by Marilyn Mackenzie
Often the morning is noisy around here. After the four critters - two dogs and two cats - have had their morning pit stops and food, they're ready to wake up and play. They pretend to be enemies and chase each other around the house. Most of the noise comes from our small dog. Jake is a Chihuahua/Jack Russell Terrier mix. He's small, but I suppose he think by growling mightily it will make him appear bigger to our bigger dog. Zeus is a mix of Golden Retriever and Boxer. We think. He's just out of the puppy stage, but still in the stupid stage. I sure hope he outgrows that stupid stage.
It's not just Jake's growling I hear in the background. None of our animals are graceful. You expect cats to have some grace, but ours, when they jump down from the windowsill or from other perches where they shouldn't be - like the cable box on top of the TV - sound like elephants, not cats.
To lesson the noise of the animals playing, I usually turn on the TV. This morning, the TV is tuned to ABC.
While Regis and Kelly were on, I heard one of their guests talking about different kinds of gifts one can give, gifts that keep on earning for a child. He spoke of giving one share of stock or buying a government bond. I remember when grandparents and other elderly persons in our lives used to buy government bonds for kids. They (we) were never very appreciative of the gift when it was received, but when it matured and we could cash it in for more, we were happy.
Listening to that discussion in the background reminded me of something I heard from an economist a few months ago, when the financial mess we're in started to come to light. I believe it was when the politicians were first talking about bailing out (or giving loans to) some of the big banks.
I don't remember the name of the "expert" being interviewed, or even the station I had on, but it was probably Fox News. In the afternoons, when soap operas are on the regular networks, I often turn the TV to Fox and half listen and read and type on the computer, or work on doing dishes or some other chore.
This man said that no one is telling us that one of the best ways for Americans to start helping fix the economy would be for every man, woman and child to open a savings account. Banks need deposits so they can loan money.
I thought about that at the time, and have had some discussions about this with customer service representatives in my own bank (a credit union, actually, where there is never more than one customer at a time and one can talk).
Years ago when I was a child, my grandmother taught me that when one should pay both God and oneself first when each paycheck comes in. She reminded me that everything we have belongs to God and is on loan to us. All He asks for back - in the way of money - is 10%. She also believed that each one of us should give 10% of our time and our talents.
And Grandma said it was important to save 10% too. Both of these - the 10% for God and the 10% for your savings - were supposed to be the first things anyone did. What was left - the 80% - was what one was supposed to use for bills and food.
Back then, everyone knew that if you had to have a mortgage, it should never be more than 25% of one's income. Saving and tithing had to be easier with that in mind.
Grandma was not the only one who talked of the importance of saving. Back then, in elementary school, each child had the opportunity to have a savings account, and even the poorest of children had one. One day each month, we brought our pennies to school with our passbooks and turned them in. Some kids had checks from their parents to deposit; others had only pennies. But everyone saved something. Those pennies added up, and when there were enough, they were changed into a government bond.
When we grew up, we understood that every person/family should have at least three months, and preferably six months, of savings stashed away in case of illness or job loss.
I wonder when all of that changed. I wonder when people stopped saving and stopped encouraging children to save as well.
I suppose it was about the same time that people stopped tithing in church. I read somewhere recently that the average American now gives only 2-3% of earnings to charity.
I suppose it was when we became such impatient people, wanting to have - instantly - what our parents worked for years to have.
I suppose it was when we became a nation that lives off credit cards, a nation of greed, a nation following the example of our government and thinking that being in debt was a normal way of life.
Once upon a time, Americans saved up to buy what they didn't really need, but wanted. Once upon a time, very few people had credit cards, and if they did have them, they were used for emergencies. Once upon a time, the only credit anyone chose to have - long term - was a mortgage. And even then, most people saved up a huge chunk of money - 10% to 25% or more - to put down on a house, so that the payments were never more than one could handle.
I wonder what it would take for us to go back to those "once upon a time" days.