Monday, August 15, 2011

Thirty Days of Smart Money Choices:

A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. Luke 12:15

The Greatest Generation, as they are called, generally followed a strict corporate career structure. Beginning with their baby boomer children, each succeeding generation has become more flexible in job outlook. Millenials, for example, are often entrepreneurial in spirit and often start small businesses that are centered on jobs or skills they enjoy. Internet technology makes it possible to market such businesses. Many are choosing job and life satisfaction over prestige and paycheck.

Whatever generation someone belongs to, today's business culture makes it more likely that an individual will have at least two types of work during their lifetime. For example, the baby boomer who is downsized out of a job or who has retired may start a new venture during midlife and later -- provided that they are physically healthy enough to do so. Likewise, a woman may choose for her main career to be that of managing her home and family, yet she may also take on outside work in different seasons of life. The young entrepreneur who launches a small business may sell a successful one and move on to something else or, conversely, may not succeed and end up in a more traditional work role.

If you are at a career crossroads in life, you may be stuck as to what you want to do next. Here are a couple of ideas:

As baby boomers and Gen X-ers age, more health care resources are needed. If you do not wish to go back to school to become a doctor or a nurse, there are other opportunities in the field of medicine that you might consider. For example, you might become a paid health care advocate, who helps patients manage their own health care. Or, you might become a sitter for someone who is home bound. Health care provides volunteer opportunities, too.

If health care is not your thing, you might consider becoming a docent. If your town has a museum or a historical attraction, for example, you may find work giving tours. Similarly, libraries often need assistance.

In some places, any college degree will qualify you to become a substitute teacher. If you love children and are looking for "a career after a career", consider substituting.

If you are a manager of your home, consider that much of this world's good has been traditionally done by women at home whose children are grown. You might choose to forgo getting a job simply because your children are out of the house and people expect you to do something, anything. You are still needed in our home. Likewise, you are needed to fill roles that have traditionally been done by women of mid-life and beyond. You might, for example, unofficially mentor young wives and moms in your area, do volunteer and church work, get involved in service to your neighborhood or city, help out the elderly in your neighborhood, etc. The possibilities are endless.

In our era, we are not as limited in our choice of vocation or avocation as we once were. Before you settle for grinding a way at a job you no longer enjoy, investigate what other possibilities you can explore. Remember, though, that it is best not to quit your current job until you know for certain that you do have replacement income. Also remember that it is not always possible to do exactly what we want to do. Sometimes, we have to work at something we don't particularly enjoy in order to provide for our families, and, sometimes, we do have to stick with a career path that no longer suits us. A job that pays the bills is a blessing in this economy, whether it's a dream job or not.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Art of Putting pen to paper

I've been thinking a lot about letter writing today. I set out to write a lovely letter to my lovely daughter, and I searched the Internet looking for lovely inspiration. Now that I type that, I see some irony in turning to the technology -- wonderful as it is -- for help in an art that has been largely diminished by that very technology. Yet, I did find some wonderful spark for creativity.

First, I found that there are many blogs devoted entirely to the art of letter writing. Here was one of the first that I came across: 365 Days of Letters.
Another inspiring site devoted to letter writing is this one: A Year of Letters. These two blogs connect to a number of blogs about writing letters, which I hope to explore in the coming days.

I also found research that says, believe it or not, that penmanship is good for your health and also essential to a child's development. After reading several articles on the subject, I became convinced that putting pen to paper can

1) help those of us who are on the back end of the baby boom to keep our minds sharp as we age.
2) help any of us remember, as we apparently remember something better if we write it down than if we don't.
3) help children develop the brain in an essential way that does not occur with texting or typing.
4) help children learn fine motor detail.
5) inspire confidence in us.
6) help us communicate better with people who live in areas that are not as technologically advanced as our society is -- an essential if you have a mission mindset or a philanthropic interest in a developing country.
7) Help us truly communicate feelings in a way that can not be communicated through email or texts.

Along with all the good news that attention is being paid to handwriting, I also found this beautiful ode to the passing art of writing letters. The author describes receiving beautiful letters from her mother-in-law, muses about the importance of letters, and wonders if the next generation will even write them.

I suppose that it's natural I should think about the art of writing letters, as I have found many beautiful family letters among stuff that I cleared out from a house that my father sold. I found letters that my father had written to his family when he was stationed abroad during World War II and the outcome of the war had not yet been decided. I found the letters that my parents exchanged when they were engaged, and my father moved ahead of my mother to the town where they would live once they were married.

I also kept the letters that my husband wrote to me during our courtship and engagement, along with every letter or card he has written to me during our thirty years of marriage. I have no plan to discontinue the practice of keeping writings from my beloved Doc Brilliant.

My friends and I used to delight in receiving sweet letters from our beaux and in keeping those letters in some special spot in our rooms to re-savor as we wished. What do girls do now that so much of their communication with their suitors is done through texts?

On the one hand, I think that letter writing continues in the tradition of buying cards and writing notes on them. We live in an age when stores sell exquisite stationery, and I'm sure I'm not the only person who buys such. On the other hand, I can't keep up with the volume of email and texts I receive, while a hand-written letter waiting for me in the mailbox is a rare treat nowadays.

Let you think I'm anti-electronic communication, let me assure you that I am not. I am happy that I can instantly converse with even far away friends and family in texts and emails and via Skype and all other manner of helpful technology. I think about mothers left in Europe, waiting for word of their pioneer children to cross perilous territory on the North American continent and to pass on slow ships across the Atlantic, and feel privileged to live in a time when I can so easily keep up with how my adult children are doing.

Still, I'd hate to see snail-mail letter writing fade away completely. What do you think? Is letter writing a dying art? Or, is it thriving? Do you think the revival of journal writing in recent years is a way that we are trying to capture something that we used to gain from writing letters? Do you like to put pen to paper, or would you rather text? Is there a way to have the best of both worlds -- electronic communiques and hand-written missives?

I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Monday, August 01, 2011

Day 17 (after a break!)

Smart Money Choices!

Consider the relative importance of stuff: A friend of mine told me this weekend that she had befriended a widow in her neighborhood. The widow went on a trip to Europe and was killed in an accident there. My friend went down to the house, where they were holding an estate sale, and she noticed -- with a pang -- that her friend had left behind lots and lots of stuff which she will now never be able to use.

I'm sure that this widow left behind a legacy of other things -- such as love for her family or faith or perhaps even well managed funds. But, if we are not careful, our legacy can be a lot of stuff that will burden our families when it comes time to clean out our dwelling places. In fact, if we Americans are not careful, we can spend the first part of our adult years accumulating things and the last part trying to get rid of things. I've been thinking about this a lot as I've been dealing with my own accumulation of things. Some of these are things we bought; others are things we inherited. Some do have value. A good many things, however, don't have any real value.

That's not to say that owning things is wrong. But, having too much stuff that you don't enjoy and realistically can't ever use becomes a negative drain. Treasure in heaven, on the other hand, is always positive!

Improve your skills and interests:

Keeping current with skills and interests can put money in your bank. Here are some reasons why: 1) In today's world, it is likely that we will change jobs at some point in our life. The person who is interested in life and who has developed his or her talents is better able to weather changes in work life. 2) Many of us will arrive at the retirement years with the health, time, and energy to begin a new vocation or avocation. We may also need to supplement our retirement income. Again, the person who has stayed invested in learning will be able to take advantage of later life opportunities. (For those who do not enter retirement with physical strength, learning can provide enjoyable stimulation, if nothing else.)
3) Those of us who have chosen to make home our career may need to take a temporary or even permanent job if circumstances change. Again, if you have continued to learn and to develop your skills, you can move into a new line of work if necessary. 4) We may have chosen a field that we find no longer satisfies us. If we have pursued learning a few other interests, we may be able to change to a more enjoyable job. Sometimes, however, we may have to be grateful for the job and the paycheck that we do have, even if it isn't our dream work. In that case, an avocation can add to our enjoyment of life. 5) The woman at home may organize charity events or otherwise be active in church and/or volunteer work. Continuing to learn helps us with this.

How does a busy woman continue to learn? Many have little time left over to study. In that case, we can do several things to develop our talents:

1) Devote just one hour a week or 15 minutes a day to study or practice.
2) Use time with friends to take an interest in their lives. Ask questions and learn about their activities.
3) Jot down things you want to remember on note cards or on your phone or I-pad and glance at them throughout the day.
4) If you are homeschooling, learn on a deeper level the things that you are teaching your children at their level. For example, if you are interested in science, you can teach your fifth grader things a fifth grader can understand while reading a graduate school level book yourself.
5) Keep a collection of books or files about a few subjects that interest you. It's probably better to study a few things deeply than to learn a little about this and that.
6) Keep up with current affairs, particularly in areas that interest you.
7) Take family outings to museums and other places of learning.