Published: May 18. 2016, Copyright (c) Sandy Elrick
Throughout life, we are presented with opportunities to grow. Failure isn’t a negative but it is a lesson. Whether or not you learn from the lesson is what helps define you in your current state. What you cannot prepare for is the unintended consequences that either you didn’t anticipate or just come out of the blue. With the job situation in Alberta, I have had a few thoughts on what is happening and wonder what the overall implications are. Here is what I am positing.
Taxes, EI, and the Trailing Wave
What we cannot get away from is taxes – we always must deal with paying them and then perhaps getting some of our money back. What the governments who depend on them do with that money is always up for debate. So I think to myself, I had a great paying job and in 2015 both my provincial and federal governments reaped some pretty good income from my efforts. Of the last 30 years, I have paid into my EI program and will gain some of that money back (although I debate the value I cannot argue its need right now). EI doesn’t begin to pay for the lifestyle I have lead and without a new job, I will likely have to abandon that lifestyle (not necessarily a bad thing I have come to appreciate). I have already begun to spend much less to draw less on my savings.
So when I look at my budget on a weekly basis, I’m worried but prepared. I have to maintain my sanity and the ties with the folks I worked with to continue maintaining my chances of finding work beyond scouring websites and job boards. Thing is, that all costs more money most of the time – yes, even a few dollars for a coffee adds up after a fashion. I think about what impact my fortunes might have. Of course since I am a big picture thinker, I begin to think about what impacts that has on those around me and those who depend on me – my family, my friends, the governments who draw on my income. The future scares me now – at least for Alberta. We see a deficit situation now and for the foreseeable future. Thing is, when you take about 100,000 jobs out of the picture, that means you have a significant potential impact.
So the thought exercise continues. Rough counts for 2015 are at 2.3 million working people. So if we take 100,000 away that may not seem like much but that is over 4%. Median income by family in Alberta was around $100,000. Let’s assume that even half of those unemployed remain unemployable (some are in same families, etc.). Let’s assume that 50% of those still unemployed represent a family. So 25,000 x $100,000 = 2.5 Billion dollars gross income. If we further assume that gross taxes will be 50% (not just counting income tax but all taxable areas), that still leaves $1.25 Billion dollars in lost tax and income that can be used to keep our economy chugging along. That is only person loss, not including all of the businesses and lost opportunities. Not an insignificant amount. So when our governments feel the wave of losses as people are no longer contributing in 2016 like they used to, it should be a very telling time.
Downstream Consequences of Unsustainability
So when you consider that the $1.25 Billion counts for purchases and other revenue generating opportunities (money is used over and over through time), that equates to a large loss of potential. So now we consider that this effect will ripple through Canada. Who else gets to take over this loss of money for the tax man? Well, according to our governments, we don’t need to worry! Deficit spending is here to stay. Wait, what? I run a budget every week and I know my situation is unsustainable. I know pretty much when I need to say I need to sell my house and pray it sells for about what I bought it for so I don’t lose too much. So how can governments justify this amount of spending now? I know there are folks out there who know better than I that you cannot cripple an economy lest it spiral into worse. I understand the political implications. The concern I have is that making hard choices is something we all bear. I wish I could live in a world where money came from someone else and I never had to worry. That isn’t realistic. At some point, someone in financial circles is going to ask for that money back. They are making money hand over fist from loaning it to us. So what does sustainability mean? That is the question each of us must ask ourselves and of those civic, provincial, and federal leaders.
I go back to my discussions with peers and family about what profits really mean to a publicly traded company and the answer is quite disturbing. A company always has to prove it is profitable every quarter – the system makes it that way. Thing is, the drive down to the lowest cost to produce something instead of making a reasonable profit, is an artificial construct which denies the fundamental economics we traditionally are used to (if you can’t make a profit then you have to shed people and assets). Financial gurus are coming up with newer and trickier ways to sidestep these fundamentals and to push the money into the future (borrow from the future and against itself a number of times until it crashes – easier to ask for forgiveness, no?). So can we change the way our financial systems work to make it more equitable?
I’ve had the opportunity to visit family in Ontario and I must say it doesn’t seem that much better there (financially), just more stable and happy. They are wonderful people – supporting Ft. McMurray with little fundraisers and such. I am reminded again of family and community. I’ve also heard, we (in Alberta) didn’t do enough saving and enough diversifying. We lost some of those fundamentals in our busy days. So comes my revelation! We were very successful and hard-working; did we did indeed forget what it was like to live a normal/slower life? We forgot that working 10 hour days isn’t normal (but very entrepreneurial). We forgot that making that much money is a blessing and we should still live within our means. I remember shortly after I graduated with my degree that I was reminded that 30% of my income isn’t mine – it should be shoved away when it can be (families with children are less likely to save like this) for the future. It is why I am able to withstand a long drought of work right now (although I am still working to improve and reach out through my network).
So we in Alberta pushed the budgets, pushed the boundaries, and some lived beyond their cash flow… Much like the companies we depend on for our retirements and for our jobs. We drove through with our entrepreneurial spirit, learned this lesson, and now we must decide what to do with that lesson. Now we can relearn what it means to be at a more normal pace – slower, braver, saving what we can when we can. We need to spend our time (a far more valuable resource) on those we love and those we wish to foster. It can be, quite frankly, a rather hard mental change but I am up for it and I feel better for it. So personally I continue my daily routine of workouts, avoiding bad habits, eating what is more normal and healthy food, continued learning, and continued networking. I still have to work on a couple things but otherwise I am good. I do need to work on my relationships and foster them in ways I didn’t before. I am full of gratitude and hope. I am embracing a calm and focusing.
The job front doesn’t seem to be getting any better right now. The hopes of having a full time job these days seems limited. I see lots of contracting jobs or contracting to hire (I like to call these jobs – try before you buy) for three months. So my expectations need to come into check. I also need to look at my expenses more closely – do I really need cable TV when other things will do? I can save quite a lot of money on that front. I can also be more diligent when it comes to my cellular bill as well. Everyone is looking at their lives and finances these days and looking to improve. A very positive outlook. So let’s remember that we are not alone and that we can help one another – use that entrepreneurial spirit and reach out in ways you haven’t yet.
So I am putting this out – that I would like an opportunity to contribute to a company, perhaps in a new manner not directly related to Information Technology, to make a difference. I know there are good people and good companies out there that value the people as much if not more than the job itself. My old company, Mainland, used to be that way. It had pros and cons but I enjoyed working with the people there no matter how crazy it got. I really miss that now. I believe in putting in the effort where it is needed and look forward to the day when a rewarding work environment is back in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I am rewarded by my writing (I have found a hosting solution and am working towards setting up my own website and such – that is coming soon) and I am rewarded by my personal change.
Learning these bold lessons and going forward – personal, work, city, provincial, and Canada-wide – I am taking a new perspective. I am less bound by how things were than by how things are and could be. I endeavour to wake up each day to take full advantage of what it has to offer and what it has to teach me. I still have to remind myself that there is a danger of falling back into the old ways of working your health and life away for what amounts to more things and a more comfortable living. So the questions need to be re-asked – What, by definition do I value and what am I comfortable with? We all need to remind ourselves of that pact we make with our conscience. The reminder is that if we continue to do the same as we did before, sure as heck do not expect things to change. You cannot complain then. Mind over matter as they say.
So while I contemplate the day I may have to make more changes– whether it is for personal or for financial reasons – I am grateful to have recognized that I have those potentials and that I can make changes for the better all the time. I can breathe now and I can continue to change. I am opening my eyes to what I missed. Yup, I was caught up in the career and the joys of having lots of freedom with the money I had. Thing is, that is a fantasy world that many folks in Canada, let alone this Earth, can never dream to afford. Is it right? Well, that’s always the rub. You can be blessed, successful, and rich in ways you value – whether it is money, people, or both. I am choosing to make a difference in people’s lives. I am going to embrace more change with the desire to be less insane.
Write Your Own Day
So it is with pride I continue writing and gratitude that I take that I have so much to be thankful for. What really matters now is that I live today in a positive fashion and guide myself step by learning step towards what will center me again. I have to embrace the chaos for some new chaos. If you are happy and don’t have to consider much, I applaud your capability and work so far. I would encourage you though, to start spreading the word that perhaps how we have been living is not all it’s cracked up to be. We can make change happen for our city, province, and country – all for the betterment of others. Canada is a leader in the world for a reason. I am hoping to learn more from the people around me. I am wise in some ways but not in others and I can only learn lessons from those present in my life. I’ll put myself out there and see what sticks. Until next time!