Rainbows on the Road

The other day, as my daughter was on her way to the car when I picked her up from daycare.  Along the way, she noticed something on the ground.  In the excited voice of a 4 year old, she said “Daddy!  Look!  A rainbow!”, and then pointed at the spot on the ground she was looking at.  As I got closer, I found that she was looking at a spot on the wet ground where some sort of oily fluid had likely leaked out of the bottom of a vehicle.  Of course, oily fluids, on wet ground tend to separate out into what you and I would probably best describe as an oil slick.  But, to my 4 year old, it was a rainbow on the ground.  As we drove off to pick up her brother at school, I began thinking about what had just happened.

The thoughts were amplified when she noticed another “rainbow” on the ground on the way into the school.  On our way back out of the school, with her brother, she excitedly called her brother over to show him what she had found.  My son is 6 (nearly 7), and so has a slightly more advanced knowledge of the world than his sister.  I fully expected, in the way that only a brother who doesn’t understand a 4 year old is likely to do, that he would quickly dismiss it for what it was, an oil slick on wet ground, and that her excitement would quickly dissipate.  Instead, as she pulled him over and pointed it out, saying “Look!”, he quickly said “A rainbow!”.  He saw it too.

Rainbows on the RoadAs parents, we’re always so excited to teach our children new things.  We’re often quick to correct them when they don’t get something right, or don’t understand it.  They saw a rainbow.  I didn’t.  All I saw was an oil slick.  Obviously, I saw the resemblance.  But, I knew what it really was, so the wonder that my children had for it was lost on me.  But, it kept me thinking.

How often do we take what we know, and use it as a filter for the world.  Surely, that’s what knowledge is for, right?  I know that 1+1=2, and that certain letters spell words, and that drops of oil on wet ground make a oil slick.  Yes, it’s colorful, but it’s an oil slick, not a rainbow.  How many times do we become so certain in our knowledge, and the filtering that we use it for, that we fail to see the rainbow?

How many people out there are so set in the knowledge that a bank is the lender, and use that to filter the idea of peer-to-peer lending as a sham, without allowing for a little of the rainbow to shine through?

The point is this: If you never question what you think you know, how will you ever know if you’re wrong?  Sometimes the formula and constants change.  Sometimes, the environment itself is what has changed.  Heck, look at the newspaper industry.  How long did they refuse to see the emergence of blogs (like this one) as a major change in the dynamic of how people get their news?  Some of them still refuse to see that rainbow.

If you do one thing to improve your personal finance today, question what you think you know.  Most of the time, you’ll still be right.  But, maybe, just maybe, you’ll see a rainbow instead.

What are some rainbows that you’ve found by questioning what you thought was true?  What methods do you use to find the rainbows in your life?

Original Image credit:Oil slick. @blackmetalbike by Growinnc, on Flickr

Are You Waiting on Your Finances to Change?

New years’ is just around the corner.  And along with it, a flood of new years’ resolutions about finances.  People around the world will make resolutions to make more money, save more money, and just improve their finances in general.  Something like 45% will fail within 6 weeks.  Within 6 months, a majority will have failed.  They’ll have failed because they’ve given up.  They’ll have given up because they didn’t take action (or enough action) to make the change that they were seeking.

In short, they are waiting on their finances to change.  Somethings are worth waiting for.  Red lights, for instance will change if you only wait long enough.  The weather, if you wait long enough is likely to change as well.  But, your finances aren’t going to change if you only wait on them to.  If you want them to change, you’ve got to make a directed effort to change them.

new years fireworks

If you’re planning on making a resolution this year, and it doesn’t have to be directly related to finances, make one additional resolution.  The resolution to make an effort to fulfill your resolutions!  Make changes, learn about the steps you need to take to get things moving in the direction you want them to go.  Stop sitting around and waiting on your finances to change for you.  You change them!

Sites like this one are chock full of information on improving your finances.  For most sites, you can easily subscribe to email updates.  Here, you can simply enter your email address in the box under “Subscribe” in the top of the sidebar and click on the “Subscribe” button.

Here’s a few posts to get you started.  (hint: you don’t have to wait until new years to start making changes to change your finances)

Got debt?  Get the debt repayment moving with a Debt Avalanche!

Once you get the debt repayment moving, you’ve got to stay gazelle intense!

Debt gone?  First, congratulations!  Now, get your money working for you.  Perhaps investing in something like a Lending Club account?

Whatever you decide to change this year, make your resolution a true resolution and keep going with it.  If you’re still going strong on it at 6 months, you’ve already done better than the majority of your resolution-making peers!

Will you be making resolutions this year?  Have you in the past?  And did you stick with them?

The Cost of Civic Duty

As this is posting, (thank you scheduler) I’ll be arriving at my local court house to perform the civic duty of jury duty.  It’s an interesting civic duty; one that’s is both afforded us if we are ever persecuted, and one that we must perform for those that are.  But, what is the cost of doing your civic duty?

Jury Duty SummonsIn the letter I received, it states that I’ll be paid $25 if my service is four hours or less and $50 if I’m there longer than $50.  I’ll also be paid $50 for each day after the first day.  My employment cannot be threatened due to serving on a jury (that’s good), but my employer doesn’t have to pay me for time spent away from work while serving on a jury.

In a very basic math sense, the cost of serving on a jury, then, is my pay for however many hours of work I miss minus the fees I’ll be paid for serving.  Different employers have different policies for jury duty as well.  My previous employer’s policy was that you could serve on a jury and be paid your wages provided you turned over your jury duty check to the company when you received it.  That’s a pretty good policy.  My current employer allows for unpaid time off to serve on a jury only.  Not as good of a policy.  I can take vacation time during that time so that I don’t lose any pay if I have it available.

As it happens, I don’t really have any vacation time to use.  So, I’ll be going without pay for as long as I have to serve.  It’s not exactly ideal.  But, I do get something for it at least.  Unfortunately, if I’m there a full 8 hours, it’s far less than minimum wage.  A token amount, really, to help offset the lost opportunity to earn my wage.

Have you served on a jury?  Is the pay the same everywhere, or does it differ by location?

img credit:zzpza, on flickr