Greece

Trying hard to stay focused on the task at hand. The mutual fund industry, much like the rest of the financial industry, is excessively complicated. A lot of nuances that deal with account types and how money moves around the system. Regulations and red tape everywhere. But slowly getting a grip on basics and moving into more technicalities of my position. I feel ready to get in the workload and get my feet wet. One of my co-workers described the job like a video game, which has some merit. You spend awhile learning how the system works, try out a couple of easy missions and then get to play the complicated stuff. Only this video game is more like a MMORPG (massively multiplayer role playing game), very open-ended and has some serious real-world consequences.* They delivered a phone to my desk yesterday, so hopefully the computer is also coming soon.

*Which is kind of funny if you think about it. Money, as it has been since we moved away from the gold standard**, is kind of an understood unit of wealth. It accomplishes a couple of things; a medium of exchange (think about trading two chickens for a couple of gallons of milk), unit of account (how much things are worth), and store of value (easy to put aside and use on a given whim). However with increasing amounts of transactions made digital, be it debit, credit, bank wires, etc. What is money really but an idea anymore? And it is funny how there are jobs currently “farming” for money in virtual worlds. “Farming” is a term that essentially describes grinding out repetitive tasks in a virtual world for in-game money. This in game money can then be sold for real world cash.

**This was a controversial move because it gave the government to print money that was not backed by precious metals. Previously, the paper money was correlated to the amount of gold that a person “owned” which made it a fairly good form of exchange. Essentially, there were two World Wars and Governments were paying for lots of things in debt so it could no longer be supported by gold-backed money. It is a fascinating story that also randomly involves the Wizard of Oz which was about this very topic. Google it. ***

***Also take a moment to look at Google’s new privacy policies for information gathering. Now they will have ALL the information. On the one hand, I like the idea of personalized advertising, that is definitely where online marketing was going anyway and at least those ads that you see will be relevant. On the other hand, holy crap, if for any reason, someone comes up with a crazy reason to search those results, that person can pretty much understand anything you’ve ever done online including searches, websites you’ve looked at, where you have accounts, etc. in one handy place. Talk about your data mining central.


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This whole thing really got me thinking about the current situation in the EU, especially Greece. Any sort of search on any news site will bring up a number of articles about the problems Greece is facing and the reaction of the people. I really will not do the whole story justice in the following paragraph but it is kind of a synopsis from a passive (see: lazy) marketing major perspective. I know just enough about the situation to be dangerous to anyone who knows nothing about the situation.

Greece was about to default on a number of important loans that the government took out in order to do its day to day businesses such as public services. Do be aware that the European Union generally has a higher tax rate in favor of a much more robust social service system that includes a public health care system. (I’m not going to get into a discussion about the benefits and failures, that is a topic for another time) The Greek people however, are more than notorious for avoiding taxes which has only furthered the debt. When the American housing market crashed in 2008, the aftershocks rocked the eurozone and strained a lot of the cashflow.* One of the biggest problems was Greece who could not pay back debt on time. If Greece defaults it would throw a particular wrench in the massive EU economy. (If you are unaware, the European Union countries are precariously balanced, tying together national economies and using a single currency (the euro) which has performed very well.) So the EU was faced with a problem, bailout Greece and set a precedence for other struggling EU countries (Portugal, Italy) or force Greece out of the system. They decided that to force Greece out might usher in a breakup of the EU and again plunge European economies into the doldrums and unrest across the continent. So a bailout was put into play but not without consequences. Strict austerity measures were put in place, among them were a watchful eye from Brussels on all government spending, a 20% cut in the national minimum wage, and German tax collectors put into place. This resulted in continuing riots by the people, many of which believe Germany (the main economic powerhouse of the EU) is just taking over the country as they did in World War 2.

*It is not a new response for people to halt the flow of money in a recession. People stop spending money because of lost jobs, less hours, an uncertain investment future. This in turn creates a vicious cycle in which companies are not selling anything and can’t pay their employees or fulfill debts taken out to support production. Those employees don’t have much money to spend and so they save it at home. The remedy? Well most economists will want the money to flow again. How this is accomplished is a rather large point of contention.

Now I wanted to bring up this story because I’m genuinely concerned about Europe. If the rioting in London was a signal (albeit more of a signal of greed and showing the power that people and social media can have in a negative manner**) it showed that the will of the people is something to be feared and that the current  peace is extremely fragile. And should Greece be a signal for other struggling european nations that Germany will come and save them at the cost of control, I’m not so sure the continent is safe from an ongoing recession that destroys the will of generations of Europeans to come. Couple that with the complicated matter of Russia basically in control of the EU’s energy and China who has all the manufacturing, debt promises, and a severely questionable generation of “Little Emperors” there are very stressing times ahead.

**For positive examples, look at Libya and Egypt, overthrowing oppressive governments. We won’t get into what they have to try and do now, that is far too complicated for me to understand right now.

I’m not sure quite what to do and I don’t know what our leaders should do (besides count the money) so I propose this, a saying that I like to call my motto; “I do what I can.”

I used this in my job interviews and explained it kind of like this: This saying means that I will do what is in my power and what I feel is in our mutual best interest. This does not mean that I will stop when my task is complete but rather do what needs to be done at the extent of my abilities. I am not the smartest person,the wisest, nor am I a great athlete. But I can think and reason,learn from my mistakes,  and I can train my body to run (or bike or swim) and in doing so, my contribution is not lost and at the end of the day, I sleep knowing that during my life I did.

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