Hidden-nomics (4): Cleopatra

So many legends and anecdotes have enveloped the historical person that is Queen Cleopatra, and I think that what fascinates most of us are the ones that refer to her great beauty and charm– qualities that were able to get the better of not one but TWO mighty conquerors, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.

Just how beautiful was this woman? Her adversaries have referred to the leader as a genuine femme fatale who used seduction as a means of getting her way. This derogatory title, coupled with the Hollywood movies that cast beautiful women to portray her, made it very easy to make people believe that she was indeed goddess-like in appearance.

However, recent evidence shows that she was not as physically attractive as people thought. Images of the late queen imprinted on coins or reliefs show a woman with a prominent nose and a protruding chin. While one could argue that beauty standards might have changed overtime and Cleopatra could have been truly considered beauteous back then, is physical appearance enough to seduce two of the smartest, most strategizing and cunning men of her time?

Some of the more “practical-minded” readers would say to themselves that sexual prowess could’ve been the key. But bear in mind that she was with Julius Ceasar for four years and with Mark Antony for a decade… sexual satisfaction alone wouldn’t have sustained such long-lasting relationships. (Ask around, if you must!)

So, for the sake of fun, imagine for a minute or two that the ancient ruler was more plain-looking than what we have been told… What then could she possibly have possessed to catch the interest of these two powerful men? to make great warriors bend their knees before her?

Could it be the same thing that made her the leader that we know she was?  the thing that made her gain so many enemies who tried to destroy her reputation by calling her of a sl*t?

She must have been a vessel filled with something truly valuable, but at the same time intangible! While that would be what historians and aficionados call “charm”, we economists label as “human capital”. In Cleopatra’s case, a magnificent and high-yielding one.

The World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Report defines it as:

the skills and capacities that reside in people and that are put to productive use.  This resource must be invested in and leveraged efficiently in order for it to generate returns.

First of all, when it comes to the initial investment, think about it: as a princess, her health was in the hands of the best doctors, she was well-fed, fiercely protected from the smallest mosquito to other lurking dangers (be it natural or man-made), she was exquisitely clothed and guarded from cold or heat, she was sheltered in palaces and this humble servant would dare bet that she was loved and spoiled by the people who surrounded her. Thus, the physical wellbeing she gained from these attentions have made her strong, less sickly, and have allowed her brain to develop well enough to absorb the many lessons she was taught.

As one would expect, her formation and training was certainly top-level as she was well-educated in maths and sciences. She was also well-versed in politics, spoke several languages and had access to the works of the greatest thinkers, so most probably she was also well-read. All of these experiences in turn must have worked their way into her mind, encouraging her creativity.

Accordingly, when it comes to the returns on these investments,  BBC History mentions that “she was a highly intelligent woman and an astute politician, who brought prosperity and peace to a country that was bankrupt and split by civil war.” These are impressive returns for a thriving society!

Lastly, as human capital is also comprised of personality attributes, it must be mentioned that many Egyptologists agree on her having been a witty woman with a good sense of humor. Add to that the strong personality of anybody belonging to her social and economic class and you have the perfect ingredients for a woman who could easily disarm you after 2 minutes of meeting her. I rest my case.

Cleopatra might have or might not have looked like Angelina Jolie, but as looks are subjective (aside from the fact that they fade), we could be sure that she offered more than just a pretty face.

As for being a man-eating, seducing and devious tramp? nothing but venomous words from someone envious. Perhaps a man.

 

 

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Regaining momentum

The time I spent apart from the blog has been dedicated to research and meditation: research so that the future topics I’d share would be substantial and useful, and meditation, so that I could fulfill my purpose without treading on anybody’s sensitivity.

What I found out during my brief hiatus gave me many a mixed feelings. For instance, I still couldn’t sleep with the thought of the sterilized indigenous women in Peru during the ’90s. Yet at the same time, I am inspired by the forceful solidarity shown by the country’s women groups and the strength of the victims despite being abandoned by their husbands and being impoverished in the process.

I was also saddened upon realizing how many lives of Jewish people cost the preservation of Paris and its monuments during the II World War. But I am currently amazed at how the Jewish community seems to have overcome the betrayal and chose to live peacefully with the rest of the city’s inhabitants.

I am so disappointed at Aung San Suu Kyi for her non-reaction to the Rohingya persecution in Burma, but I am hopeful that the refugees could soon build a new life in a new place where they will be respected and accepted regardless of their religion and beliefs. What’s more, I have faith that the effect on the following generations may be the emergence of more open-minded people, tolerant and willing to embrace diversity.

I am frustrated at the  Philippine Government where the current president Rodrigo Duterte is proving only to be a different Chief of State (not PNoy Aquino, not Erap Estrada, not Gloria Arroyo, and so forth), but is not really intent on constructing a different society. His actions divide the country instead of uniting it, he is a classic populist who has to resort to creating an enemy so he could stay relevant, and his supporters seem like blind, rabid dogs who are unable to objectively evaluate his actions. But all these have given me the chance to prove once again how resilient the Filipinos are. It just makes me wonder at what point a genuine revolution would take place, not to repeat historical patterns of dirty politics, but to really bring about change that would benefit the people.

I am flabbergasted by the Catalonian situation and quite worried about the future of Spain, the country that has hosted me for almost half my lifetime and who has given me what I have now. I’m sorry but I’m still on the process of thinking what good this is doing or bringing to me, personally. It still hasn’t occurred to me as of the moment. People are currently stressed, the uncertainty is depressing a lot of them, and logic seemed to have disappeared from the minds of the separatists. It’s heart breaking… it’s like seeing one of your siblings disowning your family and not wanting anything to do with you anymore.

Other news have had the opposite effect: making me happy at first, and then at least pensive after some time. Like the time I read that the Philippines will send a candidate to the Reina Hispanoamericana beauty contest. I was happy to think that finally, my country’s common history with other former Spanish colonies is being recognized. I’ve always believed that Philippine schools should at least incorporate 4 hours in the Philippine History curriculum talking about the many parallelisms between us and the Latin American countries. But then I asked myself: beauty pageant? Really?

Feminism and gender equality are on the rise, much more than in the past thanks to social media awareness along the entertainment industry’s efforts to boost such awareness.  And this thought made me so happy I slept really well for weeks. That was until I started to keenly observe how some feminists keep on imposing their beliefs on their fellow women. I thought that the basis of this movement was empathy? This made me feel disillusioned (and  made me decide to not be a feminist but be a humanist instead).

I’m glad that Trump is so dumb, he can’t actually help but show his true, stinking colors reacting the way he did about the plea for help coming from San Juan’s (Puerto Rico) mayor. I’m glad that people (especially his voters) are having a chance to see it for themselves. But I am mad at how many vulnerable people (babies and children, old men and women, the sick and handicapped, etc) are suffering more than they should because of this person’s uselessness. And I also realized that most of his supporters would just be blind apologetics anyway…

At this moment I’m so overwhelmed, I can’t even classify my feelings towards the oppressed Venezuelans, our Muslim brothers who thirst for peace as much as we do, the victims of the Mexican earthquake, the online bashing received by the infanta Leonor because of her taste in books (or something to that effect), people doubting about Karl Marx’s relevance to modern economics, the absurd fragility of the coming generation, why nobody (read: developed country, most probably European) is taking responsibility of how f*cked up Africa is, how come the worst judges of women are her fellow women, the beautiful but complex rainbow that is gender, how people claiming to be Communists could live in a capitalist society (how do communists live in Madrid, Spain, for example?), and finally and building on that, how come so many people defend neoliberalism yet they can’t find any artist to sing about what they fight for (this one I read in Facebook)…

These are just few of the topics that keep me up at night. What about you, dear reader? Would you like to share what you’ve been up to lately, and what tickles your mind these days?

– The end –

Despite a huge technical setback (a broken computer), I do hope to regain momentum and be back in the blogging sphere. Thank you for understanding. I missed this, too. 

Conversation 2: Questions Regarding the Union of European Nations (Part 2)

Disclaimer: the contents featured in the following conversations do not necessarily reflect the author’s opinion.

Two winters ago, overheard in a café somewhere in the north…

Daughter in law (D): I can’t believe those beggars (shakes head). How can they can stomach using their own children to beg for money even during cold, winter months? The parents should be reprimanded, and the children be taken to foster care. And if they don’t want it, then they should go look for jobs.

Mother in law (M): I know. Most of them are Romanians or Bulgarians. Worse is, they form groups of 3 or 4 and pick pockets! I don’t want them here.

D: You know that’s not a politically-correct thing to say, right?

M: I don’t care. They shouldn’t be here. Mind you, I’m talking about the beggars and the pick pockets. Those who are working should stay. But the rest should be deported. They don’t contribute to anything here.

D: Still…

M: No, you listen to me. My friends and I always see a beggar at the entrance of a supermarket back home. She’s there everyday from morning until past midday. So one day, one of my friends offered her to work as a domestic aid. Guess what she answered?

D: Obviously she said she didn’t want to.

M: Exactly! the nerve! I felt really indignant. I wasn’t able to help myself so I told her, “Oh, so you must really be more comfortable begging, rather than exerting extra effort and getting a job, huh?”. She stared at me and I had to keep on walking. I was so mad.

D: I wonder why they don’t want to work. I mean, even if we conclude that it’s more comfortable to just stretch out your arms for people to drop coins in your hands… a job is still more stable, not to say secure choice for the person and his or her family.

M: Me? I wonder why they don’t just beg in their own countries. Romania and Bulgaria are already part of the European Union. They are already receiving funds to develop their economies and to subsidize low-income people. Why would they choose to come here when they could easily stay at their homes and receive government aid? Much like the people in this country, who refuse to be under-employed because their lives are more comfortable in their houses while they receive unemployment allowance…

D: Well, if you put it that way… if they chose to come here despite of what you just pointed out, then the easy answer would be that, the funds don’t reach to where they should. That is to say, those who manage the funds must be pocketing it for themselves.

M: Isn’t a clean, transparent governance part of the requisites to be an EU member?

D: Yes, but the markets promised by those countries are far more important for the Union. You know? so certain countries are more or less assured of having people buy their goods.

M: … (makes a face)

D: So, are we ordering more coffee or what?

*-*

It was the beginning of summer 2016 and four friends were riding the InterRail en route to Brussels…

Friend 1 (1): What just happened yesterday?

Friend 2 (2): Oh f*ck, the Brits voted Brexit, that’s what happened! silly fools…

Friend 3 (3): Tell that to them. I’m sure they feel even superior, if possible.

Friend 4 (4): Oooookay, no need to insult or cause any offense to anyone…!

2: As much as I respect you, I must say, your people are crazy, guillible, a**holes! Ha-ha! I’m sorry, I’ve never been this entertained since last year’s Eurovision…

4: Well, in the defense of my people, I should say, “We know what we’re doing”. But really, I don’t think we do. So yeah, you must be on to something there! Haha!

1: That’s like a big, fat slap on EU’s face, don’t you think? That’s like a really, really bad break up… no, no! It’s the promise of a very ugly divorce…

3: So much for a “union”…

(Everybody snickers)

3: I’m very curious as to how Brussels would manage this situation. I mean, how will the EU stand as a strong competition for other economic blocks when its nations appear divided?

2: You’re in a shrink’s mood today, aren’t you? Could you take a break? We’re on holidays!

4: No, no, wait… she’s right. If you look at it, the EU needs more than all the super glue it could collect to present a united, well, presentation.

1: To project, dude! to project… we’re on holidays from school, not from using our brains…!

4: Yeah, whatever…

2: Hey, the shrink might be right. Just this morning I heard from the radio about how different Northern Europe is to Southern Europe. And not just character-wise, mind you.

1: Now that you mention it, well yes, it makes sense. And wasn’t that the argument of those who were anti-single currency advocates? that basically the difference in the standards of living, reflected in prices, could do more harm than good for those entering in the single currency zone?

3: Actually I wanted to point out the difference between the left-wing Europeans and the right-wing ones. You know, those who want to steer the Union towards a Superstate versus those who aim for Federalism… It’s not enough that all politicians and decision-makers want a better Europe for the Europeans. They have to map out how to achieve that.

2: Yes, we know. The spenders versus the austere ones.

3: Well, you have to spend SOMETHING to guarantee a minimum, decent quality of life for the citizens!

1: Or you could save up for the rainy days…

3: BUT WE ARE IN THE RAINY DAYS!

4: Yeah, well, you can aaaall relax, as there’s no point in arguing. The left-wingers would soon be outnumbered anyway, if not banished from Brussels…

3. So basically you’re saying that we’ll be better off scratching our balls?

4. Or scratching it for each other, if you’re so bent over helping your fellowman.

2: Heeey! I’m the tactless brute of the group! Don’t take that away from me!

*-*

Early autumn last year, an uncle and nephew take a walk in a park…

Nephew (N): I’m really excited! Soon I’ll be living in a different country, with an interesting job… even if the pay’s not the best, at least I get to have this experience.

Uncle (U): Good for you. I hope you meet a nice girl and settle down.

N: I’m not going there to find a bride! But I heard the women are pretty over there…

U: Yes they are. So don’t get married, just hook up with as much girls as possible. He he!

N: (Blushes) Anyway, I feel kind of sad, though.

U: Well, homesickness is normal. But I guess your mother would visit you every month so no need to be sad about missing her! (snorts)

N: No, I feel sad because all through my student life, I was a scholar. All my school expenses were paid for by the government. And now, the thought of “serving” another country makes me feel bad for ours. I really wanted to give back.

U: Hm…

N: Anyway, one thing is to feel bad because of that. Another is to feel awful when I realized that only capital and goods can truly freely move around EU. Movement of labor is still very much restricted.

U: I’m listening.

N: This system is giving young people like me very few choices. Either stay in your country and be bored out of your wits as you’ll be unemployed. Or, go find a job somewhere else in the EU, where you’ll have a theoretical “advantage” above applicants from countries outside of it.

U: There’s the choice of working outside the EU.

N: Yes, but the point is to be closer to home.

U: Okay. Go on. Why do you say the movemet of labor is restricted?

N: For starters, I met recruiters who prioritize candidates from local universities. WHY? Anybody could be just as good as their locally-produced graduates.

U: What else?

N: I heard that I won’t be receiving my social security card for sure at least 6 months. So whatever health expenses I would have during the waiting period, I’d have to shoulder myself. Why? I mean, I can understand if it’s a month, if they want to wait for my tax. But 6 months? I’m an EU citizen!

U: Hmp!

N: I mean, sure, they’d reimburse me for the expenses but it wouldn’t be automatic, I’ll have to wait for some weeks. I really don’t understand. All this would simply discourage foreigners to work in their country. Meh… but, wouldn’t it be more enriching if labor markets were more open?

U: Enriching for some, not all. Especially not for the politicians.

N: Are you changing the subject again because you want to talk about politics and complain about that long-haired guy?

U: Listen. Whenever there’s an initiative or a feasible idea which is good for the general population but is not being implemented, that is because the politicians wouldn’t get anything from it. Think. What would garner more votes? a promise to open up the labor market and toughen the competition for all job applicants? or perhaps a promise to protect and prioritize national workers against “invaders”, threatening to “flood” the labor market with their offer of “cheaper” salaries?

N: Hm…

U: Believe me, if you were a citizen of your future new home, you’d be offered a permanent contract. But you’re not, I mean, you can’t influence elections over there. You mean nothing to the political class.

N: Oh well! I guess the good news is that I could be returning home soon, huh?

U: Not if you find a girl to marry, you won’t! (winks)

-The end-

Click here to read Part 1 and here to read Conversation 1.

What do Motherhood, Women’s Issues and International Cooperation on Development have in common?

While the smarter lot of you mentally ennumerate the common denominator of these three most important aspects of my life, let me get ahead and share what’s on my mind: MEDDLERS. I’m thinking about meddlers.

1. Motherhood and meddlers

I’ve only been a mother for 20 months, and one thing I can tell you for sure is that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to the same problem suffered by babies and mothers. Despite of this fact, there are those who still insist on imposing their beliefs, recipes and answers on other people.

Generally, I’ve observed that mothers are usually open to suggestions. Yet, I can’t help but notice the initial reactions to an advice they reject: insistence, further display of proof on the recommendation’s effectiveness, openly unfair judgement and finally, criticism. Surely, one should not have to go through all these just because they decide not to follow an advice. As for the “well-meaning” purveyors of knowledge… don’t they understand the fact that each of us is molded by our particular circumstances, pasts, beliefs and aspirations? Therefore, the solutions or remedies we end up choosing are adapted to our unique situation.

I always wonder whether “wanting the best” for the mother and the baby is the real reason why some people really force their opinion on others. The way I see it, if somebody truly desires the best for the other, then there must first be comprehension: of the problem, of the context and most importantly, of the diversity. This would allow for a better flow of communication. This would facilitate the process of achieving that “best” for the person in need.

In my short experience in motherhood, I learned that happy babies (a common goal for parents) result from being well-fed, well-rested and being around happy caretakers. Equally important is the confidence with which their caretakers do their jobs: if the caretaker is relaxed, the baby is most probably also going to be relaxed. So basically for me, what would really help mothers taking care of a baby is to feel empowered, to have self-confidence and be convinced that they’re doing a good job in raising a human being. The rest can be learned from books and online fora.

I’m lucky to be living where I am, to have resources that I could tap and people who truly support me. This period of my life would be much tougher otherwise.

2. Women’s Issues: when the champions become the meddlers

Currently, I find that that the foundation of women’s rights movement from the past has been eroded in time. I’m talking about solidarity and compassion. These two characteristics are strongly present in the feminine and have fueled the fight for women’s freedom and equality (equity) with men. Lately I’ve been noticing though, that a lot of arguments supporting the advancement of women’s rights sound more of a modern-day colonization than a genuine concern for our sisters’ well-being and progress. By “wanting the best” for all of us women, the very champions for our rights and development are forgetting that even though women may have the same basic needs and rights, the manner of procuring what they need, and the way with which they exercise their rights (if ever they choose to, at all) should be delegated to them- they know better than us what it means in their own societies to advance and progress. They know better than us how they want to live their own lives.

Consider how women’s rights movements started locally, where women gathered and started the battle for a more just treatment socially, economically, and politically, to name a few. When globalization came about, it was only natural for these initiatives to be projected onto other territories, crossing the national frontiers. Even though the intention was (it still is) noble, the explanation of its necessity as well as the method of implementing it are both flawed. Flawed because I believe some activists skipped a couple of vital steps in order to practice solidarity and compassion: inquiring and then listening. One can’t help but think some simply assumed that women in Sub-Saharan Africa have the exact same concerns as the ones living in Phoenix, Arizona.

From then on, a certain type of mentality has been imposed and women who did not adhere to such beliefs were criticized and in some cases, even marginalized by those who were supposedly fighting for their sake. Ironic.

3. International Cooperation on Development: helping or meddling?

When I graduated from college, the main lesson that really stuck was: “There is not a ‘one-size-that-fits-all’ solution to the same problem experienced by two or more different groups/communities. The answer should always be adapted to the specificities of each situation. “

The goal of exerting efforts towards cooperation for international development is to redistribute resources: from those who have them to those who do not. Obviously. Easy enough to understand. Now comes the dilemma of “how” to do it.

Studies have already proven that solutions imposed by developed countries with no grassroots basis usually end up becoming a waste: of money, time, effort and natural resources. Any Developmental Economist would agree that the solutions must come from a collaborative effort between the one who’s helping and the receiving end. That’s why it’s called “cooperation”, right?

However, it has always been the donor “wanting the best”, the donor’s criteria that seemed to dominate in this field: what they believe is “just”, what they think is “effective”, and what they “know those people need”. Thankfully, times are changing and workers in international cooperation are more sensitive to this topic. More and more, the aid given to a target community takes the form of enhancing the existing, local capacities rather than imposing a foreign technique. There is still a long way to go but awareness of this issue is already a big step forward.

Conclusions

While motherhood is a relatively new event in my life, it has deepened many notions in me, and is currently opening up other aspects of my understanding that I never even thought existed. On the contrary, women and development issues have always been part of my life, having grown up in a family whose bread and butter comes from the intent to make this world a better place.

Knowing what I know, I try to believe that it is truly the sense of compassion that moves people to torturously insist on the reliability of their solutions. I try to convince myself that they simply wish to see in others the same fruitful effects of their applied techniques.

Unfortunately, no two situations are equal. So basing on this, the person receiving the advice may consider that the proposed solution doesn’t fit his situation.

In my constant need to map out methods, this idea occurred to me: within the framework of “helping”, I suggest that under the “advice” category, two sub-categories be opened in the form of advice accepted and advice rejected. Help that was given or offered doesn’t have to end in relaying an opinion and leaving it as that. A person with a real concern to help, to make a change, would see if the other would take up on his counsel or not. And in the case where it is rejected, he would try to find out why; perhaps not to annoyingly try to solve the problem, but to learn.

Advice

Learning would mean the world between the meddlers and the “legit” bearers of help. An informed person in front of another who’s in a dilemma could do more by simply listening, than one who would blindly exert an effort to achieve a change in the situation.

I encourage you to think about it.

Adulting and Money Management 4: The Money that They Owe You

 PayMe.Candle.qkx

Image courtesy of: http://www.luckymojo.com

This article is inspired by several Facebook posts pertaining to the irony that it’s the money lender who feels shame when asking their money back, instead of the other way around. Especially when it comes to following up a late payment.

At first, after a talk with one of my friends, I thought that the main problem lies in assertiveness, or the lack of it. And then I thought that perhaps certain cultures encourage assertiveness, more than others but it really is not the question. I didn’t do the numbers, but it’s clear how what I thought was a cultural aspect in lending money, is actually a very personal choice of each son of a man. That is, the choice whether to “donate” or “collect” the amount of money that was lent.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, because even before a payment could be followed-up, there must have first been a pledge to do so.

I myself have rarely lent money to anyone, perhaps because I give the impression of being riff-raff (hahaha!). But whenever I did, I made sure both parties understood and agreed that the money being exchanged was a loan, and not a gift. And in the case where the money were a gift, I also made that very clear.

Risking to state the obvious, the difference between a loan and a gift is that the former has to be returned to the money lender at a given time, with a given interest rate. The latter is simply to be graciously accepted and appreciated.

Now, the problem with some people is they are easily caught by surprise and instead of thinking twice before lending money, they immediately agree to “giving” something that is to be returned “in the future”, “without haste”. In 98% of these cases, no payback ever takes place.

In the world of adulting, taking time to think before acting is basically lesson number 1. In the more specific town of adulting and money management, this moment for reflection becomes as necessary as breathing. Every cent counts, whether it be a past, present or a future cent of a currency. As thus, lending money means sacrificing having the “cents” today with a guarantee of getting them back in the future. In the case of giving, the former sentence would end after the word “sacrificing” and that would be it.

Personally, what I usually do when asked for a loan is to:

  1. Ask how much they need
  2. How urgent they need it
  3. When can they repay me
  4. How will they procure the money to repay me

If I’m satisfied with the answers to the former questions, I tell them that I’d think about it. Afterwards, I ask myself:

  1. How will lending a certain amount of money affect my budget until it gets repaid?
  2. Will I be alright if I never get to see that money again?

If, after analyzing my own situation, I still choose to lend my money, I make the following very clear when I finally decide to go ahead with the transaction:

  1. I make sure they understand that the money has to be returned
  2. I make sure that we both agree on the date of repayment (with or without interest)
  3. I would make them understand that although I don’t need that money now (and that’s why I can lend it to them), I would need it in the future.
  4. Depending on how much I trust the borrower, I would make him sign an agreement including a clause which mentions a possible collateral

(Are you still wondering why people don’t borrow money from me?)

You might be asking: what if, at the agreed date of repayment, the borrower refuses/cannot/does not return the money?

This is where the importance of assertiveness comes in. Being firm in reclaiming what is his own actually helps achieve the goal. And in the case they still refuse to pay you, then this is where a signed document would be useful.

In some instances, no amount of assertiveness can ever get a borrower to pay up. No matter how many touching, beautiful speeches are delivered, they wouldn’t budge. Because the truth is, the list that I wrote above- it’s just me. In real life, and depending on many other factors, the things I just said would be easier said than done.

So what is best advice I could give? be wise, and before you lend an important amount of money, make sure that your finances are sound enough in case you don’t get it back.

Happy lending!

 

10 Inputs for Rookie Employees (Fresh graduates, I see you!)

As I celebrate 10 years since my first employment, please allow me, dear reader to give unsolicited advice for those who, for the first time are reveling in the wonderful world that is: the workplace.

1- Just how urgent are urgent tasks?

They are pretty urgent. However, a common rookie mistake is to be stressed because their superiors would give them five tasks that are simultaneously labelled as URGENT. The more prepared interns/fresh graduates would pause and actually ask, “Okay, but which of these is the MOST urgent?”. To which the manager would respond, “All of them are equally urgent”. This is a lie. Because even if you, little grasshopper, are a wizard of all sorts and were able to finish all the tasks punctually, your manager CAN NOT POSSIBLY revise them all at the same time.

This is why I would suggest you rather ask, “Which of all these urgent tasks would you like to revise first? Could you give me a deadline for each of them?”. This means that your manager would have to sit down for 5 minutes with you and decide, say, Task 1 should be on his desk in 1 hour, Task 2 to be submitted in 2 hours, Task 3 in 2 hours and a half, etc… And if he refuses to do this, then feel at liberty to prioritize the work yourself.

Tip from my mother: If your manager DID sit down and classify the tasks with you, remember to write him an email confirming what you just talked about. This would be your safeguard against any future “misunderstandings”.

2- Gossiping is One Train You Should Not Hop On

Avoid gossip. Even if you’re only a “listener” and not a “contributor”, do not be around people who gossip. It’s a waste of time and it only brings distraction. Besides, being a “listener” is just as bad as contributing because it means tolerating trash talk about somebody who can’t give his side of the story.

If you want something cleared up, talk to the person face to face. Also, don’t criticize anyone behind their backs unless you’re 100% sure you can repeat the same words in front of them.

Most importantly: Don’t use gossip as a weapon if you’re not sure you can take the fire.

3- Doubts Will Arise

I know 40-year olds who are still not sure what they want to do with their current lives, let alone their future. So be kind to yourself and consider that as a young person starting to explore a new world, it’s only natural to feel doubtful and undecided about things.

NEVER be afraid to take a step back and evaluate your situation. If you feel the need to go back to studying, take a sabbatical, change career directions, or whatever you feel that could make you grow, go for it.

Still, it’s absolutely important that you be clear on your purpose. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Is it for the money? for personal needs? for professional fulfillment? or for sheer curiosity? Afterwards, ask yourself again, “Would this change be able to sustain me until I get my bearings back?”

4- Is it Wise to Mix Personal and Professional Life by Making Friends at Work?

Personally, I think it matters little whether this is wise or otherwise (pun intended). Human beings are social animals so whether we like it or not, we will always be drawn to gatherings, socializing and eventually consolidating one “favorite” group of people from work. What is wise though, is to choose your work friends prudently.

In this light, think 50 times over whether it’s worth “hooking” up with an office mate. ‘Nuf said.

5- Honesty Really IS the Best Policy

Be as honest and frank as possible with your direct manager. Even if she isn’t totally honest with you, be transparent with them with whatever issue you have that might affect the quality of your work.

Your manager’s lack of “honesty” could be explained by the fact that some work-related subjects should remain only in the hands of the “upper crust”. I’m not talking about this kind of honesty. Any topic that relates directly to you or your work is a topic you have the right to know about. Similarly, your manager has the right to be informed about anything that could directly affect the accomplishment of the objectives she set for you.

In my case, I opened up to my former supervisor regarding my problem when I get hungry. You might think this is an exaggeration, but “cranky” is an understatement in this case because I would suffer a complete shut down of all my systems: I become a friend of none and an enemy to all, I make bad choices, I start remembering past offenses… try to get the idea of that kind of co-worker.

6- Drop the Delegation Drama

KNOW that it is your manager’s obligation to properly train you for whatever is written under your job description. He should know that whatever mistakes you (or anybody else under his supervision) make would directly reflect on his performance. So if he’s wise, he would adequately teach you everything you need to know to deliver a quality output. If he’s not, he would hoard all the tasks while you sit on the sidelines- that way, the deliverable would be quasi-perfect and he would not risk his attention being called.

One of my former managers was like this. I described the experience in this post.

As a newbie, it would be normal for some time to pass before some major decisions or operations are to be delegated to you. But don’t lose heart: it will come. And the first step towards that direction is to reflect the seal of excellence in every deliverable that bears your name.

7- The Value of Knowing Your Place

When you argue with your boss, LET YOUR OBJECTIVE BE TO BE HEARD and not to win/change his mind/make him side with you. While you’re at it, be as eloquent, as respectful and as precise as you can be when letting yourself be heard.

Trying to get into an argumentative battle with a superior will only leave you badly wounded and demoralized. Think about it: managers have had years and years of “training”, having had more experience in almost any type of arguments in this life. Sometimes, a smile is the best response. This way, you save time which you could use later on for whatever you wish for! PLUS, you save energy and keep your happiness.

8- Commitment Issues

It’s okay for you not to love your job. However, don’t make it an excuse to under perform.

It’s very important to leave a good impression in your job, especially if it’s the first one, and you achieve this by committing to produce the best results you possibly could.

Talking to a friend the other day, we both agreed that nothing is forever. But if we want something to last, there should be a conscious effort from our side to wake up each day and make a decision to get through the day, everyday. Work-wise, it’s the same.

In my opinion, problems could arise the moment your job starts to go against your values. A friend once told me she turned down an offer from a company that manufactures weapons for war. Another one told me that he had to leave his former company because ethically, he didn’t agree with its new strategy. When this happens, thoroughly weigh your options and be realistic about how you’re going to pay the bills and fund your dreams when a regular flow of income gets cut off.

9- Understand Your Contract

Back in France: each time I signed a new contract, an HR personnel was always beside me and ready to answer any questions I might have. Even if I took my sweet time to carefully read the 12-page document, they would patiently wait without interrupting me. They would explain anything, from something as simple as the personal tax deducted each month, to something more complex such as the legislation applicable to my situation.

Even more necessary is for you to understand your paycheck or pay stub. Keep track of your monthly expenses starting with the automatic deductions from your revenues. Don’t forget, you’re “adulting” now!

10- LET GO OF EXPECTATIONS

This final advice is the toughest one I’ve learned, because I’ve known it to be true for quite some time now.

I know it works for everyone who has tried it. However, I just wasn’t able to apply it in my own life. Now that I’ve started to do so, I’m much more fulfilled and happier than ever before.

The key to peace of mind is: not to expect anything. One thing is to bear in mind things like: scheduled meetings, DEADLINES, patterns of behavior and so on… but another thing is to be open-minded enough to ACCEPT THAT EVERYTHING IS SUSCEPTIBLE TO CHANGE. Remember, disappointments only exist because they were pre-determined by an expectation or two. So in this equation, the less we expect, the less we tend to be disappointed!

Adulting and Money Management (3.3): The Money that I Owe

Adulting and Money Management (3.3): The Money that I Owe

On How I Acquired Loans Responsibly

The first time I formally owed money was when I took on a store credit to buy a bed. I was 22 years old and just moved out of my parents’ house.

Needless to say, I was very nervous when I signed the papers. I grew up in a family where borrowing money is a big no-no and I have always been told that it could bring a lot of misery and trouble. I’ve seen families fight, children who cut all contact with parents and even friends who stopped talking to each other because of money lent and borrowed to one another. Because of all that, I was afraid to get any kind of credit and was doubtful about my ability to honor the payments. It didn’t matter that I had a one year contract at work, neither that I had 8 months to pay it off, nor the fact that there was no interest rate applied (the store had a special promotion).

Knowing what I know now, I only wish somebody could’ve told me that:

  1. at some point in life, it would be necessary for me to borrow money,
  2. there are ways to not be enslaved by loans and,
  3. it is possible to live happily with debt, if one borrowed money responsibly.

Resultado de imagen de responsible loan

Image courtesy of: http://mzansilive.co.za/

The importance of taking the time to honestly reflect

So far, no debt has financially strained me to a cracking point. I guess the reason is because I think more than twice before acquiring a loan of any kind. All the scary stories and the horrible experiences I witnessed from peers and friends have served as a starting point in each and every debt decision I’ve ever made.

I usually go by the motto, “If you can’t buy it in cash, you can’t afford it”. So whenever faced with a buying dilemma, first I evaluate the usefulness or the value of what I’m going to buy:

-How long will I use/enjoy the item?

-Will its value increase our decrease over time?

-Can I sell the item if I find it of no use to me in the future?

Secondly, I examine my current financial standing:

-Why can’t I afford it?

-Is it a problem of liquidity (availability of cash or other means of payment), or a matter of really not having enough resources to purchase the item?

-Can I perhaps save for it today and buy it in the future? Or would the item increase in price by the time I have enough money saved?

Lastly, I make sure that paying for such debt would not cause a great dent on my future quality of life. Technically, this could be achieved none other than by sitting in front of a calculator, pen and paper (or a spreadsheet) and start crunching the numbers.

When choosing a creditor, go with the one who offers the best terms of payment FOR YOU

You might ask, “How is it even possible to have a debt and live comfortably?”. It IS possible.

The first condition certainly would be to not overwhelm yourself with loans. Borrow only the amount that you are able to return.

Equally important is that this could be achieved if you invest time and effort in searching for a creditor whose terms of payments suit your situation.

Below, I’ve made a list of the most important purchases I’ve made on credit. All of them have one thing in common: I got them at 0% interest rate. This is where the time and effort came in: once I set my mind to getting something extra-special that needs a financial sacrifice (debts make you sacrifice your future purchasing capacity), I start browsing the market (virtually and physically) for different kinds of offer. Personally, I prefer to go to a physical store and talk to the salesperson. I’ve always gotten the best deals through one-on-one negotiations.

Some stores give you the option to determine how many installments (usually in months) you need to pay the credit off. In these cases, I always chose the least possible. The soonest I can get out of the debt, the better.

Past credits to stores:

  1. Bed: 8 months
  2. Thermomix: 3 months
  3. Wedding earrings: 3 months
  4. House appliances (dishwasher, refrigerator and microwave oven): 4 months

Credit card debts (payable 3 months after purchase):

  1. Plane tickets
  2. Hotel reservations

Outstanding debt:

  1. Student Loan

The role of emergency savings

It’s important for me to briefly discuss something about my outstanding debt.

As I’ve said, I don’t pay interest for this loan. So every month, a flat rate gets deducted from my bank account. This would go on until the principal amount has been paid off; and according to the terms I signed, it would still take some time before I see that day arrive. This is to say that the greatest risk I face is the suspension of my steady revenue flow before fully paying the loan; in my case, it will be unemployment.

Truth be told, I actually faced this situation not long ago. I lost my job, but luckily I was eligible to receive unemployment allowance. However that too, was a limited source of income. So when it got depleted, I had to tap my savings- my emergency savings. I had to set aside such amount that would allow for one whole year of payment for this loan while I search for a job. (I simply decided that it would take me one more year before getting back to work.)

Fortunately I am now back to having a salaried employment, and it didn’t take me one year!

Resultado de imagen de responsible debt

Image courtesy of: https://www.agingcare.com

So now, until that debt gets paid off, I consider each monthly installment just as I budget fixed household costs (ie: rent, electricity, water, food, etc…), like what my friend Edward mentioned in this post. At the same time, I exert a conscious effort to increase my savings, especially my emergency savings.

I am aware that most people’s idea of having emergency savings is for it to be used during a health crisis, a natural calamity or the death of a loved one. But emergency savings also have to cover whatever household needs there are when the regular flow of income is interrupted, or reduced.

DO NOT TAKE UP LOANS FOR THINGS YOU DON’T REALLY NEED

Half a year after having a regular job with a stable salary deposited in my bank account, I also started to receive letters from the bank informing that I have automatically secured a 3,000-Euro loan! I also got an instant approval to avail a “golden” credit card from the same bank. To top it all, my husband also got the same letters!

We just threw those in the garbage.

My husband and I could’ve enjoyed the “easy” money back then. But we decided to be frugal and live within our real means.

On Personal Loans

My attitude towards personal loans is even more strict and rigorous than with the formal ones. As far as relationships go, I try very hard not to let money get in the way. Actually, the best way to preserve a relationship is to set money matters aside. But when times get tough, to whom would one go for help? To a friend or family member, right?

In my limited experience on personal loans, I’ve always carefully chosen the people who I plan to borrow money from. They should be financially comfortable enough to lend the amount I will ask, without having to sacrifice their quality of living. They should also be people I greatly trust and who trust me equally. Additionally, I choose those who I believe are unafraid to call my attention in case I forget to pay, or give them the incorrect amount.

It’s very important to be clear that the money being passed from one person to another is eventually going to be returned the other way around. If you’re lucky to have a friend or family member who would insist that the money be a gift instead of a loan, then enjoy! Otherwise, be clear on the terms of payment: interest rate, installments, “deadline”, and so forth. Trust me, it’s not worth losing a loved one over money.

Responsible borrowing

Acquiring loans responsibly takes a lot of time and effort, just like any other “adulting” activity. Although compared with other “adulting” decisions, this will cause a direct and immediate effect on your quality of life in the near future- once the payments set in.

It would seem boring and tiresome but it’s worth thinking more than twice before deciding to take up a loan. Then once the decision has been made, it becomes even more important to take a moment to search for the most suitable creditor and to plan your new budget considering the periodic installments.

Borrowing responsibly also means being prepared for various risks that might mean having difficulty in making the payments (such as being unemployed). For this reason, it’s important to factor in an additional amount in one’s emergency savings when preparing the new budget.

One risk worth remembering is the temptation of acquiring an “easy” loan with seemingly “comfortable” terms and conditions. I have never heard of anybody live comfortably with a loan that was used for something they didn’t really need.

Lastly, responsible borrowing entails mixing personal and financial affairs the least possible. Though when inevitable, another round of reflection, research and budgeting has to be made, all in order to be able to live happily even when indebted.

Resultado de imagen de responsible borrowing

Image courtesy of: http://www.smartcampaign.org/