A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Gena Bigler: A tax on services could hurt poorer Kentuckians in areas like car repairs

In most of Kentucky, a car is a necessity, and for many that means an older car that frequently needs a mechanic to keep it running.   Public transportation simply isn’t available in huge parts of the state with more than 50 percent of Kentuckians living in rural areas. If you want to work or go grocery shopping, you have to have access to a car. The new proposed tax on services makes it more...

Gena Bigler: Even in midst of winter’s hold, gardening and its bounty are top of mind

As I watch the snow fall, I find myself dreaming about a garden.   Every year my grandparents had a beautiful garden. It was like magic. Huge tomatoes that would be fried while green than later the plants would provide more to be cut into big red wedges to go with fresh cooked green beans grown a few rows back.   There were tons of cucumbers winding around in a tricky maze; they pricked...

Gena Bigler: A $1 million settlement sounds like much, but often isn’t for whistleblowers

When is a million dollars not enough?   Americans wake up every morning, have a cup of coffee and go to work. Most of us worry about traffic, drive defensively and do our best to be safe. Most of us rarely think about safety once we arrive at our workplace. There are countless safety standards, policies and laws that we rely on to keep us safe. Those standards, policies and laws were not handed...

Gena Bigler: Make plans for change, not resolutions; it only takes 21 days or steps

Resolutions can lack resolve. Aspirations and goals are more manageable. In this New Year, make plans for change instead of resolutions.   The best thing about the start of a new year is hope. Each new beginning brings hope: Hope for a better year, hope to be a better person, hope for lasting happiness.   Instead of making unobtainable resolutions, make reasonable, achievable and, most...

Gena Bigler: What color is Santa? He’s a rainbow, unique as each act of kindness

What color is Santa?   Santa is black, white, brown, yellow, red and everything in between. Santa is an idea that there is a generous spirit living in each human. It is the idea that the innocent happiness of children should be rewarded for simply existing. Santa does not belong to a religion or a country. The idea of Santa is the embodiment of generosity.   Fighting about what color...

Gena Bigler: Money shaming is peer pressure for adults, an attempt to keep equal footing

Recently, a friend told me about something that happened to her. It has probably happened to everyone at one point or another: money shaming.   This friend is working very hard to get out of debt and is justifiably proud of her efforts. She attended a potluck and her friends began teasing her about bringing low-cost beans and rice to feed them. Somehow, because it is an inexpensive dish, it...

Gena Bigler: The disabled, injured often need guidance to protect their financial futures

Even as a child, Angela Luhys saw the wisdom in collecting pennies. When I asked why she was running to save a penny from the vacuum, she told me “pennies make dollars.” Angela now shares that wisdom with her clients daily.   Angela serves a unique role, as a trust administrator at Kentucky Guardianship Administrators. She works directly with trust beneficiaries, sometimes quite literally...

Gena Bigler: We need ‘thanksgiving’ and chance to learn gratitude as healthy for us

Thanksgiving is more than food and football. It is an opportunity to take stock and recognize all the good in your life, including the food and football. Most Americans will enjoy a decadent meal, then rest and watch a shiny big television and never realize how lucky they are to enjoy both.   When practicing gratitude, Americans have a deep well to draw from. In America we are very lucky to...

Gena Bigler: Shopping trip left me wondering if customer service is going, going and gone

The last three stores I visited were a test in patience.   The workers were distracted, often by chatting with each other, and were generally not helpful. All too frequently, employees are incapable of answering simple questions about their merchandise or the stock the store may or may not have.   At all three stores, as I was leaving I wished the staff a good evening. One looked shocked,...

Gena Bigler: It turns out my love of TV could survive my dislike of $100-plus cable bills

I love television.   I am old enough to remember having only three or four channels and having to physically get up to change the channel. The closest thing I had to a remote control was my little sister or cousins, whomever could be persuaded to futz with the tuner long enough to get a clear picture.   The advent of cable TV was quite literally awesome. There was an entire channel devoted...

Gena Bigler: Decide what is important to you before spending just to keep up with others

Developing your own priorities about money instead of blindly accepting the norm of society can be challenging but, in the end, freeing. Typically in America, things are valued. Designer clothes, big houses, expensive cars and decadent vacations are held up as desirable and goals to achieve.   Outward symbols of success are often strived for, like the fictional Samantha in Sex in the City, who...

Gena Bigler: Welcome babies with loving homes, not ‘cute’ stuff they don’t really need

Becoming a parent is an exciting time. Preparing for the impending birth of a child is part mental, part emotional and part financial.   A piece of the financial part of preparing for the coming baby is buying all the baby “stuff.” A car seat is essential for baby safety and is, in fact, required by law. Other than that – and diapers – what do you really need? The suggested...

Gena Bigler: Let’s take one holiday at a time; prepare for grateful, affordable Thanksgiving

Department stores are already preparing the Christmas displays long before Thanksgiving. Even though Christmas is still 70 days away, shelves are filled with stockings and sparkly soldier nutcrackers. While many of our neighbors are worrying about how to survive without a paycheck because of the government shutdown, stores are pushing for more and more holiday sales.   A few years ago, Black...

Gena Bigler: Balance what you need with what you give more often and everyone will benefit

You only get one life. While I don’t believe that this should be an excuse to do really stupid things like some of the YOLO (you only live once) photos I have seen on the web. It is something to keep in mind when you make decisions. This is especially important when you are compromising your wants for someone else’s benefit. There must be a balance between self interest and sacrifice.   If...

Gena Bigler: Put yourself in shoes of a worker
furloughed during the government shutdown

Imagine your boss telling you that you are “not essential” and you are off work without pay for an unknown length of time. What do you do? How do prepare for everyday life without an income?   According to a recent study, 76 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck with little or no savings. Of those, 27 percent have no savings at all. For many families, even a brief loss of...

Gena Bigler: Fictional fear of zombies helps channel our real fear of economic collapse

On the surface, zombies and the economy have little in common. Recently, however, the financial world has been pretty scary.   The economic crash that began in 2006 is still rippling through our daily lives and through our entertainment. If you take a quick survey of current pop culture, you will find zombies and lots of them.   What do zombies and the economy have in common? Fear.   With...

Gena Bigler: Talk about money early in a relationship to avoid future disagreements

Money and relationships can be complicated.   Navigating a new relationship can be trying, and adding the stress of navigating finances together can be overwhelming. Often, because it is uncomfortable to discuss, couples avoid the money talk until they simply can’t anymore.   Unfortunately, this can result in insurmountable financial disagreements. Sadly, because of the taboo and stressful...

Gena Bigler: American labor unions deserve thanks for fighting to improve workers’ lives

With Monday’s observance of Labor Day, I think it’s appropriate to take a few minutes to thank the labor unions and “agitators” who improved life for all those who rely on a wage. Thank you union members for organizing, thank you for fighting. Because of the work you have done, we now enjoy for child labor laws, weekends off, eight-hour work days, bathroom breaks, sick days,...

Gena Bigler: Minimum wage debates should focus on reality and not mythical “intent”

There is a lot of talk about minimum wage lately. McDonald’s shared a sample budget for their workers that raised eyebrows and questions about the working poor and minimum wage. Many people think it should be raised to a “living wage” and others think it’s just fine and should be set by the market. One of the most debated arguments is whether a person should be able to live on full-time...

Gena Bigler: It’s personal! How we spend
our money should be no one else’s business

Why are some things considered acceptable to spend money on and others are not?   In America, the social norm is to not talk about money. A lot of things about money are taboo, such as asking someone how much he or she makes. Yet, there are odd exceptions.   My daughter goes to a private school. Friends have often made comments about the cost. “We couldn’t afford that,” is one of...