I’m No Superman.


I’ve recently discovered Scrubs. Please, don’t ask me to comment on how old it makes me feel when I think about the fact that it’s 2011, and I’m ‘discovering’ a show that ran in 2001. 

Actually, it’s a good time for me to be discovering Scrubs. In 2001, when it first aired, I was only 23 and I hadn’t dug into college and career yet.  Now, I’m finishing a Master’s and planning out a doctorate. I’m publishing my first book, and I’ve had a couple of years’ experience counseling and consulting individuals and businesses.  I’m in a state of quasi-professionalism. I have the training, but limited experience.  Every case is still new.  Every puzzle is still a complete mystery at first.

Still, I’ve seen some things, and I’ve done some things, and I believe now that I actually do have a deeper understanding of finance and economics than most.  I can help people get to their goals faster than they could alone. Scrubs follows the budding careers of medical interns and residents-in-training as they come to grips with the responsibilities, and anxieties of being doctors.  It’s all the same.

Most of all, I think it’s J.D. the hero of Scrubs, that I react to most.  J.D. is the kind of anti-hero we’d expect of Superman’s insecure twin.  J.D. is hero, alter-ego, and arch-enemy, in concert.  He is his own worst enemy, and his only hope for happiness.  That’s what I love about coming-of-age. It’s a terrifying, and exhilarating process!

It’s the same when we come of age financially.  Accepting more responsibility over our financial lives means growing up to the realities we face as people who cannot realistically work until we’re 80, but we may live until 100.  How can we prepare for that?  If you have kids, you know that you can’t teach something you don’t understand yourself.  Eventually, we realize that if our parents/teachers/mentors didn’t teach us about money, then we have no choice but to teach ourselves.  Don’t you know it, though; as soon as you decide to be your best, you’re faced with your internal obstacles and your conflicting desires. I think we all have a Superhero, an Alter-Ego, and a Supervillian/Dark Side that play in our minds.

Financially, my Superhero self is daring, creates lots of value from simple things, and gives to those who have great potential and heart, but need a leg up. My Alter-Ego is diligent and responsible, making sure that I stay on track with slow and steady progress in the right direction, and my Supervillian hangs out in the tropics, wears Prada, and drives a Benz.

How would you describe your inner financial Superero, Alter-Ego, and Supervillian?

A New Normal


…is what I’ve been avoiding.
A different me, one that maintains focus and gives consistent energy – to work, to family life, to friendship, to finances.
One that retreats inward to rest less often, but with better results when I do.
One that handles each and every form of responsibility in my life, never dodging or complaining.

I haven’t wanted to.
Lazy me just wants to rest.  “I’m not inspired. I’m too busy. Moving is always such a process. I’d simply rather not make the move from this Normal to that one. Tomorrow. Tomorrow, I’ll have the energy. Things are good enough for now.”

Tomorrow,
and tomorrow,
and tomorrow…

Tonight, I feel that gentle buzzing of my mind, like the smooth, quiet idling of a well-engineered car.  Tonight, I understand that this new Normal is not an enemy or a challenge.  It’s not trading one scenario for another.

It’s me, focused.
Me, centered.
Me, mindful in each moment.
Me, present.
Me, the way I want to be.

“If you take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.” Maria Egeworth
“If you take care of the pennies, the pounds will take care of themselves.” – Ruth Whateley

These are ideas I’ve turned over many times in my mind.  There is an element of planning to life, and working toward a future you desire, but there is also the art of being in the moment.  Both are vital. Knowing the long-term direction helps inform our short-term efforts, but living in the future steals the rewards of life from each moment.

Long-term goals, short-term focus
As long as I see my goals as far-off (and retirement certainly is far off yet!) I will feel as if I have all the time in the world to kick myself into gear and ‘really’ get started.  Ciao, incentive!  Hasta la vista, mojo!  See ya later, motivator!

As a person, I want to be awake and aware in each moment, maintaining my focus and center, not because I HAVE to in order to reach my goals, but because living that way is in itself it’s own goal, and it’s own reward. Mindfulness is what I want to cultivate.  Mindfulness in all the things I do, and say, and think about. That sense of inner wakefulness is my best guide.  Once I’ve set my long-term intentions with sincerity, I can put myself completely into the present moment and relax into it, knowing that the decisions I make in the moment will lead me in the direction of my goals.

Responsibility and tortoise-like discipline is not a starting point.  It’s not even a goal.  It’s simply the natural side-effect of growing more centered and more focused on the inside. Only, when I’ve gotten the hang of it, I won’t be a focused, centered turtle.  I’ll be a lightning-fast rabbit that can stay in the game!

Maine’s Economy is getting much better for Singles, but not for Single Parents


Cost of living / Income Trends in Maine
(1999-2008)

Click on the graphics to zoom in.


Income Growth in Real Dollars
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Center for Workforce Research and Information, and from the Maine Center for Economic Policy were gathered and complied into Figure 1 and Figure 2 above. These statistics show the growth trends in per-capita income in Maine both statewide and by county. Alongside the nominal growth numbers, we show the change in the livable wage in each county for varying households from 1999 when the Maine Center for Economic Policy was first charged with calculating the Living Wage to 2008.

What we see from the data is that for most household categories, income has risen more than the cost of living, inferring that the average Mainer has more disposable income today than in 1999. One notable exception is the single parent household. When we compare the change in living costs for single adults to those of single parents with two children, we can see that independent workers have enjoyed a steadily growing standard of living, but it has become increasingly difficult for a single wage earner to support a family in Maine. This is especially acute in places such as Hancock and Washington county, as well as the major metropolitan regions, where the cost of living for single parents has risen more than income, leaving that demographic poorer than in 1999.

The shrinking real income of single parents puts upward pressure on the demand for social services and government programs. When compared to the Nation and New England, Mainers receive a higher percentage of household income from government transfers (welfare, unemployment and disability) even though the 7.2% unemployment rate in Maine is lower than the National average.

Employment By Industry

Of the fifty largest private employers in Maine, only 26 employ more than 1,000 people statewide.  Of these, ten are healthcare and social service related, seven are manufacturers, six are retailers, three are finance/insurance firms, and the final three are a utility, a private school, and a research laboratory.

Implications for Maine’s Budget
Maine’s government faces the following problems as they contemplate the budget:
A) Rising demand for social services and government expenditure coupled with
B) Shrinking manufacturing and construction sectors, which leads to the need for retraining of Maine’s laborers for high-tech manufacturing and other skilled trade labor (health care, finance, etc.)

Both of these economic forces put pressure on policymakers to expand funding for social services and education, which directly opposes the current administration’s goals to cut costs.

 

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