Compassion International

With our economic woes in this country Americans tend to forget how well off we are in this country compared to others around the world.  Can you imagine living on less than $50 a month?  Some of us blow through such sums in a day.  And with all of our “necessities” – cable, smartphones, computers, etc. – we overlook and don’t think much about true necessities – food, clean water, shelter, medicine.

I give to charitable organizations – Mercy Corps, Oxfam America, The USO, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Edmundite Missions and local food banks – just to name a few. But with these organizations the gifts aren’t personal.  You give a lump sum and the money is put to use to for a worthy cause.

Last year, about May or June, I was listening to a local radio station (WGTS – Christian music station) and the station set aside a few days soliciting listeners to become a sponsor of children overseas via Compassion International.  The stories were compelling – of what sponsors did, of how children overseas benefited, that I pledged to support two children.

Although I’ve faithfully sent my $100 each month, I didn’t write to the children.  What do I say?  I don’t have any children, haven’t reared any children?  How do I connect?

I’m embarrassed to say I did not write my first letter to each child (a girl in Ghana and a boy in Tanzania) until last week.  Writing those letters were part of my pledge during Lent.  In finally writing those letters and including a photo, I felt good and wondered why I took so long to express my care for these little ones.

And, in reading the most recent correspondence from the children (via an adult), I learned what they liked to do, that they were appreciative of receiving money for Christmas and told and shown (via photographs) what they received for Christmas.  Each child drew an object on the letter.  For the little boy in Tanzania I received a copy of his report card.

Helping a general cause is good.  But establishing a relationship, a connection with specific individuals is even better.

Kicking Japan When It’s Already Down; Random Act of Meanness by S&P

Saw a headline today on NPR.org that made my blood boil

I didn’t read the article but the summary of the article stated,

Standard & Poor’s lowered its outlook for Japan’s credit rating to negative amid concern the country’s finances will deteriorate further as it rebuilds after last month’s earthquake and tsunami.  If a downgrade comes, it could boost Japan’s borrowing costs.

You’ve just been introduced to the new mafia, Standard & Poor’s (S&P).

With friends like S&P, who needs enemies?  My goodness – would S&P prefer that Japan not attempt to rebuild after the earthquake and tsunami (and the ongoing nuclear crisis)?  Should those who survive just “pull themselves up from their bootstraps?” 

S&P’s proposed rating downgrade is an example of worshipping at the altar of low to no deficits without any connection to reality. 

And, let’s not forget S&P’s role in the financial meltdown of 2008. Why is S&P allowed to walk around unscathed?  I know a lot of Americans have very short memories, but PLEASE don’t forget how S&P awarded AAA (triple A) ratings to CDOs – Collaterlized Debt Obligations – basically all those sub-prime mortgages Wall Street firms packaged together and sold as investments on Wall Street.

How DARE S&P treat Japan that way!

Of course, S&P has threatened to downgrade the U.S.’s AAA rating because of high deficits.  Whether such a downgrade is appropriate or not, that the fact this tainted, blood-soaked financial manipulator has the audacity to cause more pain to economies which are “already down for the count” or barely “treading water,” I can’t help but presume S&P somehow, someway PROFITS from these downgrades.  Meanwhile, those economies and their citizens suffer.  You don’t believe me?  Check out Ireland.  People are leaving Ireland in droves.

Thanks for your random act of MEANNESS, S&P!

How low can you go?

What about a $.90 principal payment?  That’s right, I made such a low payment recently on my 2nd trust.  Why $.90?

On Saturday I dropped off some clothes at the dryer cleaners.  The employee told me the total, and I responded, I want to prepay.  He said oh, gave me the 10% discount and told me the total was $48.55.  Perfect, I had $49.45 left in my checking account [from my most recent paycheck].  That left me with $.90.  What should I do with that money?

Make a principal payment!

Hmmm, will the system allow me to make a principal payment that’s less than $1?  I wasn’t sure but I decided to test the system. 

The transaction was processed and I made a principal payment of $.90.

Every penny counts when the goal is to get out of debt.  Hey, even Dave Ramsey may call me crazy 🙂

August in April

Mother Nature seems to be “on crack.”  Maybe Easter being so late this year threw her off.  What am I moaning about?  The temperature.  Mid 80s, though felt like 90s, yesterday and today.

The bedroom I presently occupy is cold when it’s winter, and warm when the temperature heats up.  Last night my poor dog panted quite a bit.

This evening I had to do something I didn’t want to do:  TURN ON THE AIR CONDITIONING.  Presently trying to cool off the house (it’s too humid).

I SHOULDN’T have to turn on the air conditioning in April.  My local electricity company loves it.  It really bothers me.

In early Spring and early Fall, what’s so great (if the temperature is within seasonal averages)  is that I am neither spending money on heat (Washington Gas) nor electricity (PEPCO). 

Luckily there’s relief right around the corner.  In a few days we’ll have cooler temperatures.  Thank goodness.  🙂

Generational Differences

Yesterday I  obtained a three page power point slide entitled Generational Differences.  These slides were part of an employees’ workshop for another division at my job.  The four categories of generations are (1) Traditionalists (1922 – 1943), (2) Boomers (1944 – 1964), (3) Gen Xers (1965 – 1980) and (4) NETsters (1981 – 2002).

Of course, The Money Heifer zoomed in on personal finance traits of the four generations.   Each generation generally handles money a certain way. Traditionalists are cash, put it away.  Boomers believe in buy now, pay later.  Gen Xers are conservative, save, save and NETsters’ philosophy is earn to spend.

Well, I guess we know who to blame for our present economic woes in this country.  That’s right, THE BOOMERS🙂

Can you guess what generation The Money Heifer is a member of?  You guessed it, Gen Xers – conservative, save save.

Unaware of discount (honestly)

Today I learned from a fellow employee that federal government employees receive a discount with AT&T.   What?  I responded, I know Verizon offers a discount; AT&T does also?  She, a member of the IT department, replied yes, further stating that she believed all major carriers give discounts to federal government employees.

Well, I wasn’t pleased.  Why?  Because I’ve been with AT&T since last August.  That means I’ve been paying FULL PRICE all this time.

When I returned to the office, I called AT&T (about this discount and another matter).  The customer representative, Heather, told me I’m likely entitled to such a discount.  She gave me the following url:  http://www.wireless.att.com/discounts

I followed the instructions – providing my work e-mail address and wireless telephone number.  With the firewalls at my job, it took more than a couple of minutes before the confirmatory e-mail arrived as  Heather claimed.  But, by the time Heather finished  assisting me with the second matter, I received the following e-mail:

AT&T Sponsorship Program

Congratulations!

You are now enrolled in the AT&T Sponsorship Program as an Individual Responsibility User.
You are now eligible to take advantage of discounts on select wireless services and equipment.  Any discounts for which you qualify will appear on your bill within one or two billing cycles.

I’m miffed that I’ve been paying full price.  And I’m miffed that I was not aware of this discount.  But, as a federal government employee, that’s the way things are.  The individuals in Human Resources do a very poor job of informing employees about benefits as a federal employee besides direct benefits such as participation in the Thrift Savings Program (TSP), a 547 retirement plan. 

In contrast, private institutions, like USAA, are always advising its members about the benefits of membership.  The federal government should be doing the same thing.

Well, within 1 or 2 billing cycles, I’ll start to receive that discount.

Moral of the story:  ALWAYS, ALWAYS ask if there’s a discount!

Trying to stay fit, but not at ANY COST

This morning was week 7, day 1 of my couch to 5K app.  I ran for 25 minutes.

Today’s WSJ has an article entitled Pushing Limits of New Knees: Younger Patients Choose Surgery, Demand Joints That Can Take Jogging, Surfing.  The article is written by Melinda Beck and begins on page D1.  Four paragraphs are quoted below.

Joint-replacement patients these days are younger and more active than ever before.  More than half of all hip-replacement surgeries performed this year are expected to be on people under 65, with the same percentage projected for knee replacements by 2016.  The fastest-growing group is patients 46 to 64, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Many active  middle-agers are wearing out their joints with marathons, triathlons, basketball and tennis and suffering osteoarthritis years earlier than previous generations.  They’re also determined to stay active for many more years and not let pain or disability make them sedentary.

To accommodate them, implants makers are working to build joints with longer-wearing materials, and surgeons are offering more options like partial knee replacements, hip resurfacing and minimally invasive procedures.

*                                                                      *                                                                           

One big unknown: How long will the replacement joints last?  In the past, many doctors assumed implants would wear out in about 10 or 15 years, and they urged young patients to put off surgery as long as possible to minimize the risk of needing a costly and difficult revision surgery – or even two. (A total knee replacement typically costs $15,000 to $22,000.  A revision can be $45,000 or more, with a higher risk of complications.)

My goal – to avoid knee replacement surgery in the future (the cost for one knee replacement would equate to 3 to 6 months of living expenses that Dave Ramsey advocates). 

Of course, by preparing for a 10K  in June and then a marathon in October, I’m wearing out my knees.  But I want to run a marathon ONCE.  If I continue running beyond the marathon, the maximum I wish to run at an event is a 10K.  (Thinking of switching to a low impact exercise – maybe water aerobics.  Wish I could swim.  I’m a natural sinker; don’t float; too much muscle mass.  And, yes, I did work with an instructor one-one-one to no avail!)

Meanwhile, in an effort to protect my joints, besides doing the proper stretches before and after my runs, I’m taking a supplement, New Chapter’s Bone Strength Take Care.  This supplement contains “whole-food calcium, magnesium, vitamin D3 and natural K2 complex.”  And let me say, this product is not cheap.  For 60 tablets, it costs $32.00.  Yikes.  But willing to pay for the extra “love and care” to keep my body – bones and joints – functioning.

Less Disposable Income

Gasoline at $4.00/gallon has arrived in the District of Columbia. With more money needed to fill your tank, what have you reduced or eliminated – eating out, going to the movies, shopping, buying certain foods for your family?

Maybe the increase in the price of gasoline has not altered your live because you take public transportation, ride your bike or walk to work,

If the price of gasoline continues increasing, how many will defer or canal their vacation plans?

2nd Follow-up: A Credit Check to Open a Savings Account?

On Saturday received my welcome letter as a member with First Financial Credit Union of Maryland.   I guess there was nothing derogatory (from the credit union’s perspective) in my credit history.   As I expected.

Still, annoying that they INSISTED on checking my credit report just to open a savings account!

Step 1 of the adoption process

I have started my adoption quest in earnest.   Have registered for an online presentation entitled Flying Solo: Single Parent Adoption.  The cost was just $25.

Tonight I registered for a pre-adoption seminar – Domestic Adoption Preparation.  It’s a 5 1/2 hour seminar.  The cost for this one day class is $250 (thank you, DC tax refund).

Both of these sessions will occur in May, before May 15th.  The next big step will be the Home Study (I believe).  The cost – $1,600 (again, able to pay thanks to DC tax refund).

The Money Heifer will keep you abreast of my progress.

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