What if you died today?

The importance of planning your estate.

“Live life like you’re gonna die, because you’re gonna.” – William Shartner  (from his song You’ll Have Time)

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Last week, I posted a blog entry asking if you’d outlive your retirement savings, if any. Ironically, this week’s post deals with the opposite situation. What if you suddenly died before retirement age?  Honestly, I never thought I’d be writing on this topic, but a couple of days ago, ‘C.Z.’ a long term co-worker and friend suddenly died. This is not the first time this has happened to me at my job. 4 years ago the same thing happened to another friend and co-worker, Harvey. I work in a very high-stress career which is not ideal for anyone, and in the years I have been employed there, I have had 4 co-workers die from fatal heath-attacks, all under the age of 60, and one, ‘Joe’ who committed suicide.

My father was another person in my life who died six weeks shy of his 58th birthday, never living long enough to retire.  He left no will, a small bank account, and my mother had to handle financial matters as best she could, which is why she eventually died penniless, depending upon me to pick up the pieces.

Retirement is the cherry on the ice cream sundae. It’s the boon at the end of a long career where you get to enjoy your twilight years. Reaching retirement age dead broke with a meager government SSA check is horrible. Never living long enough to retire is tragic. Long ago, I vowed to never live in poverty, and to take care of my health so that I lived long enough to actually retire, physically and financially fit.

Those we leave behind

Discussing dying and death is very hard, but death is a part of life. No buts about it, we are all going to die someday, and we need to have our affairs in order. Funerals are expensive. How do you determine the last wishes of the departed? Who gets their possessions, if any? There are all important questions which need to be addressed and it’s not fair to dump them in the lap of someone else, be they spouse, child, relation, or friend. 

When a person dies:

  • You should immediately contact any surviving family or friends. No one wants to find out from an obituary in the newspaper, or discover long after the fact that their loved one has passed. These are ‘hard’ calls to make. Trust me, I’ve been on both sides as the caller, and the called. As the informed, and as the clueless  person who discovered a death months after the fact. It’s not fun. It’s best to find out ASAP, especially if you have a desire to attend a memorial service and make peace with the situation. Life is for the living, so be mindful of those who will be left behind.
  • Contact their place of employment if they are still employed.
  • Contact their union rep if they are part of a union.
  • Contact any life insurance companies they may have had.
  • Contact their personal lawyer (if known).
  • Contact  Social Security.  SSA can pay a one-time payment of $255 to the surviving spouse if they were living with the deceased. If living apart and eligible for certain Social Security benefits on the deceased’s record, the surviving spouse may still be able to get this one-time payment. If there’s no surviving spouse, a child who’s eligible for benefits on the deceased’s record in the month of death can get this payment.  Certain family members may be eligible to receive monthly benefits, including: — A widow or widower age 60 or older (age 50 or older if disabled); — A widow or widower any age caring for the deceased’s child who is under age 16 or disabled; — An unmarried child of the deceased who is: o Younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 if they’re a full-time student in an elementary or secondary school); or o Age 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22; — A stepchild, grandchild, stepgrandchild, or adopted child under certain circumstances; — Parents, age 62 or older, who were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their support; and — A surviving divorced spouse, under certain circumstances.

It doesn’t matter if you are single or married, you need to prepare as much as possible for the executor of your estate including:

  • A designated executor for your estate.
  • A contact list containing phone numbers and address of people to be informed of your passing.
  •  A written will designating how your effects should be dispersed.
  • A list of insurance policies.
  •  Desires for funeral arrangements.  
  • Lists of assets such as bank accounts, stock accounts, IRAs, 401(k)s, deposit boxes, real estate, vehicles, businesses,  etc.
  • Computer social media platforms and relevant  passwords.* (Passwords and pin numbers should always be hidden, and secured when you are alive. You don’t want identity theft to occur and ruin your life.   Designate one person, but not more than two to know where these secured and hidden codes are in your home. This MUST be someone you trust with your life. )  

A company called Intentional Retirement sells an “If Something Happens to Me Kit”. It’s about $50, but contains everything you’d need to help you  set up your estate.

http://intentionalretirement.com/ishtm-kit

Also, consider pre-planning your own funeral. You can pre-fund and set up all the arrangements years in advance with most reputable funeral homes, sparing your loved ones the pressure, duress, and expense of making your final arrangements. Think about them, you’ll be in a better place, but do you want to cause them undue suffering while they are morning your loss?   When my mother died, I had literately hours to arrange her burial and needed to pay 1/3 of the bill in advance. It cost me over $10,000 for her funeral and took years to pay off the balance.  

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.–

H. Jackson Brown, Jr

GOOD NEWS! If you’re reading this blog, you’re still alive! As I said discussing death and dying is not fun, but living is! So while you are still able, go out and enjoy life! Prepare for the inevitable to make your passing easier for those you leave behind, but above all remember that your life is YOUR LIFE. Only you can live it. You can be frugal with your finances while still enjoying all that life has to offer. The best things in life are free, and God is good, always! Celebrate your life by living it! As always I wish you happiness and success!

The yolk is on ewe!

More than colored eggs and chocolate bunnies, the economics of Easter.

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I find it very appropriate that in 2018, Easter falls on April 1st, which is National Atheists Day. The last time this occurred was 1956, and it won’t happen again until 2029. If you’re wondering why April 1st is National Atheists Day, The Bible makes this clear. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good” (Psalm 14:1). The Bible says that anyone who denies God is a fool! So Happy Easter and April Fool’s Day!

Easter is the third-largest celebration right after Christmas and Thanksgiving, especially in Christian countries – like the US. Although the origins of Easter are religious, and are supposed to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it has become more commercialized and now seems to concentrate on the candy aspect. Although candy is dandy, and not to mention  a very big business, God is awesome! ALL THE TIME.

Easter: Good For Business

Easter spending is expected to total $18.2 billion this year, the second-highest level on record, according to the annual survey conducted for the National Retail Federation by Prosper Insights & Analytics. A total of 81 percent of Americans will celebrate the holiday and spend an average of $150 per person. Last year was slightly higher $18.4 billion in 2017, which is approximately $152 dollar a person. The NRF survey has been tracking consumer spending since 2003.

This money will be spent mainly on food and candy, but other categories include clothes, gifts, flowers, decorations, greeting cards, and travel.

In the USA popular candies include my three favorites: Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, Cadbury Creme Eggs, and the ubiquitous chocolate bunnies in various sizes and shapes. (I prefer a solid white chocolate bunny.) Jelly beans are still around but not as popular with the current generation. Marshmallow Peeps are another very popular candy, but I can’t eat them because they contain gelatin.  Plus all this sugar is really bad for my diet.

One Cadbury Creme Egg packs about 20 grams of sugar, and four pieces of the mini version has around 21 grams.

Sugar-coated marshmallows like Peeps, however, have 34 grams of sugar in the suggested serving size of five traditional chick-shaped candies. So perhaps it’s best that the aforementioned gelatin prevents me from eating Peeps.   

What candies or Easter foods are popular in your country? I’d love to read about them in the comments.

Easter Themed Seasonal Treats

As you may recall, I have been in the process of trying to start a coffee shop for some time now, with little success and a lot of lost funds. I haven’t given up, it’s still on the back burner while I regroup and try to rebuild my cafe investment egg. Seasonal holidays can present exciting opportunities for small business specializing in food and drink . Tailoring special menu items can generate new sales. Peanut Butter Mocha! Coconut Cream French Soda. Maybe a bunny shaped cookie, or one frosted like a Easter egg.  Maybe make a special chocolate peanut butter sandwich cookie. Be creative!

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Placement of impulse items on counter tops near the register can bring increased revenue. Chocolate covered coffee beans anyone?  Use your imagination! One cleaver local cafe owner had a basket filled with plastic eggs on the counter in an Easter Basket. Patrons were encouraged to ‘try their luck’ and choose a plastic egg which contained a coupon for either a free item or a discount. A wonderful idea! If you have a cafe or food business, I’d love to hear some of your Easter-themed seasonal items and suggestions! Happy Easter, and as always, I wish you happiness and success!    

The Three Big No-No’s

Explaining the Inter-connectivity of Politics, Economics, and Religion.

AN EPIC OPINION/RANT

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“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”   – Ronald Reagan

It’s often been said that you’re never supposed to discuss politics, religion, or money (economics).  The problem is that these are three topics are very important, and share a high degree of inter-connectivity when we are discussing the USA. InstantCoffeeWisdom.com is MAINLY a financial blog, but it does sometimes touch briefly upon matters of religion and politics because  of the shared nature of the three topics.  With the ability of the populace to access the sum total of human knowledge via their internet-enabled smart phones, we have the largest forum ever created in which to voice our opinions and concerns. It amazes me that my weekly blog has been read by people in over 25 nations around the globe. My late father was a newspaper editor and had a weekly column for years  which never circulated outside of New York City. It is amazing how fast the world has changed in less than fifty years.

There has been a dumbing down of America and we can’t keep ignoring it because it’s not going away, it’s only getting worse. Due to the vast information overload, people who lack critical thinking skills are having difficulty distinguishing between fact and fiction.  The signal-to-noise ratio is off the scale and people can chose to listen to whatever viewpoint aligns with their personal ideology.   These uninformed  and indoctrinated citizenry are unable to critically evaluate and analyze everything they hear, choosing    instead to believe whatever fake news supports their fantasy world.

I am a Christian and a Republican and  I FULLY support my God Jesus Christ, My President Donald J. Trump, and the United States of America.

That being said, I’m going to attempt to explain how the three big no-no’s which you’re not supposed to discuss for fear of offending someone are connected. This is a very complex topic which could fill volumes, but I’ll try to keep it as short as possible. This is meant to inform, not offend.

“At the core of liberalism is the spoiled child – miserable, as all spoiled children are, unsatisfied, demanding, ill-disciplined, despotic and useless. Liberalism is a philosophy of sniveling brats.” – P.J. O’Rourke

More and more, young people on college campuses are self-identifying as libertarians, communists, anarchists, or any other fringe group attempting to overthrow the government. They stage protests, destroy property, and burn flags while condemning made-up issues like corporate greed and conservative bigotry. They demand that the president be impeached, the constitution changed or eliminated altogether,  and that the government must provide them with all these free services and non-existent ‘rights’ they claim to be entitled to.

On top of this, I can’t go a single day without hearing some brainwashed fool  comparing President Donald J. Trump to Adolf Hither. 

I for one, am sick of hearing about it. I’m tired of being called names by ignorant twits who couldn’t pass a civics test if their lives depended upon it. This is the greatest county on the face of the Earth. If you don’t like the USA, LEAVE! There are 194 other countries  in the world, pick one you like and move there.  And don’t come back, EVER!

Nothing beats capitalism for generating wealth

Communism and socialism do not allow the same freedoms granted by capitalism. Under Capitalism, individuals own and control land, capital, and production of industry. You can buy what you want, live where you want, work where you want. You have the maximum amount of choices possible in life and the freedom to act upon them. This is the ‘pursuit of happiness’ from the Declaration of Independence. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are unalienable rights granted by our creator, God.  When God is the final authority, your rights cannot be revoked. In communist  or socialist countries rights are granted by the state, and can be revoked if the state decrees it.  Capitalism and Christianity function together best out of all the economic systems.  This is why the Founding Fathers chose it.

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Often you hear cries that you ‘can’t mix religion and politics’, that there’s ‘separation of church and state’.

Almost all of the Founding Fathers of the USA were Christians with very few exceptions. As such, their world view was greatly influenced by their Biblical beliefs. Revisionist historians and leftist ‘liberal’ teachers have obscured this fact in the modern classroom, greatly influencing the impressionable minds of young children who believe everything they’ve been told. As a result the majority of the next generation has been corrupted by the very teachers entrusted with their education. By and large, they have been rendered as the useful idiots of the left. Unquestioning revolutionaries fed by lies at every level of their cognitive development. Having been empowered by a steady diet of YA dystopian fiction throughout their teens, these millennial snowflakes react violently at worst, and at the very least hurl insults at any authority figure that attempts to point out the fallacy in their way of thinking. They often accuse conservatives of bigotry and hate, but if you wish to see a true display of hatred, disagree with a liberal! They are totally brainwashed and think everything great about America is bad.  Unfortunately, once a person has been so thoroughly brainwashed, it’s impossible to break through to them. Any attempts to un-brainwash them will only result in you being frustrated, and them having a dish-pan brain.      

The Fourth Center of Learning

Prior to the Twentieth Century, there were only Three Centers of Leaning.

  • Family
  • Church
  • School

Your world view was shaped by these three segments of life. These are the same three that shaped the world view of the Founding Fathers. Church and scripture reading were a larger segment of their lives, and influenced their way of thinking.

In the Twentieth Century, this changed. We developed an new Forth Center of Learning.

  • Media

Movies, radio, television, computers and the internet drastically changed the way we viewed the world. Suddenly people were introduced to idea and topics that prior generations never thought about.  When Clark Gable said ” Frankly My Dear, I Don’t Give a Damn” in 1939 in Gone with the Wind, it was shocking. Now we have all sorts of foul language throughout media that children are exposed to.  In December 1953 Hugh M. Hefner published Playboy Magazine, and you could buy porn at the newsstand. Today, it’s everywhere accessible via the internet, and even new TV shows and movies contain scene of gratuitous nudity and simulated sex.  Now we get the majority of our information through media. Let’s not even get started on all the violent content found throughout our modern entertainment.

At the same time Media was gaining a bigger part of our attention, the three tradition centers of learning were being  attacked. In schools, students were being taught what to think, not how to think. Christianity was being labeled as outdated, and the Bible filled with ‘errors’. No-fault divorce was added to our legal system and has lead to more broken families than any generation prior.  Now we have a generation that is learning about life from what’s taught to them by the media. They have no firm moral center. Instead they rely on ethics. Morals and ethics are very different things. Morals come from a religious source and are concrete, whereas ethics are drawn from societal norms and are situational and fluid. Morals define things as either right or wrong 100% of the time.  There is no grey area. Ethics change with the circumstance and individuals. What’s right for you may be wrong for me. If something is legal, it is not unethical. If it were unethical it would be illegal. If something is immoral, it is ALWAYS immoral whether it is legal or not. God wants what is best for us and outlines it in his Word, the Bible. It not only covers laws and acceptable social behavior, it also provides encouragement and has over 2000 passages relating to financial matters that are time proven.  

In the twenty-first century, only about 2% of Christians have ever read the Bible cover to cover. This lack of biblical knowledge has resulted in much of the immorality and financial poverty that plagues our society and threatens our nation. The common knowledge and common sense of our forebears has been lost due to illiteracy and apathy.  As a constitutional republic, we elect our representatives to vote legislation on our behalf. How can you elect moral leadership if you have no standard by which to measure the man?  How do you vote laws if you have no measure of accepted morals or justice? So today, we have a very different world-view than The Founding Fathers.  If you don’t believe religion belongs  in politics, you are sadly mistaken. God has been involved in the United States since its inception because the Founding Fathers had a Biblical world view.

One Nation Under God

  • The United States is the longest existing constitutional republic in history.
  • It is a Christian nation.
  • It has a capitalist economy.

Attempting to change just one of these three factors will diminish or even outright destroy the other two.

The “wall of separation between church and State” is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned. Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985) – Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist

The phrase ‘separation of church and state’ does not appear ANYWHERE in the Constitution. Don’t believe me? Read it for yourself. I did. The 1st amendment guarantees the right of freedom of religion, and bars any laws from being enacted to restrict or prohibit it. The constitution is ‘almost’ impossible to change. The founding fathers designed it this way to protect it. In the wake of the recent school shooting there has been sharp criticism from the left to change, or even to revoke  the 2nd Amendment. If the constitution could be changed at whim, they could easily revoke the 1st amendment as  well and eliminate religious freedom, and free speech.

Our political structure and election system comes straight from the Bible.

21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. Exodus 18:21-22

As a republic, we elect representatives to act on our behalf and based on the will of the people. If immoral self-serving con-men are elected, there is nothing to stop them from passing laws according to their own desires against the will of the people. This is the rationale behind the  “drain the swamp” movement. (Washington D.C. was originally swampland.) Also, since the members of the Supreme Court are picked by the president, the wrong person in the White House could pack the High Court with justices that ‘legislate from the bench’, dramatically reshaping the USA into their own vision.

The three branches of Government –Judicial, Legislative, Executive– are derived from Isaiah 33:22

22 For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us. Isaiah 33:22 King James Version (KJV)

The Supreme Court comes from the Bible too. The ancient Jewish court system was called the Sanhedrin. The Great Sanhedrin was the supreme religious body in the Land of Israel during the time of the Holy Temple.

Our First President was a devout Christian

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George Washington, the first president of the United States was a devout Christian who spent two hours each day reading the Bible and in prayer on his knees , one hour in the morning, and one in the evening.

When he was inaugurated as the first president, he placed his hand upon the Bible, when he took the oath to God, he bent over and kissed the Bible and then lead the entire congress to Saint Paul’s Church  for  a two hour service of worship and thanksgiving.  

Shortly thereafter the Congress of the U.S. asked Washington to declare a National Day of Thanksgiving.

Does this sound like the actions of people who wanted their newly created nation to be devoid of religion? No! The government was designed to work hand-in-hand with biblical principles for the glory of God.  

[New York, 3 October 1789] By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks — for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war — for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us — and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Also in 1789, the first act of the newly created Supreme Court of the US was to have a FOUR HOUR communion service.

Furthermore, without exception:

  • The Inaugural address of every U.S.  president mentions God.
  • The Constitutions of all 50 states mention God.
  • The majority of the monuments and federal buildings in Washington D.C. contain scores of inscriptions and references to God.
  • The National motto In God We Trust is on all our money.
  • God is mentioned in our National Anthem and in our Pledge of Allegiance.         

“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem, government IS the problem.”  — Ronald Reagan 

Purpose of U.S. Government

According to the Constitution’s preamble, the specific functions of the United States government are:

  1. ‘To form a more perfect Union’
  2. ‘To establish Justice’
  3. ‘To insure domestic Tranquility’
  4. ‘To provide for the common defense’
  5. ‘To promote the general Welfare’
  6. ‘To secure the Blessings of Liberty’

It is vitally important that Christians have a role and a voice in civil Government. We need to elect moral leaders who have a deep understanding of what the Bible says, and are willing to defend the Constitution.. In addition, they must have a firm understanding of business and the economy. Passing laws that hurt business and punish the wealthy are bad for the economy. Laissezfaire economics are a key part of free market capitalism. The government has no business interfering in the day-to-day operations of any business. The less the government is involved in the economy, the better off business will be – and by extension, society as a whole. 

Since Donald J. Trump was elected, he has been pushing through sweeping tax cuts and cutting bureaucratic red tape which is helping fix the economy.  I trust President Trump more than anyone else in Washington. Just because you don’t see everything going on behind the scenes, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. He is a capable leader that is slowly checking off items on the list of campaign promises he made which got him elected.  I am confident that he is going to do everything in his power to defend the Constitution and that he will Make America Great Again. A Christian man leading a Christian nation is definitely good for the county. When America blesses God, God will bless America. As always, I wish you happiness and success!  

 

LA-LA-LA! I Can’t Hear You!

The real reason it’s lonely at the top.

I have never swindled a man. At most I kept quiet and let him swindle himself. This does no harm, as a fool cannot be protected from his folly. If you attempt to do so, you will not only arouse his animosity but also you will be attempting to deprive him of whatever benefit he is capable of deriving from experience. Never attempt to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig. – Robert Heinlein  (from his 1973 novel  “Time Enough for Love”)

As I’ve stated previously, I’ve been broke in the past, and grew up poor. The reason I have risen to the level I now find myself on is because I made a conscious  decision to change my circumstances and become rich. There’s one problem with success. You can pursue it for yourself, and you can try to encourage others to follow your example, but you can’t force them to do the right thing. Just as you yourself have arrived  at the decision to make a positive change in your life, they must make their own decisions.

If you go to any large bookstore, you’ll notice that there are thousands of self-help books on the shelves. I’ve read my fair share in my personal quest to become a better man. Many of these contain simple common sense solutions. The problem is that what used to be considered common sense has been discounted as outdated or erroneous. Common sense is not as common as it once was. One thing I have also noticed is that the most successful self-improvement books all reference the greatest self-help book ever written: The Bible. That’s because timeless wisdom is timeless. I make no secret of the fact that I am a Christian first, and a Republican second. I could not be the man I man today without Jesus Christ. 

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

2 Timothy 4:3 NIV Bible

The reason I started writing InstantCoffeeWisdom sprang from a growing concern that the knowledge I’ve accumulated which has so helped me, and which I’ve tried to impart on others was being largely ignored. The more successful you become, the fewer close personal friends you will end up with. Your social circles will change drastically. Some of the people you once considered indispensable members of your clique will suddenly start to drop away. Part of this is because they are not strong enough to continue the journey with you and leave to pursue their own interests. Some will leave due to disagreements, jealousy or resentment. It’s painful to lose friends, but it’s important to let the ones who wish to leave go. You can’t force people to love you, or respect you.  Either they will want to be with you, or they won’t. This is why it is of the utmost importance to always express  your views with respect and civility towards those who disagree. Never engaged in vituperation or name-calling.  Just as it takes time to become successful, it also takes time to build a reputation.

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Always give credit where credit is due.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. – John Donne

The knowledge I pass along  thought this weekly online blog is not my own. It has been distilled over time from reading countless others, many of whom also reference one another. Over the years I’ve read and studied many wise men, and I am where I am today because I stand on the shoulders of the giants who have come before me.  I encourage you to seek out and read books by:

  • Dave Ramsey
  • Napoleon Hill
  • Brian Tracy
  • Tony Robbins
  • John C. Maxwell
  • Richard Carlson

just to name a few.

Lastly before I wrap up this week’s edition of InstantCoffeeWisdom, I want to say that I am humbled that my blog has been read by people in over 20 countries around the world. My articles are mostly financial, but sometimes include a smaller political and religious component. This is because the three hot-button topics of Politics, Economics, and Religion are all interwoven and part of the same ‘island’. I hope that you have found my mostly financial blog to be helpful, informative, and entertaining.  If you have found it to be so, please consider sharing it with your friends on social media so that they too may benefit. As Always, I wish you happiness and success.

Will you be left out in the cold?

Security in your golden years is up to you!

” Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler,  yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest..” Proverbs 6:6-8 NIV

Grasshopper

The Grasshopper and the Ant  is one of Aesop’s Fables and draws its origin from Proverbs 6:6-8 in the Bible. Aesop is thought to have been a Greek slave who lived about 600 B.C.  The fable describes how a hungry grasshopper begs for food from an ant when winter comes and is refused. The situation sums up moral lessons about the virtues of hard work and planning for the future.

Cradle to grave– A Ponzi Scheme

Charles Ponzi was an Italian swindler who ran a fraudulent investment  con operation where returns for older investors were funded through revenue paid by new investors. This is by and large how Social Security works.

 The Social Security Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt on August 14, 1935. In addition to several provisions for general welfare, the new Act created a social insurance program designed to pay retired workers age 65 or older a continuing income after retirement. The Social Security Administration will deny that it is a Ponzi scheme, even going into detail as to why it’s not a Ponzi scheme in one of its publications and again on its website. Social Security is part of a government attempt to provide ‘cradle to grave’ social welfare programs to provide for citizens of the USA. Relying on Social Security to support you in your old age is a terrible idea. It exists solely to provide funds for people too lazy to set aside funds for their retirement, and it will barely be able to cover basic needs. I have personally witnessed my mother and her sisters struggle and fail to make ends meet with Social Security. My mother would have been homeless without me bridging the shortfall left by her $450 a month SSA check the last five years of her life. My last living aunt is 76 and gets a meager $1060 per month.  She is constantly falling behind on the rent. She HAS been homeless, and will probably be again in the near future after alienating most of the family.   

“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” – President Ronald Reagan

Your retirement is your business, not the governments!

The 401(k) provision was created in the 1978 Tax Revenue Act,  but went largely unnoticed for two years until Ted Benna, noticed that the tax clause in section 401, subsection (k), did not preclude pre-tax salary reduction when it stipulated that cash or deferred-bonus plans qualified for tax deferral.  It was a creative loophole that eventually led to rise of the 401(k) Plan as a major wealth-generating retirement tool.  Ronald Reagan had made personal saving through tax-deferred individual retirement accounts, or IRAs, a component of his campaign and presidency. (He went on to sign this new interpretation into tax law after he won the 1980 election. ) Payroll deductions for IRAs were allowed in 1981.

In February of 2005 Republican President George W. Bush outlined a major initiative to reform Social Security which included partial privatization of the system, personal Social Security accounts, and options to permit Americans to divert a portion of their Social Security tax (FICA) into secured investments.  In essence, he wanted to wean the populace off the teat of Social Security and move them into more financially lucrative personal IRAs. Democrats opposed the proposal and after gaining control of both houses following the 2006 Midterm elections, effectively killed the plan for the remainder of Bush’s term in office.  The Democrats created the failure that is Social Security, and they will fight to keep us under its yoke. The path to fiscal independence is paved with the gold bricks of IRAs and 401(k) plans. Countless fortunes have been made by investing in the stock market. No one have ever become wealthy by collecting monthly SSA checks.

IRA vs. 401(k): What’s the difference?  

Both 401(K) plans and IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts) allow you to save money in the stock market through tax deferred contributions. Anyone with a job can contribute money to an IRA. You can only contribute money to a 401(k) or similar retirement plan if one is offered by your place of employment. In many cases employers will offer matching contributions. In other words: FREE MONEY. You should commit to contributing 10% of your salary to these plans as soon as you are eligible to enroll, and you should always be sure to contribute enough to  max out the employer match. Again, it’s FREE MONEY! There is no funding match for IRAs. As of January 2018, the maximum employee contribution for 401(k) and similar plans is $18,500. The max for an IRA is $5,500, but if you’re 50 or older you can add another $1000 to that as a catch-up fund.

 Retirement plans offered by employers include:

  • 401(k) plan – a retirement savings plan sponsored by an employer. It lets workers save and invest a piece of their paycheck before taxes are taken out. Taxes aren’t paid until the money is withdrawn from the account.
  • 403(b) plan – also known as a tax-sheltered annuity (TSA) plan, is a retirement plan for certain employees of public schools, employees of certain tax-exempt organizations, and certain ministers. The basic difference is that a 403b is used by nonprofit companies, religious groups, school districts, and governmental organizations. The law allows these organizations to be exempt from certain administrative processes that apply to 401k plans. In other words, administrative costs for a 403b are lower.
  • 457 plan –  a kind of defined contribution retirement plan available to state and local public employees, but can also be offered by certain nonprofit organizations. They work much the same way as 401(k) plans.
  • TSP Plan – Federal employees and members of the uniformed services participate in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), a retirement savings plan similar to 401(k) plans offered to private sector employees

Both IRAs and 401(k) plans may be available as ROTHs. Roth IRAs and now the new Roth 401(k)s are named for Delaware Senator William Roth and were established by the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997. There is no pre-tax savings on these, they are funded by after- taxed income, but they grow tax free.  

IRAs give you the largest number of personal investment choices, they are quite similar to a brokerage fund. 401(k)s tend to limit your investment choices to up to as many as twenty different funds, which may be passive index funds, or actively managed funds which will have periodic fund maintenance fees associated with them which will eat away at your returns.   

EXAMPLE: My company TSP Plan offers 6 funds:

G Fund: Government Securities Investment Fund (no risk bonds)

F Fund: Fixed Income Index Investment Fund – is invested in a separate account that is managed to track the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index

C Fund: Common Stock Index Investment Fund – tracks the Standard &Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) Stock Index

S Fund: Small Cap Stock Index Investment Fund – a stock index fund that tracks the Dow Jones U.S. Completion Total Stock Market (TSM) Index.

I Fund: International Stock Index Investment Fund – a stock index fund that tracks the MSCI EAFE (Europe, Australasia, Far East) Index.

L Fund: Lifestyle Fund – diversifies participant accounts among the G, F, C, S, and I Funds using professionally determined investment mixes (allocations)that are tailored to different time horizons. The L Funds are rebalanced to their target allocations each business day. The investment mix of each fund adjusts quarterly to more conservative investments as the fund’s time horizon shortens.

The Bottom Line

I have been paying into Social Security since I got my first paycheck at my first job. It’s mandatory. You can’t opt out. I have been actively and intentionally contributing to my company TSP plan since I became eligible. It’s MY option to do so. No one is forcing me to do this. I can check the balances of both programs online. Needless to say, the mandatory government SSA plan which I am forced to pay into has far less in it than my personal TSP plan which I have been overseeing myself.  You will come out far ahead of the rest when you take a hands on approach to your money, and your retirement. A fool and his money are soon parted. Do you want to be wise, or is it your intention to be a fool? It’s your life, it’s your money, it’s your choice. As always I wish you  happiness and success!

A new year, a new you!

Make the most of the coming year.

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As we count down the final hours of 2017 on this last day and final blog post of the year, let’s pause a moment and take stock of the past twelve months.  It may not have been a perfect year  for most of us, but when we reflect back, in most cases we’d have to agree that there were far more good times than bad.  There will always be a small percentage of people we know who had a rough year. These people constantly exclaim ‘I can’t wait for this year to be over’.   For me, the only real part that I dislike and am ready for to end is always winter. I’m not a fan of the snow  and ice. I dislike the short days of early darkness and sub-freezing temperatures.  In North America, winter spans the end of the old year, and the beginning of the new.  Seasons change, and winter exists in part to make us appreciate spring, summer and autumn all the more.   

Raindrops keep falling on my head!

We have no control over the weather, just how we prepare for it. We carry an umbrella in case it rains. We have a coat or jacket in case it gets cold. Only a foolish person curses the weather because they chose not to plan accordingly. We don’t always have to like circumstances beyond our control, but realistically we know that the situation will change in time, and with proper planning and precautions, we can weather the storm. Make it your goal to accept the things you have no control over, and make positive changes over the things that you can control.

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay!  My, oh my, what a wonderful day!

Every day each and every one of us gets 86,400 seconds to spend however we choose, with just two exceptions. The day we’re born and the day we die. Excluding those, our days are all the same length, yet some people never seem to get anything done, while others accomplish an incredible amount.  The difference was the result of the choices made, and the attitude behind them.  Planning your day out ‘saves time’.  Procrastinating wastes it. Being miserable makes the day drag, but time flies when you’re having fun.  Did you dwell on the past instead of planning for the future? Keep a positive attitude and try to find one good thing to be thankful for each day. Then focus on that. A positive attitude will attract like-minded people and soon you’ll be surrounded by a positive support group to help keep you encouraged. Remember, no one likes a sad sack.

Time is on my side, yes it is.  

Plan ahead, and plan early. Don’t put off for tomorrow what can be done today! Prior proper planning prevents poor performance .  Manage your time, manage your expenses. Make positive changes in every aspect of your life, and multi-task when you have complimentary goals.     

The great thing about New Year’s is that it’s a reminder that we can start over. If you didn’t like the way this past year went, you can look back on what went wrong, and make changes to fix the problems. You can make New Year’s Resolutions for every item under the sun. The key though, is that you must complete the goal to achieve the result. If you change nothing, nothing will change. You can do it if you stay motivated. One key way to achieve this is by seeing positive change over a period of time.  If you have a fitness goal, such as losing weight, break it down into smaller, easily achievable goals.  Instead of focusing on the sixty pounds you want to lose this year, focus on the five pounds you need to lose in each of the twelve months and be consistent. Track your progress so that you can see how far you’ve come. And if you reach the goal early, go the extra mile and get ahead of the game. This way if you hit a plateau, or a stumbling block, you’ve got breathing room to regroup and recover from the setback. The same thing applies to financial goals. Slow and steady wins the race.  Baby steps forward are still progress.

I faced it all and I stood tall And did it my way!

The Man in the Mirror is a book written by Patrick Morley in 1989. I recommend reading it, as well as exploring any self-help books pertaining to the area of your life that you wish to change.  In  The Man in the Mirror , the author attempts to  teach us to solve 24 problems every man faces in life. Although geared for men, this book applies to everyone. The title is the clue to the cause of the problems, and the solution is to live our lives in a more godly manner.  How many of the problems we face in our lives are a direct result of our stubbornness to do  it ‘our way’ instead of the right way? How many times do we repeat the same mistakes and expect different results? An honest person is forced to admit that the larger portion of our misfortunes are self-made.   Blaming the year and wishing it were over is a very childish way to deal with one’s problems. After all, if you don’t effect positive changes in your life, most likely next year will be a repeat of this year,  or maybe be even worse.  The choice is up to you!  Are you ready for more of the same, or a fantastic new beginning?  You decide.  As always I wish you happiness and success!

Secret Santa

A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men. –– Proverbs 18:16 KJV

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As I’m sitting here in the wee small hours of the morning of Christmas Eve 2017 working on my last Christmas-themed financial blog post of 2017, the main thought that is going through my mind is, ” I LOVE CHRISTMAS!”  It is impossible ignore the fact that whatever your personal religious beliefs are, Christmas begins with CHRIST, Jesus is the reason for the season, and Christians like myself become ‘a little more vocal’ about what we believe. Christmas is a very good thing for both the believer and the non-believer alike.  It truly is the most wonderful time of the year! So if you don’t believe in Christ, please don’t take offense at a person extending you a heartfelt ‘Merry Christmas’ at this time of year. It’s not a religious threat or insult, it’s a olive branch or a bridge to show that we are all connected. Take it in the spirit of goodwill in which it’s meant.

Talking about ‘spirits’ and giving brings to mind two secular and fictional aspects of Christmas: Ebeneezer Scrooge and Santa Claus.  

I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ — Acts 20:35 The Holy Bible, New King James Version

There are people in this world today who claim that being wealthy is a sign of greed, and that somehow the rich people of the world are responsible for causing the poverty in it. This is far from the truth. Wealthy people pay the majority of all taxes collected, and donate the largest sums to charities. They build the factories, fund the businesses, and create the jobs.   

The protagonist of A Christmas Carol written by Charles Dickens is a miser named Ebeneezer Scrooge. Some people get the idea that he’s the villain of the tale because all he cares about is money. Scrooge isn’t the bad guy because he has money, but because he lives a joyless existence, he mistreats his employees,  and he’s horded his wealth instead of using it to bless the needy and do acts of great good. After he’s visited by the Christmas spirits, he sees the error of his ways, and is transformed by the renewing of his heart and mind. He then does great acts of charity that would not have been possible had he been poor. There are some acts of generosity that only  a wealthy person has the ability to do. Anyone can smile, say a kind word, do good deeds, or pray for other people. These things are good, and we should always do them. Most people can even afford to donate money to the less fortunate, even if it’s only coins in the Salvation Army Kettle at Christmastime.

Only the rich can give charities million-dollar endowments or build factories to create jobs.

 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’— Matthew 25:23, New English Translation

 Santa Claus is a bit more tricky. His origins have been mixed with fable thanks to L. Frank Baum and Clement C. Moore. Elves and reindeer aside, ‘Father Christmas’ is based on a real person, Saint Nicolas of Myra was a Christian bishop who helped the needy. He was born circa 280 AD and died December 6th 345 AD. In the twentieth century, Santa Claus stated to supplant Christ as the focus of Christmas, basically because he was a fun way to make the season more ‘inclusive’. Some people who were not religious felt left out. So advertising departments of companies like Coca-cola and Macy’s ran with Santa as a jolly alternative, and a new representative of Christmas goodwill.  This is both good and bad. Bad because Santa distracts us from ‘the real reason for the season’ and can be confusing for young children. Good because Santa is FUN, and inspires giving.      

As a Christian, I KNOW that ALL things come from God, and everything I have ultimately came from The Lord of All Creation. Christians especially have a duty to use their God-given gifts in the service of God, and Christmas gives us many great opportunities to help the less fortunate. I find myself a little merrier wearing a red Santa hat, it inspires me!

I’m going to wrap this up with the inspiring true story of Larry Stewart, the Secret Santa.  

 Kind words and kind actions can change lives!

Larry Stewart (April 1, 1948 – January 12, 2007) was an American philanthropist from Kansas City better known as “Kansas City’s Secret Santa.” After poor beginnings, Stewart — from 1979 through 2006 — made a practice of anonymously handing out small amounts of cash, typically in the form of hundred-dollar bills, to needy people.

Larry was a traveling salesman in 1970, and he wasn’t very good because by 1971 he was broke and sleeping in his car. After a few days of not eating, in desperation he decided to ‘rob’ a diner by ordering a big breakfast he couldn’t pay for, and then claiming he accidentally lost his wallet somehow.  Ted Horn owner of the Dixie Diner realized the true nature of the situation, and instead of getting mad, or calling the cops, decided to give Larry a $20 bill he ‘found’ on the floor, which ‘might’ have fallen out of Larry’s ‘lost’ wallet. This lesson of kindness and generosity stayed with Larry Stewart. Ashamed of his initial act of deception, and humbled by the kindness of the diner owner, he vowed to himself that he would  ‘pay it forward’ as soon as he was able.

Around Christmas of 1979 on a very cold day, he stopped at a drive-in restaurant. A carhop waitress was outside wearing a small, thin coat, and freezing as she served the diners at their cars in the hope of maybe nickel or dime tips. When she brought Larry his lunch, he handed her a $20 bill, and told her to keep the change. Her lips begin to tremble and tears begin to flow down her cheeks as she said, ‘Sir, you have no idea what this means to me.’

Stewart went on to become a multimillionaire, earning his fortune from cable television and long distance calling. Each Christmas from 1979 until his death in 2007 he continued giving cash away to the needy as Secret Santa.  He quickly progressed from giving out $20s to handing out $100s, not just in Kansas City but traveling to other areas in times of tragedy, like NYC after 9/11/01 and Mississippi in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.  Sadly, he developed cancer, but because he was concerned about the poor and needy, he trained an army of Secret Santas and assistant ‘elves’ who would pass out $100s to the needy after he was gone. By the time he passed away on January 12th 2007, Larry Stewart had given away over a million dollars, all inspired by the kindness of ONE man who gave him a $20 bill decades earlier. Today, the army of Secret Santas continue to hand $100 bills to poor, their efforts supported by other wealthy philanthropists, and inspiring others to do likewise.

So as we open our gifts on Christmas morning, and give presents to our friends and family, let us all be inspired by all the beauty and wonder of all the aspects and icons of the season. Let us not focus on ourselves, but think of our fellow man, and be grateful for all that we have. May we all find the courage to better ourselves, so that we can extend a hand-up to the fallen, and together we can with a smile, encouragement, charity and kindness, make this a better world. As always I wish you happiness and success!  Merry Christmas and God bless us, everyone.