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Does That Cow Suit Have To Be Dry Cleaned?

By: Karen J. Allen
Co-Publisher, On the Gay Horizon 

I was sitting in the drive-though line at my favorite fast food restaurant the other day when I noticed someone in a black and white cow costume passing out samples in little plastic cups. My first thought, after wondering how long it would take to get to me, was that a costume like that would get smelly pretty fast on a hot Houston afternoon and that it was probably a pain to clean.

And then I forgot all about costumes and free samples. As she reached the car directly in front of mine, I realized that inside that ridiculous cow suit was a woman in her mid to late sixty's. When it was my turn, she smiled and politely asked if I would like to try the chicken salad. I know we talked for a minute or two but I don't remember what was said. What I do remember is wanting to ask her why she was out there. But, I didn't. I knew why. She was there because she felt she had no choice.

Of course, I have no idea what her story is. Some sort of life crisis. Loss of spouse, plummeting savings or investments, a mountain of medical bills. Whatever the cause, I am quite confident that this is not how she envisioned this time in her life.

Today's bleak economic climate is unsettling at best and downright terrifying for many, especially those over fifty. More than 600,000 jobs were lost in each of the past three months. With the unemployment rate jumping to 8.1% in February, it became the highest in a quarter-century. According to a recent article in The Economist, Americans who lose their jobs today have less of a chance of finding another one than at any time since they began keeping records half a century ago.

We're constantly being bombarded with news and revelations about how bad things are in the financial sectors. The housing market continues to get worse. Just this week, President Obama fired the CEO of General Motors. Libraries are bringing in therapists for staff members who feel ill-equipped to cope with the onslaught of anxious and depressed individuals lining up for job search assistance. As social services suffer budget cuts, more and more people have no where else to turn for help. Even those not yet in such unfortunate circumstances are feeling the pressure and reacting in unexpected ways. Boat owners are removing identification numbers and abandoning their expensive toys in previously unheard of numbers. Most are fully paid for, but the owners are no longer able or willing to spend the hundreds of dollars each month to moor and maintain them.

Feels kind of crazy, huh? Like things are spiraling out of control and as much as we would like to believe the Obama administration is going to get a handle on it, it's a little scary. And it's not just us. That same article in The Economist reported that the global economy has lost 4.4 million jobs in a little over a year and "moreover, many of yesterday's jobs, from Spanish bricklayer to Wall Street trader, are not coming back. People will have to shift out of old occupations and into new ones."

Well, that's certainly easier said than done! Or, is it? There is a new term for a phenomenon that surfaces whenever there is a serious economic downturn --- "forced entrepreneurship."  As traditional avenues of employment dry up, there are many who will find a way to create their own opportunities.  Today, the Internet provides a tool that allows people to market their ideas, find business partners and suppliers, and to do all kinds of functions on a very limited budget.

According to Jerome S. Engel, director for the center for entrepreneurship at the Berkeley Haas School of Business, "The goal for many entrepreneurs nowadays is not to create a company that will someday make billions but to come up with an idea that will produce revenue quickly. Many people will focus on serving immediate needs for individuals and businesses. The pressure people feel to find new ways to make money is a very painful thing. But it's a healthy thing."

Our parents believed in gold watches, pensions and the security of the corporate world. That may have been their reality but it's certainly not ours. Never before has it been so apparent that security is an illusion.

We've talked about this before and I suspect it will continue to be a theme we revisit. I believe it's extremely important that everyone be thinking of ways to be in control of their future. But it's essential for us gay baby boomers. Any resources that may be available are unlikely to be for us.

Have you considered what you might do if you lost your current source of income? Or if your retirement dollars don't quite meet your expenses? The time to come up with some sort of contingency plan is not when the bottom falls out of your world. The time is now.

Or, maybe not. There's always the possibility of a job opening in your neighborhood and a cow suit in your size.....


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Steps to Take Just in Case...

In a study sponsored by AARP, it was learned that 57% of adults age 40 through 79 have been through at least one life crisis. The overwhelming majority of those were overconfident before trouble struck and were left shaken afterward.


A little preparation can go a long way to lessen the impact. AARP suggests the following:


1) Imagine the worst. Plan your life based on half of your resources. Not only will this alleviate a lot of the fear of what may happen, it will also put you in touch with what you really value.


2) Save. Start with a fund for emergencies and then build a six month cushion for expenses. Sound impossible? If you can't do it now, how do you think you will be able to manage should disaster strike?


3) Protect your most valuable asset --- your earning power. Review your level of insurance coverage and disability and long-term health care.


4) Work your network. In the event you are faced with a life crisis, tell everyone you know about your situation. Family, friends and associates can not help you if they don't know you need help. Resist making a difficult situation worse by hiding it.


5) Share financial responsibilities with your partner. Avoid surprises by making sure all aspects of your financial life are known by both parties.


6) Be prepared to act. Focus on today and what you can do now rather than dwelling on "what might happen tomorrow". 

Another option is to become self-employed --- either as a means of supplementing your income or exploring a second career. For suggestions from a master entrepreneur, check out...

How to Become Successfully Self-Employed

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Read the Label

Fit in a Year - Week 14

By: Ann-Marie Giglio
Co-Publisher, On the Gay Horizon

If we are going to watch what we eat, we are going to need to learn to read the nutrition label on food packages.  I know.  I hear the moans.  You're moaning with good reason.  Turns out, those labels aren't always completely honest, and we will need to do some math. 

And rather than explain every line, I will touch on the 5 or 6 most important things to know, this week and next. 

Notice that the labels contain 2 kinds of information.  First, it tells you general information in the footnote on the bottom.  And second, it gives you information specific to the item, including serving size, calories, and grams of each component listed. 

So let's talk about serving size first.  Do you actually use only 2 tablespoons of salad dressing on the salad you pulled from a fast food window?  Do you know what 2 tablespoons of dressing looks like?  Usually, the dressing package holds 2.5 SERVINGS of dressing.  So if you've squeezed the entire package on the salad, and patted yourself on the back for choosing a salad, there's a good chance you've consumed somewhere around 600 extra calories by eating that salad with all the dressing.  And we haven't even begun to discuss the dressing's ingredients.

But perhaps the most important thing to know about the serving size is since the FDA has mandated disclosure of trans fats on food labels--it must be reported if it totals more than 0.5gms per serving--some clever manufacturers are reducing the serving size to keep the gms/serving just below 0.5gms. 

This means you must pay close attention to serving sizes because the last thing you want to ingest is trans fats.  If you put a dish of trans fats on your deck, no animal will eat it, and six months from now, it will not have changed.  That stability is what makes hydrogenated fats so attractive to food manufacturers who need products that can sit on warehouse shelves for weeks--perhaps months--without deteriorating. 

Ok.  This might take more than two installments.  But it's extremely important to be able to read these labels, so for the next couple of weeks, we'll take a close look.


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