Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Story of the Year

and the most underreported story of 2006 is the coming class divide and the consequences. 2006 was the tipping point, the year when more people started to really notice (kind of like global warming) that the rich are getting richer, we're talking mega, grotesquely rich, and the rest of us will soon be begging for bread. okay, i'm being a wee bit dramatic. but homeless people, for example, are, more than ever, at the mercy of society's generosity but as we've seen, society isn't that kind anymore. witness katrina. of course, there were brilliant acts of generosity but overall, as a people, we care less.

we already have the ultra rich like oprah, bill gates, warren buffett and the like deciding who gets what. it's nice that some of the wealthy are generous but what about the ones who aren't? there are a lot of those. they are the people who believe in survival of the fittest. they believe that the smartest, the ones who work the hardest are most deserving of riches. they feel entitled, worthy. they are, after all, the ones who "create the jobs," they say. they believe that everybody can and should be like them. they feel everyone who tries hard enough can be rich or go to harvard. they feel the poor choose to be poor.

but life isn't like that. and the plight of the worker bees, the working poor and the plain poor is getting worse. more than ever, quality education, the equalizer, is out of reach for many people. why should we care if more people are becoming poorer? because it's good to be human. certainly, there are some economic benefits of fairness. other than that, i don't know. maybe it is all about darwin -- survival of the fittest --too bad if you can't cope.

but here's my working folks solution for the new year. get out of debt! get rid of credit card spending. do less shopping! i know, easier said than done. find other joys in life. spend more time with your family. ask for a raise. learn how to live a "sustainable" lifestyle. stop paying attention to what celebrities are wearing, doing, buying. ugh. they are perhaps the worst influence on our culture ever. these people are, in the big picture, fairly meaningless. i love a good movie or tv show, but celebrities aren't worthy of all the material goodies lavished upon them.

next, be less productive. i don't mean loaf on the job. get better at what you do. learn as much as you can. i mean take vacations and don't make them working ones. take time off. quit at quitting time. combining these two actions--less shopping and getting back some of your life--will give you more time and more money. time is better than money, well, for me anyway.

next, invest. i'm not advocating day trading. invest for the long haul and start soon! sharebuilder is an example of a nifty way to invest in a few stocks for cheap. vanguard doesn't charge fees for some of its funds and compounding is a glorious thing. don't forget savings accounts. forget about banks that don't pay interest or pay neglible interest. put your savings in a high interest account. go to and compare rates. open an account that offers the highest interest rates and no fees. for learning about investing, i recommend

but don't wait to figure out the stock market. the only way to figure it out is to actually do it. don't risk a lot of money, of course. just a little until you get the hang of it.

go to dinkytown (funny name, great calculators) to figure it all out. want to know how much to save before you reach $1 million? dinkytown will tell you.

next, share with others who have less than you.
finally, i'm no financial whiz, just someone who never wants to be in a position of begging for bread.
finally, finally, happy new year!