May 21, 2013

Getting Off the Financial Grid - #2

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Just for the record, I want to say how the system used to work when I was a kid. I will have other comments about how it could work in the future. In my family, my father got up at 6 a.m. and went to work every day to produce money. He came home every night at 6 p.m. and after dinner he changed his clothes and went to work at his second job, which changed over time and the seasons. In his twenties, he was busy building our house. Later, the second job would be anything from repairing the roof, to working in the garden, to changing the oil in the car, to mowing the yard or working in the garage on some project or another. My mother got up at 6 a.m. to pack lunches and make breakfast. Her tasks also varied with time and the seasons. Childcare was a continuous theme for over 25 years as there were six children. In addition to that, she did laundry on Monday with only a wringer washer and clothesline, ironed clothing  on Tuesdays (no permanent press yet), baked bread, cookies and other goodies on Wednesdays, cleaned house on Thursdays, paid bills and shopped for groceries on Fridays, worked in the yard on Saturdays, and took us all to church on Sundays, after which she came home and made a big feast for Sunday dinner. In between all of this, she made our clothing, knitted hats, scarves, and mittens, crocheted doilies, embroidered pillowcases, made purses, refinished floors, painted walls, made bedspreads, rugs, and curtains, exercised to stay healthy, did tax returns for others, and nursed us back to health if we were sick . She also worked long hours to plant, tend, and harvest a large garden. The entire summer and fall was one long marathon of picking, peeling, or pitting a continuous stream of fruits and vegetables that we canned or froze so we would have something to eat over the winter.  She fell into bed at 9 p.m. every night, asleep before she hit the pillow. The only debt my parents ever had was a $50/month house payment and a car payment. They were seldom crabby, never depressed, their creative abilities were fully utilized in designing and building the house we lived in and all the other products they made, from clothes, hats, and coats, to gardens, quilts and car repairs. They were never caught in financial gridlock because they were too busy producing what they needed in everyday life. How many can't get off the financial grid because they don't know how to do anything besides push paper around or punch keys on a keyboard or cellphone? Everything they need must be purchased. Sadly, this is the legacy of our current educational system. Nothing really useful is learned. If it weren't for my parents, I wouldn't have learned much at all. The most basic challenge to getting off the financial grid is going to be twofold - a willingness to commit to life-long learning and a willingness to produce instead of consume.