Thursday, May 17, 2012

The road to prosperity requires a balanced approach

Money. Everybody needs it.  Everybody wants more. I work hard for it. Most people have multiple jobs (if they have a job at all) to get it. Many of us hustle for it.  Most of us don't want money for the sake of money itself but just want a life that is good: a home, food, nice clothes, an occasional vacation, a car…you know the deal.  But we have been living beyond our means, personally and societally for a long time. Now, a government budget is NOT a family budget.  I do not want to get this twisted. Governments have to cover a lot more in line items than a family does. And if a family wants to cut something out, the only people that are affected are they themselves (unless they choose to not cut their grass, EVER, which pisses the heck outta me because then my property looks like crap and it brings down the value of the neighborhood…but don't get me started). But what to do?
I was reading about how the "baller culture" in the black community has been limiting it's economic growth and prosperity.  We all know this story. I remember working in an urgent care clinic and registering patients from primarily working poor and poor neighborhoods.  I will never forget the woman who came to get medical treatment in the cutest linen orange outfit, with golden sandals, lovely gold earrings and rings on every finger. As she came to the window, she presented her medicaid card. …Sigh…. Really?!  Though most people on welfare do not do this, many of us, regardless of race and class, work hard to keep up with the Joneses at our own financial expense. The US wasn't keeping up with nobody, we just were literally high on making money with no consequences like it was crack. And like many addicts, we hit rock bottom. But as we've started to get out of recession, there's been a problem.  Paul Krugman, one of my favorite economists, says that the problem with our economy right now has to do with lack of demand.

“There is not enough demand,” Krugman said during an appearance at the Economic Policy Institute, where he gave a talk to promote his new book, End This Depression Now. “We focused a lot – too much – on the financial sector’s problems. Yet that is long since gone and we still don’t have a steady recovery. That tells us the crisis was far more about household debt.”

Most of us were spending too much personally.  Though this was not all of the problem, it was and is a significant part of it.  So recently people have been spending less.  But if the US government JUST spends less, we will become Europe, much of which is in a double-dip recession. No one really wants to go in that direction, do we? Households and government need to invest in themselves through sound fiscal management.  Households are rightly, paying down their debt. That's what I'm trying to do.  BUT…and this is a big but…if I do not invest in myself, I will not have the money or the future work opportunities I need to support myself and my children.  

So what am I doing?
  • I am investing in education, seriously, to sharpen my skills in my chosen field of music.  
  • I am investing in equipment, so I can make and play music with more ease and effectiveness. 
  • I am also slowly paying down credit and medical debt incurred.  
  • I am slowly doing small capitol improvements of my home so that when the value of it does rebound, it will be in top form if I need to sell. 
  • I am changing the way I grocery shop so that I can make more food from home to cut down on food costs
  • I am investigating hiring a (very) part-time employee to help me with the massive amount of work that being a musician, educator, mother, entrepreneur entails.(think college student intern like employee)
  • I created another stream of income to help pay for additional expenses. (daycare/pre-school is a bitch y'all. Montgomery county doesn't pay for none of it. Hear me?! NONE! And I live in one of the most expensive areas in the country)

I am investing in myself, paying down debt, and adjusting where I can so that I can secure my present and ensure a positive future.  Cutting costs can't be the only way to sound fiscal management because even when you are purging and organizing to sell your stuff, you need to buy a bag or a box to put it in.  Anybody try to organize a house without a file cabinet and some bins? A balanced approach makes SENSE.

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