Friday, July 29, 2011

Fund raising- a partial solution to debt woes-2

Since the Federal government is not in a position to give us what it has promised to give in the future, a type of localization of fund raising for social security and Medicaid and Medicare should in put in place for each individual state and funds raised through them should be placed in a State owned bank and then those funds invested in whatever investment vehicles are available out there to earn money to pay the retirees. I know it sounds like a lot like privatization, but since the Federal government would not be involved, the unfunded deficit portion of the budget would likely be reduced or just taken out of the equation. Let the States handle the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid exclusively by themselves and the Federal Government should get out of them completely.

I am saying completely because the Federal Government cannot pay all the unfunded obligations, as one article recently put it, if the government cannot agree to raising the debt limit by a couple of trillions, how will they agree upon dealing with almost a hundred trillion dollars in unfunded liability promised to the citizens in years and decades to come. We have not even reduced our principal and more debt means more taxes in the future, since we cannot control our expenditures. So the partial solution is to give each state to deal with its own Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid portion of the bill and they should in turn start fund raising drives constantly to raise those funds and put it in a surplus pool to pay the future recipients if the current generated funds falls short that particular year.

Fund raising- a partial solution to debt woes

I was just thinking about ways to reduce the national debt and the expenditures that we incur to pay for all of it. We are really good at raising funds for various occasion and charitable organizations from time to time and we have lot of billionaires who if persuaded can be really helpful in raising funds to reduce our national debt. We as a society are still stuck in the 1930s when all this welfare society came into being giving us Social Security and then later on Medicaid and Medicare. At the time it was fine since we were recovering from severe depression and everybody looked at the government to help them out. But now the situation has completely changed. We can no longer afford all these entitlements especially with borrowed money which we don’t have any clue to how to pay them back.

One of the solutions is to raise funds in different communities to fund your local community Medicaid and Medicare needs and also put social security in the hands of the states so that they can better handle the needs of their retirees. If we can only think outside of traditional methods of funding our retirement and senior population by localizing the whole idea of entitlement, we can at least put some dent into our national debt. Because everybody knows that Social Security and the entitlements are on shaky ground and they keep on increasing the age limit where you can collect Social Security. We really need to encourage people to find ways to put into retirement accounts and have a habit of saving.

Divergent between business and political goals-2

Accusations fly on both sides with the politicians and their supporters saying that the business want to hire cheap outside labor and the businesses claim that there are not enough U.S. citizens qualified enough to do the job. Another example is the environment which the politicians want to put more restrictions on harmful chemicals generated and the businesses crying foul saying that if they restrict it then their competitors in countries where the rules regarding environment are more relaxed will benefit. Thus there will always be divergence of views regarding what each side sees is beneficial to them. Businesses are more concerned about their profits and revenues and will thus oppose anything which reduce or hinder their profit making ability.

The politicians on the other hand want to protect the common workers and thus may or may not understand the implications their proposed law may do to the business environment. How to reconcile both of these divergent goals. Well first the businesses should be invited on all the important legislations impacting them and hearing their side of the story instead of just putting aside their concerns and favoring their voters. On the other hand, the business should do a better job in trying to convince the legislators their point of view. I can understand that sometimes the businesses and even the politicians have their self interests in heart but in order to create a more favorable and internationally competitive environment, both the parties will have to listen to each other more frequently.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Divergence between political and business goals

If you have read the newspapers any time of the year, there is most of the time divergence with what the government wants to regulate or tell what to do and the business battling it out with the government regarding how much they want to get regulated if any. It is rarely an instant that the government and businesses see eye to eye on issues affecting them. That is why if you happen to work in Washington, you would see lots of lobbyist working for businesses to blunt the effort of the legislators to bring anything on the house or senate floor which may harm the business industry. Politicians say that they have their constituents at heart when they put a bill to vote and thus want to protect them, while the business industry has issues with the cost of implementing them and how it will affect their bottom line.

You can take lots of example where the businesses and government clashed on issues which were wholly opposite to each other’s agenda. Take for example the hot topic of HI visas allocated to foreign nationals with high skill levels who are in short supply in the U.S. The businesses want to increase the quota of the HI visas so that they can bring in more foreign qualified candidates. Opposite to these are the legislatures and their constituents who cry foul to this as they say that since the U.S. has high unemployment we should be hiring our own and not importing from overseas.

Are we really dependent?-2

I do concede that I love the internet and the movies, but I do become dependent on them and they don’t run my life. I control what I want to watch, when I want to watch and if I don’t watch them for a few days, I don’t get withdrawal symptoms or get jittery. Even with coffee and soda, if I don’t have it one day, I don’t get panic attacks, headaches or can’t function without them. It is up to the individual that how they want something to control their lives. But to blame something else for your own weaknesses is like you are a robot and can’t control your own life. The problem is that we as society is increasingly blaming other things including our genes and other natural or unnatural causes for our dependency and not our individual responsibility as a human being.

It has become very easy now to become addicted and if you can’t get rid of that addiction, just go to a rehab to fix your problem. We have now without our knowing outsourced our health and mental issues to the so called experts because we have become too lazy to fix it ourselves. It is not that the dependency has made us weak; it is us that are not strong enough to withstand the temptation or we have made ourselves deliberately weak since we know that the cure is out there (if you have the money to get yourself fixed). But for some people, even that help is too late to save their lives.

Are we really dependent?

I keep on constantly hearing and reading about in all the media outlets about how people become dependent on certain drugs or other items and can’t seem to wean themselves off them and some people who have the money join the rehab battling some dependency, while the less fortunate become more dependent and die or just become invisible to society. But are we or the humans really that weak that we easily become dependent and addicted to some thing and then have to seek help or just shrug it off as a disease or a malaise to be cured to the so called experts. I just believe that as individual we have become to easily adopted to the fact that if we blame something else for our dependency then we can find a cure for it and in that pursuit our society have come up with ways to indicate that it is not that individuals who should be at fault but their genes, or environment or other such fancy name to justify the intercession of medical experts.

Here I will blame the society that has given the individuals to find ways to indulge in abuse of something and then give them sympathy to their conditions. Although we humans are indeed weak but not that weak that a simple thing as a drug which does not have any life form or any other kind of control form can take over an individuals life to a point that they are seeking help to ward off their so called dependency.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Massacre in Norway

Lest anybody thinks that I don’t cover international events or ignore terribly horrendous events such as the massacre in Norway, here is my point of view on it. It was really shocking that it happened of all places, the quiet Nordic country of Norway. Normally, terrorism is not associated with Nordic countries, but this particular event has shocked the complacency of that nation. When it first happened, the first thing that came to my mind as was with all the other people was that it must be part of an Al-Qaeda attack, since it had all the hallmark of them. But after all was done, it was to the shock of all was a blond Norwegian guy Christian Ultra Right wing extremist.

I am still in a shock to find out that he alone had the capacity to kill so many people (at last count above 70) for more than an hour and there was no police or any other security agency to stop him. As was said by him that he was not happy with the immigration policies of Norway and was planning this attack since 2009 and he has been working with other sleeper cells in Europe. Now the European Police will have their hands full dealing already with the Al-Qaeda threat and now this Ultra right wing Christian extremism that was always there in Europe but was never taken seriously. It is now the dream come true for Al-Qaeda that they always wanted a clash of civilizations and now they will have an excuse to say that see we were right. It is good to know that Norway has vowed to keep its immigration policies intact. The question they will be asking now is how to reconcile their openness to the world with the real threat of extremist violence that they have witnessed in their midst. It is now time to wake up to every kind of terrorism and label them as such.

Fire drills

The other we had a fire drill in our office, with the building fire chief informing us what to do when there is an alarm, what to use to evacuate the building and how to respond. We have this one I believe not sure yet every six months. Now I don’t really care how many they have it in a year. They have to follow the procedures but I still not get this fire drill. I mean if there is a fire, does anyone believe that they will follows instructions to the letter. It is a known human instinct that in time of panic, every type of patience and drill and instructions get thrown out of the window and it is usually every person for him (or her).

Unless you are professionally trained to handle fire emergencies or any kind of emergency for the matter, you will panic in times of fire or any kind of emergency. When a fire happens, even though the alarm is sound, people in high rise buildings try to exit as soon as possible. It is rare that when some sees their death in front of them, they will do whatever means that is necessary to escape it and a fire in this case is no exception. Although fire drills are a nice way to keep yourself prepared, but it will never replace the actual experience when you come face to face with a real fire.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The self imposed debt limit-3

We should also stop borrowing from the social security and publish the true deficit that we incur every year. Unless we scare ourselves into facing our truth, nothing else is going to happen. If we want to discipline ourselves, we need to support a balance budget amendment as it is with most of the states. Since the politician can’t and won’t control themselves when spending other people’s money, if the constitution imposes it then with this self imposed debt limit, they may behave. Wars should not be funded with the current revenue but as was in before long time ago, we should fund them with war bonds and they should be paid not only by the tax payers but by other wealthy nations too.

Although I have turned away from the topic of debt but this discussion is essential if we want to talk about the free spending ways of Washington and what should be done about it. We should be promising to the American public and other nations which we don’t have and right now it is the money. We can’t keep on printing money and pretend that it will be paid somehow later on. Nobody knows how it will be paid so right now the main issue should be raising the debt (even invoking an executive order since it now an emergency and Congress does not have the time to pass one and reconcile the two bills with both houses and then it goes to the President’s desk) and then start tackling seriously our national debt without party politics in place.

The self imposed debt limit-2

The list goes on and on. We maybe in a better shape than some European countries because the U.S. Dollar thankfully is the world’s reserve currency and we have control over it and we can print in whatever amount we can to finance our debt. But the world is changing very fast and since we don’t know the implications of the U.S. default on its debt on the U.S. Currency, we are not yet prepared to see it through. The politicians are again playing politics and not addressing the real issue of how to deal with the growing debt. The first thing we should do is without delay increase the debt limit. Then we should tackle about how to get rid of this self imposed debt limit which is causing all this stress in the financial markets.

Next as I said before, we should put every expenditure and every revenue raising item on the table and then starting fighting over it. As I have been saying in my posts, nothing should be left out as the sacred cow, even if it means not get elected in the next election. The American people should be told the truth about how we are going to raise revenue and reduce spending. The four taboo expenses, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Defense budgets should be scrutinized and curtailed drastically with the truth splashed out in black and white on all media outlets to see. It is just not enough to give big figures to cut and say that it will raise revenue or reduce expenses over certain years. We should know that every year, we will cut this certain amount of money.

The self imposed debt limit

Right now all eyes of the world including the financial markets are on Washington that if the two political parties come out of the bickering politics and raise the National Debt limit. It is really disturbing to see that both the political parties think that they have the best interest in their hearts for their voters and are sticking to their guns. They are not realizing the impact of default since it has not happened before. I have always studied in finance courses that the U.S. government securities are the safest in the world and all other securities keep them as their benchmark when they have to price their own securities. We also read that it is inconceivable that the U.S. government will not pay its obligations and will somewhat default sending the interest rate higher.

But now the increasingly unthinkable has started to happen and the markets are readying themselves up in case of the government default on its debt obligations. So the once thinkable has started to become thinkable. I really don’t get this self imposed debt limit that the U.S. government has put it in. If you really care about your debt rating and will ultimately pay your obligations, why do you have to put the world on edge just to get some point scoring. If you fail to increase the debt limit, then you will raise the interest rate across board. And once this happens, then what benchmark should we use to rate other securities.

On the lighter side-Movies- Swing Vote

Kevin Costner stars as a drunkard, out of job small town guy who is because of his forgetfulness fails to cast his vote on Election Day and he becomes a one man decision to determine the Presidential election. Both the presidential candidates (Kelsey Grammar and Dennis Hopper) court him with whatever they can in order to get his vote. Good acting but very preposterous and unbelievable movie with too much emphasis of the candidates bending over backwards and compromising their stand on issues to accommodate this one man vote. I would say it is not recommended.

Rebuilding life after period of unemployment

Being unemployed maybe one of the most challenging problems that you may have faced in your life. Once you are unemployed, you need to find a job fast since bills does not stop just because you are not working. Once you are able to find a job after sometimes months of agonizing search, you have to start rebuilding your life, financially and psychologically. If you have been six months or more out of a job, you may have drained your savings and retirement funds or borrowed from friends and family and once you finally find a job you start to begin the task of repaying them and building your savings and retirement assets. But here it all depends upon what kind of job with what kind of pay you will get that will determine how much faster or slower you are able to repay your saviors in hard times.

I am sure that in this recent recession, people have done all of the above and there are still people who are looking for a job, any job for that matter to pay your bills and try to secure your future. Building your life again after long bouts of unemployment can itself be stressful but at least you can rebuild with whatever job you get. It does not happen overnight or in a few months but sometimes it takes years to rebuild what you have lost and hopefully you have by now learnt your lesson not to depend on one job and have a backup plan, apart from your savings and retirement accounts so that the next time it happens you are not that stressed out financially and psychologically.

Entrepreneurship at any age-2

Although it is the young who take lead in pursuing entrepreneurship but that is no longer the case. You can find people of any age trying their hand on it since the uncertainties of the job market and shaky government finances have made the people realize that it is no longer feasible to have only your job and some savings to live your lives comfortably in your retirement years. And so since due to medical advances and somewhat healthy lifestyle have stretched the numbers of years an average person in the developed world is now living. It has become clear that many of our retirees will outlive their savings and retirement benefits. So now increasing number of people are trying their hands in entrepreneurship in their 40s, 50s and even 60s and finding it satisfying.

Although, any kind of entrepreneurship is stressful since the more you work, the more you earn and also you have to treat every lead as a potential money making opportunity. Also you have to deal with the taxes and have to deal with everything yourself (initially at least) but you also learn a lot and create a network of people and new friends. As I have been saying in my posts every now and then, everybody should try their hands once in business and see if it is up to their liking. You don’t need to put enormous amount of money into your business venture. You can start with a thousand or so or maybe even less starting as simple as selling stuff on the internet or in flea markets and go from there if you enjoy it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Entrepreneurship at any age

Nowadays, entrepreneurship is all the rage especially with the young. It maybe due to the recession and job uncertainty that people have decided to try their luck on being their own boss. Although traditionally it is risky but ultimately it has its own rewards. But not everyone is cut out for starting their own business that is why you see so many jobs advertised and most of the traditional business schools and other schools are churning out graduates who are looking to work for some great established company. Although there is nothing wrong with that but there are only so many companies that are considered really world class and ideal for a working environment and also they may have only so many jobs to go around. And to be true although everybody has a dream for working for them (including me), the overwhelming majority of the graduates would end up working for some mid range or small company in their lifetime.

So it is nice to have a dream, but there should also be a reality that it will or cannot happen and you have to settle for less of your dream or you can own your own business or become your own boss. But you don’t have to leave your regular job to do but on the side (if time permits). Even if you don’t have a regular job, you can still start your own business without investing substantial amounts of money. With the advantage of internet right now, it is easier to start your business and it does not have to high tech or labor or capital intensive. A one man (or woman) business can easily be started with little money and then you can expand it later on. Even if you do get a job, you should also have a side business so that in case you get bored with your job or there is a threat of a layoff (always), you can always have a fall back job to pay your bills.

The snowball effect of a single unemployment-3

As more and more time passes without any interview or a lead or no response to your resumes, a kind of panic situation sets in and you try to avoid eye contacts or other forms of conversation with your spouse. Sometimes you just avoid financial conversations and most of times; you go out of your way to do extra household chores so that you can feel useful to the household. But depending on your wife’s job is really very hard. Sometimes the spouses understand but sometimes they are not since they think that if they have a job then you can get one too. As your search drags on with no sight for any job prospects, the financial fights with your spouse becomes intense and then accusations fly from both sides but mainly from the side of the working spouse.

Even if you feel that you don’t have an ego, surviving on your spouse’s job and health insurance will wreck your health and psychological being. Since you cannot survive on your savings for long, you try to do whatever it takes to bring some money so that you can be considered a useful family of the household. And not only that you family becomes more worried and then your in laws start to question of how come you can’t get a job if you are very qualified. You cannot ignore your wife but start to ignore hers and your relatives so that they cannot quiz you on your job search. So a single unemployment not only effects yourself but also your family and all those loved ones around you.

The snowball effect of a single unemployment-2

Even when you like something and you want to buy it, you think twice before spending that precious unemployment insurance (if you have one) money on that particular item. I mean it is really tough for employed people to imagine how stressful it is for a single person not to have a job. But it becomes doubly or triply tougher if you have a wife and kids. Then you can just imagine what it feels like to be helpless and unworthy if you are a man. If your wife is working then you have got to do household chores and picking up kids from schools and all the things that your spouse does during the day so that when she (or he) comes home, there is less of household work for them to do.

And in such a situation, your spouse may ask you every day if you have looked for a job, send out resumes, talked to some recruiter, made some employment contacts, used unconventional ways to try to snare an interview. This constant hassling maybe understandable from the point of the working spouse but it does add another layer pressure on you to do extra more. Then there comes a point that you have to start panicking and looking for any job in any field to at least bring in some dough. For a man unemployed is very tough, since your wife expects that you put food on the table and the kids expects you to take them on trips and vacation since they don’t understand the whole unemployment thing.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The snowball effect of a single unemployment

Sometimes people dismiss unemployment as the unfortunate part of one’s life but gone through two of these so called “unfortunate” part of one’s life, trust me on this that it does not affect only one person. Although the primary sufferer is the one who is unemployed but it affects all the part of that person life whether he is single or is married. Let’s take for example the single person (I will get to the part where the married one suffers). Although that unemployed person may be single but it affects his or her parents, girl friends or boyfriends (if they have any), his siblings (since he or she is unable to give them presents etc). The worries that engulf that person is his/her own and employed people don’t know how it feels to have let themselves and their loved ones down.

Although it may or may not be his/her fault that they are unemployed, but the feeling of helplessness in the face of no job affects their life tremendously. The whole perspective on their life becomes changed and they start to doubt their usefulness to themselves and society. Their social lives are restricted due to the crunch of money. Although the so called experts say that the unemployed should keep a positive outlook and keep looking but the months of rejection and search can just take a tool on the poor soul. You just feel like a beggar asking for a job when due to no fault of yours, society and corporations have let you down. You start to doubt your education and even though you may cheer yourself up with getting up late in the mornings and maybe going to the gym or try to pass time by meeting your friends but your life just revolves around the worries of getting a job even if does not show up in your face.

Buy, Rent or Stream-2

Now when the DVD rental business was at its height, a concept of streaming movies instead of downloading and saving into your computer has been introduced, and it has become more popular than the rental since you can instantly stream movies on your computer without waiting for the DVD to get sent to your house via regular mail. But it has become more expensive for streaming sites since it consumes a lot of bandwidth. I believe that DVD streaming is here to stay but the legal ones are hobbled by the movie studio limitations for the number of latest movies the websites can stream. Mind you that the studios still get most of their income through the DVD selling business and they don’t want to alienate the big departmental stores that sell it and also the margin is very huge.

Streaming movies rather than to download saves a lot of bandwidth the computer and also once a movie is seen there is also no need to buy movies unless it is a kids one which they like to watch over and over again. Also the advent of Digital Video Recorders (DVR) has added another twist to watch movies since you can record it and watch it later on at your own convenient time. But the latest one to watch is only on streaming websites, although the titles are still limited as compared to physical ones but it is just a matter of time when the same latest movie would be available in DVD and also to watch instantly at the same time.

Buy, Rent or Stream

There was a time not too long ago that you had only two choices to watch movies. Either you can out to any departmental store and buy a movie and watch or just go to your neighborhood video store to rent the movie and then watch with the added hassle that you had to return it within a certain time unless you want to get hit by late fees which was enormous amount at that time and that is how the video stores made money mostly on late fees. The videos or DVDs were expensive to rent and also to buy just to watch it one time and then add it to your collection. But sometimes it was just feasible to rent the movie and then save some money but then you had to make some time to watch the movie before the late fees kicked in.

In other case you could have waited for a year or so and test your patience and then watch it on pay cable or just on demand with more money but the added convenience that the whole family can watch it with one price. But with the introduction of Netflix, everything about the video rental business went out through the window. Now you could rent one, two or more movies at time, watch it at whatever speed you wanted to watch it and just pay one low monthly fees with no late fees incurring. This has started the demise of the neighborhood video store because they could not compete with Netflix with no late fees to earn extra money.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Let the defaults begin-3

Everybody is losing sleep in the U.S. over the fact that if we did not raise the debt limit, then it will devastate the U.S. and World Financial markets because it has never happened before. But even if we raise the debt limit, then there will be another time sooner than later to raise it again, where does it stop. Although default is a dirty word, but are the citizens ready to do the sacrifice to reduce spending and curtail the so called entitlements. We really should asking these questions here because we don’t have enough money to pay all the debts and our obligations and our future generations would be very much in debt trying just to pay off the interest let alone the principal.

Although a default by either the Greeks or the U.S. can play havoc with the world financial markets, but unless we put everything on the table to cut spending and raise taxes, we won’t have any choices. Although we can still print the money to pay for the interests and other debt but the confidence of the world markets would be shaken and the dollar would collapse. But we still have a choice, not so with the Greeks since they cannot print money or have the luxury of having a currency which is the world’s reserve currency. They will have no choice but to roll over or delayed their payment of interests and principal and then the scenario of default will be real. So let the defaults begin!

Let the defaults begin-2

If the Greeks have not paid their previous loans, how are they supposed to pay the recent ones? Although they have been austerity measures here and there but how much can you cut until the citizens become openly rebellious or the state crumbles? Technically default should start if they are unable to pay interest or roll over but whatever language you apply, if you are unable to pay on time, then it is a default, although the European Union is trying to devise a plan to extend the maturity time of Greece’s debt without calling it a default, but the markets will see it otherwise. If you have been used to partying for a long time, it is hard to not party.

But that is exactly what is happening in Greece and it is very hard. But default should be an option otherwise you keep on supporting somebody in the hopes that by some miracle they are going to pay you back but it does not and will not happen in the case of Greece. And the same thing is now playing across the pond in the United States where there is crucial crunching time to come up with a solution to increase the debt limit, otherwise the U.S. will default (although they can figure out some way to pay their obligations). Here is the same thing that by increasing the debt limit, they are again piling more debt to the already enormous one.

Let the defaults begin

It has lately been scary times for European Countries. Greece, despite all the efforts of the European Union is getting closer and closer to default, Ireland and Portugal are just around the corner and Spain and Italy are trying to hold on to something to get them out of the hair of the global investors. It has started to show just that the welfare system enacted in parts of Europe has failed not due to the some flaws (although every system has some flaw) but because the benefits were too generous as compared to the taxes being raised to pay for it. The northern tier of Europe right now looks fine (like Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland) but they have high taxes to pay for the goodies.

And then we compare the northern tier to the southern one, where the economy has been sluggish, benefits have been kept intact (until now) and the taxes have not been raised substantially or the global recession have caused them much devastation. In addition to this, the tax collect system is not collecting enough taxes or people are underreporting it in substantial numbers to unbalance their state budgets. Whatever the reason, piling more debt to pay for the previous one is not going to solve the problem in the case of Greece first of all and then Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy. Although the European are loathe to acknowledge this due to whatever reasons, but it is now a foregone conclusion that Greece will ultimately default on their loans sooner or later.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On the lighter side-Travel- Houston, Texas, USA-3

Anyway going out every night to the rituals of wedding was exhausting but also exciting. After everything was said and done, it was time to leave Houston, since my flight was earlier than other family members, we reached airport one hour before but I was told that I had to be there two hours before to check in the baggage. It was frustrating that I had to miss by earlier flight but I was put on standby for the next available flight. I accepted that and then proceeded towards the gate number. Since I had not eaten since waking up, I went to Starbucks and had a coffee and a bagel to start my breakfast. After that I waited for the time when I will finally be out of the list of the standbys and into a confirmed seat.

And I did secure a seat finally on the next available flight. I was happy but when the plane was descending towards Newark airport in New Jersey, it hit turbulence. It was a bad one but not that much since we did not hit that much of it. But finally I came back got my baggage and then went to my house. The other family members were on a different later flight with a stopover in Atlanta and that is where they kept on getting delayed. After about two hours of delay, they finally made it back to New Jersey exhausted.

On the lighter side-Travel- Houston, Texas, USA-2

We were actually in a suburb of Houston called Tomball. With wide roads and long commute, I saw many strip malls lining both sides of the roads. Since the wedding was at night in actual Houston, we use to go to sleep in the afternoons to prepare ourselves for the long times of the weddings. I guess I was the only one complaining a lot about the hot weather. I also called one of my friends from high school, whom I have not seen in almost 25 years. He lived in Sugarland, another suburb of Houston but almost an hour drive from our hotel. It was nice to see him after all these years and we had almost three hour’s conversation in the hotel over coffee and snacks. Finally he had to depart and we bid farewell for another day to meet hopefully.

Since we relied on other family members to take us to the wedding parties, we did not get a chance to see much of Houston, but what we saw was an endless stream of shops like people only did shopping in Houston. But unless you have a really big business venture in Houston or you have family there, there is no need to me at least to move to there. Apart from gasoline and housing, everything else is the same price in Houston as in other places in the U.S. If you have extra money and can weather the hot temperature, you can get a good chunk of land there and build your own business or warehouse to cater to your clients in other states.

On the lighter side-Travel- Houston, Texas, USA

Although I was trying to avoid this trip for unknown reasons, but ultimately it was too close to the in laws family to ditch it and also everybody in the family was going to this wedding except the lone holdout (me) and I relented with deals to Houston direct on the Independence Day weekend at approximately $350 return. Since we had split up the family into two different flights (I got the direct one and other family members got the one stopover one). Our flight got there almost twenty minutes early, but the menu was not that great with just liquids to drink free and other things on sale. Apart from this everything went smooth, but my family and other members of the in laws were not that lucky and they had a delayed stopover in Atlanta.

We were the first one to reach the motel which seemed like an eternity driving on the Houston roads after midnight. The motel was comfortable and since I had not slept that much, I immediately hit the bed not realizing that my family came at about 4 in the morning (yeah I know I am bad). Well we all woke up in the morning to find out that the breakfast time was up till 10 on a Sunday. Well thankfully a coffee shop was just across the road. So I decided to go there to get some coffee and breakfast for some people in the family. I had already taken a shower but by the time I reached coffee shop, I wanted to take another shower since it was steamy hot in Houston.

You need to create your own destiny

Okay seriously you have to do it otherwise nobody else is going to create one for you. I mean to say that since you don’t know what you can or cannot achieve without trying, it is time to try it with a huge dose of confidence and if failure comes, then it can be a lesson to try again. I mean to say that when I read stories about people sending out their resumes for the nth time in such and such time, I just believe that instead of putting so much effort in doing something which is a hit or a miss, why not go solo and start something where you can be your own boss, until something does come along your way and somebody does hire you.

I see people getting disappointed about their job prospects, running out of benefits, resigned to the life of either unemployment, on government welfare or just take early retirement and start getting lower social security benefits and early 401k benefits withdrawals. I do know that it is hard to start something which you have not done in your life, working for yourself is not easy but I believe it is easier than sending out your resume, getting your hopes down or waiting for that breakthrough while at the same time wasting your time for three or maybe four hours of job searching. It is time to create your own destiny, your own job prospects so that you don’t have to depend on the elusive job call that may or may not come.

The price of rising prices

If you have gone shopping to a store or just to grocery shop, you would have found out that prices have increased while the quantity has decreased. But you salary has either been increased slightly or it has been stagnant, at the same time you are trying to fight inflation and fruitlessly balancing your household budget. Sometimes it happens to me and it does make me angry that the thing you are used to buying a certain price and have budgeted a particular amount to it becomes insufficient and then you have to either reduce the intake or find some other substitute. In the case of groceries or regular household stuff you may be able to substitute brand name with store brand.

But in the case of gasoline, where you are supposed to go, there are not many alternatives since cannot get gasoline coupons unless you have one of the gas station credit cards. You can only keep on cutting so much in your life and a time comes when you have to start choosing between what you can pay first and what can be postponed for the next month. And then that time is gone too and then you have to start making extra money or just go to government welfare system. It is particularly hard with little kids especially. I can only wish that the prices are not increased much further, but the wish is just that because of over exploding population, less job opportunity available, increasingly appetite of rising middle classes in China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and the like, this rise in prices will keep on rising squeezing more people into a tighter spot monetarily.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Addicted to debt

Aren’t we all? From the states and countries to the person who is responsible enough or young enough to handle some money is deep in debt. Even people who understand debt are also deep in debt fulfilling their instant gratification and piling up debt. Even the future generation is in heavy debt due to student loans. The experts have classified debt into two classes: good and bad. Good ones are student loans. Mortgages and maybe home equity loans sometimes maybe car loans- each of these collateralized by some solid product ( in the case of Student loans, the future employment of the debtor and thus improved finances). The other one being credit card debt and any other debt not secured by some underlying transaction meaning in the case of default, the creditor has to bear hundred percent of the losses.

But as I read an article recently there is no such good or bad debt. Debt is a debt neither good nor bad; it has to be paid no matter what. The credit score companies do not classify debt as good or bad so the experts should also stop doing that. Also on the state and country level, we have so much of debt that it just scares the hell out of you how it is ever going to get paid. Over in Europe, the inability of Greece to pay its state debt has created a nightmarish scenario of default and austerity on the part of the people. This is just because, it is easy to get your hands on the debt but when it comes to paying them, then we all fall flat on our faces and try to buy more time or just get more debt to pay off the previous debt. It is a vicious cycle and the addiction to debt does not seem to be stop. And we keep on piling more debt like it is never going to be paid (which it seems to me will not).

The state budgets and the economically vulnerable

Okay by now everybody knows that the states are in a financial mess. Years of over promising generous and outlandish benefits to the state workers and not saving for a rainy day were bound to hit the states very hard. But like everything else, as long as good times were rolling, promises were being given without a thought of how it is going to be paid. Some states particularly New Jersey has stopped paying into their pension funds and are in big enough financial hole that it will be years or maybe even decades if they will ever replenish these funds. And due to this mismanagement of revenue and expenses, state governors are trying to balance their budgets by cutting it any so called unnecessary expense they can get away with.

The major effect of the tight state budgets are the economically vulnerable who would see their benefits being reduced or curtailed. Like School lunches, Medicare and Medicaid, unemployment benefits, senior services and the like. The economically vulnerable don’t have anybody to turn to in times of need and to cut their benefits is very cruel. I can understand that the most states have to balance their budgets according to their constitutional requirements, but to cut benefits from people who already have none and have to financial support to fall back on is not the right thing to do. With some creative methods even getting input from the public, these vulnerable citizens of our society can get their share of aid without busting the states’ budgets.

Frustrations with technology

Some times when I am in the office and working on the computer, it freezes up and I have no idea why it does that. The same thing happens when some times I am trying to print and the printer seems not be attached. Sometimes the computer crawls to a slow and despite my frustrated attempts to keep on hitting some keys to make it faster, it does not. Maybe it is because it is on a network and many people are working on it. But you know that even when I am at home, the computer does freeze up and despite my numerous attempts it does not budge. So the only thing I do is to shut the computer down completely and restart it again.

The same thing happens when I am on the internet, one time it is working perfectly and then all of a sudden it freezes and no amount of effort can unfreeze it and then I have to restart the computer again. This and other numerous problems have accompanied the technology that we are so accustomed to it by now. We have taken technology so much for granted that any time it slows or freezes or does not work for some reason, we become extremely frustrated (at least me in this case) and lash out at what machine we are using. This is what we are dealing with, we can’t live without technology as it has become an indispensable part of our lives and still we hate it and get extremely frustrated when it does not work.

Saying NO to credit card solicitations

I really hate the fact that I keep on receiving these credit card solicitations now and then which I have then to rip it off in anger. It just makes me mad that even in spite of this I keep on receiving it. If I really want a credit card, I will research and try to find the best that will suit my needs. I don’t need somebody to baby walk me to one. Even more than this, I receive credit card solicitations in my other house where the tenants have either left the country or are being delinquent on every kind of loan. I don’t really get this, why do the credit card companies do this. If they have access to my score, they should know that I don’t like to keep too many credit cards. I have opened one credit card in the last maybe 10 years or so and I know the perils of having too much credit in my hands.

I know it can be a temptation to have a new credit card with a limit so that you can spend more money. But remember that money is not yours and you have to pay it back. If not then your credit score would go down. Along with that the stress that you can have with too much debt can affect your health adversely (unless debt does not bother you a bit). But anyway, the best thing to do with these credit cards is to rip it off right away without thinking. You should be able to manage your debt with two or at most three cards and not more than that.

Can we create jobs here in America?

The answer is yes, we can create jobs in America, only if the regulations are a little bit relaxed and the corporation’s (or investors) thinking about long term profits not short term gains. There are people in this country who are willing to work longer only if jobs are available. But it just seems that jobs have been disappearing faster and what ever there remains need high levels of skills or are of low wages with no chances of advances (despite the hype on the contrary). Big areas of the U.S. are empty, where you can create lots of industries with jobs, but the trend of outsourcing and cheap labor lures even the companies which are here.

The one thing I don’t understand is if the jobs are going to be outsourced, how the unemployed people here will be able to afford the products that are then imported from cheaper places abroad. The jobs created here can enable people here to spend money here. But this is not happening and the real higher earnings jobs are being created for highly skill people and not for the common folk who may be struggling just to put food on the table and may have no money for retraining if ever they are willing and able to train. Retraining is a big thing now but even with that there is little evidence it will help a lot of unemployed people since the jobs are simply not there to support the retrained people. It is time to create jobs by investing in new factories where the real work is done because we should face the fact that not everybody is cut out to sit in the office and do the mental work that the new jobs will demand.

Desperate for anybody

I have seen this that every time some obscure politician does something out of the ordinary, people and especially the media try to speculate that that particular politician has an ambitious agenda going all the way up to the Presidency. Take for example the governor of New Jersey, when he started to take on the unions and his opposition party in the legislature and had some tough talk about the future of his state, the media started the hype of him being having ambitious of campaigning for a future election. The same thing happened with the New York, when he championed and fought and won the rights of gay marriage, there was again talks of him being politically ambitious for a higher office.

I don’t have any qualms about who gets running for the president and what not. But why the media had to start the speculation of higher aspirations when the politician has not said anything. But it is also that particular politician’s fault also that they don’t even refute this speculation and keep the media guessing. It may be because they like the limelight. But my point here is that we are so desperate for new faces and new ideas that when some politician does something radically different and wins over hard to win unions and entrenched interests, he or she instantly becomes the darling of the media and the frustrated public. We just desperate for anybody who may have a magic wand and that wand would instantly solve all our problems. Such is the desperation of all of us.