S&P downgrades USAA

The ripple effect of Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the United States continues. As reported in today’s Wall Street Journal in an article entitled “S&P Cut Ripples Across Businesses”, five insurers are losing their triple-A status including United Services Automobile Association (USAA). This company is an insurer for many active and retired military members as well as their family members.

Apparently S&P claims the fundamental credit characteristics of companies such as USAA has not changed. The problem, from the perspective of S&P, is USAA’s business and assets are highly concentrated in the United States.

Because of this downgrade, what are the consequences for USAA members like me? I would believe the obvious: lower rates on savings accounts, checking accounts & CDs, higher rates for credit cards & loans, and a reduction in some services.

As I stated yesterday, with friends like S&P, who needs enemies!

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Thanks for making matters worse, S&P

As you all know, Standard & Poor downgraded the United States credit rating from the coveted Triple A, to the less impressive Double A. And we have all seen the reaction of financial markets around the world. It is 2008 all over again! The Dow Industrial average is below 10,000. Once again, we must worry about the value of our retirement funds. Investors are yanking money out of Wall Street & other financial markets.

This country was barely growing. S&P has just pushed the U.S. off the plank.

Funny, S&P wasn’t worry about the nation’s debt level just a few years ago (guess S&P was too busy assigning Triple A ratings to CDOs, remember that!).

Double dip recession HERE WE COME.

And we can thank Standard & Poor.

With friends like S&P, who needs enemies.

Randomly selected

Got an e-mail yesterday from an organization shepherding the opening of a new museum. I sent $100 donation to this organization about a month ago.

This organization has been sending me literature for more than a year. I finally decided to give to this organization (feeding needy people has a priority over supporting a museum). Based on the level of my donation, I could elect to receive a thank you gift. I wasn’t interested in a gift. Plus it would reduce the value of my donation.

The letter from the organization further stated that if I sent a donation before a certain date, there is a chance to receive tickets to the dedication ceremony. That would be a special opportunity, versus some thank you gift.

Yesterday’s e-mail stated that two tickets for the Dedication Ceremony have been reserved for me. Sweet!

Be selective in growing your own. Coordinate if you can.

This morning I harvested 10 cucumbers (& there are more growing). Have come to the realization that I planted TOO MANY cucumbers. So, next year, fewer cucumbers will be better.

My sister started growing her own produce this year. Her yellow bell peppers, grown in a container, are perfect.

As I consumed a salad the other day containing my sister’ s yellow bell pepper, my hot pepper, my cucumbers (never in short supply) and my cherry tomatoes, I had a light bulb moment: coordinate what we grow!

It helps that my mother, sister and I live within 5-7 minutes of each other (okay, my brother is not thrilled about this).

Two days ago my mother offered me the space in her backyard to grow produce. Earlier this year we had cleared the raised bed area (& spotted a couple of baby lizards or snakes in the raised space – yes, in the District of Columbia). Funny, after that, my mom opted to grow produce in containers.

I’m not deterred (have time this winter to figure out how to ward off the slimy creatures). I’m excited – a space for the zucchini and tomatoes.

So later this year the three of us will coordinate what to grow in containers or in the ground. Great way to save money, time & reduce our carbon footprint.

And with the outlook for the U S economy still negative, we can definitely reduce our grocery bill times three.

Panhandling

This evening a male, with a crutch, walked between cars at an intersection asking for money. The man never walked near my car before the light turned green. It is a scene I’ve encountered before – should I give or shouldn’t I? I’m not cold-hearted but first, is the individual legitimately disabled or out-of-work? And, will the individual put the “donation” to good use – buy food rather than booze, cigarettes or drugs? This is why I prefer to give money to organizations helping the homeless rather than tossing coins into someone’s cup.

And less be frank, you’ve likely encountered someone asking for money who looks perfectly CAPABLE of working. I know I’ve thought (granted, pre-Great Recession) – why isn’t this individual looking for a job.

I tend to appreciate those able-bodied individuals who make an effort to “earn” a “donation” For instance, some may offer to assist you with carrying grocery bags to your car for a “donation.” Taking Metro in the Washington DC Metropolitan area, musicians (of varying levels of sophistication) will play music as riders enter and exit the metro station. These musicians typically have the case for the music instrument open to receive “donations.” Some musicians are so excellent that riders will hang around for a song or two to enjoy the entertainment.

I’ll never forget the most persuasive panhandler I ever met. He didn’t say anything to me or others to persuade us to give him a “donation.” He was pleasant, never rude. He just stood outside of church as parishioners exited the church and would kindly ask for a donation. Actually, a very clever panhandler. How can one claim to be a Christian, to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, but upon leaving church, walk past someone who seeks help.

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