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Friday, July 31, 2015

Money’s Worth

Money’s Worth

Wouldn’t it be nice if our monetary system (economy) maintained a constant value proportionate to everything else that we use the money for (car, house, clothes, pharmaceuticals, groceries, utilities, etc.).  For the longest time 50’s and 60’s, you could plan on a spending budget for a year at a time (economic stability). You could plan on spending $150 dollars for the year on gasoline for driving to work (for the whole year!!).  I based that incredible estimate on 25 cents per gallon on gasoline (4 gallons per dollar times $3 dollars per week at approximately 20 miles per gallon).  The breakdown is 240 miles per week, 48 miles per day.  The majority of the population had local jobs either retail, construction, or food processing in town, or on the farm, certainly within much less than a driving distance of 24 miles one way.

Your strongest argument for my figures might be: “those dinosaurs didn’t get no 20 miles per gallon.”  That of course would be my easiest figure to defend:  Those were times B.G (Before Government).  Our cars didn’t have all the anti-pollution regulations and equipment that was later to restrict gas mileage.  Bread, eggs, milk, and meat were also similarly prices month after month.  You could almost take the exact change to the store if you knew what you were going to buy.  Your phone bill was also the same month after month, as was your electricity, gas, and water bill.  I almost forgot most people had a metal barrel in their backyard where they burned their garbage, with minimal tin cans to dispose of because most of the canned goods were in Mason Jars (canned at home).  The way we disposed of the tin cans was to run a string between cans and turn it into a communications toy, or better yet, simply kicked around a can in a game called “Kick-the-Can.”  The best part of all this is no batteries required.  Simply tying a single rope to a tree limb could entertain us year round taking turns playing Tarzan.

Forgive me for getting nostalgic.  I could keep going and write a book instead of a blog post.
While it seems that I got sidetrack consider all the money that we saved by not having electronic toys or a Toys R US or even a Radio Shack (wait, that’s right, we no longer have a Radio Shack).

Back to “Money’s Worth” subject at hand.  Most people that are in my tight little circle of family and friends would describe me with adjectives that are different but similar, examples: sensible, cautious, careful, frugal, calculating, etc.  Bottom line being that at all times in my life I like being prepared especially when going away from my comfort zone (home).  There was a time when five dollars in my pocket made me feel adequately prepared (consider that one dollar’s worth of gas could get me up to 40 miles away and back.  The McDonald’s commercial once it came into existence was that you could get a hamburger, fries and a large coke for a dollar and get change back.  The joke was that there wasn’t much that could go wrong with your car’s engine that you couldn’t fix with some bailing wire (no computers on board or GPS equipment). 

During the following 10 years (70’s) I needed at least 20 dollars in my wallet to feel at ease while in town. By the 90’s I needed at least a one hundred dollar bill in my wallet, and today I wouldn’t go out of town without a wallet full of credit cards (cause I would need a wheel barrel full of money to make me feel comfortable (one night in a decent hotel runs around $150 to $200, a meal for two at a good restaurant easily $70 to $90 dollars followed by a trip to a hamburger joint cause restaurants now a days don’t really feed you (the more expensive the less food).

I don’t like to point fingers and I even try to change the names of my characters to protect the innocent, but this particular target deserves to be called out.

Corporate Greed
  • Americans might think they know how bad inequality is, but it turns out they actually have no idea.
  • A new study conducted at Harvard Business School found that Americans believe CEOs make roughly 30 times what the average worker makes in the U.S., when in actuality they are making more than 350 times the average worker. "Americans drastically underestimated the gap in actual incomes between CEOs and unskilled workers," the study says.~By Roberto A. Ferdman

I’ll bet you already knew this was the root of our problem.  Stay informed/alert, they are Goliath and we are David.  Goliaths have been cut to size before, remember Enron?  The best is yet to come….

My Brother’s Keeper

My Brother’s Keeper

  • A saying from the Bible's story of Cain and Abel. After Cain had murdered his brother Abel, God asked him where his brother was. Cain answered, “I know not; am I my brother's keeper?” 

  • Important to many Christians is the idea that we are all our brothers' keepers - usually taken to mean that we have some responsibility to watch out for and care for one another.

If you like I and many others of this age group were brought up with love and strict discipline, then you entered into the world of adulthood with great values built in.  When my mother told me that I didn’t have her permission to do something or go somewhere (even if I thought she would never find out if I disobeyed), I wouldn’t do it.  My rationale for not doing it, was that I knew that if I disobeyed and got caught, whatever punishment I received would not be as painful as knowing that my disobedience would break her heart.  I didn’t fear her, I respected and loved her.

Amongst the many values that she instilled in me probably the most important was that we took care of our own.  If a family member fell on hard times, it was first and foremost up to the family to come to the rescue.  If the immediate family’s resources or efforts weren’t sufficient you reached out to the next level of family for assistance (cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents).  Failing with that effort, your next step was the church, and your very last resort would be the government.  We were always required to settle things at the lowest level possible (family first).

We were always ready to lend a helping hand to our neighbors, but were not allowed to go to them with our problems.  If a family member, God forbid, ended up on public assistance, it was considered a shame for the rest of the family.  If for no other reason, our failure to rescue our own.

While late in my forties I entertained the idea of running for public office after retirement.  My platform was going to be strengthening the family unit.  My reasoning was that if every family unit was strong, who would remain roaming the streets causing trouble.  Since that time, I’ve decided to keep my family unit strong and encourage friends and extended family members to implement my original plan.  I was afraid to get so involved in saving the world, that I might do damage to the most important thing in my life (my family).

When we take the phrase “My Brother’s Keeper,” and take it to mean all of human kind, it becomes such an overwhelming task that even mega wealthy people like Bill Gates can’t measure up to the task.  There are many other ways that we can follow diligently to full fill the commitment to be My Brother’s Keeper in the broader spectrum.  Just as we turn to our church before we turn to government, we can pay our monthly tithe to our church so they can help others.  Although I also pay my taxes diligently, I have little faith that my tax dollars will be used wisely.  Recent statistic show that there is more poverty and need today than twenty years ago, so much work and commitment is needed.

Don’t let your guard down on your own family unit, but keep up the effort and don’t give up against overwhelming odds.  The best is yet to come…..

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ageing Challenges

Ageing Challenges

Facts:  We are not created equal.  Life isn’t fair.  If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of my body and mind. Arguably; it’s about quality of life.

The question remains compelling:
  • What is wisdom, and how does it play out in individual lives? Most psychologists agree that if you define wisdom as maintaining positive well-being and kindness in the face of challenges, it is one of the most important qualities one can possess to age successfully~ By 

For those of you not familiar with my blog; I am expressing my perspective as I have learned from experience.  My purpose for writing (first and foremost, I enjoy it) is to give my readers food for thought.  I don’t believe in making all the mistakes myself, if I can learn from other’s mistakes, I will gladly do it.  I am an expert on my own life and experience, don’t profess to know everything about anything, where others are concerned.

With the ever increasing numbers of participants in the social media, there are many people sharing advice with regard to age and health that most of us should take with a grain of salt.  Something as basic and simple as how to prepare the tastiest peanut butter and jelly sandwich, has the potential of making someone deathly ill, could even prove to be fatal.  Not everyone should eat peanuts or peanut derivatives.  For some obscure reason, I don’t recall ever hearing of such thing growing up, but today we know that allergies to peanuts are a fact.

I often see postings on Facebook by younger people that are not yet afflicted by old age, basically make fun of the elderly, and their age afflictions.  Here is where we are not created equal comes in.  We are all raised different some lacking a formal education make their living by using their bodies (backs and knees) with time the tear and wear on the joints and back will cause disabilities that a person making a living professionally (formally trained as an attorney, or medical professional) will not experience.  On the plus side those back breaking jobs are disappearing quickly as mechanical equipment takes over more and more menial jobs.

Laying pipe (for irrigation, natural gas, telephone or cable etc.) used to be labor intensive, at present most ditch diggers are being replaced by mechanical digging equipment.  Once upon a time a young man or woman just starting in life might get side tracked from a formal education because of the seeming easy money provided by labor intensive jobs.  Today’s labor market offers hamburger flipping jobs to the young, but it shouldn’t side track any one away from college or vocational training.

Choices made when young (back breaking work) affects you in later years when even leisure things like gardening or walking for exercise will be a challenge.  Taking medication for back and joint pain can eventually have worst side effects than the back problems (from serious prescription addiction to kidney problems for excessive use of some over the counter pain meds.).  Again decisions made when young will came back to haunt us later in life.

We are not all predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease, but many of us are, and by the time we find out we are well on our way to it.  I have a favorite saying:  Everything we say and do will come back to us, positive, negative or indifferent, but it will come back to us.  This is where, “if I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of my mind and body,” comes in.  Such things as smoking, alcohol, drugs, not taking the time to prepare yourself for a career, not investing on your retirement, etc., etc. will get you in the end. I realize that as individuals we don’t always make a conscious choice, sometimes it’s a matter of playing the cards life has dealt us.

With regard to the social media posting, I try to be considerate, but once again consideration is in the eye of the beholder, I am sure that somewhere along the way, I have insulted or offended someone.  I promise to try even harder.  The best is yet to come…..

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Balanced Life

A Balanced Life

Life seems like it will last forever up until about the age of 30.  Very few of us have the wisdom this early in life to understand that like in the cartoon, where one character is out playing and criticizing those that are working diligently to prepare for a harsh winter, we too will get caught unprepared.  In life, the harsh winter is also known as the Golden Years (50 years of age and older).  Despite the myth not everyone is headed for a comfortable retirement.  Those that don’t make a special effort to prepare for later in life, will find out (way too late) that time runs out for preparing for a life of comfort and security.

Life ideally is a timeline that can be divided into conflicting priorities that must be met timely in order to achieve some sort of necessary balance.  As you have come to expect from me here comes the disclaimer:  This is my perspective and you are not asked to embrace it, after all “balance, and ideal outcomes,” are in the eye of the beholder.

Just to decide where the priorities start and fade is borderline problematic. At the time that we are going through the life stages we don’t see the importance of the moment.  Hopefully we start with the advantage of solid parenting and loving relationship.  These early years can make your life journey easier or harder.  Some parts of the country/world offer varying levels of educational opportunities, from non-existent to triple a premium (the parent’s income level is a major factor).  Besides the opportunities, we individually need to show enough interest to excel.  Few people get a redo opportunity (most of us get one shot at the brass ring if we are lucky).

Since I am writing a post and not a book I shall condense my thoughts and allow you to arrive at your own conclusions (not that you need my permission).  In my instance and with the benefit of hindsight, I am very fortunate to have made some good and some great decisions.  I did make some missteps that with time and extra effort I was able to almost fully recover from.  I will never know how some of my loved ones were affected by my missteps, but I hope and pray that like me, their lives will turn out great.  Already, I can tell that they are enjoying very (apparently) happy and productive lives.

Like many of us in the world I am the product of a very loving and caring but fractured family.  My parents separated when I was six years old and soon after divorced.  Unlike many who blame most everything on their parent’s divorce, I chose to analyze what I could do different.  Unfortunately it took me two tries to get it right.

Enough for background and now to look at what needs to be balanced.  Education is a tremendous foundation to build on.  The balancing act is more difficult but can still be achieved without the formal education (simply requires much more effort and an element of good fortune).  If children are to be part of life’s formula (crucial for me) than we must provide the best of everything that we can; shelter, nutrition, health care, education, learning activities, love and nurturing, not necessarily in that order.  The meaning of that statement is that our maximum effort needs to be exerted.

Social life outside the home should take a back seat, luxury items for the parents as well.  Dependable safe transportation versus luxury transportation in other words a Ford instead of a BMW (unless you are able to afford it without requiring sacrifice).  No eating out if you must sacrifice elsewhere.  Adequate house in the best neighborhood you can afford (safety).  Wife’s and children’s education is also crucial in the first part of life together.  All this wonderful priorities must be balanced while strengthening your relationship with your spouse or significant other.  

My wife and I offered (paid for) our children the first two years of college for the purpose of giving them a head start (incentive) in the right direction.  After the children leave the house, the next priority is to refocus on strengthening the all-important relationship between the parents, to diligently concentrate on spoiling each other (including, if within the budget and Audi or BMW). 

Ideally during the time of shifting priorities the retirement was also a priority that included a pension and social security while it’s still available.  With a lot of effort and a sprinkling of good fortune the sacrifices will pay off when you need it most.  I’ve always told my children, if you take care of yourselves, your mom and I will take care of each other.  The best is yet to come…..

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Society Appropriateness

Society Appropriateness
po·lit·i·cal cor·rect·ness
  • The avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.

  • Political correctness (adjectivally, politically correct, commonly abbreviated to PC) is a pejorative term used to criticize language, actions, or policies seen as being excessively calculated to not offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society. ~ Wikipedia

This is one subject that everyone is passionate about, some for and some against.  My intent on this blog has always been to share my perspective, without the conviction that it is right, or wrong.  It’s been said before that opinions are like rear-ends everyone has one.  The ideal situation would always be that we be free to share what’s on our minds without forcing it onto others.

As an example my political preference is personal as long as I keep it to myself.  The minute I try to convince others that my candidate is the chosen one (as has been said before by fervent political participants) than I become fair game for anyone that thinks otherwise.  There was a time in my early adult years (early to mid-twenties) when the work force in my chosen profession was a good mix of all cultures, and it seems that everyone (culture) was fair game for the banter and jokes in the work place.

I never met anyone in that work environment that was malicious.  It seems that everyone would give and take.  The best you could do to defend yourself was by being quick with the come-backs. Despite what today would be seen as some kind of abuse, I know from personal experience that I could stand back to back with anyone of those many people that I worked with in a heated conference room business discussion or on any street corner or back alley and prevail.

When I first reached the corporate management level on my way to corporate headquarters, I remember attending my first Regional meeting of District Managers, at the Vice President’s home (Santa Barbara, California).  During the first phase of the meeting was a cocktail hour.  I was supposed to meet and greet other managers (I was one of the newest to ascend to the position).  My direct region manager found me in a corner of the patio having a cocktail with my date, and he approached us.  He said you are supposed to be mixing in and getting to know the other managers before the dinner begins.  My respond was I am trying to have a couple of drinks to loosen up first.

He pulled me away from my date, and said, you need to face reality, because you are not fooling me for a minute.  He continued; you are not mixing in because you don’t feel that you belong in this crowd.  Then he went on to point out many of the managers in the room, and said: see the gathering by the swimming pool, one is Italian, one is Portuguese, one is Polish, and I’m not sure what the two other guys are.  You are Mexican, and you think you are the only minority here.  Well, he said, I am Portuguese, and you and I belong here as much as anyone else.

With that he walked me over to the group of managers that we had just discussed and his wife took my date to introduce her to other ladies in attendance.  Within a few years I went on to excel within the ranks of the corporation, I had the opportunity many times to introduce other young managers to the social aspect of the corporate ranks.

I guess that my reason for mentioning the above is that, I am not sure what went wrong with our society, one thought that is mentioned regularly, is that “Common Sense” died.  Many people in our society have become meaner, and abusive.  Many others want to exercise their rights at the expense of other people’s rights.  We need to be constantly reminded that our rights start with us (the individual) and ends right where someone else’s begins.  We need to remember that we all have equal rights in all areas.  I agree that people with more wealth can better defend their rights, but that is for a legal battle in court, not on the streets.  For the streets, I am always accompanied by Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson.  There was a time when I thought I was indestructible, but common sense still dwells here, and thus Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson.

To this day, I am not sure if I am a good person because I am or if I am a good person because too many people in the area know me and I need to be on my best behavior always (again common sense).  The bottom line is that I am considered by many that know me to be a good person of integrity.  I personally believe that most often political correctness goes too far.  Some semblance of balance would be welcomed (from my perspective).  The best is yet to come…….

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Overdoing A Good Thing

Overdoing A Good Thing

The type of scorching temperatures that we are experiencing in June this year, remind me of a time years ago.  I was like a teenager (actually in my early 20’s then) I could play in the sun all day, party until 2 am and go to work by 6:30 the next morning.  I’ve never overdid the alcohol, so don’t imagine a guy showing up to work reeking of alcohol, and still stumbling.  My body and mind could handle the punishment that I was subjecting it to.

At the early stages of life most of us feel invincible and rightfully so, youth is a combination of many things, inexperience and vanity are only two of those many things.  By the age of 30 I felt that even retirement age was light years away, and I could take chances with my health, and finances.  What a difference five years and a good new friend can make.
My friend was 35 years older than me, and retired with 3 pensions.

What made me follow his advice was his level of achievement and success.  As a family man and father, he admitted to being a failure (married five times and divorced four).  He confessed that the only thing that kept him out of jail was that his mother would pay the child support money every month in his name.  He convinced me to concentrate my efforts on earning a steady and guaranteed pension (one that was difficult to borrow against). 
My attitude at the time was that there would be plenty of time to save for retirement in later years.  What I didn’t realize back then was that the money you saved in the early years would be good enough to buy a good used car in the future years.  Back in the 70’s who would have guessed that a used car by retirement would cost as much as 25 to 30 thousand and more.  For that matter who would have guessed that a mid-70’s Chevrolet would cost 60 thousand in 2015 (price of 2015 Impala SS).  The solution would be to start a retirement plan and keep adding to it year after year without regard to the slow but sure and compounded progress.

Up until now I had taken risks that delivered immediate gratification by way of monetary compensation.  During the early years of college I had developed a skill (trained radio announcer voice for Spanish Radio Broadcasting, and recording voiceover commercial work).  The work was so specialized that I had to join the AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) Union.  My voiceover commercials were being played in some U.S. Markets (Los Angeles, Florida, Texas, etc.) Mexico, Central America, and South America.  The money was totally out of this world for this small town farm boy, but the benefits and guarantees were not doing anything for my retirement age.

I was fortunate enough and mature enough to understand that I had to give up all those things that I enjoyed doing and take on the challenge of preparing for a time that most of us refuse to see as reality (retirement age).  I know of at least two friends who thought they could survive and thrive doing the things that they loved doing (radio and television work) and today they are looking forward to a retirement on social security.  Don’t get me wrong, many things that we grow to love doing, actually lead to a great retirement life.  The field (career) that I pursued became my very happy and loved choice (architecture and project management).  My second and final choice for a career didn’t have the ego building aspect that broadcasting comes with.  That’s where humility comes in.

This post kind of reminds me of the song The Gambler, by Kenny Rogers:  “You’ve got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.”  I am forever grateful to the man up above and a good friend that showed me the way.  This very moment is an example of getting the strategy right: Do what you have to do, so that eventually you can be free, to do what you like to do.  The best is yet to come……

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Then and Now

1963 Buick Riviera
Whenever you make comparisons you have to select at least two items or subjects for the sake of comparison.  The two eras I have selected are 2015 (present time), and I selected 1960 randomly for no particular reason other than a point of reference.  While I realize that some of my readers may be too young to have fully experienced life in 1960.  I would hope that all of us may have parents that lived in that era.  I realize how difficult it is to imagine your father or mother wearing bell bottom pants, and perhaps even psychedelic print shirts and blouses but history can’t be denied.
Despite all the technological and medical advance in place and being made every day, I don’t envy or desire to be a young adult today.  The challenges facing young people today are many and extreme.  On a very basic level, I can’t imagine losing a loved one because of driving and texting.  Back in 1960 if you had a very important idea or message to share with someone, you would scan the streets for a payphone.  After finding a payphone, you needed a dime to make a local call. 
In 2005 I traveled to Los Angeles to visit family, and discovered that I had left my cellular telephone in my car at the airport in Seattle.  When I went to call my home from a payphone at the airport (in LA) the cost for 3 minutes was $6.  My wife being the brainy person that she is instructed me to purchase a prepaid calling card that I could use from any phone.  Since then almost 100% of payphones have disappeared.
Imagine the silliness of a prediction (forecast) that was circulating back in 1960 that we (humans) would evolve to having only one thumb and the index finger (ET style) because everything would be push button in the near future.
Back in 1960 a person could leave their house and go into town with ten dollars in their pocket, and would be more than enough to have a good time on the town.  At the time $10 was approximately 10% of the average monthly income.  Based on 2015 median income you would have to take almost $500 (10% of monthly income) for a comparable night on the town.  I realize that due to the disparity in incomes half the people make less and half the people make more.
I tried to find a similar chart for cost of living in 2015. And first question to come up is for what date.  In other words our economy is so volatile that a gallon of gasoline can vary by as much a couple of dollars depending on what month of the year or what part of the country you are researching.  You can’t set a grocery budget for the entire year because all grocery related prices are subject to change, and almost always up.  As an example, a case of mad-cow disease in England will spike the prices of meat overnight in the U.S. (one of the many benefits of the Internet and social media).  A maintenance shutdown of an oil refinery spikes gasoline prices due to artificially created shortage.
I believe that those of us in my age group have the best of then and now.  Not only did we survive the British music invasion, and lived the best era of music, but can now enjoy it digitally like it was being performed live.  I can also attest to personally having the best of the muscle car era, without the classic cost related to owning one now.  I have all of my music collection and family photos in one portable hard drive (I keep a backup for safety sake) plus the iCloud.

Make the most of what you have.  The best is yet to come………..