Dad’s Guide to the Bank Bailout- what you need to know

You can’t turn on the news without being bombarded by gloom and doom stories about our economy, housing and the banking disaster.  Who can blame you for being completely and utterly depressed and frustrated about the whole thing?  If you’re like me, you’re mad as hell that some bad apples out there ruined your savings, jobs, security, etc.!  I’ve written about my feelings on how we got to this point.

I feel compelled, however, to share with you my thoughts on the subject because we all need to focus on getting out of this mess.  Mis-information in the media only confuses the matter and slows recovery. So, I’d like to focus on the “bank bailout” everyone’s talking about.  I need you to understand what’s going on and how to recognize the truth from the river of news stories out there.

The first thing you need to accept is that banks are a vital part of our economic system.  We need to have them to make things work.  There is no question or doubt on this unless you want to go back to growing vegetables and working on the barter system.  Therefore, to fix the economy, we need to fix the banks first.

This first step is what the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) money is intended to do.  It is money that is injected into the banks to prop them up and prevent them from going out of business.  The TARP money was NEVER intended to flow through the banks to spur more lending.  That would be phase 2 that TARP was not intended to deal with.  So, please, don’t believe the news stories where a Senator is pontificating how he doesn’t understand why the TARP money is being horded by the banks.  It isn’t to pay bonuses or to maintain fat cat lifestyles.  Banks were supposed to hoard the money.  That is how they are meant to stay in business.

You see, each bank needs to maintain certain ratios (established by law) of equity (assets) to liabilities.  If a bank goes below those ratios, they cannot be a bank and they are closed down.  As the banks used this “bad assets” as part of their equity, when the value of these assets went down (i.e., the housing bubble exploded), they were not able to maintain their ratios.  The value of liabilities stayed the same but the value of assets plummeted!  The government had to inject assets (i.e., cash) in order to get the ratios right again.

So far, $350 billion has been injected into the banks.  The other half will be done soon by the Obama administration.  This is a good thing, folks.  We need the banks to stay afloat.

Once the banks are stabilized, Obama will have to face the more difficult question of how to fix those “bad assets.”  That is the subject of another post.

I hope that clears things up a little for you.  It’s not good news, but it’s important for you to know the truth.

All the best

Last minute Christmas gifts for dad

I’m running out of time with my “gifts for dad” series so I’m combining them into this list of last minute Christmas gifts for dad.  Of couse, you could always go with the go-to “#1 Dad” tie…

The following is a list of gifts I wouldn’t mind receiving pulled from around the Internet and in no particular order:

  1. Wolver’s Organic Ale Beer. If your hubby enjoys beer, this is a unique experience he’ll enjoy.   Add a homemade coupon to watch a game of his favorite sport with him and he’ll think he’s died and gone to heaven.
  2. L’Occitane Shave Kit.  If you want to go a little more metro/hip, get him this shaving set from L’Occitane.  My wife loves the scent and the shave is wonderful.  I take samples of these from the Four Season’s Hotel in Mexico City when I’m there on business.  A good alternative is the Lab Series Shave Cream. It doesn’t smell like L’Occitane but man does it shave well!
  3. The Apple iPhone 3G. If you’re a high roller and he’s been especially good this year, you can’t go wrong with the iPhone.  He will geek out over it.
  4. Harmony Programmable Remote. Does he love his TV and home theater and stereo?  Give him a gadget that puts everything at his fingertips without having to grab separate remotes. Come on ladies, you know we have a tendancy towards lazyness every once in a while.
  5. Silk Boxer Shorts. He’s working out and getting fit just for you, ladies. Show him you noticed by getting him these puppies.  A littel spice in the romance is key to a long happy marriage.
  6. A watch.  Men accessorize with watches.  If you like a man with a manly watch, then consider getting him the Guess Men’s Black Leather. It looks good and is reasonably priced.
  7. Printable coupons. Finally, there really is no better gift than one that says “thank you” and “I love and appreciate you.”  There are many online sites that allow you to download and print coupons that you can customize.  Give him a few coupons that he can cash in later like taking out the trash or mowing the lawn.  How about a night out with just you? Or, a Sunday afternoon of watching sports with his favorite food?

I hope the above gave you some ideas for last minute gifts for dad.  Of course, the idea is to make sure that gift doesn’t scream “LAST MINUTE PURCHASE” so take some time and put some thought into it.  Remember, he wants to feel loved and appreciated. Give him that.

Let me know what you think and what you’re getting him. I’ll gladly add it to the list above.

All the best

Life’s challenges, the spirit of a dad and a candle burning bright

Disclaimer: Some of you may find this post heartbreaking. I know I did.

They say that life has it’s ups and downs and we should learn to expect it.  The reality, however, is that we never expect it and it hurts like hell when life seems to take a nosedive.  A friend and fellow dad is living through one of those times.  He doesn’t know that his strength of spirit that is seeing him through this is also teaching others about what it means to be a father, husband and, ultimately, a human being.

My friend is a caring person. He’s a professional at work and an honest-to-God family man at home. He’s been a mentor and a friend to me for the four years I’ve known him.  And if you saw him in the street, you would not know that this was a man that gives so much.  You would, however, quickly see that he loves being a dad and he’s a darn good one.

It is for these reasons that it pained me so when my freind was recently laid-off from the job he’s done so well for so many years.  It wasn’t a performance issue. It was simply a “reduction-in-force”- a procedure so in vogue recently.  It’s cruel. It can turn your life upside down. However, my friend bore this with the strength of spirit he’s always had and turned to his family for support. You see, he defines himself more as a dad than as a professional. He will find another job.

The pain I felt when my friend lost his job pales in comparison to the horror I experienced when I learned that one of his sons passed away on Monday while undergoing a medical procedure.  His son was in his early teens and lived with a handicap. 

Although this tragedy would utterly crush most, my friend is again showing tremendous strength of spirit and holding his family together while grieving for their loss.  I realize now that he is able to do this because he feels responsible to be “dad”, to take charge of the situation and try to make things better for the family.  It’s a herculean effort but he’s doing it.

My friends, I don’t want to end this in a negative way. Instead, I want to share with you what my friend and his family already know, what all of those that knew his son already know.  We know that although his son was with us a short time on this earth, he tought us all so much. A small boy, handicap from birth, didn’t care what you looked like or whether you had money or not. He hugged everyone and greeted you with a smile.  He showed everyone that we can love each other even though we don’t know each other. He showed us we are brothers and sisters all living the human condition. He showed us not to let small things get us down.

In the end, he showed us how one person’s internal candle, burning bright, can make everyone else’s candle brighter.

It was an honor for me to have known you, my friend’s son, and thanks.  My prayers, and I hope yours, are with my friend and his family during this time.

All the best

A lean Thanksgiving commitment

Like many others, I too am trying to lose some bulge. I’ve hit 40 this year and am determined to try and drop that spare tire I have around my midsection that is “oh so midlife!”  Here’s my plan to avoid the usual Thanksgiving indulgences.

  1. Work out in some way every day.  I will be in the mountains of North Carolina and it will be cold outside.  Frankly, too cold for a warm-blooded Floridian. Nevertheless, I will brave the elements like a man and at least go for a run.
  2. Drink water constantly and limit myself to one glass of wine per day.  The constant water will limit my appetite and the glass of red will benefit my heart. Not more, not less.
  3. I will focus on proteins and make every calorie count. I’ve added this the Calorie Tracker from app to my iPhone and will diligently count my calories.  I hope this will give me the will power to stop myself from eating when I’m not hungry.
  4. I will limit myself to a small slice of pie per day at dinner AND then only eat half of it.
  5. Lastly, I will try and get enough sleep and relax!

Here’s to you and yours, wishing you all the best on this Thanksgiving week.

Unemployment’s impact on dads

This year, over 1.2 million Americans have lost their job. Just last month, 240,000 people received notice that they were unemployed. Many of these people are dads just like me. This entry is about them.

Getting laid-off is one of the most traumatic experiences any one can go through. I think, however, it is especially difficult for dads. You see, dads take very seriously their responsibility to provide for their family. We’ve been doing this for eons. It’s what we do. We are very used to strapping on our work clothes (whether it’s a suit, uniform or something in between) and we go chase that rat. We do it for our families.

It is also a very different thing to choose to be a stay-at-home-dad. As a SAHD, you’ve chosen to provide for your family with your time and energy. In that case, you have a choice. When you’re laid-off, you have no choice. The way you’ve chosen to provide for your family is gone. The rat has won.

Feelings of failure, inadequacy, hopelessness all wrapped up with fear grip a recently laid-off dad. It’s a terrible time for him and it’s very difficult for his family. No dad should have to go through that.

If you turn out to be one of those dads, you have my sympathy and respect. I have a few thoughts for you that I hope will help you in some way.

  1. It isn’t your fault. Don’t take this as a personal failure and have faith in your skills. You are a wonderful father and that, my fellow dad, is harder to achieve and more valuable than any job you could have.
  2. You are defined by the love of your family and not by where you work or how much money you make. Those are false gods. Know that your family loves you no matter what and THAT makes you wealthy.
  3. Take a few days to get over the shock. Just relax and force yourself to think that you’re on vacation. Follow up on job leads if you have them but otherwise, don’t.  Use this time to reconnect with your family and relax. Catch your breath. There will be time enough to find another job.
  4. Use this time to reassess your finances with your wife.  Really see if you are living beyond your means. If so, try to figure out ways to cut down on expenses without sacrificing your entire standard of living.
  5. After you’ve had a chance to relax and regroup, put on your Mr. Fix It hat and begin job hunting like if it was your job.  It may take some time but in the end you will find a job. Keep the faith.
  6. When you do find a job, try to take some time before starting it to be with your family.  Tell them how much their support means to you and how important they are.
  7. Finally, don’t ever make a job more important than your family.  They will always be there for you.  A job won’t.

Good luck to everyone as we try to keep our collective heads above water during this the worst financial crisis of our time.

All the best