Thursday, September 2, 2010

The importance of personal reeducation

While at a gas station the night before, I watched a man refill a flat tire. He climbed into his car, then hopped out when the tire sagged down again.

He repeated the refilling process and spoke to someone via his Uhura-worthy Bluetooth earpiece.

"Do you think it's safe to drive?" he asked, adamantly ignorant of my headlights shining on him while I awaited a turn to get some air.

My tire looked a little squishy. I just needed to top it off. But the circus act proceeded for several minutes until the other driver finally backed his car up and let me at the air pump. I was done within 10 seconds.

As I departed, the other driver rolled toward the pump once more. At last his tire looked full. I made sure to be on my way before he got on the road.

Did he not have a spare tire? Did he not want to bother putting it on? Did he not know how to put it on? Obviously he had a wireless phone. What about AAA? Did he not understand the dangers of driving on a damaged tire? It could blow out while he drove and send him smashing into another vehicle.

He didn't patch the tire from what I could tell. Hope he got to his destination without incident, but he needed to have a better plan than that.

As an outsider, it was easy for me to point out what I thought he was doing wrong. The reality is, I didn't know what was in the guy's head.

It reminded me of some of my last conversations with my father. To recap, he saw some success and challenges in life that from an outside perspective could have been handled far differently. He was the first in the family to go to college and later owned a pharmacy. However there was no institutional knowledge within the family for him to build from. Some choices led to serious financial fallout.

When I asked about those choices, my Dad said he wasn't aware of various risks or options he could have explored. I know there is much I am still missing out on.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Here is a question I would like real responses to: If the majority of the country had a sound understanding of fiscal responsibility, would we be mired in such economic turmoil?

Ten years ago if you asked me what my FICO score was, I would have thought you were telling some sort of dirty joke.

People, myself included, who don't know the rules and risks of personal economics will fail. The basics of the personal financial system should be mandatory learning in high school education. Your credit report should be issued to you along with your W-2s every year.

Don't give me the "it's free country, survival of the fittest" stuff. I am not talking about a handout. We all need to know the rules of this game. You can't fix the problem if you don't understand that you are doing something wrong.

I consider myself a little clever, but no genius. But for all of the things I learned in high school and college, I was clueless about the structure of personal finances.

These days, things are different. The only expense currently on my credit card is the Alongkian Conference and that will be paid off before I attend my first session. I only got to this place after recognizing that I needed a lot of financial reeducation. You don't need to be an accountant to understand this stuff.

There are many other forms of reeducation I know I need, but first you must understand that you can't just refill that flat tire and get back on the road.

Flame and Bone

When I was made from fire
Poured into the tender vessel of caution
That keeps my smoke from rising
Quickly did I discover that apart from crisp drizzles or falling snow
The world chilled my touched
Walking the narrow cornered gap between girders and cut stone
One learns to tuck his shoulders in or risk
Jostling a neighbor passing by rapt with want
For a clear path without the distraction
Of another man's boiling eyes
The tip of a finger
That oldest of all weapons
Grown deadlier and pristine in its invention
Gathers a mote of a cinder on its bare flesh
And turns pondering how best to scratch the impious itch
Prying open the tender seam
Where the oil of thought dews
Offering a new wick to ignite
Squirming alive as a salamander of mischief
That yearns for a taste of air it is so ready to devour
The steam of breath betrays me
Before the glint of orange spreads
In popping bright waves
Eroding the fibers feeding it
Leaving naught but ash
As my shell of quietude falls away