Friday, September 14, 2012

#AreYouBetterOff - Why, Yes!

#AreYouBetterOff  Since '09: I have 2x in savings and investments, I started a small biz, got married, bought a house..WTF more do I want?

I tweeted this on September 1, 2012 to do my part to help...correct...the #GOP's mistaken, hateful, purchased hashtag #areyoubetteroff. It has been retweeted and favorited on Twitter dozens of times. It has also received many many Mentions and Direct Message responses. Many have been favorable, and with many...hilarity has ensued.

Listen, I was born the son of a union working man and a farmgirl. We never wanted for food, shelter, or healthcare. We never had the nicest car or the biggest TV, but my folks were able to buy me a guitar, save for my college education, and give me a comfortable life.

Nothing in this tweet is a lie. I've been through careers, jobs, and just-getting-by in my life. I have two sons and I have tried to make sure they have had the opportunity I had. I've been divorced, but I never gave up on the work it takes to build a good relationship.

About half of us Americans own stocks - much in 401(k)s or other individual investments. A generation (or two) ago, our employer took care of this as a pension, and anything extra the average person had earned us 5% or-so in savings interest. Now, it's stocks, which are essentially a losing proposition for a buy-and-hold family investor, whether in mutual funds or individual stocks. Investments I got when my marriage ended in '97 halved, and now are valued at a little more than then (not accounting for inflation...). I have continued to nickel and dime my investments, even through the recession, and my employer finally saw the light, started a 401(k) a few years ago, and I have been both aggressively funding this from my paycheck and lucky in what I choose, so my total investments, and what I've been able to put away for emergencies (earning 0.00001% or whatever) is now double what I had four years ago.

Starting 5 years ago or-so, I started making plans to get back into music and to start a small product distribution company. My needs were light and my sons would soon be leaving the nest. That time, of course was 2008, so my plans to make money from these pursuits had to be re-evaluated (but not dashed). I did start the small business, with plans to grow it over time instead of a big launch that wouldn't have been possible as the economy tanked. The biz provides slow and steady monthly income while my day job gives me less and less opportunity.

I met a wonderful woman, a single mom of a boy with high-functioning Autism, and finally last year we tied the knot. We pooled our resources, and figured out a way to buy a small house in a good neighborhood, walking distance to my step-son's school. It's cheaper than renting, even without the mortgage deduction and other benefits. Home values have already been inching up, so we actually have some equity.

Some have noted that my response is selfish. Yes. And the question is selfish. As the dust settles on my new life and house, we are starting to give back what we can, a pittance, really, to help those who do not have what we have.

#WeBuiltThis Well, yes. My late father didn't have money (what he did, my mother is living very comfortably on), and all my life, I have worked in society, not against it, to grow my life. My college education was a combination of taxpayer-guaranteed loans, scholarships, work, and my parents' savings. The stability a Union job gave my Dad gave me Hope. I saw that work, and working together, is a way to take you where you want to go in life, with luck.

If you say that you have built a job, business, life, or family solely by your hard work and ingenuity, you are just wrong and clueless. Hubris is not an attractive characteristic. We band together. We humans always have. Subsistence hunter-gatherers in the bush unite in tribes to survive, and to prosper in some cases. We united to defeat the British a few centuries ago. They would have eventually tossed us, but we banded together to fight for our independence. It wasn't just a musket, but our muskets in a militia. It wasn't just rogue revolutionaries, it was the people who stayed behind to farm, and tend to houses and families, working with their neighbors to build the nation.

Am I better off? Yes, and even if you are a billionaire, so are you. 

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