KATIE ZERR: Upbringing helps keep us grounded

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Residents of North and South Dakota have not suffered the major setbacks that others in the United States have during this recession. There are a number of reasons for that, including the booming oil business in North Dakota and the healthy agricultural climate we have experienced in recent years.

Those are the positive sides to the healthier economy in the Upper Midwest.
But other factors are also a part of our strong economy. In the states where our settlers endured innumerable hardships to make this land work for them, they left a legacy of hard work, conservation and common sense.

This shows in the manner in which we run our state’s business and how hard we work to succeed.

This has made a big difference in where we are economically in this country. We still put in a full day to make a living and most of us don’t expect to jump to a high-income bracket right out of college. We know about the rewards of working hard and some even “Save for a rainy day.” That is what our grandparents did before 401Ks and investing on Wall Street.

Many kept a coffee can with a percentage of their paychecks or what they received from the fall’s harvest stuck away somewhere in the house in case of an emergency.

Now that safety net is called a credit card or insurance that is paid before any problems exist.  The amount of money we now would need to save for an emergency situation would not fit into a coffee can.

Times have changed, but the basic standards are still in our DNA. It may be that tinge of guilt when a person pays way more for a luxury than we know we should or giving up an extravagance because we know the money can be better spent elsewhere.

In parts of the country, that does not exist in the make up of some people. One only needs to watch a reality show to understand why we are in economic trouble.

There is little or no understanding of what a dollar is really worth. When thousands are spent on a wedding cake or a designer purse, it makes one wonder how that person was raised.

Many times the phrase “I don’t care, I want what I want,” is uttered by some 7-year-old wanting a circus at their birthday party or bride wanting a designer dress she will wear only once.

It is hard to imagine that coming out of the mouth of anyone from past generations in South Dakota. It probably happened, but the German and Scandinavian ancestry of this country isn’t conducive to that way of thinking.

We are different here, although we are beginning to bend to pressure of our society.

Before the advent of instant information there was an old saying about this part of the country, “It will be here in about 20 years.”

That is how long it took a “trend” to catch on here. Most of us didn’t care what celebrities wore or didn’t need to have a fragrance created by a Kardashian.  We didn’t know Calvin Klein or Gucci were. Mary Kate and Ashley Olson were those cute kids on a sitcom and not the brooding fashion moguls that design outrageously priced clothing that looks like what our grandmothers wore.

We have a cell phone and maybe a GPS for our vehicle or combine, but five or six electronic devices to keep track of our daily lives seems ridiculous to most of us.

Those of us who feel the make up of a person should be based on how they treat others and not how much they spend are often bewildered by the obsession of spending just to prove you have it. It goes against our nature and our upbringing.

That is why we are in a better place financially than most of the country. What the label on your jeans says is way down the list of importance for most of us in Upper Midwest.

Hopefully we will hold on tight to what our parents and grandparents taught us. It is one of the factors that puts us in a better place than in other parts of the country.
– Katie Zerr –

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