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
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.
“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.
Has your boss ever treated you unfairly or blamed you for a failure that was beyond your control? Recently, a friend came to me in distress about a critical hand-written memo that he and his colleagues had received from their superior, the manager of a national retail chain store. The chain, formerly a Wall Street darling, had fallen from favor with the failure of the company to renew an annual contract with one of their larger customers. As a result, the stock price had dropped by a third, cash flow had decreased, layoffs were anticipated, and morale was in the dumps. Every employee felt the pressure.
By Michael Lewis
Why buy a car when you can own a dealership? The majority of investors would be better advised to buy an unmanaged exchange-traded fund (ETF) rather than investing in the securities of individual companies, according to Warren Buffett, a man generally recognized as the most successful stock investor in modern times. When asked what market advice he would give an individual in his 30s, Buffett said, “I would just have [my investment] all in a very low-cost index fund from a reputable firm…and I could just go back and get on with my work.”
By Michael Lewis
For many people, their first experience with life insurance is when a friend or acquaintance gets an insurance license. In my case, a college friend, recently hired by a major insurance company, contacted me (along with all of his other friends) to buy a $10,000 policy underwritten by his company.
Unfortunately, however, this is how most people acquire life insurance – they don’t buy it, it is sold to them. But is life insurance something that you truly need, or is it merely an inconvenience shoved under your nose by a salesperson? While it may seem like the latter is true, there are actually many reasons why you should purchase life insurance.
By Michael Lewis
An inability to pay medical bills is the single greatest cause of personal bankruptcies in the United States. While this result may not be surprising since the American health care system is the most expensive in the world, the study paradoxically found that three-quarters of the people filing a medically-related bankruptcy have health insurance. According to Steffie Woolhandler, M.D. of Harvard Medical School, “Many of them were bankrupted anyway because they had gaps in their coverage, like co-payments, deductibles, and uncovered services.”
By Michael Lewis
Many young men about to propose marriage struggle to choose the perfect wedding ring – whether to buy an elaborate and expensive diamond, or a simpler, less expensive gold band. Each ring serves the same purpose as a symbol of everlasting commitment, but there is a substantial difference in cost, as well as the possible reaction of friends and family and the expectations of the recipient.
Choosing life insurance can pose a similar conundrum. While all life insurance provides funds in the event of the insured’s death, the same factors – the purpose for which the funds are intended, the cost, and the needs of the beneficiary – have to be considered when selecting the type of life insurance most appropriate to your situation.