Sit Fit

Yoga anyone?  Enjoy it now, because it’s also the very last posture exercise you’ll ever do.

Don’t believe me?  Check out “corpse” pose!

Honestly, there’s no better exercise than yoga.  My family knows I enjoy it, but I don’t try to push it on them.  I feel that it’s something everyone should discover and appreciate on their own.

This goes double for my father.  I’ve never ever been able to tell him anything.  Not when I was eight.  And now that I’m fifty eight it’s even more true.   I don’t take it personally.  He doesn’t take advice from ANYONE.

Last year he broke his back.  It took a month for the “doctors” to figure it out.  Then excruciating months of operations, manipulations, drugs and therapy.  It’s only been recently that he can walk without his cane.  But there’s still pain.

So the other night during our holiday dinner, when he complained about his back pain, I thought I’d make another attempt to help.

“Dad,” I said, “can I make an observation and maybe give you a little advice?”

He gave me that “you think you can tell me anything?” kind of look and gave me his version of a yes: “Why not?”

As an aside, my father NEVER answers questions or makes requests directly.  He only gives out questions and you have to guess his state of mind.  He would have made a great politician.

I explained to Dad that his back pain is probably due to years of neglecting his core, his abdominal muscles.

Back in the 1950s when he first had problems, doctors proscribed rest and heavy-duty girdles.  It felt good, but never solved Dad’s problem.  I remember many days every year where he couldn’t get out of bed because of the pain, or had to sleep on the floor.  And he always had the girdle.

Turns out the docs gave him wrong information.  The girdle supports you, but weakens your core.  Bed rest puts your spine in a relaxed position, but doesn’t make it stronger so that you can enjoy the rest of your life.  What Dad needed was exercise.

So Dad looks at me over the table and says, “So what can I do about it now?”

Here’s where yoga comes in.  “You can do it anytime, anywhere,” I say.

For instance, sitting at the table.  We have straight chairs.  I pointed out that he was slumping, resting his back against the back of the chair.

Dad, I said, try this.  I went through the various steps, yoga style, showing him that he could simply sit in a chair at the dinner table and still help his back at the same time.

  1. First, watch your breath.  Steady even breathing is the core of all yoga.
  2. Then, put your feet on the floor.  Take your shoes off if you can.  Bare feet are better.  Ensure that the midline of your feet are parallel.
  3. Press your feet down evenly, as if they had four corners.  Press the heels away from each other, gently.
  4. Put the knees at about right angles, so the ankle is under your knee.
  5. Very important here – tilt your pelvis forward as much as you comfortably can.  Like you’re tipping the top towards the table, putting a curve into your lower back.
  6. Breath in now and straighten your spine as you do.  Grow tall.
  7. Roll your shoulders back, letting the shoulder blades come together.  Like making a veggie dog bun in your upper back.
  8. Breath out as you roll your shoulders back, making sure that your lower ribs don’t jut out.
  9. Now rotate your arms outward.  I find it easier to do this by putting my hands on the table and turning them over so the back of my hand is on the table.
  10. Keep breathing evenly!  Remember, yoga is first and foremost about your breath!
  11. Check your lower ribs and tummy as you breath out, keeping that spine straight and tall.  If the ribs stick out, think about keeping the top of your belly button rolling down.
  12. Get back to your hands, and with your upper arms still rotated out, push the arms back and roll your hands so that the palms are on the table.
  13. Take inventory of all your parts, starting with the feet and working up to your head.  Breath.  Close your eyes if you can.  Think nice thoughts.  Or just keep making light table talk.

That’s it – you’re doing yoga at the table.  You can make it as hard as you want.  But it makes you stronger, and will help reduce back pain.

Dad took it all in.  To his credit, I could see him trying everything I had told him.  He looked at me and said “Is it supposed to be hurt?”

Dad, I said, it’s as hard as you want it to be.  You’ve let your core go all these years.  It might hurt a little, but getting your core stronger can only be good for you.

In my head I was thinking, Dad, you’re doing yoga.  It’s good for you.  You’re getting stronger.  And no one has to be the wiser.

I don’t know if he’ll keep doing it.  For example, he has one of the lazy chairs that lifts you out – and I think it’s the worst thing he could do to himself.  He’s almost 90, so he can do whatever he wants.

But I don’t want to live in his world of hurt.  So I do yoga.  Chair yoga.

For life.

 

New Fat Path

We’re driving over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house for a traditional Christmas Eve gathering.

I’ve already eaten several holiday dinners every day this week.  With all the office parties, birthday parties, and generic holiday parties going on, it’s hard to even pretend to abstain.  And there’s people dropping by the office with the assorted mixed nuts, chocolates, cookies, and popcorn, and even beer! I can’t remember the last time I felt hungry.

As we drive along, I wonder what can I do?

I can say, “no thanks, mom.  I’d like a small portion.  No, no seconds, thank you.  Dessert?  No, none for me, please.”

None of these will work.  Like a game of chess I have to worry about what my words will do to my wife’s mother, my mil (mother in law for short).

I know I’m the only one with this problem, so let me describe it for you.  If I say the wrong thing while we’re at their house it could make my life very stressful for weeks.  If I really screw up I could make everyone upset, including my wife.  Chances are good that they would never let me forget it, either.  Heck, they still remember stupid things I said twenty years ago; things that I’ve long forgotten.

We’re parking the car.  What do I do?

What’s the downside?  So what if I eat too much?  You know, besides getting bloated and fat?

The burden I face is made much heavier because my wife and her mother are incredible cooks.  So it’s not that I’m turning down fast food; this is real gourmet dining.

What’s wrong with me pigging out?

As we gather our goods and start walking up the path, I think about Americans.  We’re a big country.  Not just Alaska and Grand Canyon big, we’re big and fat.  Americans are heavier than any other nation.  I don’t think that includes Canadians.

Americans are BIG.  How did this happen?

Well’ we have lots of money, so we can buy lots of food.

We make our food in factories, for the most part, so it’s inexpensive.

Generally, it’s not high quality, so when we get it served to us in a restaurant we get a lot.

Plus, there’s a good chance the food factories put extra sugar and other “ingredients” into their food encouraging us to eat more.

And let’s not forget the other side of life; the fact that we are constantly bombarded with ads telling us to eat more, and that we are glued to our screens watching those ads instead of walking around our neighborhood.

All of these are known pathways to getting fat.

I know all of these paths, and I realize that what I’m suffering from is a brand new pathway.  I’ve discovered yet another force upon us that makes me eat too much.

Guilt.

Yes, you may nod knowingly.  Guilt is the icing on the holiday cake.

No matter your ethnic background or religious upbringing, there are few young women who can go through an entire holiday event without getting a dollop of guilt from her mother or mil.  Guilt is probably more of a tradition than turkey and mashed potatoes.

Now, here I was, being guilted into eating.  How?

You see, if I say too much or say the wrong thing, I’m screwed for weeks, perhaps years.

But if I keep stuffing my face and mumble things like “thish is deelishus” or “paff vu graffee” then it’s like getting a pass out of making conversation.

Even if I’m asked a tough question I have a way out.  For instance, my mil may ask if I like her new hair style.  I’ll just stuff more rib roast into my mouth and nod agreeably.

If I hadn’t been eating I probably would have said something really stupid like “I hadn’t even noticed” or “I thought it was a wig.”

We walk up the steps and into the room.  I’m greeted by incredible aromas and a glass of wine offered by my fil.

Guess which path I choose tonight?

Happy New Year!

 

All Fed Up

I attended an economic talk last week from a former Fed economist.  His name isn’t important, and what he talked about isn’t that great either.

It’s what happened at the very end of the talk.

He accepted questions from the audience, and on a lark I sent in my question.  I asked what his thoughts were about the crossing of the M2 and MZM curves I talked about yesterday.

Mine was the very last question!  And here’s what he said.

Velocity isn’t important.

I’m not even summarizing what he said.  That was how he dismissed my question.

Not important?  How long we hold onto money isn’t important?  One of the most fundamental forces working against the Fed and inflation isn’t important?

Better yet, one of the best behavioral indicators we have of monetary “stickiness” isn’t important?  What’s wrong with this guy?

Here’s what’s wrong.  He’s part of the old way of thinking, and can’t see the forest for the trees.  The old way of thinking got us into the savings and loan crises of the 1980s, the internet bubble of the 1990, and the Great Recession of 2008.

Fixing our economy, improving our society, and smoothing out our lives so that we can start planning our future more accurately is going to take a new way of thinking.  Paying attention to velocity is more important than an arbitrary number like unemployment.

And that’s why I’m all fed up.  And that’s why I went out and drank with my friends.  And that’s why I hope they don’t invite him back next year.

Now, let’s all get out there and make that money slippery!

 

Money Talks

Yesterday we talked about “sticky” money.  The fact that it sticks in your pocket for some amount of time.  Maybe a day, or maybe a year.  If it sticks in your pocket for a year, it’s very sticky.

If you’re really making lots of money, you might think that you wouldn’t spend money very fast.  But it’s not so.  Some people with lots of dough do double duty and get that money in circulation – fast.

And here is where the big picture comes in.  Our Federal Reserve Bank is like the Supreme Court of Banks.  They are the bank that all the other banks bank with.

One of the best things for us is that the “Fed” gathers great statistics.  The one stat that is most interesting to us is the velocity of a few forms of money.  The first type of money is the kind that us regular people keep around: checking accounts, savings accounts, what’s in our pockets and rolling around in the cracks of our cars.

The other kind of money is a really big aggregate.  It includes all the money that is tied up in stocks, bonds, fancy investments, and things like that.  It also includes all the money of regular folk.

As you can imagine, the aggregate money includes everyone.  So, the people with no money are lumped together with people with lots of money.  The result is that it shows us what the big money people are doing.

Enough talk.  Here’s the graph.

https://research.stlouisfed.org/datatrends/mt/page12.php

If you can see this, you notice the red line represents MZM, that’s the big aggregate.  This includes the people with lots of money.  The number starts out at 2.6 and has dropped down to 1.4.  This means that the big money people and all the regular people together spend their disposable dollars about 1.4 times a year.  Every 8.5 months.  It used to be every 4 to 5 months before.  What happened?

Meanwhile the M2 line shows what regular people have.  It dropped from 2.2 to 1.5.  This means that the velocity of regular money went from 5.5 months to 8 months.

The overall conclusion is that money is getting a whole lot stickier than it used to be.  But there’s another interesting thing going on here.

Look at the second quarter of 2001.  See how the red and blue lines cross?  For the first time since the Fed has collected this information, the MZM has gotten stickier than M2.  Why?

Notice how it’s in the shaded area.  That means the economy was in a recession.  Hmmm.

Is it possible that people with lots of money stopped spending it as fast as they used to?  It is possible that they like holding onto it, even more than those of us without lots of disposable income?

Of course it is.  Perhaps it’s because of legislation.  Or maybe potential investments have dried up.  But it shows that one of the forces the Fed is fighting is that people simply aren’t spending money like the should be.

When people don’t spend money, it means there is very little pressure for companies to increase prices.  And if they can’t raise prices, then there’s little inflation.  And if there’s little inflation, then there’s no incentive for banks to give us interest.  So no savings.

Worse, the biggest tool the Fed has for stimulating the economy is pumping money into it.  Into us.  But if we hold onto the money instead, then the Fed has a problem.  They have to pump even more money.  And that can cause other problems.

So, there it is.  Sticky money.  Some of it is stickier than others.  And it tells us that people with lots of money don’t spend it as fast as those of us with less.

The money is talking.  Is anyone listening?

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Sticky Money

Behavior.  It’s what you say when someone sneezes.  And why you say it.  And where that phrase come from.  And why.

Behavior.  It’s also about how our species evolved.  And how all species evolve.  And where the first life-like molecules came from.

Big behavior.  Bitty Behavior.  Where do you want to sit?

I like looking at the big picture, mostly.  Sure, why we “bless” someone who sneezes is interesting, but not as interesting as why those sexy Italians can’t seem to make any babies.

Here’s a big picture item.  It’s called velocity by the bankers and economists.  It refers to the “sticky” component of your money.

What does sticky mean?  It means that when you get a dollar of disposable income, it sticks in your pocket.

What’s disposable?  That means it’s not rent, phone, or other expenses you HAVE to pay or you HURT.

Disposable income is what YOU get to CHOOSE to spend money on.  If you have any left over.  Do you want a fancy sweater?  That’s disposable income.  Do you want ice cream with those eggs and milk?  That’s disposable cash.

But if you never spend that disposable income, if you keep it in your pocket or savings account, then it’s sticky.

If you gave me a dollar and I spent it instantly, then it’s not sticky.  If the next person also spends it instantly, then it’s also not sticky for him.  And so on.  In one year, that one dollar may have changed hands a hundred times!  If that happens, we say the velocity is 100.

But if I wait a month to spend it, and the next person waits a month, then that dollar has a velocity of 12.  See?

Here’s the bad news.  Today’s money velocity is between one and two.  And the overall velocity is going down.

What does this mean?

It means that people are making their money stickier.  It means that we hold onto it longer.  And it means that whatever money our federal reserve puts into circulation, it ends up being less effective.

Sticky money.  Not a rock star, but something sitting in your pocket.

It’s something we measure, and something we can learn from.  Stay tuned!