A popular Uruguayan child’s tale illustrates the value of being bilingual: “A skinny cat stood for hours waiting for the mouse to walk out from behind the hole, so he could nab him. He was having little success. A fat cat walked by, inquired about the nature of the difficulty, and volunteered to show the skinny cat the ropes. First, he had the skinny cat move out of the way where he could not be seen and did likewise himself. Next, he barked, “Woof, woof.” The mouse, thinking a dog had scared the cat away, and it was safe, ventured out only to be nabbed and devoured by the fat cat. ‘You see,’ explained the fat cat, ‘it pays to be bilingual.’”
By Michael Lewis
Most people assume that a federal income tax cut means more money in their pockets. It’s a time-honored political tactic to sway voters, and is in heavy use this election cycle. In 2012, we have a major difference between the parties’ positions. Republican Governor Mitt Romney has proposed that the 2011 tax rates, sometimes referred to as the “Bush tax cuts,” be extended and reduced an additional 20% with the top rate declining from 35% to 28%.
By Michael Lewis
“Leadership” has become the buzzword of American boardrooms, political back-rooms, and educational halls. Often, success is limited to those who can inspire their associates, employees, customers, and the public with his or her ideas and drive.
Unfortunately, the ability to lead, though highly desirable, is often elusive, as evidenced by the thousands of articles, books, videos, and training classes available over the Internet dealing with the subject. Whether leaders are born or trained remains a subject of controversy. However, there is no dispute that all leaders share certain skills that can be identified and developed.
Throughout history, there have been individuals blessed with a unique, special quality. They stand apart from the rest of humanity, larger than life itself, as if endowed with supernatural or superhuman abilities with unlimited capability and potential. As natural leaders, they inspire those in their presence and stir deep emotions with their eloquence, appearance, and manner. They share the gift of charisma.
Not all leaders have that spell-binding, electric presence. Power doesn’t create it, but flows from it. Kennedy had charisma; Lyndon B. Johnson did not. Ronald Reagan had it, as well as Bill Clinton. Steve Jobs, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr. had it . Sports figures like Arnold Palmer and Muhammad Ali have it, as well as talk show host Oprah Winfrey and pianist Van Cliburn.
It is increasingly likely that you will suffer the consequences of an incorrect or denied insurance claim within the next five years. In 2011, erroneous claim payments increased by more than 10% over 2010; almost one in five claims are currently adjudicated incorrectly, according to the American Medical Association’s 2011 National Health Insurer Report Card.
It is probable, if not certain, that you too will eventually be the victim of an outmoded, inefficient payment system, increasing complex and confusing reimbursement requirements, and over-worked, poorly trained health insurer employees. Knowing how to properly contest a claim payment decision is the key to maintaining your sanity and your financial health.
By Michael Lewis
The costs of healthcare in the United States is a potent issue in the forthcoming election. Both political parties agree that immediate steps must be taken to reduce the proportion of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) dedicated to healthcare, but approach the problem from vastly different perspectives and, as a consequence, propose equally diverse solutions. In particular, prospective changes in Medicare – the public health insurance program for people age 65 and older – has become a battleground as both parties seek to capture the senior vote.
Is your company utilizing the latent skills of your existing workforce? Are you worried about a “brain drain” in the coming years as experienced employees retire? Is your business dependent upon maximum customer satisfaction and a superior experience? If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions, the solution is to retain, retrain ,and reinvigorate your existing employees, specifically those who will be considering retiring over the next 5 to 10 years.
Lawyers – what would we do without them? More than half of the signers of the United States Declaration of Independence were lawyers, including John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. 19 of 43 presidents have been attorneys. More than a third of the House of Representatives are lawyers, along with 60% of the senators.
For better or for worse, whether you like them or not, attorneys are ubiquitous in American life.
How the Law Affects You
Laws touch every aspect of modern life, from the contracts we sign to purchases of automobiles and health insurance, to the protections we enjoy when taking a cruise or flying an airplane. Some areas of law are particularly complex, based upon years of judicial rulings and interpretations or constantly changing regulations.
The practice of using the law to resolve conflicting claims has been in place since Hellenic times, and Americans in particular have embraced the courtroom with exceptional fervor. There is a new lawsuit filed every two seconds in America, with more than 15 million across the country in 2011.
Suing has become a growth industry; the American Bar Association, the professional association for lawyers, indicates that there were more than 1.1 million attorneys in the country in 2007, and law schools have continued to churn out more than 50,000 new lawyers each year since. The profession as a whole has taken to heart the old saying that “one attorney in a town goes broke, two attorneys or more get rich.”
Few things are as vexatious as the receipt of a notice that you’ve been sued. Some liken the experience to being somewhere between being fired and losing your home. Being sued is highly personal, guaranteed to elevate your blood pressure, upset your stomach, and set off a headache. Unfortunately, there were more than 15 million lawsuits filed in the United States last year, about one for every dozen adults.
Of course, being sued doesn’t mean that an issue actually has merit, especially when you consider these frivolous lawsuits filed in 2011:
- An accused murderer sued his hostages for escaping while he slept
By Michael Lewis
Detergents, deodorants, toothpaste, and toiletries – the various items needed in a household can easily cost hundreds of dollars every month. Humans are creatures of habit, so we tend to shop at the same stores week after week, buying the same goods each time without thinking. As a consequence, most Americans spend 15% to 20% more than necessary, wasting a massive amount of hard-earned dollars.
By Michael Lewis
“What should I do?” Over the years, I’ve been asked innumerable times by people for advice about investments, insurance, and other financial matters in the hope that there is a simple, one-size-fits-all strategy that can be easily implemented in their own lives.
I wish there was a single solution, that one plus one always equals two, but that is not the case in the real world. Every person is unique with a differing set of goals, responsibilities, knowledge, tolerance of risk, time, and energy. As a consequence, the path you will travel to reach your goals is personal and suited to you alone; it begins with determining your desired destination. The first step to getting the things you want out of life is to decide what you want.
Historically, almost two-thirds of households in America live in a place they own. Homeownership is a key prong of the American dream, and according to a American Housing Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, some 9 out of 10 Americans achieve it during their lifetime.
Also key to American homeownership is the notion of moving up – i.e., buying a home, living in it for a few years, then selling to reap the profit in order to purchase another property, either a higher-value place or one that better suits the owners’ current living situation. This was particularly popular in high-growth areas like California and Las Vegas. But that was before the recent economic downturn and a massive slump in housing prices. Now, the decision to sell your house and trade up is not as clear-cut as once thought, and owners are left wondering, Should we stay, or should we go?
By Michael Lewis
“Tax shelter,” a slang description of an account and method to legally defer or eliminate government taxes, is a dirty word to those who forget that favorable tax treatments are legislated to encourage specific behavior or actions that benefit the community as a whole. While many such programs – such as those implemented to encourage drilling for oil – are beyond the use of the average American, using a flexible spending account to reduce taxes on a federal and state level is an option for many.
“Use your noodle! Your brain is like every other muscle in your body; by using it before you act, the fewer surprises you will have with a greater likelihood of getting the results you expect.”
My father’s sage advice more than 50 years ago continues to benefit me when I face a particularly knotty problem in my business, my investments, or my family. Whatever you call the process – “meditating,” “pondering,” “speculating,” or “noodling” – the manner of ensuring optimum outcomes through better decisions remains the same.