Category: Money


The way we celebrate Christmas has been changing quite a bit over the last decade or two. The older citizens would tell us of their days of serenading during the night’s cold hours. Sleeping families would be awaken by a chorus of voices echoing Christmas songs in the lonely and otherwise quiet night.

The use of spirited alcohol has continued to be a favourite drinking choice during this season. So, too, have the traditional black cake and home made bread remained with us. Those of us who grew up in the 20th century would have looked forward to playing with our toy guns. After lunch on Christmas Day, it would have been much “popping” of gun shots among the village boys as they played Shooting.

Of course, toy guns have since been banned after it became clear that the real guns were being heard more than the toys.

A recent addition to Christmas now is the opening up of the stores on Sunday afternoons for shoppers. At first it was a rather relaxing new experience to go into town on a Sunday with one’s family or just to take in the quiet scenes. But now Sunday afternoon shopping has more crowds than even the national Carnival held in the city each year.

It has become a definite boom for the commercial sector. But it also shows that for many people, the importance of Christmas is directly linked to commercial spending and not on heavenly blessings. As the world’s economy finds it harder to keep money in the pockets of the consumer it is safe to predict that Christmas as we know it today is dying a commercial death.

Because Christmas means buying and getting all things physical and new,   when money is hard to come by then persons will not  be able to “celebrate” Christmas any more.

It is then up to those of us who know what Christmas is all about to celebrate Jesus all year round. Our commemoration of His birth in December must never be left to the business community’s ability to afford some sales promotions.

 

It is a dream come true for students fortunate to be accepted at the Bolton St Catherines Academy in Bolton, Greater Manchester, for the new academic year. Qualifying students will gain an education beyond just the realm of academia.

The institution is putting its students in the driver’s seat as it provides driving lessons at no cost whatsoever. It is hoped that by offering this service, students will have fewer financial overheads while gaining a useful life skill in the process.

Among the top priorities of young people is often the goal of getting a driver’s license. That goal is being brought to fruition in this case. Undoubtedly, the students will be motivated to be at school and to push their work. Given the rising costs of learning to drive, the opportunity offered by St Catherines is really a diamond in a hay stack. Such a move may also be a turning point in the marketing and provision of tertiary and post tertiary education in developing countries.

 

Justin Bieber                                                          

Until a couple years ago the words Justin Bieber only meant an identifiable expression to close friends and family of the then unassuming child. But many things in life are connected to the proverbial domino effect and so with the advent of the Internet and its cousins–the social networks–the circumstances were aligned for a little known Justin to upload some simple home videos for mutual family fun and bonding.

Since then the name Justin Bieber has become unanimous with teenage stardom and the all pursued get rich quick philosophy of the masses of “huslas” youths. Justin has had a sudden change of status and his whole living experience really, that most can only hope to come close to experience via the movies or a good book.

The  global following that he has received from his fellow teens have been largely due to his down to earth attributes as a person. talk with his childhood friends and those who first  sampled his music and you are sure to find out that it was Justin’s physical features, voice quality and humble personality that generated an ascent to the position of a teen idol.

The world probably needed someone to come on the scene at the time when Justin did. One of the world’s most recognizable face and voices had just been silenced. Michael Jackson, how for so many years had epitomized life itself by his extraordinary performances died in 2009. The world of pop music was therefore in some form of mourning and had a vacancy to fill.

A close look at the new multimillion dollar star will now reveal some rather grown up changes that may be an indication that the Justin Bieber that the virgin fans fell in love with has evolved into the superstar Justin Bieber. Fans will observe that his outfits are taking on a permanent on-stage look and the teen is also brandishing earing(s).  The hairstyle is no longer reflective of the simple down to earth child of a few years ago.

One of the biggest changes though, probably has to do with Justin’s emotional or love life. He has, after a few days of denial, jumped headlong into a relationship with Selena Gomez, another teen performer. While they both undoubtedly will have some things in common, one has to wonder to what extent Justin is in control of his personal and even professional life. The world has been privy to the couples rather intimately romantic adventures.  It is no accident that the word virgin was used earlier in this post; however, has stardom catapulted Justin from his own virginity or to embark on a journey of validating the “new cow” theory? Not too long ago the viral information was of a possible break-up of the teen couple over a simple text from Justin to another young lady.

Justin and his girlfriend

Justin’s parents in the earlies were doing what they could to ensure that their son still has a normal coming of age experience. Somehow I don’t think that the influx of monies from performances, product deals and royalties are compatible with that. A look at the  personal lives of stars will reveal that in over 90% of the cases, their relationships seem to last as long as the pair of shoe that they wear. Has Justin been prepared for the emotional seesaw of relationships, especially at such a tender years?

Being a globally recognized figure is always fun. Until it sets in that the media never, ever stops following your every move and action. While Justin has a competent team of advisors I can’t help but wonder if his young emotional needs and concerns are at the heart of the advice given to him. When your friends or advisors suddenly start seeing you as $$ signs and no longer as a human being first—things will never be the same.

The history of child stars as well shows that in too many cases, particularly after their careers have matured and reached a state of decline, they are unable to make a smooth adjustment to life as a regular guy again. Some years ago Jonathan Brandis was a handsomely popular television star. He hanged himself in his room after his career started sliding down a slippery rope. River Phoenix, backed by fame and fortune, sacrificed his existence to illicit drugs usage. Recently, Amy Winehouse died from complications it would seem stemming from alcohol use. (I was wondering the other day if it is a coincidence that someone  with the name Winehouse became an alcoholic).

The intent of this post is to act as a catalyst for a modestly objective but urgent intervention at rehabilitating Justin Bieber so that he can handle his new life. The information suggests that Justin is being considered as a “brat” by persons who are closest to him in his business ventures. He alledgedly made a lot of passengers on a recent flight very uncomfortable by his actions. He refused to give the pilot an autograph as well. Refusing autographs seems also to be a new habit of Justin’s. It seems to me that something is going to give soon where Justin’s stardom is concerned.

There are more negatively ending lives and careers of once-popular child stars that  are all around. Is Justin Bieber surrounded by genuine people who don’t put money-making above life-saving? Is Justin happy with himself? What plans are in place for life after the stage or the glitter of it all?

It is the stuff that movies are made of. A scientist secludes himself in a mysterious lab and comes up with the formula that makes a non living thing come alive. But for the scientists and researchers at the Scripps Research Institute (SRI) that possibility is no longer a figment of the imagination.

For some time now the world has been aware of the scientific process of cloning; producing an animal or part thereof has been the moot for much sociopolitical and ethical debates. Now, the pioneering gurus at SRI are claiming that they are making almost daily progress in crossing the Rubicon between the inanimate and the animate. Using their test tubes, the scientists have been able to produce living organisms that are capable of exponential reproduction and therefore sustain its species.

Although the lab professors have to provide very meticulously controlled environment for the molecular life processes to survive, Dr Gerald Joyce is more than confident that as long as they continue working it is really just a matter of time before the world has its own actively living, self reproductive life form that has man as its creator. That invokes certain feelings of condemnation, particularly among many persons who do believe that humans are trying to become like God Himself by attempting to create life.

And that might be a solid ground for a critical decision; after all, man had to leave Eden because he wanted to “become like God” and so ate of the forbidden fruit. Is it a fair statement to say that man even today has not given up the gambling quest to become as knowledgeable as God?

There are some educators who believe that the folks at SRI have already created life already; however, Dr Joyce is of the modest view that because the only form of life that we know is what we see on Earth then more work has to be put into the ongoing synthesizing of the inanimate so that whenever the official pronouncement is given, there will be no fashionable grounds for doubt or disbelief.

I suspect that the moment that the final breakthrough comes will not be made public right away. Obviously, the realization that man has created a living being that is able to exist on its own in a normal earthly environment is going to have never seen implications for the way that all seven billion people live on this earth. Like so many other breakthroughs that possess almost infinite socio-economic and political ramifications all the nations of the world would want to have the ability to create new life in their own corner. If these procedures and PR are not handled properly, the stage may be setting for a new age war of deadly proportions.

As it is now, many of us less scientifically endowed and knowledgeable persons are interacting with genetically modified edible goods and we don’t even know it. When we attempt to ascertain the organic nature of a lot of things that we import and use in our kitchens, it is often very difficult to  come to a definite conclusion. It is not just the pursuit of life within a lab that is the moot here. The larger, and probably more consequential, issue is the boundary that our scientists will draw the line at and say beyond this accomplishment we will not pursue any more discoveries.

Finally, in every instance where a life-changing discovery, invention or breakthrough is made, for whatever noble purpose, there is always another human being lurking in the shadows of the good guys to usurp and manipulate the item by putting it to a negative use. These are considerations that we must take seriously now and insist that those who lead and make decisions look into with all immediate transparency and accountability.

Will history say that it was under the presidency of a black man that the US lost its risk-free borrowing status?

Barack Obama has made headlines around the world since his sudden rise to the office of the most powerful man on the planet. He is the first black person to be elected to the office of President of the United States of America, the most powerful nation on earth, the sole superpower and the largest economy.

In 2010 he made sweeping changes to the health policies and frame-work of the USA. That was indeed another history making moment. There were of course those who felt the “Yes we can!” changes were too many and too fast. In fact, some Republicans vowed to repeal what they called  “Obama Healthcare.” Yet, the purposeful President has laboured on. He intends to leave his footprint and fingerprints on Washington’s political dynasty.

Then last May. the world stood still as it tried to absorb the incredible news that Barack Obama sent a specially trained navy Seals team deep into the Pakistani territory to find and kill the ever elusive Osama Bin Laden.

Obama killed Osama!

That again cemented Obama into political elitism and unparalleled history. He accomplished what two previous presidents, each serving a two term presidency, failed to do. All the world congratulated the US President as they felt that finally the 3000 or so souls whose blood was shed on September 11, 2001,  could rest in peace as their killer was shown the bullets of an American soldier. And his remains dumped into the Northern Arabian Sea.

But a few hours ago Barack Obama was receiving the news that The USA’s credit rating has been down graded from a AAA to AA+.

This is also a history making event. Ever since the S&P ratings was being used, America was always at the triple A status. that has been so since 1917.

The AAA means that the country is well able to pay its creditors and so it is seen as a safe risk for lending money to. But with the political wranglings and stalemate in Congress over the  last few weeks as the nation struggled to enact laws that will increase its credit limit the US economy seemed to have gone into cardiac arrest.

It will be important to hear how President Obama responds to this development. Obviously, he is being seen now as the first US president to allow the country’s economic rating to fall from a triple rating. But was this totally Obama’s fault? While he may not be solely responsible, as he seeks re-election next year, it is something that the electorate and his opposition will throw in his face.

One of the sad realities, too, of this is that because President Obama is a black man, racial pundits will probably start sending the message to the black community that they are really inferior or unable to measure up to quality accomplishments, after all  we put a black man in the white house and what happens? We lose our safety credit rating!

Already, the Republicans are saying this downgrading of the US economy is another sign of the “failed leadership’ of Barack Obama. Nonetheless, this historic development is a sign that all the world finances are in possible jeopardy and individuals and governments alike must start to take a serious look at how they spend, invest or manage their money. I will like you to please read my earlier post “Your money–is it fulfilling someone else’s dream?”

We cannot just continue to spend money like our treasury is what Jesus has in heaven. Let us all go back to the simple rule of living within our means and being satisfied with a present temporary inconvenience for a permanent improvement in the future.

Following the preliminary report that has said pilot error caused the post landing crash of  Caribbean Airlines flight BW 523 last week in Guyana, I  wondered how likely it is for  an airline to touch down in the middle of a runway it is familiar with and is a part of its daily routes.

There seems to be some underlying careless practices that have been on going at Caribbean Airlines that may have played a factor in the Guyana mishap. The founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications, Felicia Persaud, has voiced publicly her total dissatisfaction with the service of the airline. According to Ms Persaud, while taking a business flight from JFK to Jamaica she encountered exceptionally unpleasant workers and treatment onboard her flight. She claims that even though a booking was made for herself and two colleagues, they were clearly told at check in that it was impossible for them to sit together. In fact, the trio could not even sit in the same general area; however, when they got on board, they discovered that there were more than enough vacant seats for them to sit together.

One of the operational problems of Caribbean Airlines is that passengers are not told their allotted seat at the point of making their bookings. Additionally, since Caribbean Airlines have acquired BWIA, the friendly service and champagne style experience have gone through the door (or has been misplaced in the departure lounge).

Ms Persaud says that the attitude of the Caribbean Airlines crew on board her flight seemed to obviously suggest that they were daring the passengers to come fly with them again. Her flight ended with the business class passengers who had paid a lot more money for a business ticket being forced to wait at the conveyor belt until the economy passengers were finished picking up their luggage.  It is important to state here that Ms Persaud landed in Jamaica just hours before the Caribbean Airlines plane crashed in Guyana.

Such an attitude does not bode well for an airline that is from a region in desperate dependence on tourism and whose company motto is “The warmth of the islands.”

One unhappy bride has revealed that her entire bridal party was left in limbo and stressful frustration when they attempted to seal the deal on booking a flight for the group. After complying with the company by booking months before the flight and paying a deposit to secure seats on the big day, the young woman was told that the seats were never confirmed or booked. She was told that the airline representative who she had dealt with initially was wrong in saying the seats were secured.

On the most important day of her life, the now distraught bride was told that if the group does want to travel on the identified flight they would have to also pay a rate that is higher than what they had locked in the original booking at. Not only that, but now they would have to pay an extra $1000+ right then and there.

Another grain of sand that is in the eyes of Caribbean Airlines customers eyes is the often misplaced pieces of luggage. Yes, all airlines have issues from time to time with misplaced baggage but one Guyanese, Jerrick
Rutherford, feels that the company’s manner of handling such issues is like a slap in the face. Mr Rutherford highlights that when his wife’s bag did not turn up at JFK from Guyana he inquired to its whereabouts. He was told that it would be on the next flight.

The “next flight” came and went.

He tried in vain to contact the relevant company personnel only to be disconnected or excused away. A week or so later, when he spoke to someone whose responsibility was to deal with missing luggage the weary inquirer was told the security or finding of the bag was the sole duty of the person who was working at the time of his wife’s flight.

Mr Rutherford also feels belittled as a person because he claims that Guyana is the only place where he sees passengers traveling with Caribbean Airlines are packed like sardines in an office to make their appointments and bookings. In the small space, there is no privacy and whatever is said becomes public knowledge to anyone in the room at the time.

The above passenger experiences are definitely not good and it places the ball squarely in the court of Caribbean Airlines.  One would hope that they don’t try to fly the skies as though they alone own it and the value customers get from their service is unimportant.

 But I think my biggest alarm with Caribbean Airlines is the F grade that the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has given the airline. It says the company has not sought accreditation; moreover, Caribbean Airlines has a poor track history of responding satisfactorily to customer complaints. The BBB indicates that sometimes the airline does not even respond to it as regards customer complaints. Most of the complaints that have been settled were settled with the help of the BBB and not through the sole efforts of Caribbean Airlines.

So, what is the probability that an environment of complacency and disregard for customer safety and satisfaction has become the norm of Caribbean Airlines and contributed to pilot error in the Guyana crash? The information outlined above does not make it hard to believe that if the officials keep shaking the tree, more will fall out than just pilot error.

Life is a cycle. We move from infancy to senescence or old age. Then it is over. Your money is also being spent in a cyclical manner. It funds your education, it purchases your immediate wants and needs such as food. It also is used to acquire some luxurious commodities such as a vehicle, your own home or an expensive wedding. Then, it is over. Just as there was a time when your first started earning money, there will also be a time when you  will collect your last paycheck.

My question to you is this: At whatever time you cease to have a regular income, will you be satisfied when you look back that your money was used in the way that YOU really wanted it to be used?

Several months ago I saw a television commercial that had the slogan, “It’s my money and I want it now!” That, as amusing as it may have been developed to be, contains definite sense and is worthy of examination. There are hundreds of things competing for the consumer’s dollar. In our societies, roles and status expectations seemingly drive persons to spend their money on commonly accepted commodities.  After graduating from formal schooling, most persons get busy acquiring  land and house, a vehicle and a family. These are all good and commendable.

But are you consciously making the decision to buy these things because that is what you really want to do, or are you spending on those commodities because it is the norm in your society and you figure you are expected to get those things? The important thing about consumer  spending is that the money is spent the way the consumer wants to spend it. The highly competitive marketing world of consumerism today sees business entities going all out to convince you to buy what you may not really need.

The businesses have already set out their marketing objectives and strategies to do their best to relieve you of your  money. Don’t be fooled. No thriving company exists  where the owners and employers just put on their clothes and go into town to open the business and sit and watch to see if anybody will come in on the business day to buy something.

Yet, most of us consumers walk into the commercial centres with money in our pockets and no plans or objectives whatsoever in our heads as to what we are going to buy, why we are going to buy it, how much we are going to buy it for and what we are going to get from buying it.

I am seeing on the international scene that just spending as a sign of having money that can’t run out is no longer guaranteeing a secure financial future. The US economy, the largest in the world, had to have hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out its banks and businesses. Within the last few days the world has watched with nail-biting nervousness as America struggled with raising its debt limit.

We all have had the idea of America as the land flowing with milk and honey. Money to infinity. Now,  America has borrowed all that it can. It has literally used up all its credit. And most of us working people use America as the standard of what success is. I hope we are learning that spending like there is no tomorrow, or spending just because you have it, isn’t necessarily in your best financial interest.

Because of the financial complications of wanton spending in times past our consumer price index is on the rise; inflation seems to be getting healthier each business day. The consumer’s spending power is quickly diminishing. It is amazing that when you break a $100 before you know it, you have like a few dollars remaining. And we have developed a lifestyle that is dependent on a lot of luxuries and imported commodities or services. The production costs of supplying these products, coupled with the speculators call on their “futures” are quickly pushing many of these items out of reach of the average consumer.

By the way things are shaping up, just now the average consumer will be the poor consumer. The basic items such as LPG gas, grocery, electricity, public transportation and communication seem to be on board the space shuttle en route to another galaxy.

And many  people who are working or are the middle class are having a hard time making ends meet; in fact, the middle seems to be dropping out as we try to make the ends meet.

It is important now that each consumer takes charge of his or her personal spending. Write down some short-term and some long-term goals that you want your money to accomplish. No longer should you just get the hire purchase, the credit card, the quick cash or the loans just because the financial institutions or the business place appeal to your desire to spend. Remember, at the end of your life you will want to look back and know that you have not just worked for the creditors or to put money into the business owner’s pockets.

Decide not to buy anything on impulse anymore. Do not leave home without a specific shopping list. Find simple ways of reusing or extending the use of products that you have. Focus on savings. I shall always remember a friend I acquired in Grenada who said that when he started working as a young adult, his monthly income was $30  but his rent was $25. He deposited each month into his savings an average of 5 or ten cents. Today, years later, he owns several properties, antique vehicles, and he travels to Canada every month to see his wife and child.

As a consumer, all of us have to learn the discipline of giving up certain things we can enjoy today in order to achieve future goals. It is the classic case of now or later. Our society constantly shoves  instant gratification down our throats. I want to urge you, however, to move from instant gratification to delayed gratification. The future you will thank you for it.

I am saddened when I hear public servants and others who worked long and hard complain that they are not getting their retirement monies or that the roof of their house now needs repair. The roof is the most expensive part of the house. That means the life money done. I don’t think the current labour force hears from our current retirees about how they are able or not able to continue their standard of living.

Another concern you should have is that population growth means that your pension and gratuity have to be spread among more persons: “more mouths to feed.” You must begin to think of making your money work for you, not just you working for money. Also, start familiarizing yourself with producer goods–not just consumer goods. You see, consumer goods generally end up being an expense. For example, I am realizing now that given my circumstances, keeping a vehicle is not in my financial profitability. While a vehicle is a great time convenience, the recurring costs of insurance, increasing licenses, servicing costs, the unending potholes across the country and the single road network are all things I can do well without right now. Oooh-la-la-la-la, don’t even talk about the rising price of gasoline. Right now we are paying over $15 a gallon!

That is a decision made as I determine my own financial goals in the long and short-term, preparing to invest in producer goods–items that make back money–I will have ample opportunities to buy another vehicle be it in this country or abroad, where even wider, straighter, smoother and a more comprehensive road network exists.

Similarly, you must be the one to determine how your money is to be spent. Do not allow the common spending pattern to spend your money for you. Do not be intimidated. Sure, you might be somewhat inconvenienced now, but in the future the tables will turn.

Start taking charge of your finances today. Chart your own course. Not because your neighbours have a good house means that you must buy a house. There might be other factors to consider. I recall a doctor saying to me that he built his huge house to reflect a “doctor’s image”; however, he and his wife and two children are not enough to fill the house. Soon his children will be on their own. And of course, the mortgage payments leave precious little from their salaries.

Whatever you spend you money on, be sure it is what you really want to do. And if you are not sure what to spend money on–save  your money.

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