Archive for January, 2011

What Can We affect?

I/we can’t affect the Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, other communities than my own. I/we can only vote and write to affect American foreign policy, our own. That is extremely limited. I/we can’t really affect the decisions of publicly traded corporations, even less so for privately held large corporations.

There are things that I can definitively affect, even “control”.

I can determine much of my personal and family life.  I am responsible for my personal relationships, and can make good ones.  I have limited financial resources, so as much as I would like to retrofit my home to reduce energy consumption by 75%, I don’t have the money to do so. I can earn income though, save, and invest it in personal energy improvements if that seems best, or elsewhere.

I can cooperate with friends, neighbors, formally and informally, to meet my and others’ needs more efficiently and become more connected to neighborhood and community.

I can start enterprise with the available capital that I do have. If I have a good idea, a real one, I can attempt to gather capital from friends, colleagues, even strangers to form enterprises that do make substantive changes in social life.

I can participate in governance, serving on town boards, say to influence zoning, or public investment in energy conservation.

There are elements of public policy that I can affect by articulating a better argument, and that organizations can affect by multiplying the affect of a better argument by citizen numbers and dollars.A people united. (But, I always encounter some difference between my views and organizations’.)

It is possible to affect a sustainable society with what we have at our legal disposal.

We have to be serious about it, value our own work, not be wasteful with time or money, attentive to social relationships, making room for others’ participation, open to address contradictions in our own reasoning.

Through prayer, I’ve started to learn the importance of trust, specifically trusting my own needs and desires, as a means to trusting others’, and to articulating actual intentional change that addresses current and anticipated stresses.

I’m learning the importance of doing rather than thinking. Its a different reference for me, what I/we’ve accomplished, in contrast to what I’ve written, said, thought. But, it is important. Wishing is NOT ENOUGH.

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Growing Up?

I’ve been surprised that even at 56 years old, I can change, learn things, even fairly fundamentally change important things in my life. And, I’ve been made aware that the things that I have learned, I have to reinforce to continue to be functional.

I like it. Just dreaming is over.

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Money is a medium of exchange. It applies to those things or services or time, that we declare are economic goods. (Economic goods are goods or services that are exchanged, have monetary exchange value.)

If we share in families, or between neighbors and friends, money doesn’t need come into it. After we build passive solar homes and photovoltaic electric cells on our roofs, the free income from sunlight doesn’t come into it.

Value addition and economic value is only computed (even in most of our own measurement) by what we exchange, what we transfer value for, to and from.

Money is always definable as providing purchasing power within a specific social scale. In the world at large, currencies are legal tender, meaning that any exchange legally must be settleable in the national currency of the jurisdiction. So, for example, even in small towns in the US, exchanges must be settleable in dollars.

Money supply that does not easily flow into a community, does not function as money in that community. For example, if within a community, there are people with skills, people with resources or land, but the outflows of dollars from the community exceed the inflows, and to the extent that there is very limited disposable assets, then dollars in that community no longer function as a medium of exchange. There is just no blood circulating through that community. No oxygen getting to cells, no disposal of waste.

For those communities, regional or local currencies are practical additions. They do not facilitate trade between the  regions unless there is some dependable conversion into dollars. (Inter-regional trade)

They do facilitate value-adding trade within the community. (Intra-regional exchange) They constitute debt for the individuals that receive local currency.

Many local currencies have hindered their ability to introduce currency into their communities by requiring conversion from dollars rather than loaning it into the community in exchange for some future redemption. Restricting local currencies to direct conversion from dollars defeats the purpose of a local currency (to facilitate a currently unavailable medium of exchange), and only rewards those that already have sufficient conventional income to not need a local currency.

There are three alternatives for the infusion of a local currency.

1. Exchange for dollars or other marketable commodities

2. Issuance of loans to recipients of local currencies – redeemable in the local currency or others commodities

3. Free issuance

Free issuance is substantiable by free ecological income (sunlight and other ecological services). But, it usually involves some confusion as to the “right” to a share of ecological income. Most local currencies require some future obligation (debt) or exchange for dollars.

One creative local currency that I was part of, issued currency to individuals in exchange for promise to provide services. Each individual would commit to their specific service offering, declare it, and the unredeemed promises were held in the organization’s safe.  So, for example, a massage therapist received V$150 (Valley dollars) for the promise to provide 2 hours of massage.

They could then spend the V$150 where they chose (among those that accepted V$). If they accumulated more V$ than they wanted to retain, they could either redeem the V$ for the centrally banked promised services or $.50 for every V$. (All participants agreed to accept V$ on parity with $ that they charged, and  for at least 10% of any goods or services.)

There was the possibility that no one would want the services offered, or that people would leave the community, but that was a risk that we were willing to take. We accepted that a portion of the service debts would be bad debts, that the community would have to absorb in some inflationary manner.

SO SO much of our trade now is inter-regional rather than intra-regional, that local and regional currencies have limited practicality, and often end up as a failure to facilitate “blood flow” as much as a help.

Money is an economy’s blood. It is only useful if it circulates, and if ALL (literally ALL) individuals and entities have disposable money.

It is better socially that it is spent, than hoarded.


Many conceive of money as “congealed time”. Meaning, that if it takes 30 hours of work to meet all of one’s physical and other needs at minimum compensation within a community, then money is worth the time that it frees.

Individuals have around 85 disposable hours during the week to work or do things with. (12 hours/day * 7 = 84). Free time, with good things to use it for, and ability to use it (disposable wealth), is one compelling measure of a successful economy.

It is a more informative measure than income, as in some locales even at $200,000/year income, minimum necessities cost 60 hours/week, while in other locales at $40,000/year income, minimum necessities cost 30 hours.

But, any accumulated free hours are only useful if you stay there. NY free hours translate into MANY Greenfield free hours.

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Money is a thing, an asset, and it is more personal than that.

One of the exercises that I conduct in my sustainable personal financial planning workshops is to identify to the extent possible, all of the materials and work that went into two products.

One product we look at as a group. The second is each participant’s homework assignment to find out for themselves.

We look at where the material comes from and where work was done, who did it and what their work experience was like (to the best of our imagination).

We estimate the proportional cost of each process, where value-addition occurs on the value chain (materials, assembly, transportation, warehousing, transportation, retailing).

And, we thank every individual person that we can identify that was part of that value chain.

Finally, we inquire as to the nature of our spending. What is it?

My conclusion is that it is thanking all in the value chain for their effort. I do a very quick (and sporadic) ritual with my imagination of investing my thanks into the money (coin, paper, or electronic) that I am spending.

It won’t get back to the persons, but maybe my little shift in attitude will change something in the world, even if my thanks ends up as a river that never makes it to the ocean.

How does that relate to Personal Financial Planning? Try it.

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