Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Writing on the Wall....Is That It May Be Disintegrating

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  One of my sons, who shall remain nameless for the purpose of this post, jokingly calls me "Debbie Downer" sometimes.  Although I would very much like my sons and daughter to enjoy the opportunities I did when starting my life independent of my parents in the eighties, 2014/2015 and onward are a very different era.  For one thing, although I graduated from college in the eighties during a recession, I had seven job offers as graduation loomed. (I accepted three and then figured out which one to actually start in when I was able to secure housing at that location.)  Affordable housing at the time was a tougher nut to crack than the job had been.   One of my friends who graduated the same year as I never sent a single resume. In the last year of college as an electrical engineer, he sent out postcards to prospective employers stating his interest and graduation date.  He was hired before graduation and remained at that company in a very good position, for many years.  The people with whom I went to college, have all done well.   When I look back at friends from high school, some of them chose not to go to college at all. They went directly into jobs after high school that would teach them valuable skills while they were being paid.  They took advantage of in house training, and a few of them took college courses paid for by their employers.  They bought homes and had families faster than I did, as I was slowed a bit by college. The recurring theme here is that even the slackers from my youth found their way and became gainfully employed. They all have assets now and many of them have grown families.

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                Several of my children are now university graduates. They worked hard and have much less student loan debt than many of their contemporaries. Still, one graduated in 2009 with honors and found it took more than a year to find a full time job with benefits.  Not a single one of that child's friend's of the graduating class got a job that they did not already have before completing their degree. (Subway sandwich maker, night grocery stockman, Wal-Mart bathroom cleaner etc.)   Our next to graduate the following year, also with honors has never found an actual full time job.  A third one of our kids stays in university gathering credentials we hope will be useful in obtaining work.  The fact is, that jobs with a future and with potential are extremely hard to find in the US.  A few jobs of the jobs  you might locate may be hire or fire leaving the young person with a year long lease in a new city, and no job to pay for that apartment.   You may also find yourself in a salaried position where you are paid based on a forty hour week, but expected to be available and to work seventy hours. If you won't or can't, you will find yourself replaced by someone hungrier than you, who will.  There has been a dramatic and broad change in the opportunities available to students graduating from high school and also to those graduating from college even in supposedly hot majors.  Even nursing majors upon graduation may find extreme difficulties getting a first job.  Many must relocate in order to start that first job, because hospitals clearly prefer experienced nurses and will not take chances on new graduates.  We've come a long way from hospitals hiring new graduates annually in order to train a crop of loyal long term workers in acceptance of the fact that some would invariably marry and have children and be out of the full time market for a time.

            Those of us with twenty and thirty years experience in the job market are not finding life easy either. People with experience often cannot work for starter wages.  Some employers don't actually want people who have a clear overview of their business. Some prefer to have their staff work only a small section of the business so as not to be able to start their own later.  Sometimes, employers will hire less capable people because they don't want people with will question or understand the big picture.  In nursing, for example, RNs in hospitals may be taking over some of the physical tasks formerly done by physicians..(..for example the adjustment of a Swan-Ganz catheter on a patient in the ICU.)  However, RNs have been replaced by medical assistants in many venues.   This might be appropriate in some specific tasks, but sometimes, these paraprofessionals fashion themselves as nurses, and simply don't know as much as a first semester nursing student might. This is not good for the public, and it's not good for the profession of nursing. However, it is cheaper than hiring nurses.   Additionally, the dumbing down of our schools and programs across the board are creating a public which may not be able to compete with other nations in the world market, just at a time when everyone from Kazakhstan to Brazil are truly gearing up to do business worldwide. The US stood still and slid back, and everyone else surged ahead.  According to television and newspapers which originate there, India is relishing its anticipated takeover of Information Technology jobs in the US. In some cities in the US, this has already happened.

            It's not that I wish to see the deterioration of the US and the dissolution of the opportunities here, because I assure you, I do not.   I had five children.  Four are biological ones and one who blessed us through legal adoption.  I am truly worried about all of their economic futures.   We were strongly middle class in their eighties and nineties but I wonder now, if a middle class will exist in the US for much longer.  Many people with whom I am acquainted now, would be considered "the working poor". We are told that "the rich get richer", but of my friends who were truly wealthy pre 2008, only one of them is now.  Wealthy people have also seen great reversals of fortune.

             The economy in the US is not good, and yet the world faces many fairly ominous challenges.  China has claimed the South China Sea and is spending huge amounts of resources to make islands there and station military bases. There is apparently much oil in the South China Sea.  Japan, Vietnam, and the Koreas are quite concerned, as this territory does not belong to China exclusively.    Russians in Vladivostok, Russia (North of the Korean peninsula) are also concerned and wonder what the impact of a war in the region would have to them.

             Greece may well default and exit the Eurozone.   England is planning a referendum to better define their limited role in the Eurozone. It is possible that following such a referendum that England will exit the Eurozone entirely.  I don't think I have to explain that the Middle East is on fire.    In addition to ignoring the sovereignty of Ukraine, Russia has been pushing the envelope in other parts of the world.   Russian planes have been flying over Canadian airspace and British airspace periodically, without permission.  The present Russian administration has also rented a state of the art military base from Norway (Olavsvern) where it is now felt to be a significant threat to Scandinavia.

Olavsvern is a great place to store your war machines.   

              While Rome burns, the US media distracts everyone with focus on everything else but the economy, potential for world collapse, potential for world war, financial mismanagement, etc. The  focus on racial issues has value, but the singular focus on it serves no one.   An economy which is failing fails for whites, blacks, browns, yellows and reds.   We are all on the blue ball together and we don't have time to exaggerate our racial problems. When the economy improves, it improves for everyone.

            As for gun control........much of the US does not have easy access to law enforcement.  In many places, a police officer cannot come out for a week after a call.   Some municipalities are honest enough to tell you that they are only funded for, and  can therefore only concern themselves with "blood crimes".   Some others actually plan, in emergencies, to deputize their concealed weapons permit holders. Handguns are therefore necessary in the hands of trained civilians, for the protection of families in their homes, and often when they leave their homes and buy food or run errands.  Certainly, there are unbalanced individuals in all societies who would injure or murder, but under present laws in the US, such individuals should not be able to lawfully obtain firearms.  The rest of us need them for defense against such individuals and against those from ISIS who are making their way across the Mexican border into the US in order to perpetrate terror here.

           Without being Debbie Downer, I hope I have conveyed some of the very real threats we have in the world which are emerging.     Certainly, we cannot fix them all, but here are a few of my suggestions for you to consider implementing.

1. Consider a safe on your property.   Perhaps a hidden place in the floor of a garage is ideal.  Don't keep all your money in a bank.  If a collapse occurs, it could be some time before you can access your money.  Having a reasonable amount of cash on hand....large enough to cover some groceries and some medications but not large enough to get confiscated while local government claims to  suspect anyone with cash of drug dealing, might be in order.  Consider your circumstances and what is possible.

2. Stock enough food for emergencies for all of your family members and pets.  Some of this should be freeze dried food with a twenty-five or thirty year lifespan because it is expensive enough that you don't need to be replacing it every few years.    Stock short term emergency food and long term emergency food.  If a terrorist attack limits travel and the movement of trucks carrying  food in our nation, make sure you can shelter-in-place for a reasonable period.

3. Craft a plan for your family to shelter-in-place, as you might for an emergency or collapse where we are told to remain in our homes.  This should be a written plan and it should be known to all of the family members who reside in your home.   Craft a family evacuation plan which spells out similar details.  Where would you meet ?  Where would your family go if you needed to evacuate ?    Craft a separate plan for your pets.  They also deserve your consideration in emergencies.

4. Stock reasonable amounts of OTC  medications (over-the-counter non-prescription for those of you reading from nations other than the US) and reasonable amounts of prescription medications you use long term.  Remember that on 9-11 when all the planes were down, most pharmacies were out of insulin, blood pressure,  and cardiac meds very very quickly as they depend on having many things overnighted from a pharmacy warehouse.   As much as you are able to stock and lock up buys you time in such an emergency.   Sometimes, spending your own cash and sidestepping insurance allows you to buy ahead more than using your prescription would.  Each family and individual must assess how important a particular medication is, and how far ahead they need to be.
 Remember that such meds need to be locked up to avoid theft and also the tragedy of child poisoning.

5. If possible, we should try to diversify our family's employment.   If Dad works in construction, then Mom should work elsewhere.  If Mom works in banking, then perhaps adult children should work in other industries, if possible.  We should avoid entire families working in the same company or business because when a business collapses or lays off due to economic conditions, all of them are not out of work.  When the Soviet Union collapsed, many families survived because someone in the family was working while others were not. When someone from the family got a job often the person who had been working before was laid off.   Diversify your employment, just as you would investments.

    6. Pay down whatever debt you have.  Fewer debts translate into more choices.  Think carefully before taking on new debt.  A needed septic tank revision may be worth a short term debt because it improves the safety of your home, especially with more people living there.  However, a debt for a new car that you could actually avoid buying by having some work done on the one you have, may not be.

7.  Keeping a mortgage may be the conventional wisdom because it allows mortgage interest to be deducted on annual taxes, however, not everyone has enough interest to make such a deduction worthwhile.  Would you be better off taking cash and paying off your mortgage ?  Seek intelligent counsel before taking such steps. We all should do this because we may not always be permitted to take the interest deduction on a home loan anyway.

8. How much are you spending on insurance ?    One by one, get quotes on your life insurance, your homeowners insurance and your car insurance.   It's possible that there are better buys out there and that a new provider might free up more monthly cash for other things.   When comparing insurance, bring your insurance paperwork from your present provider.  Make sure that you are comparing the same level of coverage. Don't simply seek a cheaper premium at the expense of your coverage.

             Your family can't anticipate everything that may occur, however most families can do a better job of anticipating the negative potentials that so clearly exist.   Remember that children need not be frightened by discussions of weather or economic emergencies.  In fact, they gain confidence that their parents are looking ahead and making plans to keep the family secure, in addition to gathering self confidence and important preparedness learning which could safe their own lives and their own young families someday.

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