Empower series 53: Self-modulating your lifestyle

A valve is a mechanical device for controlling the flow of a fluid, say a liquid which flows through a conduit. Ah, talking of valves reminds me of an incident in University at Kumasi. We were in a mechanical engineering laboratory session. The teaching assistant/technician taking us through the session asked what a valve was. We all gave various definitions, none of which was acceptable. Then, one of my mates raised his hand, and when he was asked to give his opinion, he said “A valve is simply an orifice!” We all broke down in mirthful laughter! If we didn’t understand what a valve was, how could we appreciate an orifice?!

Anyway, back to the valve. In most big production plants, engineers like to use automatic modulating valves, which are able to adjust the flow of the fluid when certain conditions are either met or exceeded. For instance, a modulating valve could open to allow flow of fluid out of a tank once a particular level of the tank has been reached, to prevent overflow. Modulating valves could be operated manually or as indicated could also be self-operating, based on some process conditions or rules.

I reflect on the conditions that the global economic crisis have brought on all of us. Even before this year, in 2008 we had escalating prices increases in food and fuel in most parts of the world. Input materials for most production sites had significant increases in prices and to recover fixed production costs and overheads and to maintain their profit margins, most companies were forced to up their point of purchase prices of consumables especially. This year is not different, and the situation will likely worsen before it abates and hopefully reverts to normal, manageable conditions.

What intrigues me in studying people within these two years is that most of us do not have economic modulating valves. We do not change anything in our lifestyles as the conditions around us change. In the height of the fuel increases last year in Ghana, I still saw cars with just one person driving all the way from Adenta to Accra central and back, each day for work. This is a distance of not less than seventy kilometres per journey. Why don’t people pool cars and share, alternating each week, for instance?

When the prices of imported rice rose by more than 50% last year, my wife and I changed the brand of rice we used. It was not pleasant (I am a rice eater!) but we needed to do that to keep our lifestyle within budget. That was a modulating valve at work.

There are persons who adjust their standard of living upwards each time they get a salary increase, when there is clearly no need! My concept is that a salary increase should go into a fund for investment, for a rainy day. Of course, there are those who hold to the ideology of Winston Churchill who believed that when the gap between expenditure and income becomes too wide for comfort, the solution is not to reduce expenditure but rather to increase income! Well, there is some sense in that, but reality is that in most cases, the rate of increase in income is not comparable to that in expenditure!

This is a tough year, 2009. Most companies will not give fantastic or even normal salary increases. These increases in most countries, especially in the developing countries like mine will not be enough to recover inflation. We have already seen some job losses. The conditions of our bank accounts and wallets will not be as bright as we are used to. Those who will survive these conditions well with be those with self-modulating economic valves, and these valves must undergo regular maintenance!

May you live in interesting times!

Quotes

“He who will not economise with have to agonise.” Confucius

“Economy does not consist in saving the coal, but in using the time while it burns.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Economy has frequently nothing whatever to do with the amount of money being spent, but with the wisdom used in spending it.” Henry Ford

“I would rather have people laugh at my economies than weep for my extravagance.” King Oscar II of Sweden

“The love of economy is the root of all virtue.” George Bernard Shaw

“Moderation is the key of lasting enjoyment.” Hosea Ballou

“Parsimony, and not industry, is the immediate cause of the increase of capital. But whatever industry might acquire, if parsimony did not save and store up, the capital would never be the greater.” Adam Smith

“Economy is half the battle of life; it is not so hard to earn money as to spend it well.” Charles H. Spurgeon

“I believe in moderation in all things, including moderation.” J. F. Carter

“Fortify yourself with moderation, for this is an impregnable fortress.” Epictetus

“Everything that exceeds the bounds of moderation has an unstable foundation.” Seneca

“Abstinence from enjoyment is the only source of capital.” Thomas Brassey

“With parsimony a little is sufficient; without it nothing is sufficient, but frugality makes a poor man rich.” Seneca

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