“We have bigger houses but smaller families;
more conveniences, but less time;
We have more degrees, but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgment;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness;
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet
the new neighbor.
We’ve built more computers to hold more
information to produce more copies than ever,
but have less communications;
We have become long on quantity,
but short on quality.
These times are times of fast foods;
but slow digestion;
Tall man but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It is time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.
from Sacred Economics”
~ Charles Eisenstein, Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition
I want to end the year with something light and practical that we can take into 2018.
I have struggled with finances since I know what a coin is: daughter of a single mom who was also a dedicated activist, later refugee claimant, I started working at age 14 and have since not stopped except for the short periods allowed after my two pregnancies (four months in each case as per Venezuelan law).
Having worked in Venezuela for over 20 years with nothing to show (not only the bolivars, Venezuelan currency, don’t have any value: all my social services contributions are lost and non-transferable to other countries) and knowing from first hand (through my mother and other family members in Argentina) that financial crises always hit hard on the poorest, I also know you cannot put all your eggs in one basket, much less if we are talking about the powers-that-be basket (i.e. retirement pensions and savings).
That is why, when my SFU/CED instructor Michael Shuman, the author of “The local economy solution”, “Local dollars, local sense” and “The small-mart revolution” shared with us his unorthodox financial advice, I felt relieved and reassured.
This next year, I will stick to his “plan” to achieve financial resilience (which makes it also sustainable), I have added a few of my own ideas, based on my own observations, experience and skills:
- Avoid credit cards – If you do have more than one, reduce them to one and pay off the debt as fast as you can…
- Buy a house (or land and build a house), either alone or with a group of like minded people (or family). I would like to add here that the home needs to be located in a resilient community and have access to land, if possible, be open to by-laws that allow you to not only grow food but also get solar panels, harvest rain water, etc. Buy a house with the old mentality (before this commodity craze!): a house is a place to live, create community, share and relax, a haven for your friends and visitors, a place that may become your “office” too, and a place that your children or other family members (or even community members or friends) may inherit. A house is NOT an “investment” to be sold and resold.
- If you get any extra income, forget about retirement funds, insurance and all those things created to feed your fear of illness, accidents and death and becoming even more isolated from others: if you have extra income and no debts, here are many things you can do:
- Invest in building your resilience skills: from learning how to repair or make stuff from scratch, how to install and maintain solar panels, harvest water, etc., to how to grow and preserve sustainable food, knit, sew, etc.
- Take a PDC: permaculture design certificate course
- Learn some primitive technology skills, they are fun and very handy!
- Invest in learning how to understand and support others: we need much more eco-psychology and therapy that understands the predicaments we are in, so we can help people to transform conflicts, make decisions, become stronger inside, be more aware and compassionate, etc.
- Invest in buying things you can share and will be useful: from tools to seeds to alternative equipment that uses alternative energy, etc.
- Invest in making your home and workplace as energy efficient as possible
- Invest in a good bicycle, learn how to bike and bike! If you are overweight or have health issues or live in a hilly place, you can invest in a tricycle or an electrical bike
- Invest in a greenhouse, even a tiny one, or build an internal greenhouse in your basement or close to a window if you don’t have a yard or balcony (and grow food in it!). If you have the option, build a community greenhouse to share!
- Support local projects and local people who are doing great things. Make sure you know who they are and what exactly they are doing, many have GoFundMe or Patreon profiles, some may have the “donation” link on their websites
- Get or build a vermicomposting bin and feed the worms with your food scraps
- Create your own pantry with healthy and sustainable food you preserved by fermenting, pickling or canning. If you have the option, help create a community pantry instead!
- Invest in an expresso machine if you love coffee and avoid wasting your money in a coffee shop, unless is a local, no-chain/franchise coffee shop that you truly enjoy and know…
- Yes! If you still have extra money after all of the above, invest in local credit unions that you know are behaving as such (i.e. cooperatives, deep democracy as governance and local & sustainable investment in community projects as mission)
Next installment I’ll try ideas for saving (and making) money in a sustainable and resilient way!
Stay tuned and enjoy the rest of the year, may the New Year bring more understanding, compassion and peace to all!