Monday, January 30, 2017

When the dust settles

In 9 years when I wrap up this financial experiment, where will I be?

I have a plan and I have good intentions so all will be okay right? - not exactly.  

Each day, week, month I need to be moving towards my goals.  My actions need to reflect not only who I am (know thyself!) but also my desires and plans and hopes for the future.

I need to reflect on my actions, on my thoughts (buy! buy! buy!) as well as continuously tweak to do my very best to hit my goals.

None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes.  It is always easy to do with money.  But absent anything kray-kray, I'm pretty sure that at the end of these 9 years I can look back and be proud of what I have consistently tried to do.

How about you?  At the end of this year where will you stand?  Will you be proud of your accomplishments?  Will you be proud of your thoughts and actions?

It's an interesting question that is relevant to our finances, our goals and our lives.  Those who fuck up are usually vilified in some way and rightly so.  (Note:  Having to take a huge step down in retirement pretty much sucks and yes you will hate yourself when it happens.)

We all have the benefit of history and other people's mistakes or misdeeds (or evil deeds).  Facts about what has happened previously exist and are out there for a reason - to prevent people from screwing up.

Banning people based on religion sounds familiar because it is a form of targeting people based on religion (we should all know that this has happened before and it NEVER turns out well).

It leads to hatred and violence.  It leads to acceptance of hatred and violence by too many.  We need only look to the Muslims that were killed or hurt in the mosque attack in Canada.  This is very very reminiscent of the attack in the church in South Carolina.  Color of skin, religion...The timing of this horrible tragedy in Canada is not surprising.

I used to travel for work with a young man who was Muslim and whose parents were born in another country.  Several of us would be traveling typically but while we would usually be traveling on the same day, we would often be on different flights.  Still we were at the airport together often enough.

This young man was stopped every single time.  Not just stopped and searched but taken into another room.  Every single time.  He had a good attitude about the horribleness of it.  Me, not so much.  I would panic each time it happened.  All you needed is some *cowboy* from CBP that didn't want to follow instructions and who didn't care that you were respectful and here legally.  I cannot imagine what it was like to be him or to be his parents.  Every single trip I always made sure someone was on his flight - this way at least a co-worker could alert the company if he didn't get released in time for his flight.

And today I am observing two men at my office who have to work with each other but now can barely tolerate each other.  Let's call them Bill and Sam.  Bill voted for Twump; Sam voted for Hillary.  Bill kept his support quiet until Twump won and then it was all in your face.  Yes they most certainly did have a very loud confrontation.  

Today, however, Bill could hardly look at Sam.  Bill is white, in his late 50s, makes really good money (and has for about 15 years).  He is close to retiring and was not happy with how the market reacted while under Obama and felt that Trump could really energize things.  Bill's focus was entirely on himself.  For me this is not unusual as a lot of the men I work with are just like Bill and voted for Twump for similar reasons.  But you don't get to cherry pick only the supposed good stuff of candidates and today Bill was faced with having to see and work with Sam, a Muslim who was born in this country (like his parents).  Bill isn't anti-Muslim or racist.  Still he voted for Twump regardless of the campaign Twump ran.  I wonder how soon their next business trip is.

When the dust settles it will be very interesting to see which side people were on and are on.  

I know the majority of the U.S. will be on the right side.  But how large of a majority will we be.  How many of us will stand up and support American values which include diversity and acceptance that this nation includes (and is loved by) people of various races and religions and gender orientations and sexualities?

I hope there will be a lot of people who can look back in a year and be proud.  Sixty million people voted for Twump, a man who includes a fascist in his inner circle of advisors.  Sixty million people didn't care about this.  There is still the possibility that they will change their minds.  Conversely, they may look back when the dust settles and feel proud of their decision.

But as history has shown us at least once, future generations will not look kindly on those who have supported fascists and targeted people based on their religion or skin color.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Let's Get Real - Math, Money, Savings, Numbers

I'm gonna be honest here - nothing pisses me off like people who bullshit.  

[Side note:  I once told an interviewer that he was full of bullshit.  He laughed.  He was a salesman and considered it a compliment.  We had a nice conversation afterwards but I made it clear I didn't want the job.  In reality I didn't want to have to work with him.]

And a lot of politicians are FULL of bullshit.  So while this isn't an anti-Twump rant per se, it is a rant about what is going on in my sphere of the world which happens to include Twump headlines.

As a conservative, I honestly do not think the politicians that are in charge of Congress and the WH have the interests of all Americans at heart.  And by ALL I mean the minority that voted for Twump and the majority that didn't.

Who cares the most about your money?  Who cares the most about your future?


So what are you doing about it?  If you are placing your hope in Uncle Sam, you shouldn't be.  Yes the government has a very important role and even more important tools in its toolkit that can and should help the millions of people in this country.

But do not just sit back and accept what is being told to you while you wait for the riches and jobs to come rolling in.

You too have a role to play and part of that role is to question, question, question and then question some more.  Now that does not just mean questioning the government, the politicians, the news you are reading but also yourself, what you believe and why you believe it, what actions you take and why you take them.

Learning to question is a very important skill.  It is one that is and can be taught in schools but it is not always one that is learned.

With questioning you must learn to decipher arguments and logic and lies.

There are no such things as alternative facts.  There are facts, there are feelings.  Just because you feel like you are worth a million bucks does not mean that you are.  There are facts and there are opinions.  Just because you believe that the U.S. is in a cycle of decline does not mean that it is.

Feelings and beliefs are often emotional.  Emotion is not logic.  Just because you *feel* safe, does that mean that logically you should keep your home and car unlocked?  Or better yet hand out copies of your keys?

Many reading this will say "of course not" - it sounds ridiculous.  And yet many still lead lives and make many decisions based on feelings and beliefs ignoring logic and facts.

It is very, very important to separate facts from everything else. 

If you sat next to someone and all they could do is talk about themselves, always turning the conversation back to themselves, what would you think?  Is this someone who thinks about you?  Cares about you?  Or is it someone who appears to be focused only on themselves?  
[This is something that Twump does consistently.]

If something goes up, must it come down? We are in a bull market (stock market) and for over 90 quarters the market has gone up.  This seems great.  Until we know the fact is that on average the market only goes up for 50-something quarters.  Does this mean that the market will not go up next quarter or for the one after that?  No.  But it does mean that there is a high probability that the market will go down (and soon).

A simpler question (and asked without judgment) - do you know what average means?  Do you know what high probability means?  Many people do but many also do not.  When we read or listen to the news, a lot of words and phrases are tossed about.  If you don't know what they mean, look them up.  You don't have to mention it to anyone if you are embarrassed.  A good online search will give you the definitions.  Or find a site you like and ask a question.  Ask anonymously if need be.

Now a comment about taxes on imports.  Twump supporters want to build a wall and Twump has the brilliant idea of taxing Mexican imports to find the funds to build that bloody wall.  So let's say Pru is located in Mexico and I want to sell something to you, an American.  The price of the item is $100.  We make a deal and are both happy.  Twump says hold up - that is gonna be an extra 20% import tax.  20% of $100 (100 x 0.20) = $20.  

What do you think I do?  Do you think Pru just nods and says okay sure I'll sell it for $100 and then give Twump $20 and lower my profit by $20?  

HELL NO!  I raise my damn prices.  I raise them high enough to cover the cost of the good, the profit that I want AND the import tax.

And who exactly ends up paying for that bloody wall?!  You do - the American consumer!

You can all say that you won't buy anything from Mexico then.  Hmmm....okay....personally I love fruits and vegetables and a shitload of those come from Mexico....meh!  Who needs fiber?

Or even better we'll just grow more ourselves.  California makes great fruit right?!  Yeah and they have a lot of foreign (ahem Mexican) labor too.  What does that mean?

The point is that every decision made, every action taken is going to have an impact and there is a good chance that impact will hurt people who don't have a huge amount in the bank.  (Question, question, question.)

Ask yourselves why someone who doesn't know you, wants to help you.  In other words - what is in it for them?  Most are looking to gain something for themselves even if it is just being noticed.  A few are kind enough to truly care.

If a mortal claims to be your savior - Seriously, seriously think before accepting such a thing.

Let us all send positive thoughts into the universe if Twump tries to force our intelligence and military personnel to use torture.  Because I don't even want to think of what will happen to our service men and women if they are captured.

Politicians throughout the world rely on the masses (that's you and I) not understanding, not questioning and believing regardless of the former.  It's the only way they believe that they can govern.  But that simply isn't true.

Read more!  Ask more questions!  Stop blindly accepting!

Remember who cares the most about your money and your future - YOU DO!  Play an active role and don't swallow just anything that is told to you. 


Happy Lunar New Year! Time to keep saving!

Super exhausting week and  weekend!  But here are some links for reading:

PF Wisdom from the Year of the Rooster

5 Steps to Take Right Now for a Financially Strong 2017

Funding 40 Years of Retirement
*can't imagine this but we must plan for it eh!

A Grumpy Old Man's Guide to 401(k) Investing

Happy Reading!