A Money Coach in Canada

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IMG_8600 Virginia Slims ad: We've come a long way, baby

I love Madmen. But man, do I hope those days are gone for good: the women-doing-the-typing thing, the drinking, the smoking and yes, that kinda marketing. The marketing whose goal first and foremost (and often, only) is to increase sales even if those sales are killing people (directly or indirectly).

I hear there was a mild brouhaha at this years Barcamp in Vancouver. I can imagine it, a bit — I still remember when twitter went mainstream and the sense of despair that this space for open, real conversation between people with a point of view but without something to sell, was now going to turn into one more friggin’ “channel”. Some people can get pretty twitchy about these things (and sometimes, I can too).

Don’t get me wrong – I just paid for a whole bunch of radio advertising, so I don’t have a hate-on for marketing per se. But I hope it transforms from the inside out.

I hope marketing transforms into a place where marketing is about listening, I mean really, listening, as much as telling. I hope it turns into a way of taking values of us ordinary joes and adapting business accordingly so that we can feel good about the companies we buy from (think: organic, free-range, non-toxic, free trade, women-friendly).

As the prescient ClueTrain Manifesto put it (excerpt only):

  • Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance.
  • Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.
  • Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.
  • Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.
  • Companies attempting to “position” themselves need to take a position. Optimally, it should relate to something their market actually cares about
  • .

Here’s hoping!

ps: for a kick-ass example of great marketing, including use of social media, just get yourself entangled with ING. They are Rocking this space is an authentic, transparent way… and helping us all become savers to boot.

Jobless Business Card

One of my favourite bloggers, Andy Whitman, is out of a job. He’s smart, articulate, educated and has nearly 30 years of corporate experience. Recently he made it to the interview stage where he discovered he was one in five hundred (500) (500!) applicants. And the work was for only 6 months. Holy Smokes, eh?

Here’s what he wrote:
I have far less money than I used to have. It is almost impossible to find a job. And the things that used to matter in terms of stability and planning for the future don’t seem to matter at all.

Here’s the way it used to work: Go to school. Stay in school a long time. Pile up some degrees because historically the more degrees you pile up, the more money you will earn in your career. Then go to work. Make a couple strategic career changes along the way to bolster your earning potential. Sock some savings away every paycheck, and watch with wonder, year after year, as the cumulative effects of time and compound interest work their magic. Retire at 60, or, if, hard pressed, at 65, and enjoy your golden years in a gated community on a golf course.

I belong to the last generation that bought into this bullshit. The kids know better. It actually worked out, more or less, for the one or two generations ahead of me, and I suspect us Boomers just assumed that this was the way it would always work. But the great unspoken outcome of this recession is not just that the profligate and over-extended have lost their shirts, but that the fiscally conservative — those who have played the game by the rules — have as well. What has happened is that we have now lost most of that savings that had been piling up paycheck by paycheck, decade after decade. When the stock market tanks, the more you have, the more you have to lose. This is an incontrovertible law of the universe, like Banks Cannot Go Out Of Business and Anybody Can Write, So What The Hell Is A Professional Communicator?

I and my piled-up degrees and my 28 years of corporate experience interviewed for a job last week. The hiring manager told me that he had received more than 500 resumes for the position. It is almost miraculous that I was granted a face-to-face interview. But here’s the kicker. If, by some equally improbable miracle I am actually offered the job, I will be able to work for 6 months. That assumes that the corporate budget doesn’t get tweaked in the meantime. Then I get to start the process all over again, 1 vs. 500. And I hate the very terms of the engagement. These people are not my enemies. I know some of them. They are my friends. They are as qualified to work as I am, and just as deserving.

The American Dream? Psssst, here’s a secret: it’s a Nightmare. It doesn’t work anymore because nobody works.

He continues the blog post with some soul-searching thoughts and more optimism than the paragraphs above.

But it sure gave me pause. As a Gen X, I’ve never expected the cozy life-track he describes above, but still, I hate to think we have to learn to scrap for jobs among 500.

Currently, I have a stable job with a good income and a pension plan (for reals). I own some real estate. And I anticipate money coaching income once I kick-start Your Money by Design again in the new year. But I’ve certainly known very shaky financial times. And I hold what I currently enjoy lightly — if the US goes down, we will hurt up here in Canada. A Lot.

I hope it doesn’t ever come to that.

Meantime, if you know someone seeking a a tech writer, or arts (music) writer, spread the word about this fellow OK?

Madoff - what it means for you

Back in the day, and by that I mean when the Romans occupied Israel, there was fraud the likes of which would do Madoff proud. So Jesus, perhaps alluding to a current event, told this story which has baffled many good christians. It seemingly flies in the face of what Jesus stood for. It goes pretty much like this:

A man, let’s call him Jack The Fraudster, was in charge of a Wealthy Man’s possessions (somewhat like a financial planner, I suppose). He had climbed his way through the ranks of the household staff and over time paid certain staff favours in exchange for them turning a blind eye to various peculiarities. This really pissed off the honest staff who found themselves unable to climb the ranks unless they colluded with Jack. Finally a few were mad enough that they approached Labour Relations in HR who waffled for years because they didn’t have any real power and besides some of them were in on it … but eventually the rumours reached Wealthy Man who ordered an investigation. The findings were troubling to say the least.

So Wealthy Man hauls in Jack the Fraudster, whom he’d trusted with pretty much everything, and confronts him. Jack the Fraudster is nothing if not weaselly and manages not to get sent to prison on the spot, but he is sent packing. Because Wealthy Man didn’t heed HR’s sound advice, Jack the Fraudster was allowed to personally clean out his desk. He did so, taking along his stewards Seal.

Jack knew as soon as word got out he’d never find employment as a steward again. He also knew he had no other particularly useful skills. He was screwed for life. Unless…. unless …

Unless he committed one last grand act of fraud which would gain him serious favours with some up-and-coming people and at the same time might, just might, appease Wealthy Man enough to have him shut the you-know-what up about his bad behaviour.

This is what he did. He went tearing around to all the up-and-coming people who owed Wealthy Man things like hundreds of jugs of olive oil, or cattle, or exotic spices. And he offered them pretty much a receivership deal: If they would pay just half of what they owed, he’s stamp (with the Seal) the records as being Paid In Full.

This accomplished 2 things:
1. Up-and-coming people owed him, big time. He’d be welcome at their homes for extended couch-surfing stints.
2. Wealthy Man, who probably assumed he’d never recoup his losses, got at least half of what he was owed instead of having to write it all off.

Wealthy Man had to hand it to him. In fact he chuckled about it at many a dinner party. (By the way, you didn’t think Wealthy Man became Wealthy Man by playing clean, did you?)

Here’s where things go sideways. We all expect Jesus to say, “Don’t do that!” but instead, he says, “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.”
Here’s my take. First, there’s just no way, no way, he is encouraging his followers to commit fraud. But I think he is acknowledging that Jack The Fraudster got one thing straight – he knew that finding himself a home was the #1 thing to be concerned about, and Jesus is acknowledging that it was really savvy to use all things at his disposal, things of much less personal significance (no kidding), to secure a future home for himself.

So for us, religious or not, the message could be something like: Get Clear on what’s of supreme importance to you. The things that make life worth living. Home. Family. Friends. People. and Get Clear on what is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. Make sure what is inconsequential is serving the purpose of what is of supreme importance. A bit no-brainer, yet we always seem to need the reminder. I certainly do.

I’m no theologian. But that’s my take wearing my money-coaching lens.

Disclaimer: I am not NDP. I am Green. But this was a great opportunity to meet some dedicated politicians in a small setting compared to whatever I’d experience “down south”. Besides, I really do believe that Loving My Neighbour As Myself is truly what all of us in my faith tradition are called to (and none of us do very well, esp. me) and NDP tries, more than other parties, to live into this.
There’s about 100 northerners here at the Tree of Peace.

7:08 pm
Couple local MLAs here (me: mildly dubious)

Prayer said by a dene man (I didn’t catch his name, sorry).

Jack, Dennis Bevington (MP), Olivia Chow here, introduced by Mark Hyack (sp?). Layton looking well – quite serene, frankly.

Jack now up. Referring to being at the top of the Nahanni falls (on my bucket list). Talking about the word Majesty. Segues into mention of Climate Change in the north.

Inuvialuit need to be part of process of northern development. Need to have a voice. Discussion must include them, not focus sole-ly on non-northern firms exploiting the vast resources in the north.

Now referring to courage and alluding to Tommy Douglas.

Layton questions Military as ways to prove Canada’s sovereignty. He says instead: support communities of the North. (OK, I totally agree on this one).

This means we must have a different relationship with the original inhabitants up here – nation to nation, eye to eye with First Nations. (again, I agree)

The recent apology needs to be accepted. At one point, the gov was not going to let the First Nations on the floor of the House to accept it. (pointed out by Bill Erasmus to Jack Layton at the time). Further, must put action.

Now moving on to affordable housing.

and moved swiftly to a call for a Pharmacare strategy.

He’s now pointing out Harper’s strategies and refuting them (eg. buying $16B of the world’s most advanced fighter jets. anyone know if that’s true?)

Now he’s asking for thoughts of the audience: What should the NDP be focussing on?

Q: drives man nuts how Ottawa has one-size-fits-all re: electricity rates. (CEO of dene first nation of yellowknife)
Q: local colour – man who previously had been on Jack Layton’s roof protesting or something – will die without seeing his children because of Bill C422. Will you go back to Ottawa and call for a revote (? missed that).
Q: Pembina Institute rep asking: unconventional energy – review of policies – how was it received by the Federal Gov’t?

Layton’s responses:

A to Q2 – we want all parents to have access to kids, but not sure what Bill C422 specifies. Will talk personally after. But we hear your pain while dealing with the system.
A to Q2 – one-size-fits-all = huge problem in Ottawa. 22¢ per kilowat/w in a cold place is indeed painful. We’ve said we should have nat’l strategy to retrofit homes to be more energy efficient.
Layton was the brunt of Rick Mercer about his own home – see below 🙂

A to Q3 by Bevington: this resolution called for complete review of all policies re: unconventional oil and gas. Why? because it’s happening all around the world – recognizes regulations were inadequate. Shale gas – what happens to underground acquafirs (?) when compound forced underground to extract gas? What are the dangers to the underground eco-systems, like water? In the fall we will be pushing hard to get this resolution back on the table. (note: the deep water drilling is close to home in the north – arctic Delta – could it be the next Gulf?)

Bevington talks about the good initiatives going on re: green energy in Yellowknife (it’s true)

More Q’s:

Q1: I just asked Q tweeted to me by BigCajanMan:
@moneycoach how will they deal with the coming pension meltdown? CPP may be OK but others seem on thin ice, how do u protect the members?

Q2: could NDP cooperate with other parties for the”greater good” of ousting Conservatives? (readers: don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just repeating!)

A to 2: that’s exactly what we attempted, and I played a significant role in trying to make that happen. I did that because of the economic crisis we were in. I’m always ready to work with other parties. We worked with the Conservatives to put more $ into EI in exchange for not calling for an election. We worked with Liberals (I missed the example). Ultimately though it’s up to the Cdn people. They wouldn’t appreciate not running candidates in particular ridings. Our party will always try to get the best result we can.

A to 1: this was the first and most important thing we needed to work on re: budget. (I don’t know if I heard that correctly). Give the banks a little bit less, and help seniors be at or above poverty live. CPP is quite solid. Guess what it is: It’s all of us coming together and creating something we can all benefit from. We’d like ultimately to see CPP doubled (me: even I am taken aback. doubled??) Wants to put some kind of insurance in place for retirees who learn their companies never put appropriate money into their pensions, and now they are left stranded.

A to Q3: tarsands – foreign temporary workers now in Alberta to provide labour. They and their money go home. We now bring in more foreign temp workers than immigrants. That’s not right.

Bevington pointing out (in my words) that changing extraction practices to be green means more attractive to market. Alberta’s brand is now Dirty Oil Alberta because they didn’t do things right. Ppl feel guilty about what they’re creating instead of good about it.

Olivia Chow now up.

Q 1: Suzette Monteuil: What is NDPs national childcare strategy?
Q2: I used to be a citizens of France where workers have rights. On paper I have rights, but my employer’s work practices resulted in an injury and employer bullied me against raising the issue. What is your stance?
Q3: Lyda Fuller (YWCA) Has the report on the long-gun registry changed people’s minds about the long-gun registry? I have a letter signed from every single shelter across the country asking the gov’t not to reconsider the Registry.

A to Q3: this is a controversial topic. It’s really about public security. We’ve ended up with a black or white vote in Sept. (I think he tried to lay down arms and work together)
[interesting sidebar – the NDP apparently does not Whip its members into voting a particular way on an issue in the House] First time he’s heard of such a letter. Lyda doesn’t sound satisfied with answer.

A to Q2: introduced her to head of local Labour who’s also here of course.

A to Q1 by Olivia Chow – why can’t we provide non-profit, affordable care for our kids? It should not be only for-profit (profiting off caring for children = weird?). To have national strategy we would need an Act, just like we have a Health Act. The childcare options would have to be local, flexible, but the financing and standards should be enshrined in law. We know a child’s brain grows the most during the first six years of their life. There is no reason why, if we have an education system, we could not extend it slightly younger. That forms the basis of the NDP national childcare plan.

(NWT MP) Bevingon: I’m very much in favour of gun control. I grew up in the north and saw the results of poor licensing, lack of training, poor training. Those things killed a lot of people. The long-gun registry has saved lives. Spontaneous shooting not as easy.

Q1: Lydia Bardack, John Howard Society – if gov’ts had to undergo the same scrutiny and accountability the NGOs do, they wouldn’t still exist. What are we doing to promote safety for gov’t? How are we supporting victims of crime?
A1: Layton: I want to connect you with our public critic on safety, Don Davies. The conservative approach is on the american style of justice, which is moving away from typical Canadian approaches. NDP has supported minimum sentences for 3 gun crimes. Conservatives were going to cover all kinds of offences -> minimum sentences. When you’ve been in jail crammed in with 4 people (double bunking), and the likelihood of getting out of jail and becoming a taxpayer again are minimal. In some cases, this is possible. How do we support them? What if they have FAS? What if they have an addition? A mental illness? Do additional jails help? And are people who want more jail times willing to pay more taxes?

It’s 8:30pm, my battery’s at 10%, twitter is on FailWhale, and i think it’s time to close.

but — last comments by Bevington: It’s time to acknowledge the War on Drugs is an abject failure. Another option needed. Look at Mexico (ie. what’s happened there due to War on Drugs)

PS – you know what was interesting? Truly and for real, there was “civilized discourse”.

oops – maybe not – woman claiming Treaty Rights to speak despite — oh wow — she states she’s hear from Ft. Smith, standing in front of Layton (who quietly stood) and talking about her experience with crack. I think I’m gonna cry.

Remember that delicious movie, The Devil Wears Prada?  My favourite scene was the one where Miranda scorningly points out that while it may be politically correct amongst intelligentsia to dismiss fashion, at the end of the day, the colours we all select from our re-used, recycled clothing were determined months and months before by the fashionistas.   We think they don’t impact us.  But they do.  Except we end up wearing just the yucky shades of the colours they’d promoted.  I’ve had a lot more respect for the fashion industry since watching that scene!

Now that I work for government, I’m increasingly aware that government has a similar effect.  Behind the scenes (or sometimes not!) it sets policies that ultimately determine things that matter in our every day life.  Things like if tuition is affordable, if we have generous access to the internet, if more green energy options will be available, if we can book an appointment with a physician:  Or Not.

Who is in power affects us more than is readily apparent.  But it matters.  Most people will know by now about the prorogation issue. Those of us who are part of the facebook group have been challenged:  Are you just willing to click a group link?  Or will you do more?   I’ve done, and will do, more, and today, I challenge you to do the same.   Join me in putting your money where your political mouth is.

Believe minimal government is the best?  And that the government should primarily concern itself with ensuring Canada has a free market?  Give some money to the Conservatives to help them stay in power.

Believe, like me, that business is awesome, but the only good business is one that benefits people and the planet as well as makes profit? (or at bare minimum, genuinely and completely mitigates any negative impact it has on people and the planet)?  Support the Green Party.

Believe that gov’t should be more than bare bones, but rather, a coming together of middle-of-the-road Canadians, to help shape how we want to Be, as a society?  Donate to the Liberals.

Believe that the people who truly make this country work are those who day in, day out, perform the sometimes mundane tasks that create the economy in the first place?  And that we all benefit by helping people who can’t/don’t help themselves?  Donate to the NDP.

I just did.  It wasn’t anything my bank account can’t handle. But I did.  I put my money where my political mouth is.

And when you’ve done that, come back for a revisit of the fabulous Meryl Streep:

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