Your money does count

I remember reading years ago about a sign that hung in Albert Einstein’s office. It read, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” After thinking about it and digesting his words, I agree with him—except when it comes to money. Because when it comes to money, whether you have enough to count or not, it certainly counts!

We do so much with money. We earn it, spend it, save it, invest it and give it away. Money tells so much about our values, and in fact tells us more about our priorities in life than almost anything else.

Our cover story this month explores what Baton Rougeans earn these days and how we feel about it. We compare six-figure executive salaries of public company CEOs and community leaders with the more modest figures earned by everyday working folks.

We also conducted a non-scientific survey of 225 readers that revealed some interesting perceptions about compensation:

• 56% of our readers feel their compensation is fair or better.

• Among the 44% who feel otherwise, women were more than twice as likely to feel underpaid than men.

• Fewer respondents said they still feel satisfied or prosperous as they get older.

• 68% of respondents have enjoyed a raise in pay in the past year, although more men (193) than women (185) reported a raise.

• Higher salaries are no guarantee for feeling more prosperous. In fact, 17 respondents who earn $61,000 to $80,000 a year described themselves as feeling poor or struggling, while another six earning $81,000 to $100,000 said the same thing.

No matter where your salary falls along the spectrum, what your current situation is, or how you feel about it, one thing is sure: most of us who live in America need to learn and cultivate an attitude of contentment. Because we live in a society filled with materialistic indulgences and vanity, it’s important to appreciate what we have. We are not born with the instinct of contentment; rather, it is learned.

Your wallet can be full of money and your head full of information, but if your heart is empty, you will never be fulfilled or have contentment in your life.

I learned a long time ago that the quickest cure for ingratitude is loss. This is what’s happening to many people in America now. Many have not been good stewards of their resources; they’ve taken their jobs, their prosperity and their money for granted. The facts show many people don’t save enough money, and they give no thought to planning for the future. They live for today and assume the economic climate will remain the same.

Right now is a good time to recalibrate your thinking in this area. A recent article in USA Today affirms that as the economic news has worsened, Americans’ spending habits have swung from years of free spending and saying “charge it” at every turn to using such words as “scrimp and save” and “scrape up some cash.” This, in my opinion, is not a bad thing. Learning to appreciate what you have—however little or much that is—helps you want less. Learning to be content with what you have and to plan for your goals is not an easy process, but it is well worth the effort.

Getting your things in order

That phrase often has grim connotations, but this month we show you a way to bring order to your world and give your appearance some fresh dazzle at the same time. Young Baton Rouge entrepreneur Erica Thevenot will come in and reorganize your closet, chucking out useless clutter and using her stylish eye to combine garments into new outfits. “I want to eliminate that daily dose of dread when they walk in the closet and think, ‘I have nothing to wear,’” she says. Check out contributing style writer Meghan Cornay’s story about this closet organizer here.

What do the parents think?

The performance of many of our public schools has been headed in the wrong direction for too long. In a move that’s sparked surprising controversy, state education officials, after years of reprieves, have finally decided to step in and take over some of the worst performing schools. East Baton Rouge Parish school system officials fought the takeover and convinced some parents of kids at those failing schools to stand with them. We wondered how the parents of children attending failing schools feel, why many remain loyal to their school’s faculty, and what they expect from schools taken over by the state and operated by charter schools. First-time 225 contributor Candace J. Semien interviewed several families from those troubled schools to give them a voice in this important public debate. Read the story here.