Thursday, February 28, 2008

How Is Your Stupidity My Problem?

The whole economic crisis that the United States is currently in really pisses me off. We've brought the entire thing upon ourselves by being a nation full of economic idiots. Apparently, while my parents were teaching me that no, money doesn't grown on trees, a whole lot of other people's parents were teaching them the exact opposite.

Somehow these people looked at their salaries and then looked at the price of the mega-mansions they wanted to buy and figured that somehow the hundreds of thousands of dollars in difference would miraculously resolve itself. They ignored the details of the terms of their adjustable interest loans, thinking that by the time the interest adjusted they'd have magically earned tons more money and it would be no big deal.

Then once they had their mega-mansions and adjustable interest rate loans, they took the little pieces of plastic in their wallets with their names on it and some random numbers and went hog wild furnishing their homes, and buying the big cars and the fancy clothes and the luxury vacations that you are apparently entitled to if you live in such a home. Who thought they would one day have to pay actual cash for those purchases? Isn't that little plastic card magic?

And now the entire nation is paying for the stupidity and selfishness of these people. Those of us who wisely put our money into savings are watching the earnings on those savings shrink as the interest rate is cut to rescue those who made bad choices. Those who made investments in preparation for retirement are watching their stocks take huge hits as the market struggles to remain afloat amidst the crises in housing and credit cards. Those of us who take the time to budget are watching as our budgets are blown up by the sharp increases in gas costs, food costs, and other costs, which can all be traced back to the weakness of the dollar caused by the constant lowering of interest rates. Our buying power is rapidly shrinking. Our salaries aren't increasing. We will all feel the pinch of living in a consumerist society in which we're encouraged to buy, buy, buy without any regard for how we're going to pay, pay, pay.

I am by no means a financial genius, but it doesn't take much more than simple subtraction skills to know that when you're subtracting your expenses from your income, the number on the top (aka the income) better be bigger than the number on the bottom (aka the expenses). And the more positive difference between those numbers, the better. We'd all be in a better spot if we could learn to live within, if not below, our means. Although with the government bailing out all of those who haven't quite figured this out, how's anybody ever going to learn? Maybe this is cold-hearted, but I was always taught that you have to live with the consequences of your choices, and I still firmly believe this to be true.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

That's My Name on That Book

I don't believe in the idea that things "happen for a reason." There's too much senseless tragedy in the world for that. I do believe, however, that sometimes opportunities arise from setbacks.

When the start date for our trip was pushed back to October, I have to admit that I was disappointed. I was set on leaving in July. But shortly after that setback occurred, I received the opportunity to interview for a job that I was greatly interested in. And now, I'm happy to say that after a fairly intensive application, interview, and proposal process, I have been awarded a position as author of the forthcoming guidebook Moon Outdoors Take a Hike, Washington, DC. The final manuscript deadline is in September, so it just works perfectly with our new trip start date.

Now guidebook writing isn't exactly a lucrative career, so I'll be keeping my regular job. Which means for the next few months, I'll be doing one of four things: 1) working my 8:30 - 6:00 schtick; 2) hiking the approximately 80 trails that will be featured in the book; 3) writing about those hikes; and 4) planning our RTW trip. It'll be crazy, but it'll be worth it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Flying Butter

Yesterday I had a choice. I could either go to a staff meeting and hear all about how we have no money, whine, whine, moan, moan, bitch, bitch. Or I could go see butterflies. Tough choice, huh?

The Smithsonian Natural History Museum just opened a walk-through butterfly exhibit. It's in the museum, but it actually requires an admission fee. Considering butterflies live for only about two weeks, and they have to be shipped in from Central and South America, it's not exactly a cheap exhibit. (Also, I'm sure they, like us, don't have any money either.) Anyhow, Smithsonian staff were invited to a preview of the exhibit, so I jumped on that. I then found out that I can get one free ticket a week for myself and discounted tickets for ,y guests. (I'm not sure how much they cost to begin with but I think it's about $5.) Maybe I'll make this a weekly habit. It's a really good pick-me-up. Who can be grumpy surrounded by such beauty?

I remembered to take my camera, so I thought I'd share a few pictures.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

And That Kids is How the World Was Saved

If you're reading Lives of Wander, you'll know that I have a list of things I hope to do before leaving D.C. One of the things on the list is participating in a protest.

So this past week, I'm reading the Express as I ride the Metro to work, when I come across a full page age that has "Save the Planet Protest" written in large letters across the top. Hey, I think, that's something I could get behind. Who doesn't want to save the planet? Immediately I picture myself in front of the White House advocating for Bush to sign some global warming protocol. I have a little poster, there's a chant or two. It's cool, and I go home, pat myself on the back, and cross that one off my list.

But then I start reading. Turns out the organizer of this protest isn't gunning for the president or even Congress. No, he's directing his anger at the Discovery Channel. Yes, you did read that right. He's protesting a cable television channel.

Confused as I am? Well, apparently Lee (the organizer), believes that the Discovery Channel is not actually trying to save the planet with their programming but is instead, gasp, a "corporation whose real interest lies in money." Oh my God! I had no idea! I thought I was watching a philanthropic channel whose only goal was to save the world. I'm in utter and complete shock now. My eyes have been opened!

The ad chastises the Discovery Channel for airing shows "about people who build pollution machines and other environmentally harmful practices." In one ad, he specifically mentioned Cash Cab, but I see that he didn't put it in the online version of his ad. Guess he figured out that you can't knock the Cash Cab.

Anyhow, Lee wants people to gather from 9 am to 9 pm from February 15 to February 23 to let the Discovery Channel know that they need to start broadcasting shows that really address ways to save the planet. Apparently, as a cable television channel, saving the planet is their responsibility. I knew there was a point to TV.

I'm considering driving by tomorrow to see if anyone has turned out for what must be one of the funniest protests I've ever heard of. Seriously, where do people get these ideas? If you want to read the ad, click here.

Friday, February 15, 2008


The shooting at Northern Illinois University disturbs me to the core. College should be a safe place. What is happening here? Why are these sick, sick people turning classrooms into places of terror? How do these people end up with arsenals of guns and why do we keep defending their right to have them? And why, why, why if you hate your life so much can't you just kill yourself and leave everyone else out of it?

I don't care what their background story is, I have no sympathy for these shooters...the ones who take guns to classrooms, to shopping malls, to wherever. They are repulsive, selfish, horrible people. I feel very Republican saying that, but it's how I feel. There is no excuse, no reason, no justification. There is right and wrong. And they chose wrong. Very, very, very wrong.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Too Boring for the Paper

Two weeks ago, the financial planner Jeff and I had met with last year (and who sent us $20 movie gift certificates for Christmas---sweet!), sent us an email asking if we’d be willing to be interviewed for a Washington Post article about couples and money. After ascertaining that we wouldn’t need to provide any kind of specific details about our finances but would rather be asked general questions about how we handle money, we agreed and we each were interviewed by phone. The interviews took place while we were at work, and when we both got home from work, we shared what turned out to be the same reaction: We weren’t what the reporter was looking for.

Reporter: So do you and your husband have similar or different views on money?
Me: We’re both savers. We both believe in living within, if not below, our means.
Reporter: And you think that is both of your natural dispositions?
Me: Yes
Reporter: So you both generally agree on how to handle your money?
Me: Yes
Reporter: Oh, okay.

Reporter: Have you ever had any big fights over money?
Me: No, not that I can recall.
Reporter: Nothing? Not even something that seems small now but was a big fight at the time.
Me: Nope, we don’t really fight about money. We have a plan, and we stick to it.
Reporter: Oh, okay.

Reporter (After asking what we both do): So you make more money than your husband?
Me: At this point, yes.
Reporter: Is that an issue for either of you?
Me: No, the money all goes into the same pot at the end of the day.
Reporter: You don’t think he has a problem with you making more money than him?
Me: No, we’re not really into the idea of traditional gender roles. And I’m sure one day he’ll be making more money than I do.
Reporter: And that won’t bother you?
Me: No, it can only benefit both of us.
Reporter: (I think I hear a sigh.)

Reporter: So are you concerned about the possibility of a recession?
Me: No
Reporter: It doesn’t affect your outlook on savings at all? You won’t be tightening your belt?
Me: No, we already put a lot of our money into savings, and we’re so young that we have to look at the big picture. If we were planning to retire soon, we might be worried, but we have many, many more years before that happens.

She continued on to ask similar questions, clearly looking for an area that we disagreed on or which had caused problems in our relationship. Unfortunately, for her (and fortunately for us), there weren’t any big juicy secrets to reveal.

The article was in this weekend’s paper. We’re not in it. A couple who spent $11,000 on dining out while declaring that they were trying to save money was in it. A couple who has separate checking accounts because she bounces checks and he can’t handle it was in it. A couple whose jobs depend of government contracts that might not be renewed due to the current economic situation was in it.

I’m glad we weren’t.

Monday, February 04, 2008

And the Commercial Break Continues

I have been doing a poor job of posting recently. I know. I apologize. But I'm at work on a rather large project right now, and it's sucking away all my free time. I'll be done with it next weekend, and I'll get back to posting then...if not sooner. Please don't go away.