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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

MONEY...Living Money, Working Money.

    There are two types of money.  One is the money you need to live on.  The other is the money that works for you.  The first one you work for.  The second is just what it says.  Money that works for you.  Something that has always puzzled me is people that make a living and pay their bills, but when it comes to investing they think someone else is smarter than them.   My wife retired in January of 2009.  Just in time to get her clock cleaned by the economy collapse.  We knew it was coming, but the money was in accounts that we had no control over.  The financial gurus had make the wise investments.  When the economy tanked they said sorry.  Then they said let us continue to invest your money for you.  We said no thank you and took our money and managed it ourselves.
     The thing that saved us was that we had been planning to retire for some time.  I was already retired on Disability.  I had to sell my truck and all my equipment when I had my heart attack.  We came out pretty good though.  The equity paid off most of the bills.  When  the wife retired we bought a new car, cash and paid off the balance of the bills.  We are by no means rich but we are comfortable.  I am not bragging just stating the position I am writing this from.
      Years ago I had a couple people share a few pieces of wisdom with me and if you follow these little rules it will make your life a lot easier.  Maybe not "right now" which is how 80% of Americans live, but down the road which is what very few people plan for.  It is sort of like the old adage, "Live like there is no heaven, and pray there is no hell."  Many Americans live by that rule alone.  Even if they do not state it that way.
     Rule 1.  The first rule I learned was that "The Borrower is the slave, of the lender."  You work for those that lend to you and give you credit. There are ways to use that rule to your advantage which I will explain later and have in some of my previous posts.  That is a Biblical verse and it is the truth.  When you borrow money you now need two dollars to live.  One to pay the lender, but you still need one to live on also.  So you have to make twice as much to survive if you are in debt.  So the first step to actually having a life and enjoying it is really simple, in theory, dump the debt.  Dumping the debt should be your only focus especially if you are young and in debt.  The reason is if you don't, you will eventually be old and in debt. Which is where many Americans end up.
     Rule 2.  You can work harder, or you can work smarter.  This rule helped me survive my last  years of trucking as fuel prices went through the roof.  Fuel prices went up to $3 a gallon right before I retired.  If you are running 3500 miles a week and getting 5 miles per gallon you are spending $2100 a week on fuel.  If you start hauling lighter freight and it puts your fuel mileage up to 7 miles per gallon you have just cut your fuel cost to $1500 for the same amount of miles.   That is a saving of $600 a week which is not chump change.  What you do not see is that a set of tires that were lasting a little over 200,000 miles are suddenly lasting almost 400,000 miles.  At $300+ a tire a set of 18 tires is $5400 bucks.  That means instead of buying a set of tires every fifteen months or so.  I went to buying a set every thirty months or so.  So I saved the price of at least a set of tires over time.  Also my maintenance dropped dramatically as I was not hauling heavy truck breaking freight.  I went from hauling loads that weighted 45,000 pounds to hauling loads that weighted 8,000 to 15,000 pounds.  Fortunately for me I worked for a company where I got to pick and choose the freight I hauled.  Hopefully you can see the benefit of smarter.  I did not figure all that out myself.  I was buying a set of tires when a friend explained it to me.  He also taught me the value of running virgin rubber.  I would sell my old tires for $100 each and buy the new ones on the company discount for about $280 each. So I was almost always on new rubber and I do not remember having a flat after I changed the way I ran.
    Rule 3.  Make your money work for you.  How do you do that?  Always put back a percentage of what you make to work for you.  It is working for you and as long as it is.  It is not your money.  How does this work.  You save your money and look for the deal of a life time.  When you find it you take your Working Money and put it to work.  You buy something cheap, sell it and make a profit.  The profit and what you paid go back into the Working Money account.  You keep doing that till you reach your goal.  What should your goal be.  To have enough to live a couple years without working. Sort of like what is going on in the economy now.   However once you get there you can still make your Working Money work for you.  Here is where the exception to Rule 1. comes into play.  If you have good credit and you see a sure deal, not an iffy or flakey deal.  A rock solid one and you do not have enough in your Working Money account.  If you have the credit go to the bank get a ninety day note for what you need.  Make the deal and pay off the note. Then take the profit and the Working Money you used and put it back in its account.  Doing this a few times can move you towards that goal of a couple years income.  Some people become so good at it that it becomes the way they make their living.  At a minimum it can supplement what you make from your "regular job" and make your life somewhat easier to get by.
      You say, but I am unemployed and I do not have a job.  That is an excuse.  In the ARMY we said the effective range of an excuse was ZERO meters.  I invite you to read my blogs that are listed under Money.  The first thing it requires is a change in attitude.  Nobody owes you anything.  If you want something out of life it is your job to get off your butt and go get it and that is Biblical and I can prove it.  I do not quote a lot of verse but this is one of my favorite ones.
    Joshua 1:8
     8This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
     Read it closely.  Who does it say shall make thy way prosperous. Thou means "YOU" Reading God's Word will give you the knowledge and wisdom to accomplish what you set out to do. However you have to provide the labor and make the effort.  The condition is you have to study and know His Word. God said it he will do it.  Here are a couple other verses that back it up.
    IIChronicles 16:9 says,  the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.  Yes, again there is a condition.  You have to have a heart for God.  I will give two more quotes and then I will get out of the Bible.  The first deals with and shows the condition of many people in the world today.  Many will be able to relate to this one.
    Haggai 1: 6  says it pretty clear.  Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.  7Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.  
     Who has not had days that they felt like the above verse applied to their lives.  The next quote I think applies to America as a whole.  It was where America was at, and where we could go back to, but as long as this nation continues in the ways it is going.  It will not change.  Malachai 3:7 to 12 puts it in pretty plain language. Verse 10 and 11 say that if you follow God he will pour out a blessing you not be able to receive it all.  Just remember all blessings are not money.  Contrary to the view of many TV evangelists. He will even protect your crops in the field from evil.  So if you are following the Lord your Working Money is in his trust and he will Bless it and Prosper it.  Just don't forget to tithe on your Working Money.
    Malachai 3:7-12
  . Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? 8Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 9Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. 10Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.  11And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.  12And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.
     So you have now had the Turtle crash course in Finances.  You can quit whining and start reading God's Word and trust him to come through and do what his Word says he will do.  The choice is yours and you are the one who has to make it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

All Things Work Together For Good

     Sometimes I have to wonder where my life is going.  I pretty well think I have that one figured out, but sometimes the why and how can get a little confusing.  Looking back over sixty plus years of life it has become clear to me that God has purpose in all we do and experience.  At the time we are going through it that may not seem to be the case but it is.  Take typing for instance.  I took it in high school and was one of only two guys in my class.  Now you know my purpose in taking it, but little did I know that down the course of my life that class would open several doors.
     First it opened a door to be a clerk temporarily till our unit at Ft. Campbell, KY got a new one. They made me the legal clerk which was very trying.  The reason it was trying was that all legal documents had to be error free with no typos.  This was before computers and when copies were made using carbon paper. If you made a typo you could not use white out or an eraser to correct it on legal documents.  You started over.  Many of the documents were several pages long and believe me I filled many file thirteens with my labors.  However I got enough done to keep the job for some time.  The thing it really taught me was how to read and understand the military regulations and how they were applied.  Several years later this would set me free, literally.
     The second time it helped me was to become a photo/journalist for the Army in Panama.  I was selected for the job because I was a pretty decent photographer and had won a couple of honorable mentions in a post photo competition.  My commander saw my pictures and offered me the job of replacing his PIO specialist who was leaving the service as his time was up.  I told him I knew nothing about writing.  He explained to me he had plenty of clerks he could use to help me write the stories, but he could not train a photographer quickly as it was something you had to have an eye for.  Anyhow I ended up taking the job and it was an awesome experience.  I answered only to the Battalion Commander.  He gave me keys to the post photo lab and a pass to get on any chopper in Panama that had an empty seat.  Our units were in the field several days a week, but they got supplies by chopper daily.  Usually in the morning and in the evening. I would catch the morning chopper out and spend the day with the troops.  Then I would spend the day taking photos, getting information.  At supper I would take the evening chopper back to base.  Sometimes I would have to spend a couple days with a unit, but I had free rein to go, see, and do whatever I needed to do to get my story.
     About nine months into my job I was reading news articles in the Army Times and discovered they had changed some of the regulations governing reenlistment.  I had reenlisted for six years just before going to Panama.  Well when I did I saw two of my fellow non-commissioned offices denied reenlistment over things they had done clear back when they first came into the Army.  They had seventeen years six months and seventeen years nine months and the Army would not let them reenlist.  If they had gone over the eighteen year mark they could have stayed.   The policy was that those over with over eighteen years service were allowed to complete their twenty years for retirement.  During my time in Panama I had a couple incidents that would be considered less than professional and put me in the same boat as my friends.  My enlistment would end with me having served seventeen years and ten months. After pondering the matter I decided to use the Army Regulations to my benefit.  My times as a legal clerk came in handy.  The Army was instituting an "up or out" policy.  If you did not make a certain grade by a certain time you would be forced to leave the military for the good of the service.  Those less than professional incidents had put me in a position where I qualified for the up or out program.  So I decided to voluntarily, for the good of the service, request to be discharged from the military.  My senior non-commissioned officers told me I was wasting my time and that it would never go through.  That I was stuck doing my time.  Well about ninety days later I was a civilian. That time as a legal clerk did literally set me free.  I have no regrets over what I did.  My logic was that if I got out and went to college on the GI Bill I would be able to go to school.  It meant I would be finishing school about the time I would have gotten out of the Army.  I figured that put me that much ahead of the game.  It worked as planned.  However had I not taken that typing class in high school and a couple of correspondence photography classes who knows where it would have gone.
     That was not the only time events in my past worked to my favor.  Earlier in my career I had reenlisted to go to France.  I went to a place called Evreux, France.  It was about an hour from Paris and a really neat place to be stationed.  My problem was I was not aware of world affairs at that time and did not realize that the French President Charles de Gaulle had ordered all American military to get out of France.  Well after about ninety days I left with the advance party to Germany.  At that time Germany did not appeal to me and shortly after arriving in Germany I volunteered for Vietnam.  That story is told in another of my blogs. " How not to go down a hill"  While going to Vietnam may not have been the smartest move in my life.  I did learn to drive a truck in Vietnam, OJT and after finishing college managed to make a living for many years driving a truck.  God has a sense of humor I know.  Cause after returning to the states for about nine months I was shipped back to Germany.  Not only did I go back to Germany.   I went back to the same unit, to the same barracks, to the same room and to the same bed and wall locker.  The day I got there was April 1st.   So yes God does have a sense of humor.  Also after a tour in Vietnam,  Germany did not really seem like that bad of a place.
      To tell all the times that the Lord used things from my past to open doors would require a book and I am working on that occasionally.  I took the meat of the book and published it on this blog as a free book in seven parts.  It is titled "A Little Further Down The Path"  I invite you to read it. The parts I published are
a Bible Study on the End Times that happened over almost forty years of my life.  The book went from 170+ pages to about 44 pages by eliminating the biographical parts.  I did leave in my testimony as it kind of tells how I came to write it at all.  The whole point of this story is that even though it may not seem like it at the time God's hand is in all that happens to us.  Sometimes we may not see it till much later in our lives.  The one verse I have learned to truly believe is. "You reap, what you sow." In my humble opinion you can take that verse to the bank.  So do not get discouraged, just thank God for getting you through it.  Having technically been dead once in my life already, it beats the alternative.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fence Sitting Today, Gone Tomorrow

        Sometimes it is easy to feel good about yourself.  Especially after you cleaned out the pantry and took all the stuff you did not want and all the outdated cans to the local Christian Warehouse.  Look at all the people you helped.  It does not matter that it is stuff you would not eat yourself.  You took the time to care.
      On your way home you pass the local biker's hangout.  You stopped there once and talked to them.  They are a real bunch of deadbeats and degenerates.  Their leader told you himself that they put a thing called a jumper in and got free electricity from the power company.  Of course the reason you stopped was not to ogle the bikes they road, but all the nearly naked honeys hanging out waxing and washing them for the bikers. Yes we live in a sick world with all those tattoos and body piercings they have there is no way they will be going to heaven.  You are very smug and confident.  At least you are not like them, you think as you put in the CD you burned off  your son's favorite Christian rock group CD.  What could that hurt. They are Christians and surely they want to share their music.
       As you head through town you do a few rolling, "California Stops" and stretch a couple yellow lights.  Then you head out on the highway.  Sure the speed limit is 55 but hey you are in a hurry to get home and     after all speed limits are man made laws.  They "give" you ten miles leeway so you only go 9 miles over the speed limit.  No risk there and you are not really breaking the law.
      Finally you get home and go into the house.  As you have some spare time you sit down and do the bills. The $1,000 a week you get just does not go as far as it used to.  You finish the bills and you have almost $200 dollars left so you make out a check to the church for your tithe of $20 and feel really good about your self.  After all, the Bible does not specify whether you are to give ten percent of the net or gross.  It did say 10 % of the increase.  Based on that the only increase is the $200.  So you feel pretty comfortable.
      All the bills done and a little time to kill till supper.  So you pour yourself a drink of bourbon and coke and sit down in your easy chair.  You pick up the remote and start surfing the channels.  Nothing really appeals to you, but hey what is this.  The Girls Beach Volley Ball Tournament.  This could be interesting. Sure they have hardly anything on but how bad can it be to watch it.  It is on national TV and it is after all a sporting event.
     Suddenly you get a tightness in your chest.  Pains run down your right arm and for some reason you do not seem to be able to move.  Your mind is saying pick up the phone but the message is not getting to your right hand.  Sensing something is wrong you reach across with your left hand and get the phone.  You try to remember the hospital number. A sharp pain shoots through your chest and maybe it would be better to call 911.  When the operator answers the phone all you can slur into the phone is a feeble help.  Things are starting to spin as you drop the phone.
    The thought crosses your mind is this the big one.  It definitely feels like it might be a heart attack. Then you start thinking of all the things you did not do.  Of those you are not going to get to say goodbye too.  Finally the question of heaven and hell crosses your mind.  You think back to your activities for the day.  You did not sin.  At least as far as the Bible is concerned.  Suddenly you feel a big pain, and you reconsider. Well maybe a little bad, but certainly not worthy of an eternity in hell.
     You start searching your mind for a Bible verse that might give you some peace in your situation, but none come to mind.   You glance toward where your Bible is at.  The dust on it is more like dirt.  You can not remember the last time you actually read it.  You start to panic a little as the lights get dimmer.  Suddenly you hear voices.  No not Angels, paramedics as they wheel a gurney up beside your chair and start taking vital signs. Then just as you start to fade from the scene you feel them start moving you to the gurney. Suddenly the lights go out.
     Sometime later you wake up with a doctor standing over you.  He tells you, "You had a close one Mr. Jones, but it looks like you will pull through okay.  You may need a little therapy, but that is minor.  It could have been really bad."  He leaves the room and you ponder everything that happened during the day. You are getting a second chance.  When you start thinking of your activities of the day you realize they were not very Christian like.  Suddenly your perspective is a little clearer.  Maybe you need to work on your walk with the Lord a little bit.  Time to examine your heart and reevaluate your walk with the Lord.
    The nurse comes in and turns on the TV in your room.  Suddenly the scene unfolds of a major disaster.  They keep showing it over and over.  Hundreds have died in an instant.  They did not get the second chance you are getting.  They did not get a chance to get their lives right with God.  Suddenly you feel a mixture of sadness and yet gladness.  Sad for what could have been, but glad you have a chance to fix the things that matter in life.  Suddenly that saying you always thought sounded so foolish, "What Would Jesus Do"  Takes on a new meaning
     The nurse put the TV remote in your good left hand and you start surfing the channels.  You come to the Girls Beach Volley Ball Tournament and it is still going on.  You stop surfing.  Watching this can not be all that bad.  The thought passes through your mind.  Maybe I need to plan to go to church Sunday.  With that commitment you put down the remote, climb back up on the fence and continue to watch the volleyball action.  You can work on all those big moral decisions when you get out of the hospital.  After all you have time.  You have been given a second chance.  Suddenly you have a big chest pain. You look at the monitor and the heart line is flat.  Things start to go dim and you see all the other lines getting flatter.  The lights go out.
    Brothers and sisters we are gathered here today in loving memory of our brother..........

Friday, June 15, 2012

Some Steps To Help Grow As A Christian

    Many years ago when I was still driving a truck for a living.  I came out of the truck stop after lunch and proceeded to my truck.  When I got there a young Mexican driver was setting on the driver's side step.  At first I did not know what to expect. As I approached he asked if this was my truck.  I replied "Yes" and he proceeded to ask me why he was not growing as a Christian. he had been saved a couple months before.  He pointed to the scripture on the side of my hood.  Proverbs 3:5-6 "Lean not unto your own understanding, trust in the Lord and he will guide your paths."  I told him that is the answer.  He looked at me confused and I asked him if he had to be anywhere soon?  He said "No" and I offered to go into the restaurant and discuss the matter with him.
     He proceeded to tell me how he had been saved and baptized and then gone back to work driving a truck.  He said he did not feel like he was growing as a Christian.  He evidently was because he was seeking God in his life.  He reached out to me because of the scripture on my truck. I asked him. "Would you have done that before you were saved?"  He said, "No"
    The conversation proceeded and I told him he was seeking God in his life and that is the first step to growing.  In First John 2:27 the Bible says, "But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him."  This verse came to me when I was questioning my faith just as he was.  It makes very clear that God will guide our steps if we pursue him.  Just as the verse on my hood says.  Do not try to understand it on your own.  God will open the doors and provide the path we are to follow.  We just need to remember that Jeremiah 17:5 say, 5Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man.  And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the Lord."
The key is staying focused on God and what His Word says.
    Really it is pretty simple.  Micah 6:8 lays it out.  "He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you, But to do justly, To love mercy,  And to walk humbly with your God?"  As long as we follow this we can not go wrong. Probably the only other rule I know of which basically equals the golden rule is remembering the Lord's Prayer and especially  Matthew 6: 14 and 15. We are to forgive others or we will not be forgiven.  Forgiveness is conditional. If we harbor hate in our hearts we are not walking with the Lord.  We have to give it over to God and let him deal with the problems.
     Just knowing Jesus does not lead to salvation. Mark 6:3-4 makes it clear.  Jesus went to his home town and it says he could do no work there because of their unbelief.  They had seen him grow up and they refused to believe he was anything special.  In fact it says "he marveled at their unbelief."  Yet in Matthew 8:5-13 the Bible relates the story of the Centurion who came to Jesus and asked him to heal his servant.  Jesus said he would go and do it.  The Centurion said, "I believe it.  Just say it and it will be done."  It says Jesus marveled at his faith.  So Jesus marveled at two things belief and unbelief.  Which side of that coin do you want to be on.  We need to know when we take things to him he will deal with them.
    In the Book of Joshua it makes clear what is required of us.  Chapter One, verses 7-9 makes clear how we are to walk with God. 7“Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Pay special attention to verse 8.  Who makes our way prosperous?  We do.  How do we do it by staying in line with God's Word.
      If you truly trust in the Lord, he will guide your paths and he will open the doors. Psalm 37:23 says, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delights in his way"  When it comes to making decisions sometimes it is hard to determine what is us and what is God. The Bible says we are blessed when we wait on the Lord.  If we are unsure, from my experience it is better to sit and do nothing till God moves us than to step out on our own an possibly in the wrong direction.
   After talking awhile I told him it had taken me years to find some of the verses that I had shared with him and if he used them to guide his steps he should be okay. Then I explained to him that it was easy to get impatient with our walk, but we are growing.  I told him how I got to where I was at in my life.  It had been a long walk.  At times I did not feel like I was growing, but being a Christian you start out like a seed.  You receive the Word of God and get saved.  Then you grow slowly at first.  Sort of like when a farmer plants a field with corn.  For a long time he sees nothing and it does not seem like anything is happening, but it is.  Then all of a sudden he sees little green things coming up all over the field.  They are not impressive at first but they continue to grow. Slowly they get larger as the season goes along.  Then one day he comes out and he has a field of standing corn.  It will have several ears on each stalk of corn and hundreds of new seeds on each ear of corn.  New corn and new seeds, just like he was when he started his walk with the Lord. The farmers job is to weed, water and tend to the needs of the growing plants.  In due time harvest will come and the corn will be gathered.  Looking back the corn will not really see how it got to that point in its life, but it will have grown just the way the Lord ordered its steps to grow.
     Another comparison I heard a preacher use once and liked is being an orange.  Oranges do not struggle to grow.  They just do.  They hang around the tree of life and slowly they absorb the sunshine and grow to be a full grown orange. All they have to do is stay on or with the tree till they are grown.  If they fall away they will shrivel up and die.  It is staying in the tree (Word) that they grow. It gives them the nutrients they need to grow.  They will become what they were meant to become.  They will not become apples or grapes,  they are oranges (Christians) and they will stay oranges as long as they feed on the tree(Word of Life) that feeds them.
    So just stay at what you are doing and someday you will look back and see how much you have grown. Just having this conversation and you understanding what we are talking about is a sign of growth.  A person who is not saved would probably think we are babbling and talking nonsense, but we know who we follow and he will guide our steps.  Our only obligation is to keep following and putting our trust in him. If we do we will continue to grow.  Just knowing that where two or more are gathered in his name, he is present. So the Lord is here and helping us to give you what he needs for you to understand.  It is helping me grow also. It is showing me that by being willing to share his Word he will use me as he sees fit.
   After about three hours we parted company, but I know someday our paths will cross again. We will be able to give each other a thumbs up farther down the path.  When we are seated at the marriage supper of the Lamb, knowing we have made it.





Thursday, June 14, 2012

Why America Is Loosing The Marketing and Manufacturing Battle


       A popular movie of a few years back called “The Field of Dreams” had a key line that said, “Build it, they will come."  American industry needs to take a hard look at that movie and realize in their case the saying is. “Build it, they will buy it.” The auto industry has lost sight of its roots. Henry Ford is supposed to have said. “They can have any color car they want. As long as it is black!” Ford’s philosophy of building cars was to build them as quickly and cheaply as possible. It is a philosophy that is still working. It is the philosophy of Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in America and Mc Donalds

      Wal-Mart is expanding around the whole world with that simple philosophy. Why am I talking about Wal-Mart when this article is about the big three? Really it is pretty simple. It is all about competition. All business is about competition and winning is about knowing how to play the game. Wal-Mart has entered the Chinese market and many others. Yet other American companies are on the verge of collapse. As a retired trucker I have delivered goods to both Wal-Mart and some of their chief competitors. There is no comparison between them and say K-Mart. I know this from my experiences. To make my point a couple quick examples will show what I am talking about.

     One time delivering to a distribution center for K-Mart in the Detroit area a question arose about the product on my truck. First they felt they may not want the product as they might have too much in stock already. The person in charge sent a runner to check and see if they had the product in stock. Twenty minutes later the runner came back. He told the person in charge they had x number of cases of the product. The person in charge then asked if the product was red or blue. The runner left again and after about thirty minutes came back and said they had blue. Fortunately for me, I had red, and they took my load. That killed the better part of hour.

      At a Wal-Mart distribution center it would have been done by radio and maybe took two to three minutes. K-Mart is a union warehouse. Wal-Mart is not a union warehouse. Is it a union problem? I do not think so. It is a management problem. Radios cost, but then again they are cost effective. Wal-Mart could improve in some areas also. I spent my years in the Army working in aerial supply. We supplied by parachute to troops in the field.  Making things happen when and how they are supposed to takes team work. Management and labor need to understand they are teammates not competitors. Good managers are into motivation and innovation. They are not into confrontation and elimination.

       Getting back on track the problems in the automotive industry from my perspective are mainly a management problem. Management makes the leadership decisions and labor is supposed to follow. There is one small problem with the system. Sometimes people working in the industry cannot see the forest for the trees. The focus tends to be on the problems and not on the solutions.

       Before I started hauling for the automotive industry I wondered how the automotive industry could justify selling their products for so much. However by the time I finished hauling automotive parts I wondered how they could sell them so cheap. What changed was my perspective. Originally I was on the outside. After becoming involved with the system, some of the problems were a lot easier to see.

      One of the first things I noticed was that Labor had an attitude that Management’s goal was to get rid of them.  Or at a minimum cut their paychecks and benefits. They did not see management as leaders trying to compete in a very competitive market.  Management was viewed as a threat to their personal security and well being. Management’s attitude seemed to be that labor is a cost to be controlled and eliminated if possible. However without each other nothing gets done and both will become part of the rank and file unemployed.

     With the history behind the automotive industry it is easy to understand some of the points of view. Yet in today’s markets the attitudes need to change.  Labor will not be the only ones without a job. It will be the whole industry and supporting industries. You can not manage or work for a company that ceases to exist. History shows us plainly that companies that do not learn to compete cease to exist. It is the nature of industry. Just as the livery stables, of the past, ceased to exist. So have many car makers. Studebaker, Packard, Hudson and American Motors are just a few examples that have disappeared in my own life time. Just since I originally worked on this article Pontiac, Plymouth, and Saturn have disappeared as models.  Chrysler has survived simply by making deals with foreign manufactures who want to enter the American market. Which means America is still a viable market.  The models that disappeared were because of cost cutting measures.  They could not keep up with the competition. Even the makers who survived, at some point in the past,  have dumped models that either were no longer competitive or did not meet changing market demands. Most people have heard of the Pinto, Vega, Chevette or Maverick just to name a few. Millions of these cars were made but when is the last time you saw one? These last cars were made to meet a market demand created by the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973. They fell apart about as fast as Arab hopes of controlling the worlds oil markets.

      When the crisis of the moment was past attitudes and markets changed back. The demand for the pony cars and barges, my children’s nickname for cars made in the fifties and sixties, resumed. People adapted to the higher fuel prices after the embargo. American production followed what they perceived market demand to be. When another Energy Crisis hit in the late 90’s the foreign manufacturers changed their product lines. American manufacturers felt it was a glitch and that Americans would pay any price for fuel and continued to slop the market with the gas hogs they produced.

      Little did anyone perceive the perfect financial storm brewing just over the horizon. The fact that not one of the major manufacturers understood where the market was headed says a lot about the lack of leadership. Both the American industrial and the financial markets in general missed the boat. To say they were blindsided would be a major understatement. The blinders worn by American automotive management were as effective as the ones worn by horses before the advent of the automobile.

      The arrival in Washington, DC on their private jets, with their hands out, underscored the complete oblivion of management to the reality of the situation. The real sad part is that no one seemed to realize that it was too little to late.  I have to admit since the original writing some headway has been made by Ford and the other manufacturers. Yet it is survival based, not market leadership based.  Dealerships were and still are flooded with inventory they can hardly move. They have no alternatives to offer the buying public. A long and perhaps terminal slump is not only possible it is inevitable.

      Why is it inevitable? It is because the manufacturers and the financial institutions failed to realize there is one key ingredient in the financial markets they do not understand. The leadership got sidetracked from the idea of making  automobiles. They no longer cared about making money from the manufacturing part of their industry.

      The financial arms of the companies were the part of the company generating the income.  They were not interested in the adage about keeping the customer happy. They were more interested in keeping them fleeced with extended terms and upside down loans. They failed to understand the little guy. They do not understand what greases the wheels of commerce. It is not big business. It is not the bottom line. It is also not slick advertising. It is demand. What they do not understand is that the little guy when it comes to protecting what he has is very conservative, regardless of how liberal of a society we live in.

     When the average little guy feels threatened he is going to hold on to what he has at all costs. So you can proclaim your rosy scenario all you want. Till the little guy feels he has room to breathe he is holding on to what he has. The wheels of commerce will not get greased. Things will slowly grind to a halt. You can talk till your blue in the face. The more you talk the tighter his grip will get. When he sees everybody getting laid off, do not tell him sunny days are just ahead. All anyone can do is wait till the little guy feels secure enough to loosen his grip.

     There is one other factor that the big three do not seem to get. The days of “Buy American” are over. Even some communities are buying foreign cars these days. The attitude moving the market is to buy the best value you can get for your dollar. I was always a “Buy American” person.  I spent ten years overseas serving this country and was and am proud to be an American.  However I also realize I live in a global market place. Some of the best stuff out there is not American. I have purchased two new cars in my lifetime. A 1992 Dodge Colt which had over 200,000 miles on it when I gave it to my niece. It got awesome mileage and was stone dependable. Many friends and family had purchased and bragged on them.  So why did I buy a 2008 Honda? For the very same reason I bought the Colt.  Good feedback and research that showed 200,000+ was the norm and not the exception. Yet I still consider myself a Ford person and my second car is a Ford. So why didn’t I buy a Ford. The people I know and trust and the research I did told me the longest lasting and most economical, hence the best value, was what I bought. Not necessarily what I wanted.  Common sense and value out weighted my loyalty. I might like how I look in a tuxedo and it might make me feel good but, it is not very practical for a work outfit.

     So what can be done to save the American automotive industry? Well the status quo definitely is not the answer to the problem. At the start of this article I made a statement of fact. It may have sounded strange but it took working for, or with the automotive industry to say it with all honesty.  Before I hauled automotive parts I could not see how they could justify charging so much for their cars.  However after hauling parts I could not see how they can sell them so cheap. The next couple paragraphs will give people who are not familiar with the industry a little insight that may help them see what I am trying to say.

     My introduction to the automotive industry was hauling brake rotors. It would seem like a very simple part to make. That should be the case but we are dealing with the automotive industry. Therefore nothing is as simple as it should be. My experience started in Danville, Illinois. This is actually the second or third step for the rotor. It depends on how you count steps. The raw materials had to be bought to the facility where I picked up the fresh castings. Step two or three depending how you count handling the raw materials
After several hours of sitting and waiting.   It was my turn to back into the loading dock.  The parts were loaded on my truck. Once loaded I had about six hours to get the parts to the next plant or step in the process.  Which was a heat treatment plant in Lansing, Michigan.  At this point I should explain a concept created by American industry which could be amazing if it worked properly all the time. The concept is “Just in Time” delivery. I would not explain it except to understand the solution you need to know what needs to be fixed.

     Basically it is a concept that inventory should not sit around on shelves or in storage bins. The item should arrive just in time to be processed or utilized. This is based on the concept that inventory is money. Money not being utilized is money wasted. A fine concept until you start moving almost empty trucks to meet unrealistic deadlines. Suddenly you are using three, four or five trucks to do the job one truck could have done. Each truck used adds to the cost because each one costs for its use. This concept is not limited to the automotive industry unfortunately.

     Time to get back on track, upon arrival the parts are unloaded and sent thru a heat treating process which takes several hours. At this point the truck either returns to Danville or moves parts to the next step in processing. To keep me moving they load parts, that have already been processed, onto my truck from a previous delivery. Then I head to Dayton, Ohio to a machining plant. As the point here is to show what happens in the car building process.  I will just explain the transportation process. In Dayton the parts are machined. The rotors then go to another plant in central Ohio where the machining process is finished. The next step is to go to a plant where parts are added to the rotors to make them ready for assembly. The process nears an end on arrival at the plant where they are mounted on a hub or axle assembly. Finally they are hauled to another plant.  There they are actually built into a hub or axle assembly. The assembled parts are hauled to an auto assembly plant. Finally all the components come together in the form of a finished car. The car is then hauled to a dealership. Each rotor may have one thousand to three thousand miles of travel by the time the process is finished and it reaches a dealership.

    Multiply this process by the multitude of parts on a car.  It could easily have over a hundred thousand miles on it before the dealer gives you the keys. So what is this whole process about? Well principally it is about busting the unions. The whole process could be done at the final assembly plant. That was how Henry Ford intended it to be. The idea of outsourcing the work was definitely not his idea. How do I know this? From studying the issue. When Ford started his company he gave up a ten per cent interest in his company to a couple brothers who ran a machine shop. For two thousand shares he received seven thousand dollars in parts and three thousand dollars in cash. The brothers who helped him get started were known as the Dodge brothers.

    Several years later Ford paid twelve thousand five hundred dollars a share to regain control of that ten percent of his company. Shares he originally gave up for five dollars each. The reason he wanted the control back was that he had built his own machining plant and no longer needed the service of the Dodge brothers. His goal was to cut cost doing everything in house. Of course it is not hard to guess what the Dodge bothers did with their windfall profit. One other point to note is that Ford paid his employees well enough that they would be able to purchase a car of their own. He understood the concept of marketing and what drives it. Something the present leadership has lost sight of.

     It is already effecting people outside the automotive industry. The scrap industry has tanked as the demand for steel and aluminum has dried up. Soda pop cans that were recycling for sixty eight cents a pound are now down to twenty cents a pound. Back up to fifty cents at this time. That means the homeless person who takes his bag of cans to turn in and uses the money to buy a five dollar meal at a fast food restaurant is really hurting. Where he had to get seven pounds to eat which is about one hundred and forty cans. Now he has to get twenty five pounds of cans. What makes that worse is that the people who used to pitch their cans are now saving them.

    The problem is not all managements fault. Labor, unions in particular, have short comings also. In the course of my life I held two union jobs. One job in construction and the other in trucking, however my goal was to be self employed, so maybe I have a biased point of view. Fortunately I worked for two smaller union companies with good management who operated with the team concept. Most of the people I worked with had a good American work ethic. Unfortunately the ones who didn’t were usually the most active union supporters. At the construction job I watched a young worker give up an almost twenty dollar an hour job over seventy five cents. The union said he should get twenty five cents more and hour. He stood on his principals. I probably would not remember it except I lived near him and saw the suffering his wife and children went through. Everybody on the job liked the kid including the employer. It was early April and the employer told the kid he had a job all season if he wanted it, but the employer failed to pay him an extra twenty five cents and hour for three hours of running a jack hammer. The kid filed a grievance and got his seventy five cents, but he lost the job. The employer’s attitude was that labor was labor and as a laborer it did not matter what you did as long as you did it. About twenty of us with less principals worked continually till early December. Who was right?

     Living in close proximity to a foreign car plant and knowing many people who have worked there I understand they have their share of problems also. The foreign companies have an anti labor attitude also. However theirs could better be described as a pro company attitude. It is almost a kamikaze attitude toward winning. The congressman who noted that most of the foreign car companies are in the south and the civil war is still going on by different means was not far off the mark. Actually the foreign makers target economically depressed areas with large labor pools. The foreign companies are still at war with us, we beat them militarily but the war is being continued economically and that is the weapon they have chosen to continue the battle. Divide and conquer is one of the oldest rules of warfare. Goliath did not lose to David because he lacked the ability to defeat him. He lost because he did not appreciate the skills of his enemy. Another way of saying it is, “It is not about the size of the dog in the fight, but about the size of the fight in the dog.”

   The fact that foreign car companies are building plants in America proves that American labor is still competitive.  They would not build here if it was not helping them make better profits.  However their new plants are state of the art and use lots of robotics in jobs that traditionally were held by people.  It is this automation of industry that is killing jobs in America.  When you combine that with the financial and political incompetence that is creating staggering debt.  While offering no solutions to the problems in America it will only get worse before it gets better.  The tons of money being spent on unemployment and food stamps could much better be spent on repairing America's infrastructure problems.  The U.S. Constitutions charges the Congress with the duties of handling America's finances, defending our nation and providing for the Welfare (upkeep) of the nation.  They have failed on all three counts.

     If the money being spent on unemployment and food stamps was buying materials to fix things it would create jobs providing those materials and jobs utilizing those materials.  As it is being done now, it is simply adding to the national debt.  It would still be increasing the national debt, but it would also be adding to the value of America as a nation.  Which it is not doing with the present method of doing things.  We need a third party that is Constitutionally based and dedicated to making America financially solvent and sound.  The definition of insanity is, "Doing something over and over the same way and expecting to get a different result." That is the Democrat and Republican game plan. It is time for a party with a new and functional system of addressing America's problems before the present system collapses.  As a history nut and specializing in the Great Depression.  Back then the market lost 89% of its value from high to low.  That means the bottom today would be about 1560.  It also took about 32 months from the high to the low point.  We are past the 32 month point, but we certainly are not coming out of the downturn.  We are at the edge of an abyss and we can not seem to move away from the edge.  If something is not done the bottom will eventually fall out of the market.  The present system is only dragging us closer.  As more and more people fall off of unemployment they will loose their homes and the drag downward will continue. The present way of doing business is not working.

     Economic wars are won by beating your enemy at their own game and taking over the best markets. The absolute best market battlefield in the world is the United States. The proof that it is warfare is the present market situation. If the foreign companies wanted they could buy up the American companies for pennies on the dollar. They do not want them though for two reasons. One is their perception of the problems with the union labor and the other is they would rather put the competition out of business.

    So if the American automobile manufacturers want to survive they had better rethink their game. Building cars with longer tailpipes is not the solution. In France a company is building an air powered car that runs seventy miles per hour with a range of one hundred and twenty miles. It uses no fuel. The power source is compressed air. If that compressor is run buy a bank of batteries, which in turn, are charged by solar panels or windmills a true green machine would is possible.

    As long as America turns a blind eye to the largest corporations taking business and jobs elsewhere and working people in foreign countries in ways we would not and will not tolerate in America the problem will continue.  As long as we have our cheap I pads and I phones, it does not matter if they are made with labor that America would not accept as fair.  They should be taxed to make their products cost the same as if they were made here.  It could be called a Fair American Trade Tax or as the acronym states, a FAT Tax.  Which is what is happening.  American business is getting fat at the expense of the people they are pillaging.

      All the necessary technology is already available.   America could break its dependence on foreign oil and fight global warming at the same time.  Of course it will take a complete change in attitude of the entire American automotive industry. They will need to rethink the process from building a better product for the money and at a better price. That will take true leadership and insight and a step away from the status quo. The only question is does America have the will to win the fight. If the present attitudes remain the same maybe we will have a chance to discuss it while we are in the soup lines.

      A minor postscript.  Pop cans made it back up to over sixty cents a pound for a while. However as the market is hedging and the question of a double dip hangs in the air.  The price is back down to the forty three cents per pound level.  Guess I will have to get more excercise to fill my bucket and buy dinner.  Or if it keeps going we can discuss it in the soup line while waiting for lunch.  Hope Congress gets off their hands and do something.  There are plenty of things they could do.  However that would require a display of common will and common sense and those things do not exist in Washington anymore. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Money, Victory Over STUFFITIS

                                                 A Strategy For Debt Free Living.

      Most people I know can always use a few more dollars. The trick is knowing how to get them without giving up the ones you already have. A good way to really understand that is to spend a day at yard sales. Yard sales can be used as a tactic to get ahead if properly done.  Have you ever gone to yard sales with the strategy of getting stuff for your own yard sale?  Yes going to yard sales, to have a yard sale.  It is not as dumb as it sounds.  In fact it is a lot smarter than most people think.  To make my point I will give you two reasons it is a good thing to do.  You can sometimes buy brand new clothes with the tags still on them for pennies on the dollar.  Recently my daughter and I stopped at a  yard sale with a friend of hers.  She had just been evicted from her home.  She lost everything she owned in the process. Which is another story.  The point is about all the clothes she had, were the ones on her back.  Knowing she also had no money I told her I would lend, translated give, her some money to get some clothes.  That girl deserves a Masters Degree in Retail Therapy.  For about fourteen dollars she had five outfits including shoes.  One dress she bought still had the store tags on it.  A $38 dress for one dollar, with the store tags still on it.  It was nice. So were the shoes which also had the tag on them.  They cost a whopping fifty cents.  Those are the kinds of things you look for when shopping to have your own yard sale. Secondly it is an investment in yourself. Yes this takes a lot of time, but it keeps you from otherwise spending money.  Also it can be made to pay for itself.  

      How do you make it pay for itself?  Well the last time I went to recycle pop cans they were paying sixty cents a pound.  I crunch mine so I can get more in the bag. Then I reuse the bags as many times as I can.  Six big yard waste size bags can hold quite a bit.  The trick is waiting till you get  a good sized amount.  The more you have, the more they pay you.  A nickel a pound more adds up, but you have to have 300 pounds to get that nickel.  Also you can enlist friends and family to help you get more cans quicker.  It helps them as they do not have to haul them off.  I am sixty five and just converted to Social Security.  I had been on Disability for the last eight years after having the "Big One." The powers that be took my Commercial Driver's License because I had  a defibrillator put in me. Overnight I went from self employed, to unemployed.  I had to sell my truck and all my equipment which helped keep us going till we got my first check.  We went six months and never missed a payment by the Grace of God.  I can do most anything I could do before the heart attack just not as fast.  If I keep at it I get it done eventually.  It is just a matter of pacing myself.  How I got into recycling at this late stage in life is in another story on my blog called "From Trash to Treasures"  Recycling is nothing knew to me.  Having been technically dead, and then jump started, I guess even I am recycled.  My Dad got me my first paper route when I was eleven.  My parents grew up during the "Great Depression" and knew how to get every penny out of anything.  Shortly after starting my route I discovered if I asked my customers to keep their papers for me they would.  About once a month I would take my trusty wagon and make many trips around my paper route.  After collecting the papers I would stack them in the front of our garage till there were enough to fill my Dad's pickup truck.  It did not make a lot of money, but it taught me the value of keeping your eyes open for an opportunity to make a buck.  

     I did not grow up in the rich neighborhood, but it was not all bad.  One thing I remember from my youth in northern Indiana is going out to get a bucket of coal from the coal bin. Usually I did it early in the morning. Especially remember the mornings when it was covered with snow. That was one of my first chores that did not get me an allowance.  It was my "duty" to get up before school, haul in enough to heat the house till I got home from school. Water for bathing and doing dishes was heated in a big pot on top of the coal burning stove. We did have inside plumbing though.  I had friends who did not.  So we were not quite at the bottom of the food chain, but very close.  Really primitive is when you have to cut a hole in the ice on the lake. Then haul the water into the house and heat it.  Most Americans do not know how good they have it today.  Of course this is not an uphill, both ways in a blizzard, barefoot, four miles to school story.  Actually it was pretty flat and only 3.5 miles one way to the high school.  Which got interesting in cold weather.  We did not ride the bus to school like kids do now.  For some reason it is hard to keep on track this evening.  Guess my goal is to show I lived what I am preaching here.  It is not just something I am typing up to get attention.  

    Please forgive me the side trip down memory lane.  Will try to stay focused and make some points people will understand.  Hopefully they can get some benefit out of them. When I am shopping for stuff to sell myself, my goal is to get stuff for ten cents on the dollar or cheaper.  If you can get it that cheap you should be able to make some money on it.  However that is not always the case.  When I first started going to auctions I bought five couches for five dollars.  Man I thought I was going to get rich.  Well I got them all stacked in and on my pickup and hauled them to my shop.  About a year later I sold one for $10 and ended up burning the other four.  I doubled my money, but more than that I learned sometimes there is a reason stuff goes so cheap.  Nobody wants it.  In my many adventures at yard sales it is easy to see that people buy stuff they do not really need or want.  One of the biggest wastes of money is exercise equipment.  It is for me anyhow.  If I am going to exercise I want it to do something productive.  Not just waste my time. Mow the  yard, cut weeds, clean ditches, work in the garden or anything that produces some kind of benefit.  Buying exercise equipment is generally a waste of time.  This is an observation from eight years of running a second hand shop.  It has never been a real business, but it has been steady enough and busy enough to learn some things just do not sell.  At least not if you are intending to make money.  You want to keep turning your money over and not tie it up.  Sooner or later somebody may buy it, but my interest is not in warehousing stuff.  It is in making a little bit of money, into more money, so I can live at a little better.  At least at a little better than the standard of living I am able to live at on my disability.  We live comfortably and our retirement pays the bills and feeds us, but there is nothing left to do things we would like to do.  That is how most people learn to overcome STUFFITIS.  They realize making changes is the only way to get what they want in life.  Many people would be a lot better off if they learned to quit buying stuff they do not need.  Especially stuff they can get free like books. I have hundreds of thousands of books.  I just do not keep them at home.  In fact the place I keep them reminds me to put them back on the shelf so they do not clutter.  I even get new books by signing the want list.  Having a few like minded individuals as friends they keep their books in the same place.  They also sign the want list which helps get the book quicker. Time to get back on track.

     Many yard sales would be better off to take the stuff to Good Will or the Salvation Army and donate it.  Quite a few of the yard sales I go to are not worth the time it takes to get out of the car.  You can look at the stuff from the car and tell it belongs in the trash.  Many sales are nothing but clothes.  Those yard sales do not get much business from me.  I am a junk buyer.  You can make money on clothes, but like anything you have to know what people actually want.  At least what they will get up off their wallet for.  My goal is to get everything for ten cents on the dollar.  I would like to sell it for fifty cents on the dollar of its value.  However, even if I only get twenty cents on the dollar I have doubled my money.  Do that consistently and you should make some money.  When you are doing yard sales to make money you approach them with a whole different mindset than if you are buying for yourself.  Is it something people actually want?  Is it something people will actually buy? Also is it cheap enough that when I resell it I can actually hope to make some money on it?  Buying it and then finally getting rid of most of it as trash is not a wise investment.  This is something you need to treat as a serious business.  Done properly it may become a business and make you money. If nothing else it may get you a TV show.  There has been an explosion of shows on how to buy stuff and make money.  American Pickers, Junk Gypsies, Auction Hunters and Storage Wars are just a few.  Storage wars is based on real events.  I used to do it myself.  It is fun, but very competitive. It was never my intention to start a second hand business, but my four daughters probably saved my life by giving me a direction and some purpose. 

     It literally got dumped on me.  When my truck driving career was over the barn I used to park my truck in was sitting empty.  It is a very old 96 foot long barn.  Unless I find somebody with a need for a 112 year old horse stable with a loft that is 17 X 70 I am probably stuck with it.  It was originally the Monroe City Livery Stable. It still has the horse stalls along each side downstairs. That has proven to not be all bad.  My daughters asked if they could set up in my barn for the annual city wide yard sale.  As I was no longer using it for my truck I said okay.  Well a few weeks later I asked them when they were going to get "their stuff" out of "my barn."  It was then that they informed me it was now "my stuff."  Well I had a wood shop in the back and I pursued my hobby of making unique one of a kind bird houses and feeders. Which I sold on Ebay.  So I started a habit of setting a couple tables outside with stuff on them. People would stop and buy "stuff".  It still was not my goal to make it a business, but I could always use the few extra dollars.  With all the family having a place to get rid of used furniture, beds and whatever it did okay.  The barn is on the main highway through town which gets a lot of drive by traffic.  It is also zoned commercial which helps.

  About six months into "my business" my wife's cousin gave my youngest daughter a square hay baler.  She had a brain tumor, which she fought it for seven years.  People were donating things as part of a fund raiser for her. She went home to be with the Lord in August 2010.  Well I got tagged with the responsibility of selling it for her. A friend of ours told me to take it to the Amish auction near where we live.  They have one every Friday night. .  I had to have the baler there by noon he warned me if I wanted to get good money for it.  Then I had to set around till 8 PM to get my money after the auction was over.  Well I did and that was how I became to the proud owner of five couches.  From then on it was where I spent every Friday night for a long time.  Later I discovered Flea Markets, Farmers Markets and started going to yard sales as a business.  One thing led to another and my crafts became a full time business.  Or a better way to say it.  A full time social program.  To me it is not about making money.  It could be if someone was geared that way.  I buy broken furniture at the auctions usually for a $1 a piece, and then I fix it.  My goal is to simply give it to those who need it or sell it cheap enough to make a few dollars.  Then I can buy some more stuff to fix and sell.  It is nice to be able to help people that need help.  

      The nice thing about doing this is it does not take a ton of money to get started.  It is something you can do with the kids and family.  So you do not even need a baby sitter.  A car or pickup comes in handy, but if you have a gift of the gab you can even get around that obstacle.  Some cities control the amount or how often you can have a yard sale.  That is not a problem in most cases.   You can find a few friends to network with and to help each other. Having a buying partner is good also.  You can keep each other from buying on impulse.  The town I grew up in limits people to four yard sales a year.  That is okay because you want to get good stuff which means you need time for going to sales.  You want to become known for having good clean stuff an you will not have to advertise.  People will be looking for you and your bargains.  It is a business that will feed on itself and grow.  You may end up turning it into a an actual business.  Think long an  hard before you do.  Once you have a store.  You have to have set hours and getting out and doing yard sales may cut into your personal time. My sign says if the doors are open, I am open.  If they are closed I am closed.  That is the way it is.  Family comes first and it is a hobby not a business, at least for me.  It can become a very time consuming thing.  As you get braver and better you may build up some capital. Then you can get into doing something bigger like mowers, or cars and boats.  Or start doing specialty items like tools.  Eventually maybe even real estate.  Just staying with small items you can use the internet to pump your sales.  You can use Craigslist which is mostly free.  Then there is Etsy.com which is a nice site.  Finally if you find some serious collectibles you can try Ebay.  Check for local online outlets.  We have a county wide online yard sale where I live.  If they do not have one where you live, maybe that means you may have an opportunity to set one up.  Some of the ideas for doing these things are discussed in some of my other blogs.  Generally just type the word Money on my search bar. It will take you to other blogs of mine that deal with money issues.  Hope you enjoyed it and it helped in some way. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Why America's Standard of Living Is Declining.

       Sometimes no matter how hard you work you never seem to get ahead.  There may be a reason for that. You are getting farther and farther behind.  It does not take rocket science to figure it out either. Back in the late 50' and early 60's when I entered the labor force the minimum wage was fifty cents an hour.  A bottle of pop or a candy bar out of a machine was a nickle.  Gas was an outrageous seventeen to eighteen cents a gallon.  Well today a pop or a candy bar is a dollar fifty out of a machine. The minimum wage in Indiana is $7.25 an hour.  Well if pop and candy bars have increased to thirty times their value and the minimum wage had kept pace the minimum wage would be $15 and hour.  The fact that it has not kept pace means your buying power has decreased so therefore your standard of living.  Just mention raising the minimum wage and the rich fat cats scream.  Manager's of small business scream there is no way they can afford to pay that kind of money.  Well I hate to say it but they have been ripped off just as much as the rest of us.
    On top of the above mentioned statistics the job market is in the tank and shows no sign of coming back anytime soon.  The cause of that problem has many sides.  Jobs being shipped overseas is only a small part of the problem.  The improvements in manufacturing and distribution with the invention of computers and robotics have decreased the demand for manual labor.  A robot in some instances can replace a hundred people. While only one or two people are needed to keep up a whole factory full of machines.  Those jobs are gone.  They are not coming back any time soon.
    Companies that benefited from the automation took all the increased profit from reduced labor cost and cut the labor force even more.  It did not matter to them that the laborers that produced the income for them to do that, were forced into unemployment.  The burden created by the layoffs and elimination of laborers was dumped on society. While the rich got richer.  Way back in 1998 the modernization was just taking off.  That is when capital gains taxes were drastically cut on those receiving excess profits.  One problem with cutting the capital gains tax was that it had been income to the government.  The second problem which we are seeing the effect of today is the rise in the national debt.  The two problems are related.  The politicians cut the tax, but they did not cut the government spending.  This whole thing can be traced back to a deal between Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich.  Clinton wanted affordable housing for the poor. While it was an admirable goal there was one problem with it.  It did not limit cost of the housing to a level which was within the poor persons budget.  Most bought way more house than they could really afford. Gingrich wanted more money for his wealthy friends. He wanted them to be able to keep more of their profits. They both got what they wanted on the backs of the average American.  The cost of these give away programs was not fully thought out.  Today we are seeing the effects of lack of foresight on their parts.
   Shortly after the above mentioned fiasco.  George W. Bush decided to cut the taxes on the wealthy.  At the same time starting two wars and providing virtually no means of funding them.  When combined with the capital gains cut and the failure to cut spending the fact the debt was going to go up was and is inevitable. You can not spend your way out of debt.  It is a basic fact of life.  It does not work for individuals and it does not work for nations.
    Today the sad state of the economy is being felt by many Americans.  The housing market has tanked and the price of housing is in free fall to a point where it should have stayed.  The Obama administration has tried to come up with all kinds of programs to save peoples homes.  He has done virtually nothing to create jobs so the ones who own the homes can afford to pay for them.  The fixes he has been advocating are just going to shove the problem down the road.  As citizens who have lost there jobs, due to the sad state of the economy, fall off of unemployment it will only get worse.  They will no longer be able to keep their homes.  The lack of jobs is the major cause of the whole problem.  So while Obama tries to save houses, the Republicans are refusing to raise taxes.  They do not want to take any of the money, they should never have given away in the first place, from their rich and powerful friends.  The rich do not feel obligated to give up anything.  It is theirs.  They got it and they have no intention of giving it back.
    So what is the solution to the problem.  Business and the wealthy investors who create inventions that eliminate jobs need to pay up.  They need to acknowledge their debt to the laboring class that made them their wealth and contribute to the cost of retraining labor.  Helping create a labor force that remains productive and supports the American economy.  Basically the same failure of the rich to reinvest in America is what led to the Great Depression way back when.  Only World War II created the demand to end the Great Depression.  The expansion of technology and increased standard of living pushed the economy for many years after the war.  While productivity is still rising, the advent of new fields of employment has diminished.  The only solution at this time is to weather the storm by starting programs to bring America's infrastructure into the 21st century.  Old fashioned manual labor can fill the gap. Spending money to create jobs that can be taxed.  Not giving it away for doing nothing. Sometimes it may be better to forego the 500,000 dollar street sweeping machine and employ 16 people for a year with the money.  This would also generate taxes to run the government.  The mechanical street sweeper may seem cheaper, but is it.  Especially if it displaces workers and puts a burden on society.
    What is the solution if you are a working class American.  It certainly is not waiting on the Federal Government to help you.  First you have to make every cut you can.  Reduce your need for cash and then create a way to generate your own income. Find a niche and fill it.  Whether it is mowing yards, landscaping or babysitting.  These are jobs and generate income.  Maybe not at the level one needs but they do offer a chance to hold on till you can find a better and more profitable niche.  Have a friend who has found a niche like that.   Support them and encourage them.   If the opportunity affords itself join them.  When you do have money to spend, do it in a way that stimulates your local economy.  Give a car wash certificate,  a gift certificate to a locally owned food outlet or business.  Do not wait on the government you will loose all you have and starve.  That is what people did during the great depression.
      It is not my goal to generate fear and panic, but this is just the beginning of a very long down turn if the government and politicians continue on their present course.  The definition of insanity is. "Doing the same thing over, and over and expecting a different result."  Well that is the political status in America today.  The two parties in power are concerned about only two things.  Staying in power and milking the cow for all they can get.  They do not care about the American people. That can be proven by looking at the deep south.   Supposedly the Republicans are all about big business.  They may be, but why are all those Republican states home of the lowest standards of living in America.  Because they are doing nothing for the working class Americans.
      So if you want change.  The kind that helps you, not the Obama kind.  You need to get with like minded individuals and vote in a third party candidate that stands for what you believe in.  If you can not find one start your own party.  It takes time but at least you will know you did not throw your vote away on a party that could care less about you and your needs.
     It would really make me happy if I was wrong about all this gloom and doom, but as a history buff and especially in the area of the Great Depression.  I do not think I am.  In fact I am seeing more and more things that say our government is making the very same mistakes it made back then.  The first being that they are saying. "It's not really that bad, it will get better in time."  It did not then and it will not now.  It was about 34 months from the high point to the low point in the Great Depression.  We have just passed that point and things are not getting better.  The stock market can find no traction.  A month or so ago it hit a high from the crash.  Then the last two weeks it has given up all the increase it made for the year.  When you look at the whole world and not just the U.S. economy, the writing is on the wall.
     In the recession of the early 80's people were stealing cattle right out of the farmer's fields so they could eat. It will not be long and I imagine we will be seeing that kind of thing again.  People will do what they think they have to, to survive.  Back in the Great Depression people still had morals and values.  That is something that is dying fast in America.  People think they are entitled to take what they want nowadays. It could get scary if it gets as bad as back then.  All that being said.  Good luck in whatever you decide to do to survive.  However do something, don't wait till it is to late.