Category Archives: Financial

Help Wanted Sign

   As I have been attending to my medical appointments and errands, I have been seeing more and more Help Wanted signs. It is nice to see this. I know that most of these are minimum wage jobs, but they are jobs nonetheless. I just read in one of my financial periodicals that the average unemployment wait is now 32 weeks, down from its high of 47 weeks. 8 months is still a long time to go without a job, but it does seem to be better.

   Many companies are still “right sizing”, outsourcing and flattening their reporting structure. In some cases, this is moving jobs from one company to another. Departments are shut and the work moved to another company, either here or overseas. The retailers seem to be more confident and asking for help, hopefully that means people feel more at ease spending their discretionary funds. Schools and colleges reconvening probably has some affect as well.

   My son has a full time job where he works overnight. He has just found a part-time job that he can work during the day, about 16 – 20 hours per week. He currently lives with my wife and me, but this income will allow him to move out on his own. As anyone moving out on their own for the first time, it comes with both excitement and nervousness. I am sure that he is looking forward to the freedom of being on his own, making his own decisions and not worrying about the rules and expectations of others. Yet, there is a nervousness about being on your own, realizing that you are surrounded by your support system.

   I have tried to reassure my son that I am still here. I still want to support him, counsel him and be available for advice. I don’t want him to be afraid to put up a Help Wanted sign when he is unsure or just needs assurance. My son and I have already agreed to examine his budget and decide together what his best plans are for meeting his needs, wants and savings.

   Another reason I like seeing the Help Wanted signs is that even in my own employment, there are cuts planned. Even if I survive the cut, many of the people I care about will not. I am glad to see that jobs are starting to come back to our area.

   Hope all is well with you. Take care, stay well and be safe.

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Who am I?

In my workplace, they have announced that there will be layoffs soon. This will be the third time in 4 years. This time it is a little different, the previous layoffs were for staff reductions. The current layoff is due to outsourcing the department that I work in.

We still don’t know when, just why. As I try to uplift my fellow employees, as I was their supervisor until the last layoff, I try to focus on their talents and potential. During one very serious discussion, we spoke about who we were. There are lots of long term employees who are nervous about the upcoming cuts. I have 30 years in service. With so many years in service, many are unsure what they might do, or even can do. I reminded them that they are not what they do. Something I had to realize several years ago.

I shared with them that I once was very ill and that I felt that I could not continue working the position that I had. I told my manager at the time that I could not continue in that position and understood perfectly that he would need to replace me. I was ready to move on to whatever path awaited me, but my manager offered me another position that was less physically demanding and I remained with the company.

I came to grips that what we do isn’t necessarily what we are or who we are. Employers will find others to fill our positions. But the person we are cannot easily be replaced. I am a: father, son, brother, husband, friend, citizen, uncle, nephew, cousin, student, teacher, mentor, mentee, worshipper, and even a sinner. I am all these things. So even if I am chosen to leave my employ, I am still me. I will just have to seek other ways to use my energy and talents. I’m thinking about going back to school. But I will have to wait and see what will happen. Until then I will concentrate on who I am, my potential, my talents, my passions. I am me.

Preparing for the Storms

Are you saving money to help you through life’s storms? With the fragility of the workplace, the fickleness of the employers and even the restlessness of the employees, having steady, long term work is no longer the norm. My father, who was born in 1922 and lived through the depression, was told to get with a good company and stay there until you retire. Not bad advice for today, but usually, employees change jobs often. A Forbes article last summer stated that the average worker stayed at a job for 4.4 years with youngest employees about half that.

The economy is slowly healing. I am still very much worried about the national debt and its long term effects. But with fewer jobs and even fewer benefits available, I would strongly urge anyone with a job to save aside a little for life’s continued storms. Even if you don’t have a job but you have some type of income, even a little saved away is best.

At my own employer, we have had several restructuring in the last two years and a new one was just announced. I know professionals who have not worked at all or in their own field in over a year. This reminds me every day how fragile the workplace is.

Can you save? I hope so. Even a small amount like $50 per month will accumulate to $600 per year. This could be handy in an emergency, such as new tires or car repairs. Of course $100 a month would be better. Unscheduled repairs can be expensive.

If you are eligible, open a Roth IRA. There are several companies that allow you to open accounts with minimum deposits from $0 to $1000. Be careful when investing small amounts as your funds can be eaten up by transaction fees. Save until the investment move makes sense.

Even if you have a 401K or retirement plan through work, still save money aside for emergencies. The purpose of these funds is to help you weather the storms that life inevitably brews for us. It is better to be prepared. It is akin to buying extra water and canned goods when a severe weather event is coming your way.

Wishing you well and many blessings.

Help Wanted

I have seeing more and more of these wonderful words posted in windows in stores, restaurants and shops. I am sure these are not six figure jobs, but they are jobs. They may even be part-time, but they represent opportunities for those wanting to work.

I believe that the unemployment picture for the US, as well as the world, is going to grow slow over the next year or years. We are a nation of entrepreneurs. We are also a nation of consumers. Even when we try to consume less, we still consume more than most. Even so, it is good to see signs of employment recovery.

My son is looking for work, as his seasonal position just ended. Although, his employment was temporary, it provided him with a good experience and some pocket money. I am very hopeful that he will find something very soon. I have been looking through the want ads with him. There are entry-level jobs and highly technical jobs but not much in between.

If you are looking for work, then I hope that you find something that ignites your passion, or at least pays the bills. Be on the lookout for those signs with those two little words: Help Wanted.

Another Round of Layoffs

Yesterday, I hugged some co-workers  as they were processed out. It was their last day. They were victims of the latest cost saving measures and right-sizing of my employer. A year ago my position was deemed no longer necessary, but fortunately, I was able to move from a management to a non-management position. Although I was not overjoyed at first, it actually has been a blessing. I now have more time to dedicate to projects and get overtime pay for over 40 hours.

I certainly hope that those let go yesterday will find something that they can be passionate about. The transition of our economy to whatever lies ahead is going to be tough. Our parents, grandparents and maybe even great grandparents went through a transition out of the Great Depression. Even though I do not think we will experience the Great Depression as our ancestors did, I still think it will be tough. We have been accustomed to much more than our ancestors had. This will probably lead us to be impacted more as we have to do with less.

These are uncertain times. Everyone knows that there will have to be cuts, now or eventually, but at the same time, no one wants to feel the pain. That is understandable, that is human nature.  I believe that industry and jobs will come back. Will they look like they did before?  I don’t think so. We are a resilient people. We have, and always will have, talented entrepreneurs whose passions will shine. It can be hard to keep positive in our current environment, but keeping alert for opportunities, even from the most unlikely sources, is vitally important. Necessity is the mother of invention, and we definitely need the creativity. My very best wishes go out to those who must start a new chapter.

Opportunities from Crisis

The Chinese word for crisis is wei-chi. Wei roughly means danger and chi is part of the word that means opportunity. Even though there are arguments that this translation is inaccurate, it still makes for good argument for positive thinking.

At the time of this writing, I see no lack of crises. Each day I hear of new financial, budget and career crises. My employer, as well as many others, are “right sizing”. As much as this might make business sense, it devastates the workers that are let go, and greatly increases the burden on those left behind.

So, are there opportunities in this crisis? Quite simply, Yes. If you are one of the survivors, there is an opportunity to demonstrate established skill sets as well as picking up new ones. Management may appreciate out of the box thinking as necessity is the mother of invention. Tasks can be streamlined by dropping non-critical steps.  Survivors have the chance to really shine.

For those that were let go, it is their opportunity to examine their gifts and talents. While they look for employment for available jobs, they just might start their own free-lance business. There have been many stories of persons who have monetized their hobby, whether it be cabinetry or home crafts. Other potential jobs involve house cleaning, writing, errands, and decorating.

Sometimes, it is crisis that brings out the best in people. During natural catastrophe, we have seen people show great courage and compassion. I once wrote of the Fukishima engineers that stayed in contaminated areas to keep the nuclear reactor under control. Their courage and determination inspired me. I am sure inspired others as well.

We also have a history in this capitalist society to profit from crisis. It is crisis that inspires inventors and businessmen to see needs and create products and services to meet those needs. In our own personal crisis, we discover what our true strengths are. We may even uncover a passion that we didn’t know we had.

If you are experiencing a crisis, look for the opportunity that may be hidden within. Opportunity often presents itself in subtle ways. We need to always look for the potential in every situation, even those that cause us the most stress.

Checkin’ Out Walmart

I am not sure if this happens in most Walmarts but I am getting frustrated with 22 checkout lines and only two cashiers on duty at 6PM. There are self-checkout stations, but I rather use a cashier.  There is one Walmart in a busy area that replaced all their self-checkout stations with 20 items or fewer speedy checkout lines. That certainly helps.

We do have wonderful Wegman stores that carry just about anything grocery you can imagine. They have plenty of employees and lots of customer service.

As a frequent shopper at Walmart, because it is more convenient when trying to squeeze lunch and shopping into one hour, I noticed the growing impact of their inventory reduction program that started as early as 2006. By 2010, I could tell that there was much fewer lines being carried. Sometimes the shelves were empty. My family began to shop more at Target, Aldi’s, Save-A-Lot and other discount stores. We do spend less at Aldi’s and Save-A-Lot but there are things from Walmart that I cannot get at the other limited inventory stores.

I was not surprised when Walmart announced that they were going to beef up their inventory. Now it seems that the product is back, but the cashiers are missing. I still like Walmart but I am getting more and more frustrated. I do not think I am the only one. I have witnessed customers running out of patience and leaving their carts by the line and walking out.

I realize that business is about making profit, but without good customer service, they will lose the profit that they covet so much.

A Save-A-Lot recently opened in our town. The management there is doing their best to anticipate the needs of the locals. They offer dry cleaning service drop-off and pick-up. I really admire the business partnerships that they are building to create more customer service.

As I said, I do like Walmart, but their concentration on the bottom line, in my opinion, is costing them much more than they think they are saving.

Just my two cents and I decide where to spend it.

A Question of Prosperity

I have quipped in the past that I am the richest man in the world – now all I need is money. Most people measure prosperity as monetary wealth or possessions. Money can be important for survival  and to live the life you want. I am not sure it is the end all. A person’s self-worth and attitude go a long way in determining their contentment. People say they want to be rich (with money) and yet many of the rich seem to be troubled with many of the same things as the not so rich. They can face loneliness, doubt, health problems and other adversities that money cannot cure. Money can buy you a companion, but not a real friend. Money can buy you the best of health care and the newest medical technology but cannot stave off the ravages of cancer and death.

Prosperity can desensitize us to the difficulties of others. Many of the poor in our country still get enough to eat, have a TV in their home, and have access to medical care, while 40% of the world’s population seems to subsist on less than $2 per day.  Paul Sweeney (Author of Ireland’s Economic Success: Reasons and Lessons) made this observation, “How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?” We want everything now. Sometimes we aren’t willing to wait or work for what we want. But even still, we are extremely fortunate to live in a country so richly blessed with abundance.

Sometimes we covet the riches of others. We do not always realize what people went through to get where they are today. Many of our greatest people started out with empty pockets and difficult situations. Yes, some of them seem to have been handed the “golden ticket” but most worked hard for what they have. They have built companies, written books, used their talents to create wonderful careers. We should all work to propel our talents to their fullest potential.

Mother Teresa was quoted as saying, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”  This is why I stress the importance of reminding ourselves of the blessings that surround us. Think about those who love you. Think about all that you have instead of what you do not have. Measure your prosperity not only by the balance of your checking account but by the love and blessings in your life.

I am a follower of Christ, a father, a brother, a son, a husband, a lover, a friend, a hard worker, a passionate learner, a pet owner, a writer, a mentor, a student, etc., etc. I have my faults, my scars, my mistakes and have learned much from each. I have much to be thankful for and I am sure you do too. So, are you rich with what really matters? I hope so.

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Open Doors

After writing about tarrying a bit in my last blog, my body had succumbed to a viral infection that affected my sinus and upper respiratory system. After long days and short nights or at least restless nights, my immune system weakened and opened the door for the virus.  The virus took advantage of the opportunity presented to it. Apparently, I needed to tarry a bit, rest and get better. I did, I did and I did.

There is an old adage that says that when God closes one door, He always opens another. I have no doubt of the truth in that but not all doors are opened by God. Some opportunities arise on their own and it is up to us to be led to and choose the right door. We should look for opportunities and take advantage of those that are good for us. But, just like in all things, we must examine what is right and good for us. Just because we have an opportunity, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good for us to take it.

Someone close to me, who had been out of work for a while, had an opportunity for a job and accepted. She was quite excited but soon felt that the work didn’t seem “kosher.” Although it wasn’t illegal, it went against her sensibilities. This fact nagged at her. I first recommended cautious acceptance, at least until she could learn more about the job. She may have just misunderstood the concept. She later decided that the job did not “fit.” She was uncomfortable with it. It didn’t last long anyway. Although the door was open, it was not the right door nor the right choice. Even if the job did work out, she felt very uneasy about it and I would have recommended that she look for something else.

Sometimes doors are open and we don’t even realize it. Many people wish they had a ministry or wish they knew what their purpose was. Maybe you are right where you need to be. You have an opportunity to be a fine example of whatever is being asked of you. Usually attributed to Francis of Assissi, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” The door is always open for us to be a good example and to be uplifting. Even if you are waiting for an open door, use the opening you have right now to be the best person you can be, regardless of your stance on religion or spirituality. And even if you aren’t where you want to be, maybe you need to be here to get there.

Meditate on your circumstances to decide if you have chosen the right door and ask for guidance to choose the next door that opens. You never know what might be on the other side, but you can still attempt to make the most prudent decision possible. It is good to seek counsel, because our decisions, even when they seem objective, are still based on our own accumulation of experiences and knowledge. Seek wisdom from others, not because they are right but will test their opinions against their own experiences which may give you further insight.

I hope that you will always find open doors and that they will lead you to your full potential. So when God knocks on the door of your heart, it is your turn to open the door and say “Welcome. I know you are here, always were and always will be.”

Re-glazing

In preparation for readying our home for sale, we had the bathtub re-glazed. The technician prepared the area after we had moved out everything that was removable the night before. The walls were covered in paper and tape. A large exhaust fan was placed in the window.

The tub was stained by hard water and the finish was worn from scrubbing and traffic inside the tub. The technician washed the entire tub in acid to remove any buildup, stains and to prepare the surface to accept the new glazing solution. The process took about 3 hours. The results were very positive. The tub looked new again. It was if we had replaced it. I hope the new owners appreciate the brightness of the “new” tub.

This reminded me of a passage in the Bible, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  2 Cor 5:17 NKJV   Like that tub, we are stained, scarred, and our surface has been worn and will be subject to further wearing down. The Bible, its teachings, our experiences have prepared us to be cleansed, like the paper and tape. The blood of Christ has cleaned us, like the acid that cleaned the tub. The Holy Spirit indwells us, like the new glazing solution renewed the tub. We are a new creation.

So that makes us perfect, right? Not at all. We are still human and still imperfect. We are still subject to all the influences that surround us. The newly glazed tub will be used and worn down. But with much care, the tub can be kept clean and shining. We are like that. We need nourishment for our bodies, mind and soul. We need to care for ourselves and for others.

The Apostle Paul in the book of Romans expressed the difficulty in always doing the right things. He wrote: “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.” Rom 7:14-16 NIV.

When we realize that we can do nothing without God, we are new creations. We are and were and will be loved by God. We aren’t perfect and we won’t be. We should do good things because it pleases God, not out of fear of reprisal. Even Paul, who journeyed with Christ and was filled with the Holy Spirit realized that he still had his human nature. Like the tub, I would like to think that I am re-glazed. I know that I am imperfect and I accept that I am. There are those who feel that we must be perfect to gain God’s love, but that isn’t true at all. God loves us always. God may not always appreciate what we do but He loves us just the same. If we feel we have to earn God’s love, then we will forever be disappointed in ourselves and lose sight of the love that is always there for us. Each day, when we awaken, we have a chance to show the world that we ARE a new creation.

Take care, be well and stay safe.

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