Tuesday, February 28, 2017

After Meeting Review (AMR)

Had one of those nuanced conversations with a co-facilitator once that left me with more to ponder about my deepest understanding and attitudes about what I do. I love those types of talks!


People gather into a small group—we might call it a team, a board, a task force, a commission. With great attention and sometimes with the aid of a facilitator they compile Noble Norms. These have other names such as Group Rules, Team Rules, etc. but all of them seek to establish the basic behavioral understanding of the group. This becomes some type of Group Law.

And then the group goes about conducting its business. As groups seldom designate a Group Cop or Group Judge, how will this collection of peers raise concerns should one or several members believe a Group Rule has been violated by another member? If adjustments cannot or will not be raised, the Group Rules become meaningless and people act willy-nilly. This might be fine, or might begin a vicious cycle of destructive behaviors.

There's a Group Learning answer and a Personal Comfort answer. At the Personal Comfort level, the suggestion is that the disturbed member draw the violating member aside after the meeting and address the norms violation. This doesn't distract any of the other members from the ongoing business at hand, the two can handle it, and life goes on.

The drawback to this approach is that the other members may not be privy to any resolution, what was resolved, and any remediation of the relationship. Let's say our team has eight members. One person jokes about an obscure grammatical mark that another member couldn't find on her keyboard. Everyone laughs at the joke and carry on with their business.

Afterwards the keyboardist talks to the joker.

K: You know, it hurt my feelings when you joked about my not finding the m dash on my computer. Actually, I don't think it's there to be found, and I tried.

[Note: there are three dashes used when writing' the hyphen "-" the shorter "n" dash: –, often used for separating terms and the longer "m" dash: —, used to separate clauses.]

J: Ah, what's your beef? I had trouble finding it as well. I didn't even know the difference myself until grad school.

K: Well, I didn't appreciate it.

J: Oh, the m dash isn't such a big deal. Two dashes work fine.

K: Not that, well. Oh, never mind.

J: Oh, You think that was a put down?

K: Yeah.

J: I didn't mean anything by it. We have had had our own struggles to learn grammar.

K: Okay. I guess.

When we approach the same norm violation from the view of Group Learning, we have a different attitude among the members and a learning by everyone. Group Learning implies that everyone, that is all members attending the meeting, appreciate that a norm was violated in a group meeting context (the very arena for Group Rules) that one member made note of it, and that appropriate acknowledgments and adjustments will be made to self-educate members on how that Rule is to be honored. (One reason this language is so convoluted is that we are not used to speaking of the nuances of collective learning and understanding, so the language lacks expressive power in the sense of short words or phrases that get to what I mean.)

Every group seeking to improve needs stated times where members reflect on personal and collective positive contributions to the group's cohesion and work as well and what had detracted from group success. The After Meeting Review (AMR) perfectly serves this role. Search on the more common term "after action review" for articles to read about this concept.

Basically the AMR is adapted from procedures used by airline flight crews and forest firejumpers after their shifts for Group Reflection and Learning. Because it's immediate and the concerns have just a single instance (are therefore smaller than if a member 'collected' violations only to dump them all at one time on the Group), the meeting can be very brief and highly effective for learning. Recall that our childhood "lesson" about hot stoves were quite brief yet survive within us to this day.

Back to our keyvboardist/joker situation. Picture a group of eight. The facilitating member reminds the group that they need to conclude with the customary after meeting review. After a round of every member sharing something they contributed, our keyboardist speaks up:

K: It might not seem a big deal, but it hurt my feelings a little when you joked about my not being able to find the m dash key combination. Writing has not been easy for me, I did the best I could with my section. I had hoped for something closer to praise for even finishing it, not jokes about a silly m dash!

Member 1 (Joker): I didn't mean anything. I myself had no clue about m dashes until grad school 5 years ago.

Member 2: You know your section was great. Sorry about laughing about the m dash thing.

Member 3: We may all sometimes feel anxious about our writing, thanks for reminding us to be more supportive. You did do a great job, by the way.

Keyboardist: Thanks.

In this Group Learning context the whole group learned (and all had laughed at the joke) that it hurt a member's feelings to joke around with her about that. It was sensitive for her, but not yet a big deal, even her comment included a joke about "silly m dashes." And that's the point, this discussion happens when nothing is a big deal, except the chance to learn together and sustain a bond.

This way to Group Learning by Group Reflection on Group Rules doesn't seem natural much less doable and so is resisted at the conceptual level. In practice, a group quickly gets the hang of it, and can actually feel the Learning taking hold as it improves at the next opportunity based on feedback given during the after meeting review.


GUIDELINES FOR AFTER MEETING REVIEWS (AMR)
"The Army's After Action Review (AAR) is arguably one of the most successful organizational learning methods yet devised. Yet, most every corporate effort to graft this truly innovative practice into their culture has failed because, again and again, people reduce the living practice of AAR's to a sterile technique." — Peter Senge

Purpose and Benefits

The After Meeting Review (AMR) is a specific variant of the After Action Review (AAR). The main difference is that the AMR brings team attention to the specific details of how it conducts its meetings. The AAR can have a much larger scope and help a team take a retrospective view of its activities and results. The AMR is the specific case—AAR the general one.

Not only the Army, but firefighters, forest fire jumpers, commercial airline flight crews, air traffic controllers and some surgery teams use AAR to learn, share their personal perceptions of what occurred during their shift, and find ways to adjust
their exceptions and behaviors (learn) to improve performance.

The habit of predictable and consistent use of AMR benefits teams by
  • Sharing perceptions and feelings immediately after the meeting while it's fresh in team members' minds and everyone is still present.
  • Providing a time for a nonjudgmental, equal status review of the team's actions. The least senior and most senior team members have equal participation and status during AMR's. The same applies, too, for the highest status (the "leader") and the lowest status team members.
  • Building confidence across the team that members will take appropriate actions at the appropriate times.
  • Aligning—by discussion and comparing experiences—separate member perceptions into a common team perspective on events.
  • Providing a formal time for clarifying team communication and reducing conflict.
  • Activating, honoring, and respecting "team rules."

The When and How of AMR

When  The AMR should review the actions of the team near the end of a meeting. What is discussed, of course, depends on what happened. Usually, expect an AMR to take five minutes or less. Vary the comments as necessary; take longer when required by circumstances.

How  Creating a set sequence for comments helps the team use this time well.

Sample sequence:


Begin AMR (See notes after the end of these steps for additional explanations.)
  1. Facilitator: “Two things I did well this meeting were A and B.”


  2. Notetaker: “Two things I did well this meeting were C and D.”


  3. [Team members} “I (we, the team) helped our meeting today by E.”


  4. Facilitator: “One thing I (we) could improve on for next time is F.”


  5. Notetaker: “One thing I (we) could improve on for next time is G.”


  6. [Team members} “One thing I (we) could improve on for next time is H.”

  7. 
Other comments for improvement (from anyone).
End Sample Sequence

Notes for Step(s):
1-3. Allowing the facilitator, recorder and members to offer their own positive self-evaluations begins the AMR on an upbeat. It also avoids one member “volunteering” to be the team “evaluator” or “expert.” If a team member is practicing a skill for the first time, this offers them a chance to share some of their pre-meeting anxieties and satisfaction with how well matters turned out. There’s a limit of two as a way to help members constrain how much time they take speaking.

4-6. Similar principle as noted for the first three steps, this time team members volunteer where they may improve. It works because it is self-chosen, achievable, and preserves of the speaker’s self-esteem.

7. Whenever possible, it is best for team members to phrase suggestions in neutral or positive language. “We took 20 minutes on check-in today” may be enough for team members to be reminded that meeting time is short and to offer briefer check-ins at the next meeting. This is preferred over: “Because of our long-windedness we spent too much time socializing at the beginning and had to rush through some important items.”

After Meeting Review

Had one of those nuanced conversations with a co-facilitator once that left me with more to ponder about my deepest understanding and attitudes about what I do. I love those types of talks!


People gather into a small group—we might call it a team, a board, a task force, a commission. With great attention and sometimes with the aid of a facilitator they compile Noble Norms. These have other names such as Group Rules, Team Rules, etc. but all of them seek to establish the basic behavioral understanding of the group. This becomes some type of Group Law.

And then the group goes about conducting its business. As groups seldom designate a Group Cop or Group Judge, how will this collection of peers raise concerns should one or several members believe a Group Rule has been violated by another member? If adjustments cannot or will not be raised, the Group Rules become meaningless and people act willy-nilly. This might be fine, or might begin a vicious cycle of destructive behaviors.

There's a Group Learning answer and a Personal Comfort answer. At the Personal Comfort level, the suggestion is that the disturbed member draw the violating member aside after the meeting and address the norms violation. This doesn't distract any of the other members from the ongoing business at hand, the two can handle it, and life goes on.

The drawback to this approach is that the other members may not be privy to any resolution, what was resolved, and any remediation of the relationship. Let's say our team has eight members. One person jokes about an obscure grammatical mark that another member couldn't find on her keyboard. Everyone laughs at the joke and carry on with their business.

Afterwards the keyboardist talks to the joker.

K: You know, it hurt my feelings when you joked about my not finding the m dash on my computer. Actually, I don't think it's there to be found, and I tried.

[Note: there are three dashes used when writing' the hyphen "-" the shorter "n" dash: –, often used for separating terms and the longer "m" dash: —, used to separate clauses.]

J: Ah, what's your beef? I had trouble finding it as well. I didn't even know the difference myself until grad school.

K: Well, I didn't appreciate it.

J: Oh, the m dash isn't such a big deal. Two dashes work fine.

K: Not that, well. Oh, never mind.

J: Oh, You think that was a put down?

K: Yeah.

J: I didn't mean anything by it. We have had had our own struggles to learn grammar.

K: Okay. I guess.

When we approach the same norm violation from the view of Group Learning, we have a different attitude among the members and a learning by everyone. Group Learning implies that everyone, that is all members attending the meeting, appreciate that a norm was violated in a group meeting context (the very arena for Group Rules) that one member made note of it, and that appropriate acknowledgments and adjustments will be made to self-educate members on how that Rule is to be honored. (One reason this language is so convoluted is that we are not used to speaking of the nuances of collective learning and understanding, so the language lacks expressive power in the sense of short words or phrases that get to what I mean.)

Every group seeking to improve needs stated times where members reflect on personal and collective positive contributions to the group's cohesion and work as well and what had detracted from group success. The After Meeting Review (AMR) perfectly serves this role. Search on the more common term "after action review" for articles to read about this concept.

Basically the AMR is adapted from procedures used by airline flight crews and forest firejumpers after their shifts for Group Reflection and Learning. Because it's immediate and the concerns have just a single instance (are therefore smaller than if a member 'collected' violations only to dump them all at one time on the Group), the meeting can be very brief and highly effective for learning. Recall that our childhood "lesson" about hot stoves were quite brief yet survive within us to this day.

Back to our keyvboardist/joker situation. Picture a group of eight. The facilitating member reminds the group that they need to conclude with the customary after meeting review. After a round of every member sharing something they contributed, our keyboardist speaks up:

K: It might not seem a big deal, but it hurt my feelings a little when you joked about my not being able to find the m dash key combination. Writing has not been easy for me, I did the best I could with my section. I had hoped for something closer to praise for even finishing it, not jokes about a silly m dash!

Member 1 (Joker): I didn't mean anything. I myself had no clue about m dashes until grad school 5 years ago.

Member 2: You know your section was great. Sorry about laughing about the m dash thing.

Member 3: We may all sometimes feel anxious about our writing, thanks for reminding us to be more supportive. You did do a great job, by the way.

Keyboardist: Thanks.

In this Group Learning context the whole group learned (and all had laughed at the joke) that it hurt a member's feelings to joke around with her about that. It was sensitive for her, but not yet a big deal, even her comment included a joke about "silly m dashes." And that's the point, this discussion happens when nothing is a big deal, except the chance to learn together and sustain a bond.

This way to Group Learning by Group Reflection on Group Rules doesn't seem natural much less doable and so is resisted at the conceptual level. In practice, a group quickly gets the hang of it, and can actually feel the Learning taking hold as it improves at the next opportunity based on feedback given during the after meeting review.

GUIDELINES FOR AFTER MEETING REVIEWS (AMR)
"The Army's After Action Review (AAR) is arguably one of the most successful organizational learning methods yet devised. Yet, most every corporate effort to graft this truly innovative practice into their culture has failed because, again and again, people reduce the living practice of AAR's to a sterile technique." — Peter Senge

Purpose and Benefits

The After Meeting Review (AMR) is a specific variant of the After Action Review (AAR). The main difference is that the AMR brings team attention to the specific details of how it conducts its meetings. The AAR can have a much larger scope and help a team take a retrospective view of its activities and results. The AMR is the specific case—AAR the general one.

Not only the Army, but firefighters, forest fire jumpers, commercial airline flight crews, air traffic controllers and some surgery teams use AAR to learn, share their personal perceptions of what occurred during their shift, and find ways to adjust
their exceptions and behaviors (learn) to improve performance.

The habit of predictable and consistent use of AMR benefits teams by
  • Sharing perceptions and feelings immediately after the meeting while it's fresh in team members' minds and everyone is still present.
  • Providing a time for a nonjudgmental, equal status review of the team's actions. The least senior and most senior team members have equal participation and status during AMR's. The same applies, too, for the highest status (the "leader") and the lowest status team members.
  • Building confidence across the team that members will take appropriate actions at the appropriate times.
  • Aligning—by discussion and comparing experiences—separate member perceptions into a common team perspective on events.
  • Providing a formal time for clarifying team communication and reducing conflict.
  • Activating, honoring, and respecting "team rules."

The When and How of AMR

When  The AMR should review the actions of the team near the end of a meeting. What is discussed, of course, depends on what happened. Usually, expect an AMR to take five minutes or less. Vary the comments as necessary; take longer when required by circumstances.

How  Creating a set sequence for comments helps the team use this time well.

Sample sequence:


Begin AMR (See notes after the end of these steps for additional explanations.)
  1. Facilitator: “Two things I did well this meeting were A and B.”


  2. Notetaker: “Two things I did well this meeting were C and D.”


  3. [Team members} “I (we, the team) helped our meeting today by E.”


  4. Facilitator: “One thing I (we) could improve on for next time is F.”


  5. Notetaker: “One thing I (we) could improve on for next time is G.”


  6. [Team members} “One thing I (we) could improve on for next time is H.”

  7. 
Other comments for improvement (from anyone).
End Sample Sequence

Notes for Step(s):
1-3. Allowing the facilitator, recorder and members to offer their own positive self-evaluations begins the AMR on an upbeat. It also avoids one member “volunteering” to be the team “evaluator” or “expert.” If a team member is practicing a skill for the first time, this offers them a chance to share some of their pre-meeting anxieties and satisfaction with how well matters turned out. There’s a limit of two as a way to help members constrain how much time they take speaking.

4-6. Similar principle as noted for the first three steps, this time team members volunteer where they may improve. It works because it is self-chosen, achievable, and preserves of the speaker’s self-esteem.

7. Whenever possible, it is best for team members to phrase suggestions in neutral or positive language. “We took 20 minutes on check-in today” may be enough for team members to be reminded that meeting time is short and to offer briefer check-ins at the next meeting. This is preferred over: “Because of our long-windedness we spent too much time socializing at the beginning and had to rush through some important items.”

Monday, April 15, 2013

Question "Charity"


"Charity" isn't working, and it never was designed to end socially or collectively resolvable suffering. 

There. I've said it. 

Yes, I dare to question the ideas about charity that have infused themselves into our societies and culture. I know, major religions take great and noble stands on the necessity for the "better off" to give charitably to the "less well off." They have gotten things crossed. The ideas and practices about charity prevents us from reorganizing ourselves into better ways to coexist with one another.They are in the way.

I will frame my comments by responding to Josephine Lowell’s definition of charity. I need to say up front that I admire Lowell a great deal and appreciate that her heart was well schooled by her abolitionist parents.

In her 1884 book, Public Relief and Private Charity, Lowell gives 4 facets to her definition of charity (pp 88-90)—

“1st. It must be voluntary.” She notes that the exchange of material resources resulting from the use of force may transfer property from the wealthy to the poor, but it’s not charity.

“2nd. It must be free in another sense. The person to whom we exercise charity cannot have an acknowledged personal claim upon us.” For Lowell, relationships like parent-child, or employer-employee establish channels of service and support that cannot be labeled charity. Often there’s a duty implied, and charity and duty don’t mix; one is supposedly voluntary and free and the other has shades of moral obligations.

“3rd. Charity must go further than kind feeling—it must be kind action—it must accomplish good to the object of it. No amount of good feeling can convert an injurious act into a charitable one.”

“4th. Charity must be exercised towards a person in inferior circumstances to those of his benefactor. We cannot be charitable to our equals—in the sense of the word with which we are dealing.”

Let’s let Lowell sum up her argument: 
“Charity then, as I define it, must be a voluntary, free, beneficent action performed towards those who are in more destitute circumstances and inferior in worldly position.
“By this definition, all official and public relief is put outside the pale of charity, since it lacks the voluntary element.”

She is not the only thinker to focus on the voluntary, giving side of this exchange. The 13th century Jewish Rabbi and doctor, Maimonides, posits 8 levels of Giving. (The word tzedakah is the Hebrew term for justice or righteousness. It is often translated as charity.)

  1. Giving an interest-free loan to a person in need; forming a partnership with a person in need; giving a grant to a person in need; finding a job for a person in need; so long as that loan, grant, partnership, or job results in the person no longer living by relying upon others.
  2. Giving tzedakah anonymously to an unknown recipient via a person (or public fund) which is trustworthy, wise, and can perform acts of tzedakah with your money in a most impeccable fashion.
  3. Giving tzedakah anonymously to a known recipient.
  4. Giving tzedakah publicly to an unknown recipient.
  5. Giving tzedakah before being asked.
  6. Giving adequately after being asked.
  7. Giving willingly, but inadequately.
  8. Giving "in sadness" (giving out of pity).

All of Maimonides' levels imply voluntary giving, simply in more variety that Lowell dealt with. 

The rest of this post will take a closer look at Lowell’s first point: It must be voluntary.

I picture 2 people, Ms. A who is feeling in a charitable mood, and Mr. B, who is feeling in need of help. Ms. A certainly has an option to provide some or all the help Mr. B needs, and can do so voluntarily. Mr. B’s condition may not be so voluntary; in fact he may be in extreme distress.

By addressing only one side of this exchange, Lowell overlooks that charity involves at least two people, or two parties. It may also involve the tax collector, and this third element introduces the possibility of the person offering the charity, Ms. A, may want to benefit from the tax write-off.

On the other hand, Mr. B may have claims on his income which he seeks to avoid. His hard-up, hard-luck situation may be more a voluntary choice than entirely the result of circumstances.

Somewhere in the middle is the psychology of both those that offer and those that receive. Lee Stringer in Grand Central Winter—his memoir of life on the streets of New York City—captures in a brief sketch this dance of motives and actions.

Stringer had been working the subway cars, selling a weekly newspaper sold by homeless people to earn a few dollars. He had made his pitch but did not get any sales. Before departing, a woman wishes more people would buy a copy to “help the homeless.” He offers her a complimentary copy. She refuses, because he could “sell that.” Stringer writes:
            “This gets me slightly ticked.
            “’I may be on the street,’ I tell her. ‘But if I couldn’t give something to someone every now and then, wouldn’t that make me poorer than I am?’" … 
            He pleads with her to take the paper (“all kinds of things riding” on it, he notes.)
            She instead digs out 97¢ for the paper, “there you go,” she says triumphant. “But it’s her victory alone.”(Emphasis added.)
           She goes into the next car and leaves the paper for him before she exits. He finds it when he enters that car.

It was her "victory alone" because the shadow side to Lowell’s feeling that charity must be voluntary is the sense of shame, humiliation—even stigma—that the recipient may experience. Is this what was Stringer hints at by his side comment that "all kinds of things were riding" on her accepting his offer of a free paper?
In the spirit of never critiquing something without offering a suggestion, I would rewrite Lowell’s first point to read:

People have multiple motives for giving and accepting help.

Somehow I personally have always intuited this feeling of shame from receiving assistance. As a tutor at a youth center in New York, I often encountered middle and high school students who knew they needed help but felt uncomfortable that they needed it! After we had completed any necessary paper work, I would ask them, “What are you going to teach me?”

This caught them off-guard as they felt they were “empty” or "broken" and had to be “filled” or "fixed" with the understanding or knowledge that tutoring offered. To be asked to teach something back right away established our relationship as one that was closer to being one among equals: I knew a little more about composing an essay and was happy to share with them—they knew more about things like Chisanbop (Korean method for doing math calculations using your fingers) which I wanted them to share with me.

If we can get past hidden motives—it isn’t charity if there’s a mutual give and take. 

Comments? 

Comment 4.29.13 
Interesting area to be exploring.  I remember reading somewhere that there is a great difference between when you are giving from your abundance or giving from a place requiring some level of sacrifice.  I found that provocative.

Penny 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Write Down what you Spend, Save, & Share!

It's a form. A basic form. Write down the month, day, what you bought, the amount the purpose you put the money to: Spending, Saving, or Sharing. The last column is for a memo or note. Basic—8 columns.

The challenge is consistency: writing down every expense, every time. Cash, check, card, even the spare change or dollars handed out to panhandlers (check the share column).

That's it. It works. The question is can you work it so it works for you!

Look what some bloggers have posted on this technique if you don't believe me.

From: Prime Parents Club

#DoIn52 Week 3: Become More Aware of What Your Family Spends

For our third week in Do In 52, we want your entire family to become more aware of what you spend in one week by tracking it–all of it! So, grab a notebook and an envelope for each family member who is old enough to spend and get at it. Just have people log what they bought and the amount.
The rules are easy:

Save a receipt or write down in your notebook every single thing you spend money on for seven days straight.

Spend $120 at the grocery store? Write it down. Spend $20.01 at the gas station (come on, we know you go over when trying to stop on the .00 mark), save that receipt. Pay the electric bill? Log it. Buy a pack of gum at the school event concession stand? WRITE IT DOWN. (Yes, we are totally serious.) Order an Amazon book that auto-bills your account? Yep, you have to track that, too. Anything that comes out of your personal funds, you need to track it for the week.

Part of the reason that people have such a hard time with budgeting and saving money is that they don’t realize exactly what they’re spending, especially on little things that can add up fast. At the end of your seventh day, collect all the receipts and notebooks from everyone and add it up. We’re pretty sure that you’ll find some corners you can cut immediately, and then probably some things you can work on longterm.
So … get to tracking!

-------------------------------
From: ReadyforZero

One thing that I’ve personally found is that if I force myself to enter my spending daily or at the very least 3-4 times a week, I really feel the pain if I enter something that I know is bad for my budget or if I go red in a category. This helps me make smarter purchasing decisions and avoid over spending. Alternatively, it feels great when I do make my budget for the month or only ‘stray’ within a few dollars. It’s almost like a game that helps me accomplish my goals.

-------------------------------
So, get started, keep it quick and manageable. At the beginning don't worry about getting every expense recorded, just focus on building the habit of writing a note or sitting at the computer with receipts and bills.

The more mindful, the more moneyful!
 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pay Down Higher Interest Debt First


Look at the illustration carefully. If, as Sheri O. Zampelli says paying interest is like buying nothing, you buy more nothing over time with higher interest.

If, for example, Abe and Abby, twins, take out separate $1000 loans in July of 2012 by using their credit cards to get tickets and rooms for a long planned family reunion. Abe's card had a 20% interest on the unpaid balance, and Abby's card charges her 10%. Neither of them will make more purchases on their cards until these are paid off.

Both of them will pay a $20 minimum payment each month, at least at the beginning.

When will each loan get repaid and how much interest will that cost? 

To answer that it helps to have some basic concepts in mind. All loan repayments have two parts: the principal, meaning important or main part, is the amount borrowed. The most principal Abe and Abby will pay back is $1000 because that's the amount they borrowed.

The other part is interest: an extra amount returned to the lender (the credit card companies) for advancing money to the borrower. This area is where lenders can really put a hurting on borrowers if there are no reasonable caps or limits on the extra they can charge. Excessive interest is called usury. Communities either by custom (only charge high interest to outsiders), culture (our people never take advantage of anyone), or law (charge more than the law allows and the government will shut you down) declare what amount of interest is reasonable. The creative greed of lenders then find ways to get around those limits. And so the merry-go-round works.

The important thing to remember is as long there is an outstanding principal the lender will add interest. But as soon as that amount is repaid, the lender is "made whole" and the loan repayments end. 

Back to Abe and Abby. In a little over 5 years Abby will have her 10% loan paid off, and have incurred $299 in interest, for a total expense of $1299. 

Abe will continue to pay for an additional 4 years on his 20% loan and pay $1168 in interest for a total of $2168 for his original $1000 charges.

I will share some links if you want to learn more, especially if you have multiple loans at different rates. But first, a couple of warnings. You may see from time to time a blogger say a payday loan "is designed for quick access to cash but not for long-term use," or words to that effect. Don't believe them! Payday loans are a trap and the lenders want you to use them long-term, though you think you're only needing their "help" for 2 weeks. They are not a help to "underserved" communities because the profits leave the community, and even the wages paid are to people who often live elsewhere than the poor communities that are the targets for these storefront lenders.

Another warning: some of the articles discuss finally paying off the principal loan amount like its the only point of emotional or psychological happiness. Think of the ritualized moments in plays and movies where people burn their mortgage agreements after the house is finally paid off.

The thing is, we can set our own interim success markers! I like to compare this power we always have held to how fans of sports team react. Let's say our football team is currently losing by 10 points. It has the ball and scores a touchdown. Are fans quiet at this point? No, they are cheering! But why? They are not ahead yet, they still are behind by 3 points. However you understand why they are cheering, use that for yourself.

So, let's back to Abe. He talks to his sister and realizes he needs to get a credit card like hers! But first, he wants to pay off this $1000 faster than the credit card company wants him to. They both know that anything over the minimum is subtracted from the principal.  Remember, the longer he takes to pay it, the happier (or wealthier) the credit card company becomes. The opposite is also true: the faster he can pay the better off he is.

Abe does some calculations on a napkin while having lunch with his sister. He buys coffee and sometimes a muffin or scone about 3 times a week, that's adds up to over $60 a month. He also was going to add a couple of personal days to a business trip to see the sights—he can forgo that but keep the time off and rest so he won't feel the need for the coffee. He's been Mr. Party impressively buying rounds for his friends sometimes at happy hour. That's going to stop. An so on. He commits to his sister to finding at least $100 of savings a month and putting that money on his loan till the $1000 is paid off. And, to get started, he tells her he is not buying her lunch today as he usually does, they will have to pay 50-50. Actually, Abby instead buys him lunch as her contribution to his goal.

Abe can feel good each month now if he achieves at least $100 in savings to add to his loan payment and not wait till the full $1000 is repaid to feel good.

Okay, you've been warned. Here are some sites with alternative ways to go about repaying your debts.





As with most things, knowledge adds to your strength. Remember to read the fine print and take your time before agreeing to terms.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Catch this Show While you Can

Showing at the Collum Gallery in Seattle's International District (Chinatown) right now is an inspired show of Annie Bissett’s woodcuts: LOADED: the magic, the promise, the curse, and the language of money. Through October 27, 2012.

Clearly this show is the artist’s deep meditation on money. Her full-sized blocks, and smaller-sized notes, captures the extremes of feelings we harbor about money. Text and images spring surprises. With her attention to text and language she plays in the same league as Oscar Wilde, Barbara Kruger, and Jenny Holzer. Consider just 2 of these pairings:

  1. The print: "Filthy Rich" in the font used for money, paired with the hand-written “dirt poor.”
  2. The print: “Swimming in Cash”; paired with the handwritten “drowning in debt.”
Her currency in 4 denominations (earth, air, fire, and water, plus a single jubilee note) celebrates life in those classic domains and reminds us of All that money cannot never buy. Subversively, this also reminds us that “money” and “trade” are social creations. This means we share in the “ownership” of this invention, and thus what we do and say and think changes what money means. 

Loaded imaged indeed. Catch it while you can. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Think 3x before Accepting a Payday Loan 3/3


This is the 3rd installment of a 3 part series on Payday Loans

(3) Think it over for 24 hours. You have until the next day the payday lender is open to cancel your loan (return the money and get your check back). 

This may not be true in every state, so check your home state's regulations. In Washington, though, you have 24 hours to change your mind. The Department of Financial Institutions maintains a web page on payday loans that details duties of lenders and borrowers under Washington law. Washington's law reads: 

RCW 31.45.086

Small loans — Right of rescission.

A borrower may rescind a loan, on or before the close of business on the next day of business at the location where the loan was originated, by returning the principal in cash or the original check disbursed by the licensee to fund the small loan. The licensee may not charge the borrower for rescinding the loan and shall return to the borrower any postdated check taken as security for the loan or any electronic equivalent. The licensee shall conspicuously disclose to the borrower this right of rescission in writing in the small loan agreement or small loan note.

Because of the extreme ease of getting a payday loan, lawmakers decided to give up time to catch our breath and think. Turns out, the ancient wisdom that "sleeping on a problem" helps you find better solutions is getting modern scientific support. It makes sense: the longer we give ourselves before we are fully committed the more time important issues or potential solutions have to percolate up from less-than-conscious regions of our minds. 

Payday lenders would prefer their potential customers not think. Their goal is to get us started on a loan and they profit when we have a hard time paying it off on time or have to return for more loans later. 

Our goal is to manage our financial affairs well enough that we don't ever need quick loans. Payday lenders have motives at cross-purposes to our own. They want us to forget our motives and succumb to following theirs. Use all the time you have to see how you can hold firm to your goals.

Summary

Thinking will save you money in several ways: 
  • Reasonable rates for a loan saves money on interest costs
  • Making timely payments avoid penalties 
  • Changing your mind should you decide you don't need the loan sidesteps the problem of how to repay it.
I'll end this series on payday loans with something else to think about:

 Paying interest is like buying nothing.
~ Sheri O. Zampelli