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Quantum Experiment Shows How “Time” Doesn’t Exist As We Think It Does

1942 RAK in hat@CuyuniMy Thoughts: I spent a little ‘time’ this morning with my grandchildren. Delighted that they live here and that my ‘time’ on the planet hasn’t ended. It did for a friend of mine this past weekend. 24 hour days have been the norm here since the beginning of ‘time’, or have they? Spending a lot of ‘time’ on this is a waste of ‘time’ but it’s fun to think about from ‘time to time’.

July 20, 2015 by Arjun Walia

“We choose to examine a phenomenon which is impossible, absolutely impossible, to explain in any classical way, and which has in it the heart of quantum mechanics. In reality, it contains the only mystery.” Richard Feynman, a Nobel laureate of the twentieth century (Radin, Dean. Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences In A Quantum Reality. New York, Paraview Pocket Books, 2006)

The concept of “time” is a weird one, and the world of quantum physics is even weirder. There is no shortage of observed phenomena which defy our understanding of logic, bringing into play thoughts, feelings, emotions – consciousness itself, and a post-materialist view of the universe. This fact is no better illustrated than by the classic double slit experiment, which has been used by physicists (repeatedly) to explore the role of consciousness and its role in shaping/affecting physical reality. (source) The dominant role of a physical material (Newtonian) universe was dropped the second quantum mechanics entered into the equation and shook up the very foundation of science, as it continues to do today.

“I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulating consciousness.” – Max Planck, theoretical physicist who originated quantum theory, which won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918

There is another groundbreaking, weird experiment that also has tremendous implications for understanding the nature of our reality, more specifically, the nature of what we call “time.”

It’s known as the “delayed-choice” experiment, or “quantum eraser,” and it can be considered a modified version of the double slit experiment.

To understand the delayed choice experiment, you have to understand the quantum double slit experiment.

In this experiment, tiny bits of matter (photons, electrons, or any atomic-sized object) are shot towards a screen that has two slits in it. On the other side of the screen, a high tech video camera records where each photon lands. When scientists close one slit, the camera will show us an expected pattern, as seen in the video below. But when both slits are opened, an “interference pattern” emerges – they begin to act like waves. This doesn’t mean that atomic objects are observed as a wave (even though it recently has been observed as a wave), they just act that way. It means that each photon individually goes through both slits at the same time and interferes with itself, but it also goes through one slit, and it goes through the other. Furthermore, it goes through neither of them. The single piece of matter becomes a “wave” of potentials, expressing itself in the form of multiple possibilities, and this is why we get the interference pattern.

How can a single piece of matter exist and express itself in multiple states, without any physical properties, until it is “measured” or “observed?” Furthermore, how does it choose which path, out of multiple possibilities, it will take?

US-Iran Treaty Can Send Oil to $40

oil productionMy Comments: I’ve already said that I much prefer a negotiated deal between adversaries than continued threats to bomb the crap out of them. In todays economic and political environment, that option poses too many risks that I’m unprepared to accept.

Here’s some economic thoughts about what might happen, now the deal is in place. Yes, Congress has 90 days to approve, and no, the oil industry will be unhappy, but it’s time to think what is best for ALL OF US, and not just the few.

by Barry Ritholtz – July 14th, 2015

While the world is distracted by the unending Greek saga (will it or won’t it leave the euro?) and the epic Chinese stock-market meltdown (and manipulation), something really important is going on. Three words sum it up: Iran and oil.

Negotiators have reached a deal with Iran to constrain its nuclear arms program. Despite the pessimism and outright fear-mongering, an agreement has been reached.

Don’t let China’s stock market and Greece’s debt melodrama distract you from paying attention to this issue — now that this deal is all but consummated, the repercussions are potentially enormous.

The agreement to end 13 years of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear aspirations is likely to be the defining foreign policy achievement of the Obama administration. Iran had opportunistically pursued its nuclear ambitions after 9/11, accelerating the program once its biggest regional enemy, Saddam Hussein, was removed by the U.S. military invasion.

Normalizing relations between one of the largest military powers in the Middle East and the major nations of the West is a huge, game-changing event. Iran’s ruling party wants access to global markets, technology and capital; Iranian youth would like access to Western consumer goods, culture and most of all, the Internet. How much any of these become part of the end result of a deal has yet to be determined.
What is perhaps most fascinating about this deal is the role and ambitions of China and Russia.

China’s motives are more obvious: It would like to blunt the projection of U.S. military power around the world, disengagement of the U.S. from Middle East politics and — most of all — a reduction of geopolitical tensions that tend to raise oil prices.
Russia’s interests are more complex, since it benefits from higher oil prices. Putting Iran’s huge oil production back on the market could exacerbate today’s global crude glut. Speculation that this will happen has already helped push down the price of oil, which has fallen by about a third in the past 12 months. Further signs of a Chinese economic slowdown also are weighing on crude prices.

Given the current situation, including sanctions against Russia for its role in destabilizing eastern Ukraine, one has to wonder what advantage there is for Vladimir Putin & Co. if Iranian oil begins to flow freely to the global market.

The Houston Chronicle quoted Neil Atkinson, an oil analyst at Lloyd’s List Intelligence in London, who observed, “It’s finally dawning on the market that the overwhelming weight of supply growth isn’t just going away… Iran is a huge factor. I can see $50 in sight for West Texas Intermediate [when a deal is reached].” Iran has 40 million barrels of crude stored on at least 23 ships that could be released into the market relatively quickly, the Chronicle added.

So what’s driving the Russians to be so cooperative? Perhaps the lessons of the 1980s are still fresh in Putin’s mind. What brought down the Soviet Union wasn’t the result of military failures or armed conflicts through surrogates. Rather, it was the economic might of the U.S. Supporting a huge military requires a large, efficient and productive economy and the Soviets simply couldn’t compete with the U.S. As much as former U.S. President Ronald Reagan is praised for the collapse of the USSR, Adam Smith deserves more credit.

The Russians may have figured out that fighting the American economy has been a losing game for them.

A peaceful, non-nuclear Iran might help to limit the U.S. presence in the Middle East, according to Gary Samore of Harvard’s Belfer Center. “The Russians don’t like to see the U.S. going around the world, bombing countries,” he noted.

Given the painful sanctions on Russia — and the related precarious economic state it is in because of much-reduced oil prices — greater cooperation between Russia and the U.S. could be mutually beneficial. Both want to see a defeat of the Islamic State. So does Iran. All benefit from a more stable Middle East, albeit for very different reasons.

Putin is smartly playing a long game. Lower oil prices will be painful in the short run for Russia. But an aggressive U.S., with an expansionist military around the world may be even worse. Hence, the surprising willingness of Russia to sign on to an agreement to lift sanctions against Iran.

The key takeaways of the deal with Iran is that it has the potential to lower energy prices, reduce tensions in an area fraught with conflict and create an opening for Russia to find a way to end the sanctions now hobbling its economy. A Russian economy that is better integrated into the world economy will have far better growth prospects.

It will be interesting to watch the contortions and hysterics among members of Congress opposed to the Iran deal. But as of now the critics of the accord lack a veto-proof majority. However much they might complain, it is likely to just be political noise.

Watch the price of oil. Consider what increases in supply and reduction of Middle East tensions do to its price. Then imagine what that could mean for the global economic recovery.

Wrong On Iran

My Comments: I’m unsure about the title of this article; is the author talking to us, to the Israelis or both. Personally, I’m all for the deal that was signed on Monday. I’m persuaded the choices are either an agreement based on mutual distrust, made by skilled negotiators, or war. And I’m sick and tired of us playing that game. Since 1945, we’ve only won once, and that was against the mighty nation of Grenada.

For the GOP, it’s the same mantra since 2008; if Obama is for it, we’re going to do whatever we can to oppose it and stymie his efforts, never mind what’s in the country’s best interest. If we spend another few trillion dollars and get thousands killed and maimed, so what. We enjoy making money.

Nothing of significance can be reduced to simple black and white terms, even though the media would have you believe it is. This article talks about subleties, background and motives of those involved. If we can be friends with Japan and Germany after what happened in the 1940’s, there’s no reason we can’t develop a foundation with Iran.

by David Swanson on July 14, 2015

For the United States to sit and talk and come to an agreement with a nation it has been antagonizing and demonizing since the dictator it installed in 1953 was overthrown in 1979 is historic and, I hope, precedent setting. Let’s seal this deal!
Four months ago the Washington Post published an op-ed headlined ‘War With Iran Is Probably Our Best Option.’ It wasn’t. Defenders of war present war as a last resort, but when other options are tried the result is never war. We should carry this lesson over to several other parts of the world.

The time has come to remove the “missile defense” weaponry from Europe that was put there under the false pretense of protecting Europe from Iran. With that justification gone, U.S. aggression toward Russia will become damagingly apparent if this step is not taken. And the time has come for the nations that actually have nuclear weapons to join and/or comply with the nonproliferation treaty, which Iran was never actually in violation of.

In addition to the prevention of a massive bombing campaign in Syria that was prevented in 2013, a major recent success in war-lie-preparedness is the holding off, thus far, of a U.S. war on Iran — about which we’ve been told lies for decades now. The longer this debate goes on, the more it should become clear that there is no urgent emergency that might help justify mass killing. But the longer it goes on, the more some people may accept the idea that whether or not to gratuitously bomb a foreign nation is a perfectly legitimate policy question.

And the argument may also advance in the direction of favoring war for another reason: both sides of the debate promote most of the war lies. Yes, some peace groups are talking perfect sense on this issue as on most, but the debate between Democratic and Republican party loyalists and those in power is as follows. One side argues, quite illegally and barbarically, that because Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, Iran should be bombed. The other side argues, counterproductively if in a seemingly civilized manner, that because Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, a diplomatic agreement should be reached to put a stop to it. The trouble with both arguments is that they reinforce the false idea that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon. As Gareth Porter makes clear in his book Manufactured Crisis, there is no evidence for that.

Both arguments also reinforce the idea that there is something about Iranians that makes them unqualified to have the sort of weapon that it’s alright to voluntarily spread to other nations. Of course, I don’t actually think it’s alright for anyone to have nuclear weapons or nuclear energy, but my point is the bias implicit in these arguments. It feeds the idea that Iranians are not civilized enough to speak with, even as one-half of the debate pushes for just that: speaking with the Iranians.

On the plus side, much of the push for a war on Iran was devoted for years to demonizing Iran’s president until Iran, for its own reasons, elected a different president, which threw a real monkey wrench into the gears of that old standby. Perhaps nations will learn the lesson that changing rulers can help fend off an attack as well as building weapons can. Also on the plus side, the ludicrous idea that Iran is a threat to the United States is very similar to the idea that Iraq was such a threat in 2002-2003. But on the negative side, memory of the Iraq war lies is already fading. Keeping past war lies well-remembered can be our best protection against new wars. Also on the negative side, even if people oppose a war on Iran, several billionaire funders of election campaigns favor one.

Will Congressman Robert Hurt who claims to represent me, and who got Syria right in 2013, commit to taking no funding from those warmongers? Here’s what Hurt had to say on Tuesday:

“The Threat of a Nuclear Iran Persists
“Dear Friend,

“The long-running nuclear negotiations with Iran and the United States, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom finally reached a head early this morning. Even with the deal reached, I am skeptical that Iran will keep their word, act in good faith, and abide by the terms of the deal.”

The deal is an INSPECTION arrangement, not based in any way on anybody trusting anyone.

“I remain committed to the goal of eliminating Iran’s nuclear capabilities because the prospect of Iran attaining the ability to produce a nuclear weapon is a grave threat to the world, and it is a very real possibility that this deal may only fuel Iran’s ability to expand its nuclear ambitions and facilitate its efforts to spread terror in the Middle East.”

What nuclear ambitions? What terror? This from a Congressman who voted for pulling out U.S. forces on June 17th but has taken no further action and has funded the U.S. operation that is currently killing people in the Middle East?

“Iranian leaders clearly remain focused on expanding their nuclear capabilities. They only want to do the bare minimum necessary to lift damaging international economic sanctions that have crippled their economy.”

What mindreading feat is this based on? Where’s evidence? Haven’t we learned to demand it yet?

“Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.” Not according to any world source, but rather the U.S. government which defines terrorism to suit its ends. The world disagrees.

“The regime makes no secret of its longstanding commitment to see the demise of the United States and Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East.”

Then why don’t you point to a single scrap of evidence?

“On Saturday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke about the need to continue to fight against the “arrogant” U.S. regardless of the outcome of these talks. Allowing Iran to achieve the nuclear capabilities it seeks would pose an existential threat to Israel and the world.”

There’s nothing there about the demise of the United States or Israel or the slightest evidence of Iran pursuing or threatening to use any weapon. Expecting people to believe otherwise seems a bit — if you’ll excuse me — arrogant.

“Given Iran’s nuclear ambitions and history, I remain unconvinced that Iran will act in good faith and adhere to any of the terms of a deal. Iran has been unwilling to make necessary compromises to meaningfully limit their nuclear program, and there is little reason to believe this will change. Reaching a deal just for the sake of doing so is not worth putting the safety and security of our allies and our country at risk; no deal is better than a dangerous deal.”

Again, what ambitions? What history? Why the steady avoidance of documenting any claims? Iran is complying with restrictions not imposed on any other nation. How is that a refusal to compromise?

“If this deal is in fact a bad one, the American people have a role to play in this process. In May, the President signed into law the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which would require congressional review of any final nuclear agreement with Iran before the President can waive or suspend sanctions previously imposed by Congress. Now that an agreement has been reached, Congress has 60 days to review the agreement and pass a joint resolution to approve or disapprove of the deal. Should Congress disapprove the deal, the President would likely veto that measure, but Congress can override the veto with a two-thirds vote.”

The American people, in case you hadn’t noticed, favor the deal, including a majority of Democrats and a plurality of Republicans.

“It is my hope that Congress will carefully consider the consequences of a deal with Iran and maintain its focus on the ultimate goal of eliminating the threat of a nuclear Iran. I remain committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to enhance the necessary sanctions against the Iranian regime. We must do everything within our power to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities.”

Is that a proposal for war?

Anyone can tell their rep and senators to support the deal here.

David Swanson is the author of War Is A Lie.

Who Now Pays for Healthcare?

healthcare reformMy Comments: A fundamental shift being triggered by the PPACA (Obamacare) is the level of income earned by medical specialists and medical generalists. In order to make it more attractive for a medical student to focus on primary care, the idea was to compensate specialists less and instead redirect those funds toward those focused on preventative medicine and primary care. It was understood this would take years, but it was seen as a means to slow down the roughly 8% annual increase in costs and insurance premiums. This rate was absolutely unsustainable, especially when coupled with less than favorable medical outcomes over time than other industrialized nations.

The Republican opposition to any of this resulted in language that said “if we don’t repeal this legislation, the nation is doomed,’ or words to that effect. We’ve got to end the stupid and vacuous antipathy because if we don’t pay attention, we will be doomed. If we allow as few as three elements of corporate America to provide 100% of health care, which is what is about to happen, they will control the price paid, and not you and me.

Jul 08, 2015 | By Alan Goforth

The anticipated spike in out-of-pocket health care expenses under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has not materialized.

The average patient spent 3.5 percent more over the past year, according to a new study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This translates into about $1 per visit, including copayments and deductibles.

However, deductibles increased by an average of $8 for every type of physician visit. The deductible for a primary care visit increased from $14 to $20, while orthopedics increased from about $27 to $35. Researchers warned that rising out-of-pocket costs could cause some patients to forego care, although the study shows that co-pays and deductibles did not increase as sharply as some critics had predicted.

The modest increases likely are a result of a greater focus on preventive care and of a strategy by insurers to encourage primary care instead of costlier specialty care, according to Kathy Hempstead, who directs coverage issues at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The study also found that primary physicians saw slightly higher rates of reimbursement compared to doctors overall. These increases are “consistent with low overall price increases for health care services that have been reported elsewhere,” she said.

At the same time, however, reimbursements for specialty care dropped substantially in 2014.

The study included data from about 15,000 physicians.

Europe’s Dream is Dying in Greece

My Comments: Society evolves, just like animals and plants. But it takes time, and we are conditioned to want it NOW, not over the next millenia. If there is enough collective will, the European Union (EU) will survive by evolving to accomodate Greek society. The players themselves are going to have to find the right pieces, fit them together, and hope it all works out.

It’s in our best interest for the EU to survive and thrive. They are a huge market for whatever it is we produce, be it ideas or technology, or war machines. In human terms, the years since the early 20th century that saw massive conflicts between evolving states is way behind us. But the vestiges of tribal and clan loyalties take time to disappear. We can only hope they find a way to make it work.

Gideon Rachman June 29, 2015

The shuttered banks of Greece represent a profound failure for the EU. The current crisis is not just a reflection of the failings of the modern Greek state, it is also about the failure of a European dream of unity, peace and prosperity.

Over the past 30 years Europe has embraced its own version of the “end of history”. It became known as the European Union. The idea was that European nations could consign the tragedies of war, fascism and occupation to the past. By joining the EU, they could jointly embrace a better future based on democracy, the rule of law and the repudiation of nationalism.

As Lord Patten, a former EU commissioner, once boasted, the success of the union ensured that Europeans now spent their time “arguing about fish quotas or budgets, rather than murdering one another”. When the Greek colonels were overthrown in 1974, Greece became the pioneer of a new model for Europe — in which the restoration of democracy at a national level was secured by a simultaneous application to join the European Economic Community (as it then was).

Greece became the 10th member of the European club in 1981. Its early membership of an EU that now numbers 28 countries is a rebuke to those who now claim it has always been a peripheral member.

The model first established in Greece — democratic consolidation, secured by European integration — was rolled out across the continent over the next three decades. Spain and Portugal, which had also cast off authoritarian regimes in the 1970s, joined the EEC in 1986. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, almost all the countries of the former Soviet bloc followed the Greek model of linking democratic change at home to a successful application to join the EU.

For the EU itself, Greek-style enlargement became its most powerful tool for spreading stability and democracy across the continent. As one Polish politician put it to me shortly before his country joined the EU: “Imagine there is a big river running through Europe. On one side is Moscow. On the other side is Brussels. We know which side of the river we need to be on.” That powerful idea — that the EU represented good government and secure democracy — has continued to resonate in modern Europe. It is why Ukrainian demonstrators were waving the EU flag when they overthrew the corrupt government of Viktor Yanukovich in 2014.

The danger now is that, just as Greece was once a trailblazer in linking a democratic transition to the European project, so it may become an emblem of a new and dangerous process: the disintegration of the EU. The current crisis could easily lead to the country leaving the euro and eventually the union itself. That would undermine the fundamental EU proposition: that joining the European club is the best guarantee of future prosperity and stability.

Even if an angry and impoverished Greece ultimately remains inside the tent, the link between the EU and prosperity will have been ruptured. For the horrible truth is dawning that it is not just that the EU has failed to deliver on its promises of prosperity and unity. By locking Greece and other EU countries into a failed economic experiment — the euro — it is now actively destroying wealth, stability and European solidarity.

The dangers of that process are all the more pronounced because Greece is in a highly strategic location. To the south lies the chaos and bloodshed of Libya; to the north lies the instability of the Balkans; to the east, an angry and resurgent Russia.
Knowing all this, the administration of Barack Obama is increasingly incredulous about the EU’s apparent willingness to let Greece fail. To some in Washington, it seems as if the Europeans have forgotten all the strategic lessons learnt during the cold war about the country’s importance.

That, however, is unfair to the Europeans. Their response to the criticism from Washington is that the EU works only because it is a community of laws and mutual obligations. If you allow a country such as Greece to flout those laws and obligations — by, for example, reneging on its debts — then the club will begin to disintegrate anyway. If, by contrast, you kick Greece out there is still a chance of confining the damage to one country.

The crisis also has profound implications for democracy, the original rallying point that drew Greece into the EU more than three decades ago. Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister, now argues that far from securing Greek democracy, the EU has become its enemy, trampling on the will of the people.

In reality, of course, this is a clash of democratic mandates — pitting Greek voters’ desire to ditch austerity against the voters (and taxpayers) of other EU countries, who want to see their loans repaid and are loath to let an unreformed Greece continue to benefit from EU money.

It may be that those two democratic wills can be painfully reconciled in next Sunday’s referendum. If the Greek people vote to accept the demands of their EU creditors — demands that their government has just rejected — Greece may yet stay inside both the euro and the EU. But it will be a decision by a cowed and sullen nation. Greece would still be a member of the EU. But its European dream will have died.

A Basic Social Security Quiz…

Social Security cardMy Comments: Many are railing against capitalism these days and others against socialism. If you’re adamantly opposed to socialism, I trust you’ve refused to cash your social security checks. Yes, you paid into the system, but the bulk of the money you get comes not from what you put in, but from what our children have put in.

While I believe strongly in capitalism, I thoroughly appreciate the monthly check my wife and I receive from the Social Security Administration. Yes, it shifts some of the financial burden to future generations, but it today represents a social contract we have with the United States. I’ll work hard to help clients and others understand how it exists to help them survive if the need is there.

By Jamie Hopkins – 6/17/2015

Most Americans do not properly understand their Social Security options and it’s not a surprise to the financial services industry. A new survey of roughly 1,500 Americans was conducted by KRC Research on behalf MassMutual and found that 72% of respondents could not pass a true or false ten question quiz on Social Security.

In fact, the lack of knowledge about Social Security is consistent with a comprehensive retirement income literacy test, the RICP® Retirement Income Survey, which was conducted by The American College and found that only 20% of Americans could pass the test but that a slightly higher amount understood Social Security.

Perhaps more troubling was that 62% of the survey respondents over age 50 failed the test. This is a group of people that will rely heavily upon Social Security in retirement, as nearly 1/3rd of current retirees rely almost solely upon Social Security for their retirement income. This highlights an important finding in the MassMutual survey as only 15% of respondents expect to rely solely upon Social Security, which indicates that many people misunderstand how important Social Security is to their retirement income. This age-group should be focusing on retirement planning.

However, many are ill-informed about their main retirement asset, Social Security. This lack of knowledge creates an environment for making uniformed decisions that could detrimentally impact one’s retirement. “Americans who lack the proper knowledge and information about Social Security may be putting their retirement planning in jeopardy,” said Phil Michalowski, Vice President, U.S. Insurance Group, MassMutual. “In fact, many may be leaving Social Security retirement benefits they’re entitled to on the table, or incorrectly assuming what benefits may be available in retirement.”

The full MassMutual Social Security survey is available to take here, now let’s take a look at a few of the most important questions that were misunderstood by the respondents.

1. Social Security Full Retirement Age:

“Under current Social Security Law, full retirement age is 65.” This statement is false. According to the survey, nearly 71 percent of respondents answered this question incorrectly. This can be confusing for many people as full retirement age under Social Security was 65 in the past and many of our parents might have retired when the full retirement age was 65. Additionally, Medicare eligibility starts at age 65, which creates an anchor point in many people’s minds that full retirement for Social Security benefits is also age 65. However, full-retirement for Social Security benefits varies based on the year in which you were born. For those individuals born from in 1943 until 1954, their full retirement age will be 66. For those born in 1960 or later, the full retirement age for Social Security benefits is age 67. It is important to understand your full retirement age for Social Security benefits because if you claim benefits before full retirement age the amount of money you receive could be permanently reduced.

2. The Earnings Test:

“I can continue working while collecting my full Social Security retirement benefits – regardless of my age.” This statement is False. Nearly 56 percent of respondents did not answer this question correctly. Again, it is important to understand your full-retirement age. If you have claimed Social Security benefits prior to full retirement age and are still working and you earn too much then your Social Security benefits will be currently reduced under the earnings test. This does not penalize the worker as much as many think as benefits lost under the test are essentially restored by a recalculation of benefits at full retirement age. Also, once you reach your full retirement age, the earnings test no longer applies, and you can both have earnings from employment and receive Social Security benefits.

3. Spousal Benefits:

“My spouse can qualify for Social Security retirement benefits, even if he or she has no individual earnings history.” This statement is True. Social Security provides spousal retirement benefits for spouses of workers eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. The amount that the non-working spouse is eligible for under Social Security is based on the working spouse’s full retirement benefit, and the age of the spouse. To receive the maximum benefit, the spouse has to attain full retirement age before claiming. Benefits are reduced if benefits are claimed between age 62 and full retirement age.

The Federal Government has put resources and significant efforts into helping people better understand their benefits and the United States Social Security Administration has great resources online to help better understand your benefits and claiming options. However, Americans still need a lot of help making important retirement decisions. According to Michalowski, one of the goals of the MassMutual survey was to bring increased awareness and education to people around the importance of Social Security benefits. In fact, MassMutual has developed online material to help consumers with understanding some basics of Social Security. Ultimately, Michalowski believes that financial professionals need to play a serious role in helping Americans better understand Social Security by working with clients and making sure they have the knowledge to make informed decisions regarding their retirement. This also means you need to ask your financial adviser questions about Social Security, find out about your benefits, and don’t leave anything on the table because you didn’t ask the right question or didn’t understand your benefits.
CONTINUE-READING

Exposing The Dark Side of Personal Finance

financial freedomMy Comments: A recent report that airlines may be colluding on price is but one example of corporate excess that pervades our system. It’s not yet systemic, but given the opportunity, corporate America will take steps to advance its own cause at our expense.

After 40 years as a financial planner, I’m sensitive to questionable behavior by companies and their agents. With Rand Paul now suggesting the world is again about to end, anyone I can reach needs to be careful and know how to respond to those who step in your space and try to take your money. I echo the authors comments about the two named personalities; there is typically a collective groan at financial symposiums whenever their names surface.

by Brian Kay, Leads4Insurance.com, January 2015

This video is a great interview with Helaine Olen, author of the new book “Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry.” The interview – and her book for that matter – really sticks to it the talking heads of the personal financial industry such as Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey.

First, she calls out Orman for suggesting that people put all their savings in the stock market, a strategy Orman does not employ to her own finances out of concerns for stock market volatility.

More broadly, Olen objects to the idea that one person can give blanket advice to millions of viewers and readers.

“The idea that anybody can give specific advice to millions of people… it doesn’t really work. We’re all specific. We are not archetypes,” Olen said.

Bingo.

Every person has a different income than the next. Different needs embedded in their tightly woven budgets. Different plans for retirement. Different levels of comfort with savings and investing.

And it should be mentioned that all those talking heads are millionaires. It’s much easier for them to say, “Paying down all your debt is your number one priority” when they can immediately do so with the change in their couch cushions.

Real people are living under the economic pressure that hasn’t seemed to let up on those living and working on the ground level of our economy. They rely on credit for medical emergencies, unexpected repairs to their cars and homes, or to help them get through a long drought of unemployment.

Though I am not a big fan of her financial recommendation to “always buy indexed funds,” I strongly agree with her assertion that our financial problems stem from a culture that avoids having frank conversations about debt and savings.

If you are like me and can’t standing seeing flocks of people led astray by these “experts,” take solace in knowing that you provide an antidote to our culture’s financial problems.

By that, I meant that you provide honest, frank discussions with clients about their personal finances, savings and debt. You provide personalized financial advice to them for their – and only their – situation.

Not only do you provide that ideal financial solution, your solution is less complicated, more applicable and more trustworthy.

A book can’t ask a person what their biggest financial concerns are. A talking head on TV can’t say something relevant to everyone watching (though they think they are).

A book can’t build up enough trust with clients to hold them accountable to achieving their stated financial dreams. A talking heard can’t follow up with prospects after initial meetings via phone, e-mail or snail mail.

And neither can answer a call or text from clients when they have questions.

My hope is that you use this as ammo to keep fighting the good fight and to dare to ground people who are lead into the clouds by famous “experts” and dropped without a parachute.