Sunday, February 20, 2011

Walking-Away Money: What’s Your Number? & Schwartzie's Law

Walking-Away Money: What’s Your Number? & Schwartzie's Law

The #1 ranked personal finance article on February 15, 2011 in the The Wall Street Journal Online’s Personal Finance section was titled, “Walking-Away Money: What’s Your Number?” polling the answers from Asian countries as well as India.
The South Korea the ‘walking away number” was the high of $5.1 million while Indonesia was the low of $3 million to walk away from one’s job (or in American colloquial slang ‘to take this job and shove it.’)However given ‘their number attained,’ such that one is no longer ‘financially beholden’ to the job, the article stops short failing to ask the pertinent follow up questions to what is your walk away number:

· What would you walk away to?
· Will this number bring me the implicit unquestioned desire of ‘happiness’ and or allow the pursuit of happiness?

Be careful what you ask the gods for they may grant it
Oscar Wilde

Ironically, The Walk Away Money – take this job and shove it – once attained typically causes other problems. (Solve problem #1 and problem #2 is invariably promoted!)
Typically the first manifestation is the avoidance (which conceals the problem of ‘what next’) as observed and revealed in the following behaviors including:
· Seeking a cushion to the walk away number ‘just in case’ Increasing the walk away number
· Doing all those ‘someday things’ – which in short time lose their luster as their spouse complains: ‘for better or worse but not for lunch’

We foolishly pair ‘the walk away number’ with ‘happiness.’ We chase ‘the walk away number’ like a dog chasing his tail or Charlie Sheen. And worse, we engage in the chase typically without calibrating the amount specific to our financial goals – other than motherhood statements masking the underlying amorphous unattainable ‘more’. The unquestioned assumption that the walk away number will yield happiness is the grand self delusional safari.
Happiness per Gilbert in Stumbling to Happiness is merely a relative measure comparing to others (externally) for our worthiness. This relative happiness is ‘my husband makes a $100 more a week than my sister’s spouse’ per the H L Mencken analogy. Pascal Bruckner in Perpetual Euphorial happiness is a ‘pitiless idol’ promising self fulfillment which ironically is delusional felicity marked by folly creating its own miseries not the least of which is derived from the expectation of happiness (‘hoax and chump change’).
And the circle _______ (you fill in the blank) remains unbroken.

In reality this folly of happiness is ‘getting what you want’ until what you wanted wasn’t ‘enough’ (again). (Schwartzie’s Law)

Therefore, ‘the walk away number,’ does not- cannot yield happiness. However it may yield greater choice if one knows where they are walking toward…

We have to have free will. We have no other choice
Isaac Singer

Yogi Berra said, ‘if you don’t know where you are going any road will take you there.’ The walk away number is half baked unless one knows where he is walking toward. Invariably, this is a question of meaning IN one’s life.
Unanswered, the walk away number attained will just anesthetize for a while until a new and improved walk away number is rationalized, justified, and substituted and so that the pursuit of more can divert attention from ‘the hole in the soul.’

In Torah, Abraham walked ahead of God while Noah walked side by side.
Walking toward, walking with, and walking ahead are the questions of Enough – and not just financially.
In the ‘mean’time, determine ‘enough’ specifically, what you are walking toward with equanimity (rising above the good and the bad as Mussar masters would define) – in ‘your walks of life.’

Otherwise, as Fonzi in ‘HAPPY Days’ would say while grabbing one handed his privates, “You want your number? I got your number from Select Comfort.”

Jim Schwartz
A Man of Dog ©, K9 Concierge ©, Pawduciary©
Protection & Connection
(and sometimes, Personal Financial Life Philosopher)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Real Story of the Black Sheep: More vs Enough

The Real Story of the Black Sheep: More vs Enough

Fair is ‘fowl’
And ‘fowl’ is fair
MacBeth Max (My graduated Standard Poodle – who got 5 birds on the fly)

The typical story and definition of ‘black sheep’ (or Schwartz sheep for those of Yiddish or German speaking persuasion) is that of the outcast. The black sheep is the one who causes shame or embarrassment because of his or her DEVIATION from the accepted standards/norms/premises/assumptions (questioned or unquestioned) of the prevailing group or culture.

This Black/Schwartz Sheep metaphor originated with the fact that ‘black sheep’ were less valuable than white ones because it was more difficult to dye their wool different colors. In addition, the color black in the 16th century was considered a mark of the devil.
Between the colloquial connotation of ‘odd/outcast’ and the former ‘devil’ suggestion – the phrase black sheep has taken on the implication and association of unwanted outcast.

Now, the prevailing premise of our culture is MORE.
Proof: just for one day watch and count the advertisements on TV, radio, the web, and newspapers that are about MORE and LACK. The ads are about dissatisfaction (not enough) and therefore you either lack or need more. Then count the amount of ads that are about enough. (There aren’t any – enough doesn’t sell.)

Enough is a ‘black sheep’ in our culture. The Latin for enough is satis which forms the basis of the word satisfactory is ‘just’ a C on a report card – merely adequate. Enough and adequate are settling like you did with your second spouse fearing dying alone. Enough is mediocre – blah – no gusto – resigned to bronze rather than going for the gold.
Enough is temporarily elevated when the market bombardiers in 1987 and 2008 only to fade as a distant regrettable memory (I should have bought at the bottom). Spontaneous regression to the ‘mean’ (More) returns with its external comparisons (how did I do relative to the Dow, S&P etc.?) instead of comparisons to definitive personal financial life goals irrespective of the Dow, S&P etc. And the ‘Hog’ of more, better, now recycles into less, worse, later without the Harley.

Returning to the metaphor of the black/Schwartz sheep story, let’s reframe it (changing the filter not revisionism).

The farmer took excellent care of his sheep – they thought - because ‘he loves us.’ Rather, with the sheep’s wool gathering days coming to conclusion, and lamb chops providing more net per pound to the farmer, he was fattening them up – giving the ‘devoted sheep’ More. The black, Schwartz sheep figured out the farmer’s game on In Your Facebook’s Shear Knowledge Group Bulletin Board. And despite the taunts (nah, nah, nah, nah, nah hey hey, goodbye), the black sheep, the odd- the eccentric – the embarrassment, escaped.
More, more, more of the farmer’s feed – would only become more, more, more lamb chops at the expense of the black sheep’s life. And the black sheep didn’t want to sacrifice what he needed for what he didn’t need as more, better, now – would become less, later, worse (him being a ‘Lamb Chop’ without Shari Lewis’ hand up (well that’s another story). (1) At worse, he would get a ‘Charlie Horse’ on the run.

While the sheep got lamb chopped, the black sheep, escaped (on the lamb) exhibiting ‘his chops.’ (2)
Thus things are not always what they seem, the black sheep (the eccentric, the odd, the embarrassment) who had ‘enough’ flourishes while the mutton head MOREons get sheared, seared and smoked to imperfection.

(1). – Gives new meaning to being be(hind)holden. Shari Lewis, hottie hand puppeteer – at least to a then 8 year old, of Lamb Chop & Charlie Horse.
(2). – Talent