Thursday, April 23, 2009

Minimum Wage Millionaire

A handful of loose change fell on the floor, in the process, the teenager took the movie ticket and left. Confused, I stooped embarrassedly, before purchasing my ticket, retrieving the change. He was gone. I dropped the money, mostly pennies into my purse.

Small sums of money can't change the course of a person's life. Or can they?
Money has magical powers that people have forgotten or were never taught. Money's magic does not discriminate. Money's magic works for everyone; red, yellow, black or white, blue collar or debutante, the ethical and the untrustworthy. The best part of money's magic is that it is possible to be debt free, financially independent or a millionaire, all on minimum wage using money's magic. If you don't believe me, do the math!

Money's magic starts whenever you have money + interest + time. Money's magic is called Compound Interest. Albert Einstein, the inventor of the atomic bomb, was fascinated by the power of compound interest. In fact, he considered compound interest to be the 8th wonder of the world. Take one penny, just one and tomorrow add another penny to the first penny. The third day double it again and add two more, the third day four cents, the fifth day, eight cents, doubling it each day for a month, 30 days. Would you rather have that one penny compounded for 30 days or $10,000 today? Would Albert Einstein have picked the penny scenario or the $10,000? "Compound" the penny out for 30 days, and it grows to approximately $5,368,702. If you use a 31 day month, it is over $10,000,000!

The importance "time" plays can not be underestimated in understanding, compound interest. In the next example, Mr. Early Bird saves $1,000 a year beginning at age 21. Mr. Early Bird stops completely after 8 years? Mr. Early Bird never again adds to his savings. Miss Late Start saves $1,000 a year for 37 years but she doesn't start until age 29? Both Mr. Early Bird and Miss Late Start earn 10% on their savings. Who is ahead at retirement? Is it Mr. Early Bird, who managed to save only $8,000, or Miss Late Start, who saved consistently and accumulated $37,000? Guess again. Mr. Early Bird has accumulated $427,736 but Miss Late Start has only $363,043. Mr. Early Bird's $8,000 gave him $64,693 more than Miss Late Start's $37,000. This example motivates me to reconsider that $3.00 caramel macchiato, that bestseller in hardback at Costco or the convenience of prepared take-out or call ahead seating. Quit kidding yourself, numbers don't lie--start saving, start saving a "never to spend" savings account today. The sooner the better, remember time is powerful. And we are worth it--to think about life in the long run.

Interest plays it's part, too. Time and Interest work together in compound interest. Time is the tortoise and interest, the hare but in this story they run a three-legged race. How long does it take to double your money? Divide seventy-two by the interest rate and you have the answer. This simple, mathematical formula is called "The Rule of 72." If you are paying 21% interest on a credit card it will take 3.5 years for the credit card company to double your money--in their pocket. That's the problem with compound interest. It works equally as hard against you as it does for you. Compound interest is a double-edged sword. in the beginning of this article, I said money's magic works whenever money, time and interest are present. Make sure that your money is not working against you.

In life, it is to up to the consumer to be able to recognize money's magic, compound interest and capture only advantages from this powerful force.

From Muhammad Yunus

"The power of the daily taka reminds me of the clever prisoner who was condemned to death. Brought before the king on his execution day, the prisoner was granted one last wish. He pointed to the chessboard at the right of the king's throne and said, "I wish onlly for a single grain of rice on one square of the chessboard and that that grain be doubled for each succeeding square."
"Granted," said the king, who could not fathom the power of geometrical progression. Soon the prisoner regned over the entire kingdom."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

God's Big Blue Marble

I agree the with Earth Day proponents: the earth does look like a big blue marble in space!

Earth Day celebrated by more than a half a billion people every year in over 175 countries is the largest secular holiday in the world. There are two actual earth days; April 22nd and the vernal Equinox. The U.N. established the vernal Equinox, as Earth Day because it is the moment that day and night is the same length everywhere on earth. Gaylord Nelson, a former U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, founded Earth Day and set April 22nd as the date "to shake up the political establishment and force this issue onto the national agenda.” These days slid into a week, snowballed into a month and continue to gain momentum.

Environmentalists, I have learned are religious folk and have denominations. Their labels are Dark, Light and Bright—green that is.

Environmentalism for “Light greens” is a lifestyle not a political agenda. “Light” greens sit on the end of the activist scale. “Dark greens” on the other hand believe that environmental problems go hand-in-hand with industrialized capitalism. Problems of industrialized capitalism facing environmentalists include consumerism, separation from nature and the exhaustion of natural resources. “Dark greens” seek radical political change. “Bright greens” agree that radical political change is necessary but can be accomplished sans gloom and doom with modern ideas, paraphernalia and technology.

Hey, I turn off the light when I leave a room, worms eat my garbage and I am a member in good standing of a shared agriculture program but these environmentalist labels don’t work for me.

I believe the “Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden as its gardener, to tend and care for it.” (Gen. 2:15—The Living Bible) The more I respect or to, use a Biblical term-fear God and appreciate His creation the better park ranger I am. This is what He has called me to be, His steward. ‘Steward’ an old-fashioned word that means a person in charge of another’s property, finances or other affairs.

Color me-----“olive green”. Figuratively speaking I was a wild olive shoot grafted in a holy, God-planted God tended tree—the body of Christ. The grafting took because I believed I was connected to that belief-nurturing root. Being humble and mindful keeps me lithe and green. (Loose paraphrase of Romans 11:11-23—The Message)

Dear God,

Let Your nature be the guide I manage myself by in your garden. Let me remember that gentle kindness and ruthless severity exist side by side.--Amen

I am His child. Earth is not my mother.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

No-Knead Miracle Bread

First Place Winner in the Bread and Muffin category at the 11th Annual Oatmeal Festival.

Adapted No-Knead Miracle Bread from Jim Lahey

Makes 1 loaf, about 20 slices
*3 Cups all-purpose, plus slightly more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon rapid-rise active yeast
1/1/4 teaspoons salt

1. In a large bowl, combine all-purpose flour, oat flour, yeast and salt. Add 15/8 cups water. Stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky.

2. Cover bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. Note: I have left mine as long as 20 hours and it turn out just fine, it seems to be a forgiving recipe.

4. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.--Like a pancake before you turn it.

5. Lightly flour work surface. Place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more all purpose flour. Fold it over on itself once or twice.

6. Using just enough all-purpose flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball.

7. Generously coat a cotton towel (not tery cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal: put dough down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. When making the "oat" loaf, I process Old Fashioned oats in food processor until chipped and use those instead of the above.

8. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours.

9. When it's ready, dough will be more than doubled in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

10. At least 30 minutes before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. Note: I use my turkey roaster--and it works great. I think the pan selection is a determining factor in the bread's success.

11. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Remember at all times as you maneuver the dough that the pot will be hot.

12. Slide your hand under towel and turn doug over into pot; it may look like a mess, but that's OK.

13. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.

14. Cover with lid and back 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake 15 to 30 minutes more, until loaf is beautifully browned and sounds hollow when rapped. Note: I cook the bread a total of 45+/- minutes. Cool on a rack.

Nutritional information per serving:
68 cal., 0 fat, 0 chol., 14g carb., 134 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 2 g pro.

*To make the "Oat Loaf" use 1 Cup of oat bran flour in place of one cup of the 3 cups of all-purpose 


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Your Money or Your Life!!

"Mom, those guys are robbing that bank," Victor shouted. I was driving down Wadsworth with my kids talking a mile a minute in the back seat. I didn't pay attention to their escalated chatter because, really, what were the odds that a bank robbery was taking place in broad daylight? How would my kids even know what a bank robber looked like? I had never seen one. They persisted, until I finally turned in the direction they were pointing.
Sure enough, three men were entering the bank, pulling masks over their faces. I knew what they were going to do. I pulled into the parking lot adjacent to the bank and dialed 911.
"Three men are robbing the bank," I exclaimed.
They responded, "Hold, please."
I was perplexed. I couldn't understand why no one was taking me seriously. But I hadn't taken my kids seriously five minutes earlier, either. Why should the 911 operator take me seriously?
The same concern that I had about the bank being robbed is affecting me today as I drive around my city. Business that burden consumers with perpetual debt are springing up on every corner with more frequency than Starbucks.
I'm referring to the payday loan offices, rent-to-own stores and pawnshop operations that are growing at the alarming rate of 150 percent per year nationwide. I want to run up and down in front of their stores with a sandwich board that says, "You are being robbed!"
Investigative by nature, I visited a payday loan shop, where I found that I could get $300 in cash by writing two post-dated checks. The clerk informed me that the annual percentage rate was 521.9 percent! But he assured me that this wasn't as bad as it sounded, because it was only a 14 to 28 day loan. He also neglected to tell me that his average customer has 13 loans.
After 14 days my checks would be cashed, and if they bounced, there would be additional charges and I would be turned over to their collection agency. Talk about easy money--FOR THEM!
Legal loan sharking like this could have spared the 1930s bank robber, John Dillinger, a life behind bars.
Next, I stopped in to a pawnshop where I was offered $425 in cash for a ring purchased 14 years ago at the price of $2,500. I would pay them $42.50 a month, only 10 percent interest, excuse me, but my math says it's 120 percent.

If they didn't hear from me in 90 days, the ring would be theirs. However, as long as I kept paying the $42.50 every month I could get my ring back. Sorry, but no deal.
The last stop was a rent-to-own store. Here, I could buy a used Whirlpool washing machine for $965.31 by paying 13.99 weekly for 69 weeks. I did have the option of purchasing a new machine for $1,273 with an extended pay period of 97 weeks.
The same washer retailed new at the appliance store for $399.
I wanted to say that if I could sell my used washer for $1,000, they could have it that afternoon and I would throw in dinner for two, a dozen red roses plus baby-sitting.
Naive and credit/cash strapped consumers need to be informed about such exploitation. Sadly, businesses that walk on the backs of the consumer are often publicly traded.
They are included in the portfolios of pension and mutual funds, and they are owned or invested in by banks and insurance companies.

B.C. Forbes said, "A shady business never yields a sunny life." It is good to remember that the customers of those businesses fare no better.