Tag 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.

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.

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.

Share

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.

Share

Downsize Survivor

If you have been following my blog, you might know that my employer has been reorganizing. The results are finally in. I am a downsizing survivor. I am blessed and grateful for continued employment. I am no longer a supervisor or in management, but I am still working.

The persons let go represent not only wonderful human beings but also each was an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience.  The company provided severance pay, some continued benefits and maybe even some outplacement services. It is well and good that the company provides something for the departing individuals. I fear that the survivors may be overlooked.

Immediately after the announcement, I spoke with my employees for a few minutes letting them know that it had been a honor to be their supervisor for the last three years and that they would be working for their new supervisor in a few days.

Even though they were not part of the reorganization this time, they were nonetheless affected by the changes. They were perplexed, maybe a bit angry, and uncertain about the near future. Of course, a situation such as this can also cause feelings of distrust, questions about loyalty, resistance to change, stress and fear. I want to make an effort to help them move through this grieving process. It is grieving. They were close to those who had lost their jobs. Their relationships has been stressed. Duties may change as management figures out who is available to do what and who fits best to do it.

I told my group today that I would continue to support them with my experience, my knowledge and my presence, but could not and would not interfere with management functions. As our new functions fall into place and evolve, I promised my co-workers that I would do my job to the best of my ability. You don’t need to have a title to be a leader. The Tao says in the 66th poem, In order to master people one must speak as their servant; in order to lead people one must follow them.

In Paul’s letters to the Colossians, he reminds us that all we do we should do for the glory of God. “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord  as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:22-25 NIV Of course, we are not slaves, we are employees, but if even slaves are expected to do their sincere best, then I think we should provide no less.

I will do my very best in my new position and hope to bring glory to God and a certain calmness to those around me. My personal goal is to continue to lead by following and setting a good example. Thanks to all my loyal readers for tagging along with me in this brief storm in this journey called my life.

Share

Leaving it up to God

My last two weeks have been very eventful. Things seem to be going in every direction and leaves my mind to wandering. A few weeks ago, we were looking for something to watch on Netflix streaming. We chose “Up in the Air”, a movie about a hatchet man starring George Clooney (which I think was the main driver in Theresa picking this movie). Little did I know that I would soon be experiencing the same type of situation last week. When I got the email to attend a meeting and viewed the other participants, I just knew it was a termination committee. Of course, this layoff was not based on my performance but on reorganizing the structure of the company. I basically took the role of the poor soul receiving George Clooney’s character’s straight forward pronouncement.  I felt bad for the others that received the same email that day as well. It was a very sobering day for all of us.

That was the Wednesday before last and the day before my vacation was to start. I looked forward to the time off to be able to assemble my thoughts and decide on my options. On Friday, we drove from upstate NY to Durham, NC so that we could attend an Eagle Scout Awards ceremony. Although I have never been involved in Scouting, I nevertheless understand that it took a great amount of effort and dedication to achieve such an award. It was a very happy moment and a wonderful distraction.  Upon returning from NC, I applied for five open positions within my company both locally and at other locations, deciding that relocation was a viable option. I am quite hopeful for re-employment. Even if I am not successful, I know that I had, at least, tried.

I suppose that I would consider myself an optimistic-realist. I learned a long time ago that I control very little in my world other than my own reactions to it. Because I know that I don’t or can’t control the world, I have very little in the way of expectations. I do hope that things go well but I know that as long as I do my very level best and leave the rest up to God, I can be proud of the man I see in the mirror, regardless of the outcome.

I know people who like to “control” everything, some intimately. I have always noticed that they are frequently frustrated, worried and upset because the rest of the world is not following the “script” that they have so graciously supplied. I was one of those people, maybe it was my nature, maybe it was because I became the “man of the house” at a very young age, maybe because I was just simply immature. I think the Army changed my mind. In the Army, I wasn’t my own person anymore, I was United States government property. I was told when to sleep, when to wake up, when to eat, when to use the toilet, when to stand still and when to march. As terrible as that may sound to a fiercely independent person, it is there that I did much maturing. I could either deal with it or fail miserably.

I am not in control of what happened to me in the last two weeks. I am in control of how I handle it. I discussed the possibility of long-term unemployment with my family. I got out my unemployment plan. Everyone should have an unemployment plan, even if you are currently employed, not just for unemployment but for long-term disability as well. Basically, what would I do if I became unemployed today and could no longer bring in an income? It is actually best to do this while you are employed because you will have more clarity of thought and emotions are quiet.

I saw an interesting sign on a church marquee, “Faith gives you the ability not to panic.” I like that. I will wait for the eventual outcome of this, knowing that I have reacted rationally and with the best intentions. I know I am not in control. I know that I and all people have free will. I am subject to the consequences of my decisions and am subject to the decisions of others.

God will open doors for me. I have to pay attention and not only look for those open doors but have the faith and courage to walk through them. I have tried my very level best and will continue to do so. I will leave the rest of it up to God. If you are also looking for work, look for the doors that are open to you. Humble yourself to walk through doors that may lead to opportunities never before imagined.

Take care, stay well and be safe.

P.S. When I went to YouTube to see if I could find an appropriate video, God took me directly to this one by Tracy Lawrence called “Up To Him”. I listened to it twice and I cried. It so much speaks to what I am going through right now and how I feel about it. God is truly amazing. The sentiment in the song as to working as if it is all up to me and pray as if it is all up to Him is what started my tears. I believe this song speaks to many of us. Enjoy the video.

 

Bad News for Households

The Census Bureau released on September 13, 2011 their key findings for Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010. The following facts were lifted from the press release.

Real median household income in the United States in 2010 was $49,445, a 2.3 percent decline from the 2009 median.

The nation’s official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009 ─ the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009 ─ the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.

The number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 49.0 million in 2009 to 49.9 million in 2010, while the percentage without coverage −16.3 percent – was not statistically different from the rate in 2009.

My thoughts are below:

The numbers above verify what many people have feared as we work through this economic downturn. Charts within the release showed the following: The region that realized the most reduction in median household income was the West. The region that realized the most increase in poverty was the South. The region that realized the most increase in people without health insurance coverage was the Northeast.

The unemployment rate remains stubbornly at 9.1% and others are under-employed, which one would assume has certainly contributed to the increases seen in this report. I am not sure that the jobs plan presented by President Obama will create that many new jobs. I do believe it will encourage employers to hire if they were already on the fence about hiring or not. I just read that retailers will scale back their holiday hiring, which is even more evidence that retailers are not enthused about this season’s prospects. I would like to see the works portion of the President’s plan be enacted. It will put people to work and as well as spending, it will eventually be an investment in our nation’s infrastructure.

There certainly is enough pain to go around. However, along with the pain, I have read where persons are standing tall by working one or more part-time jobs, starting their own businesses or finding other creative ways to maintain their existence. Some are going back to school, finding new careers. Even if more education does not lead to work right away it at least offers more opportunities in the future. The downside occurs if the education was paid for with borrowed money which could lead to continued unemployment coupled with more debt.

It is the struggle for survival and our imaginations that will propel us through this recession. It is our adaptiveness that will enable us to find new business models and services. Our ingenuity will create new technologies and adapt older ones just as the automobile replaced the horse. Even though some technologies seem to wipe out one sector, it sometimes can create completely new sectors of support and specialties.

I do believe that we will work through this, not only here in the U.S. but globally.