COMMON SENSE PREVAILS

Standard

 

All Ages Matter. As it should.

Four months ago I wrote a blog on Dr. David Goodall – a 102 year old botanist and ecology scientist – who had been told to pack up his office with the Edith Cowan University in Perth, Western Australia declaring him unfit to be on campus.

His career spanned 70 years resulting in more than 100 research papers, earning him three doctorates and the Order of Australia for his contribution to serving Humanity.

David Goodall is also a Shakespearean actor of note.

Below link leads to the short original ABC News article on this 102-year old scientist.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-21/102yo-researcher-told-to-leave-his-edith-cowan-university-job/7769422

 

  • It turned out to be a silly decision.

 

The below link leads to a 20 December 2016 article titled “WA university reverses decision to eject 102-year-old scientist from campus”.

 

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-20/wa-university-reverses-decision-to-eject-102yo-scientist/8136836

 

The 102-year-old scientist will now remain on campus after the institution reversed its earlier decision to kick him out of his office.

“I hope to continue with some useful work in my field in so far as my eyesight permits.”

Dr Goodall’s plight gained international attention, sparking debate about the value of older people in the workforce.

“I think people were rather sympathetic to me as a centenarian who wanted to continue life in society,” Dr Goodall said.

“I prefer to be on campus because there are other people around and people who potentially are friends.”

Dr Goodall has accepted an offer from the university to serve as an unpaid honorary research associate for another three years.

It feels great to blog a feel-good story in a year when The Grim Reaper and Father Time have plucked away so many very talented artists to perform on The Great Stage in the Sky.

 

Advertisements

Ageism at Work: “Unfit to be on Campus”

Standard

 

  • Discrimination is discrimination. And none more so despicable, pathetic and cowardly than when perpetrated against the elderly.

 

Today’s News in Australia:

 

Dr David Goodall – a 102 year old botanist and ecology scientist – has been told to pack up his office with the Edith Cowan University in Perth, Western Australia declaring him unfit to be on campus.

His career spans 70 years resulting in more than 100 research papers, earning him three doctorates and the Order of Australia for his contribution to serving Humanity.

David Goodall is also a Shakespearean actor of note.

Below link will take you to a short article on this 102 year old scientist:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-21/102yo-researcher-told-to-leave-his-edith-cowan-university-job/7769422

 

This will be a death sentence. Most of his social exchanges are at the University.

This man is a scientist. Not a fitness instructor. Why send him home?

 

The Edith Cowan University is a public university, thus taxpayer-funded.

We also fund jails.

  • And this is where they are sending this man who has devoted his life to Humanity.

 

Says Dean of the School of Sciences, Andrew Woodward:

  • “This is not a decision we’ve taken lightly, this is something that has been considered over a period of time.”
  • “We are now of the opinion where the situation is at a point where we really do need to make this change in David’s best interest and our own.” (my accentuation)

 

(George Orwell: Rule # 3 on writing: “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out”

Question: Can anyone spot the excess words in the above statements? Or are both statements excessive?)

 

Here is a snip from Dean Andrew Woodward’s public LinkedIn profile:

  • “In my leadership role at ECU, I have a strong commitment to quality teaching, engaged research and a focus on expanding international partnerships. I believe strongly in ECUs values, particularly those of integrity and respect, and make sure that I demonstrate these values in my dealings with others.” (my accentuation).

 

Mr. Andrew Woodward, let me put this in a different context:

  • So, a person can be too black and must move off campus?
  • Or too white?
  • Perhaps too short?
  • Too tall?
  • Bald?
  • Wrong sex”

 

Or Too Old?

 

With modern science you may even be able to change some of the above parameters.

But age?

 

Here is a suggestion:

  • Let us put in place forced retirement of Deans after one year in their job. And move them off campus. For their best interest.

 

Sounds silly doesn’t it? But to paraphrase Andrew Woodward:

  • This is not a suggestion I make lightly, this is something that has been considered over a period of time.
  • I am now of the opinion where the situation is at a point where universities really do need to make this change in their Deans’ best interest.

 

I repeat: Discrimination is discrimination. And none more so despicable, pathetic and cowardly than when perpetrated against the elderly.

 

I would like to close with 6 points on “Remember – Age is Mostly a Number” from my 2nd book “50 PERSEPCTIVES – The Value of Things Unseen”.

 

KEY POINTS

  • How ‘old’ would you be if you didn’t know your birthdate and real age?
  • Ageism is another –ism, and is as offensive as racism and sexism.
  • Some reach mental maturity earlier whilst others are slower and even stagnate.
  • To age is a privilege. It is neither a sin, nor anti-social. Character is what counts.
  • Knowing and understanding things become easier as we age.
  • Ageing is as much a spiritual journey as a physical one with challenges taking on different hues.

 

I note Andrew Woodward was an IT Network Security Manager and Advisor for 10 years of his life. I can relate to that having been in the IT domain for 43 years of my life, and having had IT Network Security Managers work for me….

I can share the passion for acting with Dr. Goodall, having been able to play in numerous student movies and one feature film (at age 68/69) care of Singaporean independent filmmaker, director and producer Tzang Merwyn Tong. And am thankful for that opportunity to do something outside of the IT world…

 

Hence in closing:

 

“You are not old until regrets take the place of dreams” – Adapted from John Barrymore

Dr. Goodall – don’t be bullied. May you be spared for many fruitful years!

 

We all get old. Or die on the way trying to get there.

I Felt Amputated – And Home on a Sidewalk

Standard

 

This is a note I wrote on 30 July 2014.

 

This morning I took a train into town to lodge my tax return. Being in semi-retirement with virtually no income for the past 18 months there was not a lot to report – just a few dollars interest and about $1,000 from some casual work. Not enough to last a winter.

The way to the Tax Office lead past an untidy long-haired bearded and shabbily dressed jobless vagrant on the sidewalk, appreciating his luck of a wrapped sandwich – gifted by a person a few steps ahead of me. A cup of coffee was still steaming next to him – another obvious gift. He did not look up, trying to avoid the stares of passersby – a thimble of pride left in him?

A twinge of empathy seeped itself into me. Winter. No fixed abode. A set of fraying and dirty clothes. Cement sidewalk for a chair – and bed.

As I sat waiting for the Tax Office to open, increasing larger pockets of people murmured by – well-heeled, chatting – some holding expensive brand name drinks and donuts. A thin layer of envy spread over me. Something was amiss.

I started to feel amputated.

The Tax Office doors opened and accorded an escape from myself. The soulless authoritarian Tax Officer and I disengaged as quickly as I could. And I then stepped into a food-court to sit down and gather my thoughts. Around me people sat at small round tables, doing what people do around small round tables.

Yes, I missed the dignity of work and what comes with it.

The way back to the train station became a lonely upstream weave against a flood of workers. The smell of freshly cooked chips wafted out of a shop.

I boarded an empty train home. Opened the plastic lunchbox with fried rice that my wife prepared for the journey. A few shelled peanuts rounded off my lunch – eating them one at a time. A minimalistic frame of mind was engaging me faster than I liked. Even the single paper serviette seemed to have more value than its one time use…

The only difference between me and the jobless “bum” seemed to be that I had a few more earthly things but in reality both of us were amputated.

There is no dignity in being poor, jobless, of pensionable age with nothing to do.

 

Postscript

And then it struck me: Amputated as I might have felt, I was going back to a house I can call a home. With running water and a toilet. A warm bed and clean clothes tomorrow. And hot soup on the stove.

I know where I sleep at night.

And I know where the Ministers of Health and Employment and Social Services sleep at night.

 

Quo Vadis?

But where do our homeless go at night?

 

Conclusion

Don’t underestimate the dignity and value of a job.

 

30 July 2014

 

oooOOOooo

How Do Credit Card Companies Make Their Money?

Standard

 

Credit card companies make money and line their pockets via at least 10 ways (and I am sure there are more) to generate untold billions of dollars per year.

We all have bills to pay and we all shop on a regular basis. How we make payments makes a difference. Most people will use a payment card (credit or debit) or cash. Few of us will, or for that matter, can live a truly cash life. And banks / credit card companies know and like that, because we remain loyal revenue-generating customers.

Credit card companies add significantly to the cost of living and which is considered by some as an unnecessary social cost, especially to the poor and those who do not or are not in a position to use credit cards. This is due to the 2%-4% merchant fees that are imposed on companies who accept credit cards as a mode of payment, which they configure into the prices they charge – and other merchants who then synchronize their prices with those who accept cards.

 

  1. Transaction fees

You often get charged a transaction fee for credit card transactions. I was in a book shop recently and a client wanted to buy something using a credit card. She was told that a transaction fee of 5% would apply at which point she left without buying anything from the shop. This connects in tandem with my next point. Note the prospective client was going to be charged 5%.

 

  1. Merchant fees

Merchants are normally charged a transaction fee of between 2% and 4% for every credit card transaction. This leads to several outcomes, some of which are considered anti-social:

Merchants normally put their prices up to cover for this fee – but do not tell us about it, since they consider it (and calculate it) as part of their operational costs. This means that we actually pay 2% to 4% more for things that we buy at places that accept credit cards. This is a huge cost to bear. The USA’s center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion calculates the average expenditure for a low-cost meal plan for a family of 4 to be $786 worth of food a month.

Do the sums: $786 x 12 = $9,432 per annum. At 2% or 4% means you pay $188 or $377 per year more for food due to merchant fees.

Even if you do not use a credit card to buy your food, you still bear this cost.

  • There are those who say that they use their cards to buy everything, collect whatever benefits they can and then pay off the card in full every month.
  • There are others who say that we should be given a discount of 2-4% when we pay either cash or with our own debit cards (equivalent to cash).

I am in this latter corner, since my wife and I use our credit cards only for such things as flight tickets (or buying books on the internet – the only internet shopping we do).

Credit card companies also offer numerous benefits such as “points / airline miles / present” which are priced into high interest rates thus adding to the social impact of credit cards on society.

  • Nothing in life is free. Someone pays for it.

 

  1. Product branding / Co-branding.

You help with branding the credit card companies’ products to merchants and other people. They colour their cards blue, red, back, gold, platinum and all colours of the rainbow to show the elitist use of some of their products. And compete with each other in terms of benefits as part of their brand.

Further, co-branded cards i.e. cards that are offered by a credit card company which is jointly sponsored by both the bank and a retail merchant can normally be issued cheaper than a normal privately labelled card AND – here is the clincher – it is normally designed to give the issuing bank access to the retailer’s customer base – i.e. YOU.

 

  1. Your information.

Your information is used for advertisement purposes. Regardless of what organizations say about guarding your private information, it does get into the hands of advertisers. They have little boxes on their forms to tick if you do not want to receive advertisement information but how come I get advertisements from wine cellars etcetera? And by the way this is also a huge problem with utility providers. I still get calls not only throughout the day but almost on the bell at midnight – may I ask from where and how they got hold of my home telephone number?

 

  1. Annual fees.

I was recently charged $30 for annual card fees, which I protested and had reversed by letting the person know that I have been a loyal card carrying revenue generator for 28 years. The fee was waived.

  • You should do the same.

 

Credit card interest rates (generally 18-21%) are exorbitant, especially when compared to the interest you get paid when you save your money with a bank (2 – 3%).

The reason the banks give for this anomaly is that credit card debt is unsecured debt and they lose part or all of the debts that people owe when people declare bankruptcy or negotiate a settlement on outstanding debt or in fact become delinquent and the debt is written off.

Well, card companies are often to blame themselves for this predicament. I have been at the receiving end of cards that arrived at my doorstep without even applying for them (especially in some countries) and they often do very sparse vetting – in an attempt to grab market share / to satisfy KPI’s in order to get annual bonuses.

 

  1. Late fees.

This can be an expensive mistake of between $10 and $35 depending on the bank / card company you are dealing with. In a recent class action against a bank in Australia late fees were found to be illegal but the bank challenged the ruling in the Full Federal Court and the ruling was overturned, meaning that it is legal to charge someone $35 for paying late.

Is the cost of the outstanding amount to the bank $35? What would be fair?

  • I believe the late fee should be calculated as the product of the outstanding amount, the number of days outstanding and a certain % interest rate.

 

  1. Cash advance fees.

Cash advance fees are just one of the increasing fees by way of which card companies make money. Over the counter (OTC) this can range from $2.50 to 2% of the transaction amount (whichever is greater).

 

  1. Cash withdrawals at ATM’s

Fees for cash withdrawal from credit cards are comparable to cash over the counter fees and is again just one of the fees by way of which card companies make money. This can again range from $2.50 to 2% of the transaction amount (whichever is greater).

 

  1. Balance transfer fees.

Most credit card companies now offer credit cards (multiple) debts consolidation with them onto one ZERO % card, meaning that you will not pay any interest on the outstanding balance until (a) a specified time has elapsed – normally 1 to 2 years (b) the amount is paid off OR (c) you use the ZERO % card to make a purchase – at which time the normal high (in most cases 18% – 21%) rate kicks in.

  • Be very aware of this third condition. It can all of a sudden become expensive since the interest rate is then calculated on your outstanding balance plus the new purchase.

But in addition to that, the bank normally also charge you a balance transfer fee.

  • Please ask a pertinent question about this if ever you consider transferring your debt to a ZERO % card.

 

In summary

 

Tread carefully with credit cards. You can land in a lot of financial trouble with them – at any age.

Credit cards comes at a social cost to society – all of us indeed whether you have / use one or not since we all pay more for goods at merchants who accept cards. And even those who do not accept cards (are there any left?) synchronize their prices with those who accept cards. This adds a huge social cost to society.

Credit cards will not go away. So you will have to learn with them and their impact to society.

 

 

 

Crunchy Numbers 2015

Standard

BLOG COMPOSITE WP Report - 2015-12-30

 

Tomorrow is the last day of 2015, so WordPress sent me a 2015 Report with Crunchy Numbers, amongst other:

  • Blogs: 38
  • Visits: 23 countries.

 

As “luck” would have it, my latest book ringed in yellow– “50 PERSPECTIVES – The Value of Things Unseen – also has a “crunchy number” on it.

 

Other than being available in 3 formats (hard cover, paperback and eBook) in Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and a host of other distributors, it is also available on display in New Releases as well as in the Business Section in Dymocks, Werribee, Australia – where my first book – also with a “crunchy number” – “OVER 65 And Still in Demand”, ringed in red sold out earlier this year.

“Chat” again in 2016. Here is wishing you a safe, healthy, prosperous and memorable 2016!

And thank you for reading and commenting on my writings during 2015.

MORE PRIDE – LESS PREJUDICE

Standard

SANTA and SWEETY TWINKLETOES

 

As I blogged earlier on, this year I had the privilege to be a Santa at a national chain store, during which I engaged with over 3000 (recalculated figure) children and parents. I was very ably supported by Elf Sweety Twinkletoes (she selected her own name) who did a great job of taking photos as well as handing out candy canes to all kiddies, and in some cases the adults as well.

Of course one makes mistakes – some of them based on perspectives, perhaps even prejudices – during such engagements.

  • I was no different.

Apology is – as I also wrote in my most recent book “50 PERSPECTIVES – The Value of Things Unseen” – good for both body and soul.

So today is a good day to report on myself and then to apologize for some of my prejudices and laud the prides of those who pointed out the error of my perspectives. And most of them were children, which makes me hold out hope for the future!

Case 1:

A somewhat overweight child walks up to me, short hair and long pants with a T-shirt and the conversation goes like this:
Santa “Have you been a good little boy this year:”
Child ‘ I am actually a girl”.
Santa ‘I apologize and thank you for correcting me. So let me ask, have you been a good little girl this year.”
Girl “Sometimes”.
Santa “Honesty gets you to the front of the class” after which she does me a favour and poses for a photo (yes, and for those who think I am in the child-snatching business, with the permission of her mother. And yes, it was her mother – not her father.)

Case 2:

A boy (this time it is a boy, with dark glasses and a big smile approaches me with his mother a close step behind him.
Santa “Is the sun shining very bright outside?”
Mom “My son has a problem with his eyes”.
Santa apologizes. Photo gets taken in a friendly milieu.

Case 3:

Two youngsters approach us, one clearly on the verge of being around age 17 or 18. Santa and Sweety Twinkletoes are not allowed to take photos of any child under 16 unless accompanied and permissioned by a family member of age older than 16. So Santa obtains permission, poses for a photo and wishes the children a Blessed Christmas, only to see the parents approach – with smiles – and the mother, with a short jilbab (in this case the Muslim headgear, not the whole coat-like garment) whispering smilingly in her husband’s ear.

  • Santa writes this down to a learning experience. Both parents thank us as they walk away with a giggle and a rib-pump.

 

LUNCHTIME SANTA

Following my 7 weeks as an in-store Santa I was asked to be lunchtime Santa at a hotel on Christmas Day. What an opportunity! 450 paid diners with only food, drink and celebration on their minds (their plates and in the glasses).

Santa waddles through the crowd, spreading cheers and stops to lighten up the face of a child with longer-than-shoulder length curly hair.

Santa “Hello, and have you been a good little girl this year?”

Child “I am actually a boy!”

Santa (taking off his classes “Apology young man! Of course you are. Look at MY long white hair!”

What is astounding is that the boy remains friendly, has a lovely chat with Santa and then gives him a High Fives.

  • The forgiveness of children is something to marvel at.

(Interjectory note: When this Santa was 35 years old and going through a 3 year back-packing trip his hair was shoulder length and often worn in the Prince Valiant cut). As I am now double that age I believe that memory loss also has something to do hairloss!

Santa writes this down to being a slow learner.

And finally, the little boy who wore dark glasses in Case 2 above runs up to Santa with “Hello Santa! I remember you from the store. Merry Christmas to you!”

Santa is at a loss for words a bit – and High Fives the boy!

 

TAKEAWAYS

  • Takeaway Line 1.

Girls can have short hair.

In fact half of my work-life managers (whom I respect very much) are ladies with short hair AND may I add, some of them are younger than I am. Glad to say I hold no prejudices there. My wife is younger than I am and not only do I love her, but also respect her very much. So here is my question to those men who cannot work for a female manager “How do you respect your wife – more so if she is younger than you?” GROW UP and MATURE.

 

  • Takeaway Line 2

Not all people – especially children – with long hair are girls. Some of them are proud boys, with the guts to stand up and correct even Santa!

 

Brilliant!

 

  • Takeaway Line 3

Not everyone who poses with Santa is a Christian.

Corollary : does it matter? No, I don’t think so. I have lived in a Muslim country for a quarter of my life and posed for many photos with Muslims. That does not mean I am a Muslim or that I cannot wish my Muslim friends blessed returns of the days that they celebrate.

 

  • Takeaway Line 4

Santa makes mistakes like all people do. And there is nothing wrong with that and Santa feels better for being corrected and after apologizing for his (yes in this case it is “his”) mistakes.

I trust all my Christian friends had a Blessed Christmas, and to my non-Christians friends, a great festive break. May you all enjoy a safe, healthy, prosperous and memorable 2016, and here we open a new can of worms, since some people count the years in a different way than Christians do!

I wish you peace and no prejudices, regardless of your religion and perspectives.

 

oooooOOOOOooooo

DROWING IN A SEA OF DEBT

Standard

“Debt is poverty of a different kind”.

I am not referring to the USA National Debt – though there should be real concerns about it.

I am addressing credit card debt.

There are 7.3 Billion people on the planet.

There are between 3-5 billion credit cards on the planet, and rising.

Billion, with a “B”.

 

I am one of those who landed in trouble with it during the global financial meltdown and it took me more than 7 years to overcome my (a) bad habits and (b) the debt I racked up.

Seven+ years of my life.

  • Is there anyone here who has had the same experience?
  • If so, what was / is your biggest frustration, fear and challenge in this area?

 

Allow me to share a few things on my next four blogs on credit cards and bad credit

 

  • As stated above, an estimated 3-5 billion real (not fake) credit cards exist today – and the number is increasing.
  • No-one knows how many fake cards there are, but I have been a victim of at least two.
  • The average credit card debt per USA household is about $16,000, with a total for the country pushing towards ONE TRILLION Dollars.
  • More than half of the cardholders had an unpaid balance in the past year.
  • For more than a quarter their credit card debt had increased in the past year.
  • Students have an average of $20,000 debt.

 

At the depth of my debt I was around $60,000 under water – almost 4 times the average amount. And that was 15 years ago!

 

We all know the benefits of credit cards and I will bullet them here, followed by the negatives – of which there are real social impacts.

 

BENEFITS

Convenience: The main benefit is the convenience of having “money in your pocket” – up to the maximum credit limit, which is in fact a short term loan to you.

Loyalty programs: Another main benefit nowadays is of course the loyalty programs where the card holder gets loyalty points which can be redeemed for products or cash.

Bills tracking – Help with budgeting: Your account (soft or hard copy) can also help you to track expenses at the end of a period – which may bring back both good memories of where you have had your lunches and dinners – but also remind you of the carefree and perhaps careless spending that you did.

Product returns: A further benefit is returns. The buyer can return a product and receive (part of) a refund.

Extended warranties: Cards can also provide extended warranties and loss and damage covering.

Insurance: Some cards will also offer insurance, often on cars.

Legal limits of liability: In some countries (such as the USA and UK) have introduced legal limits of liability for those who lose a card or has a card stolen.

 

NEGATIVES

Inflated prices: Consumer prices are inflated to pay for all these benefits. And it affects everyone who shops, not only those who use a card.

Discipline: The most difficult one is probably one of self- regulation, or discipline when it comes to using credit cards. But then again, that is not the card’s fault.

Surcharges: Some businesses may ask the buyer to accept a surcharge on a credit card transaction, since the business often has to pay the card company a fee (of up to 4% of the value of a transaction.) This of course leads to higher prices.

Social impact: Some organizations are of the opinion that it may in fact also impact social welfare on two fronts (a) higher prices and (b) the high interest rates that card companies charge. This often drive lower income earner card users into debt and even bankruptcy – which has serious social side effects.

It is all well and good to say that there should be strict filtering and vetting of those who may own a card, but there had been times in the past when card companies would actually just send a card to person on their email list. I can personally vouch for that.

Increased rate shock: Financial institutions (mostly banks) will offer you a ZERO interest rate card to consolidate all your competitor cards with them. However, these zero fees run out after a period of time or a specific event and then also revert to high interest rates.

Tread carefully with this.

 

My next blog will look at the impact of when people go into bankruptcy due to over-extending themselves on credit cards.

I am aware that some people have started very successful businesses by using their credit cards to fund them, but – and there is always a “but” – I don’t think that is a general way of funding an upstart business.

  • Does anyone have comparative data on failures and successes?

 

Please feel free to comment, especially on my questions, i.e.

  • Is there anyone here who has had the same experience?
  • If so, what was / is your biggest frustration, fear and challenge in this area and during the time you are / were in debt?

 

Thank you.

Kris Moller