With age comes wisdom – or, at least, so those of us who are approaching the age of retirement hope. For many people, wisdom includes the recognition that prices of assets can go down as well as up, especially in the short-term. In addition, experience shows that markets do not always reflect underlying values, driven in the short-term more by emotion and psychology than by logic. History is full of companies who have gone public and enjoyed soaring stock prices, only to go bankrupt in the harsh light of economic reality.
Do you feel a personal responsibility to help others? Randy Lewis, author of “No Greatness Without Goodness,” claims that all people, including businesses, have the responsibility to make the world a better place. In his case, he spearheaded a Walgreens initiative to hire the disabled. In the five years following his initiative, similar programs were sparked across America and Europe.
In June 2014, Starbucks, the ubiquitous coffee cafe, announced a free online college program through Arizona State University for any employee working 20 or more hours per week. Duncan Campbell, an Oregon entrepreneur, started Friends of the Children to provide emotional and educational support to at-risk children, starting with kids in kindergarten and progressing with them through college. Of the kids involved, 83% graduate high school and 93% avoid juvenile hall for breaking the law.
Americans born after World War II have grown up in a culture that seems to promise them everything. The greatest economy in history was built, in part, by creating an insatiable demand for “more.” Unfortunately, however, its consequences can be measured in part by an unmanageable national debt, the approaching scarcity of many natural resources, increasing class conflict, and the high degree of stress and unhappiness of society at large.
Many retirees, as well as those who hope to retire within the next decade, are discovering that their resources may not be able to provide the lifestyle they’d anticipated. For some, there is little alternative except to severely cut back expenditures and lower expectations. For those who have not yet reached those years, there is another option: living lean.
Parents spend thousands of dollars on orthodontics to ensure their children have what’s arguably the clearest physical indication of prosperity: a straight, white smile. George Washington was certainly prosperous, but he also endured the agony of poorly fitted wooden dentures for much of his life. And James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, claimed that if a man had his hair and teeth, he had it all.
It’s not surprising then that an entire industry is devoted to keeping our teeth healthy, clean, and attractive. Aside from a big boost in self-confidence, the condition of your teeth plays a major role in your overall health. As with many things, many people are willing to pay for those benefits. But is purchasing dental insurance the best way to go about doing it?
Technology has been both a boon and a curse throughout history, upsetting the apple cart of the established order with new opportunities for some and great losses for others.
Consider the impact of the automobile, first on the horse and buggy industries, then on railroads. Television almost destroyed the movie business until the more creative people adapted. eBooks currently threaten longstanding bookstores and traditional publishers. The pace of technological advance has accelerated during the last half-century, challenging cultures, societies, and individuals to adapt to the new environment.
Employer-sponsored 401k plans are one of the best benefits available to employees. Because the money you contribute is deducted from your gross income before taxes are incurred, you’re not taxed on the money you put in. The principal within the fund continues to grow on a tax-deferred basis until you receive distributions, and many employers contribute extra funds to your contribution, what some term “free money.”
Starting a business in another country can be financially and emotionally rewarding if you do your homework, have realistic expectations for success, and avoid or compensate for the potential obstacles that inevitably accompany a new venture. All new businesses are inherently risky. In the United States, perhaps one of the most friendly climes in the world for entrepreneurship, almost one-half of new business operations fail by the end of the fourth year, and one in four fail by the end of the first year.
Few people are aware that, in 2008, Igor Panarin, dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s academy for future diplomats, predicted that the United States would break into four separate countries in 2010.
He believed that the national and regional effects of the recent recession, and the people’s dissatisfaction with the status quo and the Federal Government, would result in the creation of five distinct, autonomous, political regions.
Panarin divided the U.S. into these new republics:
- Californian Republic. Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and all continental states west of them. Panarin predicted this group would fall under Chinese influence.
“Let your conversation be without malice or envy, for it is a sign of a tractable and commendable nature: and in all causes of passion admit reason to govern,” thus proclaimed George Washington in his “Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation,” written sometime before the age of 16. In the heated, often rancorous season of political contest, we Americans often forget that our fellow citizens are more similar to each other than dissimilar, our goals and ambitions more analogous than antagonistic. As a consequence, our public and private discourse has become intensely personal, focused on differences rather than consonance, so that friend, family, and work relationships are frequently in peril.
One of the more painful memories in my life was telling my father that he was no longer capable of driving or living alone. A tall, physically active man, Dad had worked since his teens in the Great Depression, fought in World War II, married and raised two boys to manhood, and dealt with the death of his spouse, burying his wife of more than 50 years. He was a proud man, always ready to help others and capable of handling life’s setbacks with equal measures of grit and grace. To him, being a man meant being able to take care of yourself.