Woe To The Unjust

Just as Six Element expanded on Isaiah’s words, I wish to flesh it out a bit more. When we work for money we look at wages and basically try to do the least for the most, or try to become a scarce commodity like a doctor or a good mechanic, and wages are what we get. But when we work for others – not necessarily as an employee, but seek to add value to others, or make life better for them – we will never find ourselves wanting. Being valuable for what you do is one thing, being valuable for how you do it is irreplaceable.

How much am I worth if my money disappears? Keeping this question in mind might be the most important thing you can do to prepare for economic downturn.

 

The Six Element

“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.  What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar?  To whom will you run for help?  Where will you leave your riches?”                                                                                                 – Isaiah 10:1-3 –

What do you trust to save you when hard times come?  The things you have amassed in times of plenty, or people?  The answer to that question can say a lot about the way you treat people in your workplace.

We all know this to be true on some level, but it bears repeating – people are more important than money and power.

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A Page from the Tightwad Gazette

I came across a book called The Tightwad Gazette which is a compiling of articles and discussions from a newsletter about frugal living. I want to summarize one article which holds a profound truth that applies to more than finances.

You and the Financial Edge

“You know someone who arrives 20 minutes late for everything. It could be work, to church, or for a date. He is always late because the 20 minutes falls within his margin of acceptability.

When they turn the clocks back from daylight savings to standard time, you’d figure he would now be 40 minutes early. However, he makes the mental adjustment and arrives the same 20 minutes late.

You also know people who arrive exactly on time, and people characterized by their chronic earliness. Likewise these people set their mental clocks so that they arrive within a time frame that is acceptable to them. In the case of the extenuating circumstance the early bird may arrive on time, the on-time person may be 20 minutes late, and the straggler will arrive 40 minutes late.

Your inner clock functions in the same manner as your sense of where you are in relation to ‘the financial edge.’ You have an inner sense of how close you can come to meeting your financial obligations and still feel comfortable.

During my single working years I maintained a checking account balance of $1,000 to $1,500. When my balance exceeded $1,500 I would spend. When the balance dropped below $1,000 I would cease extravagant activity. I could have saved more, but I felt comfortable with the $1,000 to $1,500 range from the edge.

Those who feel comfortable closer to the edge frequently find themselves saying, ‘I have only $10 to get me to the next paycheck.’

What of the individual who lives beyond his means? He builds a mental gangplank out beyond the edge where he teeters precariously.

The ‘$10-to-paycheck-guy’ and the ‘gangplank-guy’ will point to the extenuating circumstances that lead to his position near or beyond the edge. When an unexpected expense come along propelling them to financial depths, they do not accept responsibility. However, the person who maintains a cushion, given the same circumstance, will occasionally approach the edge but quickly work his way back to his comfort zone.

This principle of the financial edge helps my idea that we are all capable of raising our standard of living if we can adjust our mind sets. I heard a friend venting about never being able to get ahead and how debt is strangling him, even at a young age. He said that bankruptcy doesn’t sound like a bad thing since even with zero he would be better off than being in debt. I have to agree. However, if the debt was pardoned but he held the same spending habits, how long would it take for him to achieve his old financial status?

I used to have a hard time getting to work on time. I was always about 5 to 10 minutes late to work. One afternoon, about closing time, my boss told me that he had something important for me the next morning and that I should be there 30 minutes early. I made an extra effort to be there at 7:30, but with one thing and another I didn’t make it until 7:50 or so. I apologized for not making it in time for whatever he needed me for so early. When I asked what I had missed he gave me a clever smile and said not to worry, he had known that I  would be late getting there, but he knew that way he could get me to be there on time. I was devastated to realize that my tardiness was what he counted on. That’s all it took for me to understand that a change of mental boundaries was necessary.

In the same way that the late guy still arrives late with the gift hour due to the return to standard time, many of those living on the edge or out on the gangplank, fail to benefit by increased income. They might have more stuff or more fun, but they instinctively maintain the same distance to the edge regardless.

For most of us our relationship to the financial edge comes down to a matter of choice. The choice may be the decisions we make today, or we may be living with the choices we have made in the past. While the past choices cannot be changed, remarkably the ones we make today become tomorrow’s past choices.

We can make choices that allow us to take a giant step back from the financial edge and set up a cushion. A sustained effort to scale back will result in savings for more than just a cushion. We can save for long-term goals and increased financial independence.

— Amy Dacyczyn, The Tightwad Gazette

Doubts

Everywhere I look I see the ideas and paradigms, from which I have tried to break away, being projected in front of my face, as though teachers were standing over me with a stick, pointing out the ways I am failing by not conforming to the norm, I feel pressured to put off, even abandon, this foolhardy crusade. Discouragement sets in as I apparently stand still while everyone around me continues to work normal jobs, provide adequate means for themselves, and move forward in life. Months have gone by and I haven’t earned a cent. I haven’t even settled on a decent plan of action. What would make my situation attractive to anyone? What have I to offer society? Am I really working towards something or have I just stepped out of the stream, letting everyone go on ahead? I have no proof that I am going in the right direction to reach what I would call success. As I listen to certain messages coming up all around me, I begin to feel like this pursuit isn’t quite as important as I had imagined. I can’t tell if this is just me losing focus on my original vision or whether I am beginning to see things in a clearer light. What does the word of the Lord say? Trust not in the arm of the flesh. The rich cannot enter the Kingdom of God… Do these scriptures say that to have riches is bad? Job had quite the fortune, and after all was said and done, ended up with several times what he had before. Lehi was a respected and wealthy man. King Solomon was at one point the richest man in the world. Abraham, Joseph, were these men poor in the eyes of men? No. These examples trump the deduction that those who have material wealth are evil and will be damned. Of course, neither is wealth necessary for salvation. The world is full of people who find joy in life even though poverty afflicts them every day of their life. Will money make me happy? Not in itself, or I would do anything for money. Can I buy happiness and success? No. Why then is money important to me? I don’t want to have to stress and worry about paying bills. I want to be able to be there for my spouse and children, to teach and help and play with them instead of existing solely to bring groceries. They might as well be on food stamps if that were all I was good for. I want to be able to make a difference in people’s lives. I feel like I cannot do that as an average Joe. Why do I feel like this is too easy and too hard at the same time? I had decided to not follow the 97%. I will not go out to get a job to support myself. It’s not that I can’t. I feel confidant that I could get a job most anywhere on minimum wage. There are places that take just about anyone, I am able-bodied and plenty qualified. I feel like I could even get a job without a resume, but so far I haven’t felt it necessary to attempt. I will work for someone to help them out. I guess the real test is whether I can work for others without monetary compensation.

Slave to Ignorance? (Guest Post)

If I were in that situation… I would hit the books.

Having lived in Guatemala for two years and traveled to other third world countries, I have been deeply impressed by the role of ignorance in third world countries.  The direct connection, in my personal view, between a prospering country (or in this case, a prospering individual or family) would be their ability to learn and apply that knowledge to their everyday lives.  Not only would it be a fight against ignorance though, but also culture… it seems that humanity is comfortable with their present lives, change is often thought of as being hard, evil, or even not worth the time.  Yet I believe, that like the chameleon that changes its colors depending on its circumstances, we as humans also need to learn how to change in order to achieve a better life.

it would definitely be an uphill climb for quite a while, but having changed in the past, it would be worth it.

Cincinnatus

3rd World Living (continued)

Recently I spoke to a man who grew up in a family where hundreds of thousands of dollars changed hands on a daily basis. Money was certainly not a problem for them. I mentioned my ideas to him about how the way we think and understand things affects our circumstances.

I asked if he had observed something different about the way his family thought and did things. He thought  for a minute and then said that he had. He said that most of his friends got an allowance each week. He asked them what an allowance was, they said that it was money that they got from their parents each week. He asked what they did to earn it. They said they didn’t have to, that it was what their parents owed to them. ??? He mentioned how his father would give him and his siblings money but always in return for work. This was nothing new to me, I had to work for every cent that I received.

He also said that his father talked about the role of risk and how there is no gain without risk. I found that interesting. I had no concept of risk in relation to money. Only recently have I begun to understand how value can be created through strategic use of risk. That is where I need to investigate more thoroughly in the near future.

The man is now a Real Estate salesman, making million dollar deals on a regularly. He found that he was good at and enjoyed sales when he was in high school selling subscriptions for school publications. So he worked at a few different firms and eventually started his own business. He is doing very well, from what I have observed.

It makes me wonder what other things people learn in their youth which leads them to make winning decisions throughout their life.

Responses to Third World Living

I wrote about a situation of living and invited a few people to consider how they would handle it. http://wp.me/p3ocfS-5K
These are some of the responses from people close to me:
Female, age 49:
Maintain furniture, save up for paint, toilet seat, grow garden, bring flowers into the house, find ways to make extra money, sell television, Save portions of food and money over time, scavenge for useful items to use around the house: shelving, flower pots, blocks, boards. collect books. Use whatever I could get my hands on to make things more comfortable. Use time otherwise spent watching TV to do something useful and productive.
Male, age 24:
I would move. I would take my family and do everything I could to either move to the country, or out of the country. My goal would be to homestead if I couldn’t get into America. But I wouldn’t stay in the city, or the country if I could help it. Heck, if they can homestead somewhere where it’s mostly winter, then I can homestead in Mexico.
 Female, age 27:
I would go to a paca and buy sheets or cloth to cover the furniture and maybe the walls. I would save up for a toilet seat, (however I have lived several weeks without one and it’s not so bad ;P). I’m not too worried about how to flush the toilet either. I would pipe water from the rotoplast on the roof to the bathroom and save up money for a heating shower head, obviously I have electricity because of the television, hot showers are nice, unless you are in somewhere hot. I might even sell the television, even though it would be hard (sniff). In a 3rd world country things are cheaper, so even though I would be earning only a dollar a day, I could still make ends meet, (if I ration my money properly, heh, heh!)
Female, age 18:
That sounds absolutely miserable, but at least you are entertained. Good grief, sounds actually pretty good for a third world country considering you actually have a house even if it is unfinished. Sounds dark and dreary and very tedious and unjust. I earn 7 dollars an hour and I don’t think I have enough to pay my own rent, given I have never tried or calculated how much a rent would cost or how much I would earn each month and how much of it would go to paying the rent. In short it doesn’t sound so good and I definitely would want to improve on my situation or get out of there. The camper is bad enough when it comes using a restroom you have to dump out, or rinse by hand. I could go on for ever about this but I have to go to bed so for now it would not be that great. Seriously, sell the TV and by a new toilet, though easier said then done, but seriously.
 Male, age 52:
Sell the television and work harder and smarter.  Call upon the Lord to inspire you to increase your ability to provide,  go to the mall and steal a toilet seat, and thank the Lord that you had a roof over your head, unfinished as it was.
Female, age 20:
First of all I would look for other ways for income, any way possible within reason. Then I would sell the TV and use the profit towards bills and food. Then I would continue with life, saving the extra income I got and would buy a library card so I would be entertained (by going to the library, not from the card alone). Continuing with life, I would continue to save and put the money towards what I needed, until I became a millionaire.
Female, age 19:
Honestly how does one get into such a state? First off, sell the TV  who needs that kind of garbage any way? Then get a better job. Or visa verse. Once you get enough money saved, or just enough money, get food, clothes and either a better house or start working on this one. Get a book on budgeting, plant a garden  be creative for crying out loud! Think of ways to save money, do things yourself. Who needs the government to take care of you? That’s how one  gets there in the first place. (sheesh.)
Male, age 19:
Well, the first thing I would do is pray for help and guidance to get me through. Usually my response to this kind of question would be something along the lines of, “Well, I would start by saving up 1,000 dollars in cash as an emergency fund, then building the nest, and slowly utilizing my resources and investments,” but in this situation there is a sense of hopelessness. I would study on how to work the system in Mexico, and then if all else failed do everything I could to make my way to the United States.
Male, age 21:
I would definitely change. I have seen it so I changed a bit but all priorities and sense of duty and fun would be altered forever. Every time you wake up after that your thoughts would be on making sure that all is well for the family you love so much. I would use what I know about being smart financially and make the best of it while always trying to improve my circumstances. One fear I would have is letting the situation bring out the worst in me, but that is why I would cling to the gospel.
My hypothesis is that since we have been conditioned/trained to live at a certain level of civility or social status we could take any situation in which we are placed and, through our ingenuity, reconstruct our accustomed life-style. I believe that we are not a victim of our circumstances but of our mind-set, or what we believe we need or can have/be/do.
Suppose a millionaire was placed in your shoes. Would he live like you do? Or would he make certain changes that would bring his situation back to what he is accustomed to, just as we would seek to better our situation placed in a third world country? It makes sense.
Why does someone from such a low living standard stay where he is? Why do we struggle so much to raise our standard of living? How can we condition our thoughts to think like a millionaire and hence become one?
This hypothesis is gaining credence in my mind as I learn more about life. I recently read a book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad where the author explains the different mindsets and lifestyles of two different men in his life. The one that happened to be his real father was a teacher and always sought benefits, higher salary through education, job security and so forth. He was also the poor one, always struggling to make ends meet. The other man was the father of a friend, who although not very educated according to contemporary standards became the owner of a small empire.
The book explains how people are driven by certain emotions that put them into a rut that eventually leads to what we call the rat race. These emotions are not necessarily evil but they do have negative effects on us. There is no question that base, carnal desires can turn a sophisticated society into hell. So how do we maintain the level of civility that we have? The same challenges and problems inherent in human beings were suffered by the heathen and the roman alike, the difference was how they dealt with those challenges. The British Empire was never free of sin and depravity, yet it thrived, I believe, because such depravity was discouraged, even though it existed it was not openly tolerated. They had a sense of propriety and civility. Unfortunately such propriety is not so prevalent today. But that’s another issue.
In Isaiah 55:8-9 it reads,”For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” This indicates that there is different understanding and intelligence, there are different motivations.
There are different levels of thought that are manifested in our actions and therefore our physical surroundings. A friend very simply stated that when you are unhappy with where you are, then you think about something better and you change it so that you can be happy.
Now ignorance doesn’t necessarily equal poverty or depravity. How is it that doctors can go broke or high-school dropouts can be heads of corporations?
In the book The Laptop Millionaire, Mark Anastazi says he saw his mentor (the Laptop Millionaire)  as though he was standing on top of all his books, looking over a wall at all the opportunities and saying “wow, making money is so easy!” While he stood below seeing nothing but the wall and wondering how he could possibly say that since he couldn’t see anything. In my mind that says the same thing as Isaiah when he says that the Lord is on a higher plane and can see things that we can’t and understands things that we can’t. The Lord also tells us that if we keep his commandments we shall prosper (1 Ne. 2:20; 2 Ne. 1:9; Jarom 1:9; Mosiah 1:7; Alma 37:13; 50:20) and “… seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matt 6:33) There are over thirty passages in the scriptures that talk about how abundant life can be achieved through obedience to God’s laws. It is not magic, but the natural result of trusting a higher intelligence. The beauty of it is that God is our father and he loves us. Sometimes I think we hear that phrase so much that we become callous to its meaning. It means that we are his greatest interest. We are not here by accident but for a purpose and that purpose is us.
Do our thoughts change our circumstances? Is there a connection between faith and prosperity? Is apathy dangerous? What holds a person in his life position? If you were placed in a lower standard of living would you stay there? What happens that makes a billionaire out of a homeless man? How can a millionaire go broke and then regain his fortune multiple times during his lifespan while the common man struggles to make retirement?

Third World Living

I like to read books that make me think. I always have a notebook or a scrap of paper handy so that I can capture any ideas that come to me. On one of these moments I thought about how someone from a middle class lifestyle would react if he were to be placed in a third world situation. I wrote out a situation with which I was familiar from my two years serving a mission in Mexico.

Here is the situation and what follows is a collection of responses.

Suppose there was a person who had a family of four, a job that earned minimum wages for a third-world country, a house of cinder-block with no finish and no paint, tile floor. The doors consist of blankets held up by nails, the bathroom is a toilet without a seat, a bucket of water is used to flush, and the shower is another bucket of water next to a bare cement floor with a drain. You do have television and a few amenities such as a stove and a refrigerator. Minimum wage is 60 pesos per day, which is about $1.00 per hour.
Knowing what you know now and having the experience and mind-set of your current self, what would you do if you suddenly woke up and found that this was your life? Would you change it? If so, what would you do?