute? Is it possible that more votes were cast on American Idol last week than in the last highly contested election last fall?” But we are not here today to talk about our messed up American values, but rather numbers, so let’s stick to the numbers’ facts. They are able to get an exact count hours after it is made for a TV show, with twenty times the numbers of voters, and we can’t get an accurate count of votes in Minnesota six months and one day later?

The US numbers problem is not limited to the election results in Minnesota. It was announced this morning that the amount of bonuses given out by AIG was four times more than originally reported. Huh? I assure you that every company who did not get money from government knew right from the get go how much money went out in bonuses the day after the bonus money left their bank accounts.

I worked at Peat Marwick Mitchell in the eighties – although not in the smart accounting section but in the marketing section. I know how accountants worked back then before it was all done through computers. They could tell you to the penny anything you wanted to know in a balance sheet and it was never months later, but days. So now that it’s all in the computer and they need only to click reports at the top of the screen to create a report (I use Quicken and highly recommend it which is why I know how to print financial reports), they can’t seem to get a number that is accurate? Or even better than four times off accurate?

Let’s talk census bureau numbers. Here is what I don’t get. When someone dies, we enter it in the computer (or should). When someone is born, it’s entered in the computer. When someone is naturalized, it goes in the computer. That means all you need to do is take the base number from the census however many years ago (go back to 1960 when things were simpler, I don’t care), add in the number of those added through birth and naturalization, deduct those that died (may they rest in peace) and voila, you have the number of people in this country. I hear you. I hear you. “What about illegal aliens?” you shout? (Why do we call them that? There are no legal aliens. Aliens are little people with strange heads that most of us don’t believe exist. Shouldn’t we start calling persons here without permission illegal immigrants?) I assure you illegal immigrants do not invite the census taker in for coffee when he or she comes knocking. And, they do not generally have telephone land lines, but rather cell phones, which are not used in census taking, so who are we kidding? I don’t want to complicate the point I was making by also pointing out that the census takes three years to conduct, and therefore it’s obsolete by the time they hold the press conference anyway.

I could go on and on about how our government (I call it my government when I’m filled with pride and our government when I’m vexed) has made a mockery of the Numbers Code that my exacting math friends find so comforting. For example, I could get back to election numbers and discuss the Gore/Bush election, but I’d have to take to my bed for days and just can’t afford to go there. And, my (love the guy, thus the my) President has asked me to look forward angel.

I think a lot about the fact that the world supposedly looks to us for how to do things like run elections, world financial markets, and do math really really well. Either we are kidding ourselves as a country and they don’t really look to us at all (you know what I mean, when you think someone really likes you and find out later through a supposed real friend they talked shit about you behind your back), or the rest of the world is stupid. Either way, it’s not exactly uplifting.

Look forward Americans! Start a petition to have the producers of American Idol run our next elections! Demand that we do census by Facebook or Twitter! Ask Peat Marwick Mitchell (it’s called something else now, but I can’t remember what) to take over government accounting! What to do about AIG in general? I’m clueless. Totally without words.

Categories
Business Financial

The 3/50 Project

I love this project.

It’s called the 3/50 Project and the premise is really simple. Basically, it’s a to do list with numbers to help local businesses stay in business during this difficult time.

Whenever you break down numbers in a cool way, you actually feel like you can make a difference. I live mostly in the Hamptons in New York. The Hamptons has tons of small businesses that make the Hampton’s character what it is. I can surely make this work here.

The 350 Project

I am going to follow the 3/50 system. For sure, I’m going to stop in three local businesses. I’ve already decided what they are.

I’m going to spend at least $50 each month at the local stores, and I’m going to invite my friends to do the same. I guess I have 50 friends in the Hamptons (although I should deduct 20% for the cynical part of me that sometimes wonders if people pretend to be friends), and I’m going to email them.

Then I’m going to upload this to my Facebook account and see if anyone forwards it to their friends.

I am not going to order postcards from www.MyPostcards.com (love them) because I’m trying to lessen my carbon footprint (what is that anyway? Footprint? Are you kidding me? It always makes me think of that guy Big Foot who probably isn’t real in some country or other that I used to read about more than I do now.)

I’m going to tell Sarah (my fabulous daughter) that she can spend $50 a month on my credit card in local stores in her area. She lives in New York City, though, and I will have to explain to her that Tasti Delight is not a local store even though all the sales persons there know her name (and her roommate).

Then I’m going to tell the three stores that I stop in that they should print out the homepage from the website, frame it and put it on their check out counters.

Then I’m going to call one person a day for 35 days and remind them that they read about it on my Facebook or my blog or in one of our favorite stores and ask them if they did things to send it forward too.

Right now I’m going to bed. I’m exhausted thinking of all the things I’m going to do.

But first, thanks to a blogger friend of mine, Kathryn, from Snippet and Ink, who played it forward to me.

Categories
Financial

Respecting Left Overs

Last night I went to dinner with some people a friend wanted me to meet. I ordered lamb which was amazingly delicious. It came with green beans and au gratin spuds. I ate half of it and asked to take the rest of it home. I put it in the refrigerator when I got home and had this amazing feeling of virtuousness that I thought was strange. I woke up this morning thinking about it and said, “Get a grip, you are losing it.” But alas, my mind kept going.  I took the cost of the dinner last night (interesting that I would do that when I didn’t even pay for it, but whatever), divided it by two like I was a fiscally responsible person.

What is going on? Usually I either tell the waiter not to wrap it, or I take it and leave it in the car, or I leave it on the counter, or I leave it in the refrigerator long past the time when the food ceases to be food and becomes some living something or other no longer resembling what it was originally. Trust me I never think about the food gone uneaten on my plate, and I certainly have never written about the take home food from a great dinner in my diary. But I feel so virtuous. I really did put it in the refrigerator with pride and a sense of responsibility.

It’s not the money. It was something else. It was a sense of noticing what was around me. It was a sense of finishing the meal. It was a feeling of control. Now, I’m not suggesting that the one fry left over from a MacDonald’s run (I swear I don’t go to MacDonalds) is going in the freezer for later, but I am suggesting that leaving a path of left overs – food or otherwise – behind us as if they didn’t matter and didn’t come from hard earned money and effort is over.

My people come from New England stock that wastes nothing. My cousin (Pam, forgive me) is a bit younger than me and used to visit me when I was pretending to be a grown up in my first marriage and she actually was a grown up in college. Once she was heading back to school and asked me if I could cash a check for her. She handed me the check made out for $1. I looked at her said, “Who are you?” She got defensive, and I shook my head in incredulous sympathy, gave her the dollar and threw away the check. But I think of her this morning and realize that she has been doing with her leftovers what I did last night for years, and she is a happy person.

Peter Matthieson starts his book Men’s Lives with a quote I understood later was taken from someone else (bummer, I was wowed by him when I thought he wrote it). The quote reads “And, it’s men’s lives we eat for breakfast.” I get that quote big time. That left over lamb included a bleeping sheep, a farmer raising the green beans and potato, the chef in the kitchen who cooked it, the truck (or three) that delivered it, the waiter that served it (ok, I’m done, please tell me you get the point even if I can’t quite put my finger on it?).

The bottom line is that this new world that emerges from the ashes of our financial collapse offers something that is really quite nice. My finances are in better shape then they have ever been, but I notice them more. I feel more connected to them and to the lamb in my refrigerator.

Categories
Financial

Credit Card Free Me

I’m fifty-six years old and tend to think about things – even financial things – from a perspective not based on facts and figures but rather actions, feelings and opinions. I buy stocks based on a company’s ads, and how I think they will be perceived by consumers. It drives my Wall Street friends nuts. I vote from the gut. And those whose opinions I value usually mirror my own. I was lying in bed pondering how it was that I have to bail out individuals who took on more debt that their entire life’s income potential, and it came to me.

When I was a kid, my mother paid for everything by either writing a check or paying with cash. My mother’s wallet was a small thing; mine has no less than fifteen slots for credit cards. I do not have any idea how much money my pay check brings to my bank account with direct deposit. My father used to give my mother his pay check for deposit; and he handed it to her carefully, with pride and care.

credit-cardsI remember the advent of VISA and Master Card and American Express. I think my mother’s generation, who grew up with cash and checks, handled the credit card better than my generation. On some level they realized that it was still money going out. I do not think of credit cards that way, and my daughter’s generation surely doesn’t. When you arrive on a college campus, you get a Citibank credit card. Need I say more? It’s not real money. When I pay with a credit card (and I don’t carry credit card debt), I don’t really think about the money going out. When the card statements arrive for payment, I often shake my head at my depth of spending, most of which I never really think about. An American Express bill’s balance always feels like a surprise. If I had to write a check or pay cash for that ridiculously priced handbag, I would at least pause before laying it on the shelf at the cash register.

So, I got up out of bed, and I cut up all my credit cards except my American Express (which I have sworn I will only keep on hand in case I need to flee the country). I even cut up my debit card. My deal with myself is that I have to go into the bank and cash a check, or pay by check. My accountant might say I don’t need to do this, but inside me I know I do.

The new credit card free me went shopping over the weekend. I was on my way to the counter with a pair of pants for my daughter when I glanced at the price tag to see if I needed to pay with cash or a check. The pants were $250. Wow, thought I, making a U-Turn in the store. Wow. Another pair of black pants? I don’t think so.

So, I headed to another store and was paying for something (on sale) with a check. The woman at the counter looked at me strangely and said, “A check. We don’t see many of these.” I explained my new philosophy, and she actually looked as if a light bulb had gone off and said she was going to do the same thing.

I went into the bank last week to cash a check. I’m picking an amount each week as a budget of cash. Since I cut up my debit card, cashing my check meant I had to go home and get my passport to provide the two picture ID’s needed. This setback notwithstanding, I liked walking out of the bank with my cash, and I actually thought I would say hello to the teller next week when I go back and she might remember me. After all, we had a moment with me explaining that I don’t want another debit card; and that I didn’t lose it, I cut it up.

They say that Barack Obama is arriving in Washington owing no one anything. They say the average contribution to his campaign was under $100. Because I signed on to give an amount a month on one credit card or another, I have no idea what my contribution turned out to be. Whatever. The bottom line is it’s a new world; some just don’t get it yet. Owing is no longer cool, and we are all going to be the better for it.

I actually like this new lighter me. I like the mental energy I have to expend mental energy now figuring out my money things. I’m sure it’s assisting my efforts to ward off Alzheimers. I feel freer. Ok, yes, it’s only been a few weeks, but they say after twenty-one days you can imprint new behavior. I should be firm just in time for Christmas shopping.