Friday, December 19, 2008

Unsolicited Financial Advice

Just what everyone needs, right?

With the government handing out money it doesn't have at truly astounding rates of speed, my (admittedly not expert-level) economics education tells me inflation is a-comin'. Hyperinflation, meaning double-digit inflation, is not an unrealistic prospect. What's hyperinflation do? Well, six years of 12% inflation would turn the hypothetical $2 bread into $4 bread. And rest unassured, it doesn't mean your hypothetical $30k/year salary becomes a $60k/year salary in the meantime. That's what "tough times" are. Your job gets an automatic pay cut every passing month for your hard work. (And you're working hard, because if you slack off you become a targeted budget cut. 10% unemployment doesn't sound too bad until you realize it means one out of every ten people you know is reduced to surviving on charity.)

So what to do? With these four easy steps, you too can weather a recession!

1. Pay your tithing. I'll spare the explanation; if you haven't heard it a million times, there's a prerequisite to paying your tithing you need to fufill in the first, namely, belonging to the organization to which one would tithe.

2. Pay off your debts. That terrible spectre, consumer debt, becomes particularly nasty when banks start to feel a pinch. To wit, a charming example of what that means.

3. Maintain your food storage. Two reasons - firstly, if things get really bad for you, it's nice to be able to eat and stuff. Secondly, unfinished food (like bulk wheat) is always cheaper than finished, and if you rotate your food storage properly you'll use some of it, which will generally save you money on your groceries.

4. Invest in something not money. If you want your earnings to retain their value, put those earnings into something that isn't pegged to the value of the dollar. Inflation hits investments hard, but only as hard as it hits not investing at all. By clerical error, I was never enrolled in my company's 401k back in May. My company offers a 50% employer match on contributions. As of right before Thanksgiving, the money I would have invested would have lost so much value it would have wiped out the employer match completely, and a little extra besides. Imagine that with a high inflation rate. My big suggestion? Buy a home. If you have a home, invest by paying down your mortgage. When that's gone, you can worry about a retirement account.

And there you have it. With these simple steps, I guarantee you'll be exactly as financially prepared to handle the coming crisis as I am. ~_^

Friday, December 5, 2008

Why not call it a 'M' for 'Meaningless'?

For your reading pleasure, I present ABC News, in a riveting story of
self-esteem and second chances: "Are Students Coddled? Schools Get Rid of 'F's."

Oh, wow.

Cliff Notes:

At public schools in Grand Rapids, Mich., high school students will no longer receive "F"s but instead will earn the letter "H" when their work falls woefully short. Superintendent Bernard Taylor told that the "H" stands for "held," and is a system designed to give students a second chance on work that was not up to par.
At one Boston area middle school, a policy known as "Zeros Aren't Permitted" gives students who do not complete their homework on time an opportunity during school hours to finish so that they do not fail the assignment.

Now let me just say that I am something of a connoisseur of 'F' and '0' grades. I received more than enough through high school, to say nothing of my abortive first year of college, to qualify as a subject-matter expert. Fs can come from one of three sources:
1. A lack of ability. The student simply did not learn the material in the time and environment (to include the teacher,) given. This type of student may not be a "write-off" necessarily, but a "Hold" is going to hold them back from learning anything else, not just hold their grade. How many held grades will one rack up before one is simply overwhelmed?
2. A lack of effort. My personal specialty - and let me assure you, no amount of lunch grace periods and high-school versions of "Incomplete" are going to motivate this type of student to do work they already chose to avoid in the first place.
3. A fluke. The bright (or at least, not slower than average,) hardworking student didn't get enough sleep the night before the test. The dog literally ate the homework. My house burnt down last night, sorry my presentation isn't here. But you know what? Students who work hard and show aptitude already get time to make up these things, and some sort of extra credit to make up for randomly bad tests. Heck, even I got these opportunities, and you had to be truly blind to see how little I cared. I had a policy of making it clear to my teachers within the first three weeks of a class that any homework not necessary to pass the class would not be done, ever.

So, what benefit, exactly, do policies like these provide - other than artificially inflating your school's comparative GPA, the academic equivalent of a government printing its way out of debt.

Now that's an intriguing concept. I wonder how hard it would be to create a "GPA exchange market," and track comparative grade strength. Well, son, the Deer Valley HS is very weak right now; it closed at 0.47 last week, which means your 4.0 is only worth a 1.88 GPA for our admissions policies."