In early 2004, 32-year-old Englishman Ashley Revell sold everything he owned – furniture, clothes, car, golf clubs, and his old cricket bat – to raise almost £76,840, or the equivalent of approximately $140,617 in U.S. currency (per the average 2004 exchange rate). On April 11, 2004, Revell walked up to a Las Vegas roulette table and placed his entire fortune on the color red.
According to Professor Nolan McCarty of Princeton University, it seems that political rancor today has reached heights not seen since Reconstruction after the Civil War. A Stanford University report found that Americans have become increasingly polarized along political party lines, primarily due to “political candidates relying on negative campaigning and partisan news sources serving up vitriolic commentary.” As a consequence, the report concluded that the level of political animus in the American public exceeds racial hostility.
Have you ever dreamed of owning a vacation home in Pebble Beach, California or a mountain château in Aspen, Colorado? Rather than fighting security lines at the airport, perhaps your dream is to drive up to your plane and go wherever you want, whenever you want.
Pleasures once thought to be enjoyed only by the very rich – vacation homes, aircraft, and yachts – are possible for more people today. While the expense of ownership always exceeds the cost of renting a luxury residence for a limited period, the benefits of having one’s place – familiarity and convenience – can outweigh financial considerations. The best thing about owning an asset is that it is always there when you want to use it.
Open frontiers, freedom to live one’s life without restrictions, and the romance of living in harmony with nature have long been part of the American psyche. Authors and filmmakers have captured the desire to live independently and rely solely on one’s abilities for centuries.
- Henry David Thoreau, a 19th century poet, writer, and naturalist, explained the fascination with a simple life in his 1854 book “Walden“: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron announced a new police/intelligence agency on December 10, 2014, to monitor the “Dark Web,” as reported by The Independent. According to Cameron, “The dark net is the next side of the problem, where pedophiles and perverts are sharing images, not using the normal parts of the Internet we all use.”
Independent web consultant Mark Stockley concurs, claiming in Naked Security that the dark web “attracts people who want to engage in things like robbery, sex trafficking, arms trafficking, terrorism and distributing child pornography.” In the International Business Times, writers Charles Paladin and Jeff Stone claim electronic goods, contract killers, guns, passports, fake IDs, and hackers for hire are readily available on the dark web, in addition to illegal drugs and child pornography.
What does the American Dream mean to you? For many, it means having financial security, and having the ability to provide an education to children, take care of parents, retire comfortably, or remain independent while growing old.
But achieving financial security is not easy. A 2015 Pew Research Poll suggests that more than half of Americans are not financially prepared for the unexpected, or otherwise spend more than they make each month. 8 of 10 Americans worry about their lack of savings. At the same time, most Americans recognize that regularly saving and investing a portion of their income is the foundation of financial security. While savings accounts are a critical component in an investment plan with their low risk and high liquidity, most investors need the higher potential returns of equity ownership.
From 1998 to 2013, the number of Fortune 500 companies offering pensions to their employees fell from 60% to 24%, according to The Washington Post. With the decline of unionism and loss of employee bargaining power, corporate managements have aggressively replaced pensions with profit-sharing plans, essentially transferring the risk of retirement planning and investment management to their employees. It is possible that the Social Security program will be similarly transformed, making retirees responsible for investing funds through private accounts. However, the truth is that few people are prepared to manage their own retirement funds – as Howard Gold writes in MarketWatch, “Most investors have no idea of what they’re doing.”
“Would you like the AppleCare Protection Plan for your computer?” asked the salesman. I had just purchased a new 27-inch iMac at my local Apple store. The plan, available for $169, would extend the manufacturer’s warranty from one to three years and would include technical support, as needed. The cost seemed reasonable, especially since I was spending more than $2,000 for the iMac. I had to ask myself, “Will I need the extra protection?”
How Extended Warranties Work
If your holidays and family gatherings are stressful and often disappointing, it is time to try something new. Using the holidays to confront family members in yet another annual sparring match is a certain recipe for a ruined celebration.
Instead, look at the holiday season as an opportunity to make peace with estranged family members, experiment with low-stress celebrations, and put yourself and those you care most about first. Try employing the following tips to help you reduce stress and enjoy the festivities more than you have in years past.
How to Better Enjoy the Holidays
According to USA Today, the number of U.S. undergraduates studying abroad was almost 290,000 in 2014. In fact, approximately 9% of U.S. undergraduates study abroad at some point. Attending a foreign university can be a life-changing and valuable experience for a number of reasons, not the least of which include developing a better understanding of different cultures and improved communication skills.
Recognizing these and other benefits, numerous American presidents have promoted the value of foreign education exchange programs:
- President Dwight D. Eisenhower advised on January 27, 1958, that “the exchange of students should be greatly expanded. Information and education are powerful forces in support of peace. Just as war begins in the minds of men, so does peace.”