Tag Archives: retirement advisor

Planning for Retirement: a Checklist Approach

My Comments: Some of us are organized and some of us are not and the rest of us are ‘sorta/kinda’ organized. I’m in the ‘sorta/kinda’ organized group.

I am, however, heavily invested these days in teaching others a process to follow when thinking about their future retirement. I’ve created an internet school called Successful Retirement Secrets™ where I’ve written and published two courses on the topic. (click on the image to the right to explore them…)

Meanwhile, for those of you who need help being an organized person, this checklist from Laurie Burkhardt with help from Kelly Henning is a great way to get started.

Laurie Burkhardt, CFP  \ June 26, 2017

As financial planners, we are often asked, “Will I be OK in retirement?” Before looking at a client’s assets and expenses in order to answer that question, we ask corresponding questions such as, “What do you want your retirement to look like?” Each individual’s perspective on retirement is unique. Some people want to remain in their current house and community. Others wish to downsize and stay in the area close to family and friends. There is yet another group that wants to leave the expensive Northeast states and move south or west. Thus, it’s crucial to expand on a client’s retirement goals earlier rather than later.

The checklist below illustrates different items to think about as retirement approaches, from ten years before until right after retirement begins. The earlier one starts planning for retirement, the more prepared one should be not only financially, but also emotionally.

A Strategic Pre-Retirement Checklist

Five to ten years before targeted retirement:

  • Brainstorm retirement goals and dreams of what retirement will look like.
  • Think about where you want to live and whether you want to downsize.
  • Revisit goals and time frame annually.
  • Obtain annual credit report.
  • Pay down mortgages and other debt to strive to become debt-free by retirement age.
  • Revisit progress toward achievement of retirement goal, and adjust retirement contributions and/or spending as appropriate.
  • Review estate planning needs and update documents, titling and beneficiaries as needed. Consider long-term care insurance.

One to five years before targeted retirement:

  • Attend pre-retirement workshop and/or consider personal life coach to help prepare for transition.
  • Get comprehensive medical, dental and vision exams while still covered by employer insurance plans.
  • Consider Social Security claiming strategies.
  • Request estimate of pension or retiree medical benefits.
  • Get educated about Medicare options.
  • Revisit estimated budget for income and expenses anticipated in retirement.

Six to 12 months before targeted retirement:

  • Income tax planning
    • Speak with accountant about expected new income bracket and how to plan for it.
    • Discuss possible Roth conversions or other tax planning strategies.
    • Are you eligible for any outside retirement plan contributions?
  • 401(k) Plan
    • Plan to max out contributions for current year.
    • Confirm that all funds in 401(k) accounts are vested.
    • Confirm whether funds are pre-tax only, or pre-tax and after-tax.
    • Coordinate with wealth manager to keep 401(k) funds in plan or roll to an outside IRA.
    • If rolling to an outside IRA, open new account and obtain account number and custodian address/wire instructions for future deposit.
    • If retiring between 55 and 59 ½, consider waiting to rollover due to options to take penalty-free withdrawals from 401(k) in year of retirement, or take 72t distributions for at least 5 years.
  • Pension Benefits
    • Obtain all pension benefits available through current employer.
    • Determine whether or not a lump sum pension option is available and whether it is preferable for you.
  • Other Qualified and Non-Qualified Retirement Benefits
    • Obtain information on all additional plans offered by the company and information on vesting, tax, and transfer of these accounts.
  • Social Security Benefits
    • Login to http://www.ssa.gov, create account and obtain a current benefits statements.
      • Be sure to complete this step for spouse.
      • If divorced, contact Social Security directly at (800) 772-1213 and obtain information on taking benefits as ex-spouse.
    • Coordinate Social Security Analyzer tool with benefits statements to determine claiming strategy.

Two to three months before retirement:

  • Review Paid Time Off
    • If you have any accumulated sick days, vacation time or other PTO days, determine if/how you will be paid for these days.
  • Advise Supervisor and HR Representative in writing of desired retirement date.
    • A specific date may be agreed upon(e.g., first week in January depending on payroll and other items).
    • Consider date which you will be eligible for year-end bonus or other benefits, including 401(k) matches, profit sharing, or stock options.
  • Request Retirement package of paperwork from HR.
    • Depending on the size of the company, HR will generally provide its own packet of paperwork and forms that need to be completed.
  • Determine date for exit interview with HR/supervisor.
  • Make final decision on all insurance, including medical, dental, vision and life insurance (timing will depend on company policies).

One month before retirement:

  • Obtain the paperwork to roll your 401(k) (or other retirement accounts) out of the plan into an outside account, if that’s the choice you’ve made.
    • Complete paperwork and contact HR to see if plan administrator signature is required.
    • Paperwork will be sent in following retirement date.

One week before retirement:

  • Confirm that HR retirement package has been completed and all relevant documents are signed.
  • Clean-up desk/emails, etc.
  • Remove any personal/private information from work email and computer.

Post Retirement

  • Submit 401(k) rollover paperwork following retirement date.

The Bottom Line

There are many decisions to consider as one prepares for retirement, from healthcare considerations to account logistics. Understanding the timeframe of essential tasks well in advance of your retirement date can be key to reducing stress in the months before you stop working. Employers will have deadlines on paperwork submission, some of which will be your last day of work or thirty days after.

Knowing these deadlines and seeking information in advance is essential. Use all available resources, such as your company’s human resources department and your various professional advisors, to help make the transition as smooth as possible.

Source article: https://www.investopedia.com/advisor-network/articles/090916/planning-retirement-checklist-approach/#ixzz5VuZQfiW8


3 Reasons 62-Year-Olds Should Take Social Security Now

My Comments: To all this, I will add another reason to take your benefits early.

Reason #4: You are single and might not live very long.

This applies to people who are single, likely to remain that way, and have a serious health issue. If there is reason to think you might not live into your 80’s, take the money and run. Benefits stop when you die. So if you pass before you reach the break even point, you’ve not left any money on the table.

by Dan Caplinger \ October 15, 2018

As people approach retirement, it’s natural to want to claim Social Security as soon as possible. Even though waiting beyond the earliest claiming age of 62 for retirement benefits can give you larger monthly checks, you still have to make it through months or even years without getting anything at all from the program.

The trade-offs between more benefits later or collecting benefits sooner can be tough to analyze. But there are a few situations in which it generally makes a lot of sense to look closely at making the decision to take Social Security at 62. Here are a few of the most important ones that millions of retirees and near-retirees face all the time.

1. When a family member is waiting on you to claim

In order for a spouse, child, or other eligible family member to collect benefits based on your work history, you have to have filed for your own retirement benefits first. This wasn’t always the case, because retirees could use strategies like file-and-suspend to activate spousal or children’s benefits while retaining the right to get a larger retirement payment in the future. Recent law changes put this restriction on nearly everyone seeking to claim family benefits.

This most often comes up in one-earner families in which the nonworking spouse is older than the working spouse. For instance, someone who’s four years older than you are might have to wait until 66 to claim spousal benefits just to give you time to make it to the minimum age of 62 for claiming early benefits. Waiting even longer than that might not be a good option for your spouse in that situation.

Also, children’s benefits tend to be available only for a short period of time — until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school. For those relatively rare situations in which a child is still below that age when you hit 62, claiming immediately could be the only way to get those children’s benefits on top of regular retirement payments.

2. When a surviving spouse wants to maximize total benefits

Unlike most benefits, a surviving spouse can make separate decisions about when to claim survivor benefits based on the deceased spouse’s work record and when to claim the surviving spouse’s own retirement benefit. Therefore, it often makes sense to claim retirement benefits early while letting the survivor benefits continue to grow by waiting before claiming them as well.

At first glance, it might seem like this would result in smaller checks than what you’d get if you claimed all your benefits at once. But because of the way that Social Security calculates payments, you can often get almost as much just by claiming one of your benefits and then get more money later when the other benefits have grown. This is one of the only situations in which Social Security essentially lets you have your cake and eat it too.

3. When you’ll have to give up your benefits because of a public pension

One of the most hated Social Security provisions involves employees who work in the public sector in a state that doesn’t participate in Social Security. Through the Windfall Elimination Provision, you can lose as much as $447.50 per month in Social Security benefits if you had a career of 20 years or less for a private employer before going to work in the public sector. In some extreme cases, this can eat up your entire Social Security payment, although the reduction is also limited to one-half of your public pension.

If you become eligible for public pension benefits only at a later age, then claiming Social Security before that age can give you a brief period of full payments from the program. When pension benefits start getting paid later on, the Social Security Administration won’t go back and take away your past Social Security, as the Windfall Elimination Provision only applies to current and future payments.

Make the right choice

There are plenty of situations in which waiting to take Social Security until well beyond 62 is the smartest move. However, that’s not always the case. In these particular cases, claiming early can sometimes be the best decision you could make.

Source URL: https://www.fool.com/retirement/2018/10/15/3-reasons-62-year-olds-should-take-social-security.aspx

The Forgotten Architect of the American Social Security System

My Comments: I’ve never understood the fear that surfaces among some people when the term ‘socialism’ appears. What threat do they feel from this poorly understood word? Yes, I remember the McCarthy hearings and the red menace of Communism. It manifested itself in Russia and China, and was perceived as a global threat to capitalism. We are still bothered by the notion that Cuba has never officially renounced Communism as its mantra.

But socialism describes any civil action that communalizes behavior, such as the education of children, caring for the sick, or the elderly. It appears among chimpanzees and other advanced animals, humans being one of them. But suggest someone favors social behaviors in our society and they are immediately branded a heretic.

The following words talk about the architect of what we now call Social Security. Today, there are over 62M US citizens receiving benefits from the Social Security system. Put that in your pipe when you think about Congress talking about reducing benefits instead of finding ways to keep the system viable. And then all the effort to nullify the benefits of the Affordable Care Act that saw almost 12M people insured in 2018. Why do universal health insurance and Social Security come to be such a threat to so many people?

BTW, Medicare Open Enrollment started yesterday, October 29, 2018

by Stephanie Buck, June 8, 2017

In the early 1930s, homeless Americans were picking food scraps off the street and cooking over oil drums in shantytowns. At one point, the unemployment rate reached an all-time high of 25 percent. The country needed new leadership, a plan for healing. It elected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose New Deal ushered in many successful programs, not the least being Social Security. That’s where Barbara Armstrong stepped in.

Her theories on economic security formed the backbone of one of America’s most successful social benefit programs. Social insurance, she felt, should be a universal right enjoyed by all — without an expiration date. Today, it’s one of the reasons Baby Boomers are off kiteboarding in Florida.

Before she became the first female law professor in the country and a drafter of the Social Security Act of 1935, Barbara Armstrong (nee Nachtrieb) was born in San Francisco in 1890. She grew up the third of four children. By 1913, she had earned her BA from the University of California at Berkeley, and her law degree two years later from the university’s Boalt Hall — one of two female graduates that year.

For two years, she split time taking on occasional cases and working as executive secretary for the California Social Insurance Commission. There, she studied worker’s compensation and other government-sponsored poverty solutions, which inspired her return to school for a Ph.D. in economics. In 1921, she earned her doctorate while at the same time working as the first tenure-track female faculty member at a law school approved by the American Bar Association.

Armstrong was beloved by students and faculty alike. She worked diligently as a lecturer and later as an assistant professor in both the law and economics departments at Berkeley. She was an ardent feminist whose early interests in social insurance preceded popular theory by years. Many of these ideas she had studied during academic travels to Europe between 1926 and 1927. When she returned home, Armstrong synthesized the social insurance applications of 34 different industrial countries into Insuring the Essentials: Minimum Wage Plus Social Insurance — A Living Wage Program in 1932. Not exactly a rollicking read, but an important work. In it, she concluded, “Except in the field of industrial accident provision, the United States is in the position of being the most backward of all the nations of commercial importance in insuring the essentials to its workers.” The book astounded Washington with its theories on unemployment, disability, health care, and retirement.

In 1928, Boalt Hall hired Armstrong as an associate professor full time. She was promoted to professor after seven years, longer than most of her male colleagues. She was also paid less. Her dean — who presumably wasn’t in charge of compensation — reportedly said no professor should earn so little.

In the throes of the Great Depression, Armstrong put forth progressive hypotheses about the obligations of industrialized nations to the economic well-being of their citizens. This drew the attention of FDR, who in 1934 invited Armstrong to work as Chief of Staff for Social Security Planning, on the Committee on Economic Security (CES). Suddenly, she moved from advocating radical reform to writing actual legislation.

Prior to Roosevelt, U.S. presidents were expected to steer clear of Wall Street interests. President Herbert Hoover had formed a conservative belief in small government that would define his approach to Depression Era economics, which offered no immediate or major federal intervention. Instead, he called upon states to regulate minimum wage and private charities to help solve the nation’s poverty.

Meanwhile, conditions around the country worsened. By 1931, the unemployment rate hit 15.8%. Homeless families scavenged in makeshift shantytowns (sardonically known as Hoovervilles). Still, Hoover refused to involve the government by fixing prices or controlling currency, which he feared would lead to socialism. Instead, he emphasized aid through private volunteerism and charitable works. He asked employers not to cut wages. He suggested neighbors help each other. He believed the economy relied chiefly on morale, and that it would self-correct.

When it didn’t, the country elected FDR, who believed an aggressive federal intervention was needed. He surrounded himself with people like Armstrong, who had studied social insurance for years.

Armstrong was attuned to politics. According to Nancy Altman, author and president of Social Security Works, she was an “infighter” whose outspokenness convinced the CES to propose a federal program that addressed old age insurance. With the help of Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet, the Social Security Act of 1935 passed. “There were a lot of very strong women who surrounded Roosevelt at the time,” says Altman.

Granted, the act had its flaws, one being that participants wouldn’t see the first monthly benefits until 1942. Republicans argued that building up reserves amounted to IOUs and warned people would have to start paying taxes. Many of the act’s original proposals, such as the inclusion of agricultural and domestic workers, were “temporarily” thrown out due to implementation difficulties. Armstrong supported excluding the groups for these reasons, though Altman insists critiques around gender and racial bias are unfounded. A series of reforms in 1939 expanded Social Security benefits to include family dependents, wives, and widows — but no benefits for dependent men, who were presumed to be in the workforce.

“The 1939 legislation changed the basic nature of the program from that of a retirement program for an individual worker, to a family-based social insurance system (based on the then-current model of the family, in which the man was the breadwinner with a nonworking wife who cared for the minor children),” according to the Social Security Administration today.

The first person to become a Social Security beneficiary was Ida May Fuller, who, upon retiring as a legal secretary in November of 1939 at age 65, received her first benefit on January 31, 1940 — a monthly check for $22.54 (an amount equal to $389 today).

In 1950, the Social Security Advisory Council demanded further expansion. Congress brought 10 million additional workers under coverage, mainly self-employed, domestic, and agricultural workers; disabled workers were added in 1957. The goal was universal old-age and disability security (and actually, was initially designed with universal health care in mind). Today, about 93 percent of working Americans pay taxes into the Social Security program. By June of 2016, one in six Americans was collecting, at an average of $1,350 per month.

Barbara Armstrong returned to Berkeley after the initial Social Security Act of 1935 passed, long before Social Security’s many additional reforms. She had clashed with a few cabinet members — she reportedly called CES executive director Ed Witte “half-Witte” behind his back. Alas, she had a professorship, a daughter, and new issues to tackle back home. She taught courses on family and labor law, and in 1940, she and others attempted to introduce universal health insurance in California, but failed. On campus, Armstrong was a respected, passionate, opinionated, and witty presence. She supported other female staff through the Women’s Faculty Club at a time when “most of the faculty thought of women as frankly inferior beings,” said Lucy Sprague Mitchell, the first dean of women at Berkeley.

In 1970, at age 79, Armstrong was still actively teaching at Boalt Hall. That year, she was attacked by three unknown men while walking in Berkeley. She spent the rest of her years in a wheelchair, and contributed studies in cooperative measures against crime. She died in her Oakland home on January 18, 1976.

Source article: https://timeline.com/barbara-armstrong-social-security-842a4d9308ac


‘Rolling Bear Market’ Will Paralyze Stocks for Years: Morgan Stanley

My Comments: It became accepted wisdom that a properly diversified stock portfolio can indefinitely absorb an annual 4% withdrawal rate to satisfy a need for retirement income.

That assumption is now disappearing. There is growing sentiment that over the next decade, if not longer, a 4% withdrawal rate will lead to the exhaustion of your reserves, leaving you with no money with which to pay your bills.

This story talks to this and suggests what we’ve recently seen as a solid return on investments is changing.

By Shoshanna Delventhal | September 14, 2018

U.S. stock investors should brace for a market that will be paralyzed for several years in a narrow trading range, according to one team of analysts on the Street, and as reported by CNBC. Investors are already in the midst of a “rolling bear market” that will push the S&P 500 down as much as 17% and no higher than 4% from today’s levels, Morgan Stanley’s chief equity strategist, Michael Wilson, told clients in a recent note.

“We think this ‘rolling bear market’ has already begun with peak valuations in December and peak sentiment in January,” stated Wilson.

What A Rolling Bear Market Looks Like

High: 3000, up 4%
Low: 2,400, down 17%

Earnings Deceleration Caused by Higher Input Prices

Unlike a typical bear market, where stocks fall simultaneously, Morgan Stanley says the “rolling bear market” will rotate from sector to sector and even from stock to stock, as the weakest are hit first and the hardest. As a result, the investment firm indicates that assets like bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, as well as emerging market debt equities, base metals and homebuilders could prove particularly risky.

He expects the rolling bear market to accelerate as the investors send shares down on weaker than expected earnings, driven by higher supply-side inputs like energy, transports, labor, funding, tariffs and material costs.

“We view the rate of change in earnings growth as one of the most important drivers of equity prices broadly; so our belief that earnings growth is likely to slow more in 2019 than the market anticipates is important for our less optimistic view on equities,” wrote Wilson, who is the most bearish strategist tracked in CNBC’s regular survey. His June 2019 S&P 500 target of 2,750 implies a 5.2% downside from current levels. At 2,901 as of Thursday morning, the S&P 500 reflects an 8.5% return year-to-date (YTD).

These Rolling Bear Market Sectors Are at Risk:
Emerging Market Debt
Emerging Market Equities
Base Metals

Information Technology Looks Risky

Wilson reiterated a pessimistic outlook for high-flying information technology stocks. “It makes sense to lower broad exposure in the near term as elevated valuations, lack of material earnings upside against expectations, extended positioning, technicals, and trade-related risks all add up to a poor risk reward for the sector in the near term,” he wrote.

In May, Morgan Stanley first forecasted the rolling bear market, which it says is now upon us, and recommended stocks that would thrive in this kind of environment. In the report titled, “30 for 2021: Quality stocks for a 3-year holding period,” analysts highlighted players such as video game maker Activision Blizzard Inc. (ATVI), financial firms The Charles Schwab Corp. (SCHW), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and BNY Mellon (BK), consumer brands leader Constellation Brands Inc. (STZ), and search giant Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) as safe bets in the rolling bear market.

The Biggest Risk Retirees Face Right Now

My Comments: On TV and in murder mysteries, there’s often a reference to ‘being in the wrong place at the wrong time’. Well, it can happen to any of us planning to retire, but instead it reads this way: ‘being born at the wrong time…”.

These words from Michael Aloi from earlier this year show what this means. And it has special meaning for any of you planning to retire in the next twelve months or so. We’re close to the end of an historic bull market and for some of us, it will be painful. Look at the two respective totals in the chart below.

Michael Aloi, CFP | March 23, 2018

Those planning to retire face many risks. There is the risk their money will not earn enough to keep up with inflation, and there is the risk of outliving one’s money, for example. But perhaps, the biggest risk retirees face now is more immediate: Retiring in a bear market.

To put this in perspective, First Trust, an asset manager, analyzed the history of bull and bear markets from 1926-2017 and found bull markets — which are up or positive markets — lasted on average nine years. If that is the case, this bull market should be ending right about now, as it just turned 9 on March 9, 2018. Consider also the study found that the typical bear market lasts 1.4 years, with an average cumulative loss of 41%.

Not to be all doom and gloom, but the chart below illustrates why the biggest risk retirees face right now is a bear market. It shows what happens to two identical $1 million portfolios, depending on the timing of bad stock market years.* Adjusted for 3% inflation

Mr. Smith and Mrs. Jones start off with the same $1 million portfolio and make the same annual $60,000 annual withdrawal (adjusted for 3% inflation after the first year). Both experience the same hypothetical returns, but in a different sequence. The difference is the timing. Mrs. Jones enjoys the tailwind of a good market, whereas Mr. Smith’s returns are negative for the first two years.

The impact of increasing withdrawals coupled with poor returns is devasting to Mr. Smith’s long-term performance. In the end, Mrs. Jones has a healthy balance left over ($1,099,831), whereas Mr. Smith runs out of money after age 87 ($26,960).

With stock market valuations higher and this bull market overdue, by historical averages, retirees today could be faced with low to poor returns much like Mr. Smith in the first few years of retirement. However, retirees like Mr. Smith still need stocks to help their portfolios grow over time and keep up with the rising costs of living. Unfortunately, no one knows for sure what the equity returns will be in the next year or the year after.

This is the dilemma many retirees face. The point is to be aware of the sequence of return risk, illustrated in the chart above, and take steps now if retirement is in the immediate future.

Here are two of the many planning possibilities retirees today can use to avoid the fate of Mr. Smith:

1. Use a “glide path” for your withdrawals

In a study in the Journal of Financial Planning, Professor Wade Pfau and Michael Kitces make a compelling argument to own more bonds in the first year of retirement, and then gradually increase the allocation to stocks over time. According to the authors’ work, “A portfolio that starts at 30% in equities and finishes at 60% performs better than a portfolio that starts and finishes at 60% equities. A steady or rising glide path provides superior results compared to starting at 60% equities and declining to 30% over time.”

The glidepath strategy flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which says people should stay balanced and gradually conservatize a portfolio later in retirement.

The glidepath strategy is a like a wait-and-see approach: If the stock market craters in the first year of retirement, be glad you were more in bonds. Personally, I would only recommend this strategy to conservative or anxious clients. My concern is what if markets go up as you are slowly increasing your stock exposure — an investor like this could be buying into higher stock prices, which could diminish future returns. An alternative would be to hold enough in cash so one does not need to sell stocks in a down year per se.

Though not for everyone, the glide path approach has its merits: Namely not owning too much in equities if there is a bear market early on in retirement, which coupled with annual withdraws, could wreak havoc on a portfolio like Mr. Smith’s.

2. All hands on deck

The second planning advice for Mr. Smith is to make sure to use all the retirement income tools that are available. For instance, if instead of taking money out of a portfolio that is down for the year, Mr. Smith can withdraw money from his whole life insurance policy in that year, so he doesn’t have to sell his stocks at a loss. This approach will leave his equities alone and give his stocks a chance to hopefully recover in the next rebound.

The key is proper planning ahead of time.

The bottom line

Retirees today face one of the biggest conundrums — how much to own in stocks? With the average retirement lasting 18 years, and health care costs expected to increase by 6%-7% this year, retirees for the most part can ill afford to give up on stocks and the potential growth they can provide. The problem is the current bull market is reaching its maturity by historical standards, and investors who plan on retiring and withdrawing money from their portfolio in the next year or two may be setting themselves up for disaster if this market craters. Just ask Mr. Smith.

There are many ways to combat a sequence of poor returns, including holding enough cash to weather the storm, investing more conservatively in the early years of retirement via a “glide-path” asset allocation, or using alternative income sources so one doesn’t have to sell stocks in a bad market.

The point is to be mindful of the risk and plan accordingly.

Successful Retirement Secrets™

My Comments: I have just now joined the ranks of internet publishers!

Almost four years in the making, it’s an internet course to help you process retirement information leading to a SUCCESSFUL RETIREMENT.

Among other things, it’s about investment skills and getting the most from Social Security.


An enrolled student will develop a system that works in the background, helping someone retire with more money and not less money.

To the first 100 people who enroll before November 1, 2018, I’m offering 50% off the published price.

Click on the link below or the image above, and watch a FREE PREVIEW. Then decide if it would help to have a system to build your road map to a SUCCESSFUL RETIREMENT…


I’m a Liberal Because…

As a senior citizen, I’m reminded daily that I’m running out of time to make something happen. I no longer have the energy to be angry about what happened in the past, who is to blame, and explore what might have been.

I want to spend my remaining time and energy pushing for what I consider positive goals for the world that will be inhabited by my children and grandchildren. The Republican Party, the home of self styled conservatives, seems to focus on the past at the expense of the future. It is a far cry from the humanitarian party that I respected in my youth.

When it comes to education, I strongly believe that far more than facts and figures comprise the whole matrix. I has to include art and music and writing, all things that contribute to the ability of an individual to exercise good judgement with an awareness of the present and the future. Yes, there has to be testing and accountability, but not to the extent it is now.

Money spent today on education, on infrastructure (roads, bridges, parks, transportation, communication, be it snail mail or via the internet) are critical to the ability of future generations to succeed, and by so doing, help perpetuate the greatness of these United States and the role it plays in preserving the gains made by humans on this planet. All these elements are part of the public domain, that shared environment that contributes to our participation as full members of society.

As an economist and entrepreneur in the world of money, my professional life has given me the opportunity to both fail and succeed when it comes to providing for my family. It has given me the ability to ask the necessary questions of someone when it comes time to evaluate the present and project future goals and objectives. How much is enough? How long does it have to last? What role do you want to play in society as life evolves? At the end of the day, what will you regret not having achieved?

My formative years were as an only child. The first ten happened in Europe during WWII and the post war years. My father was an engineer whose personal history caused him to think there was a better place next door. So we traveled and I was exposed to different languages and societies. My four years in Gainesville as a college student were the longest I’d ever lived anywhere, and after graduation, I felt no compelling need to move away and explore new venues. I’ve never regretted that decision.

My truly formative years, from 1951 to 1960, exposed me to different cultures and societies. I suspect this allows me to feel comfortable with ideas that do not readily conform to what many people in this country consider normal. Our “normal” is often very different from their “normal” and for many people, this is a existential threat, and they are afraid. I consider this an advantage in that I can focus more attention and prepare myself for those existential threats that do threaten my safety and welfare. Things like global warming and running out of money before I die.

After almost sixty years here, I can say with no hesitation that I’ve been a lucky person. Sure, there have been bad days, but far and away, it’s been a good life here and I expect to have many more years. My frustrations these days are largely health related and the threat I feel from those on the right who would take us back in time if they could.

Nothing stays the same; my grandparents would be horrified by what we find normal. I have no fear of the future, in some part because most people are rational and common sense will prevail. Personally, I’m appalled by the hypocrisy of many of our so called leaders, those who would have us believe they are qualified to lead this nation.

As a young adult, I identified as a left leaning centrist. But over these last 50 plus years, the center has moved to the right much more than I have. As the right has moved toward what they describe as conservative, my perception is they have moved away from conservative into radicalism, which is not conservative.

Conservatism, to my mind, is an attempt to preserve the values that clearly worked to bring us to greatness. Those values, are today embraced by liberals who want those same values to be embraced by new members of society, be they born here, or are immigrants. The desired outcome is harmony, both within society and with others in the world. But I see those values being corrupted by irrational fear of change, and instead of looking for ways to adapt to an inevitable evolution of national spirit, instead cling to fuzzy memories of how things used to be.

Being liberal frees me from excessive paranoia. However, being paranoid doesn’t mean there is no one out there trying to get you. The trick is to keep it in perspective and spend time and energy with family and community. I’m not a Christian, as defined by many people these days, but that does not mean I do not believe there is a God. I strongly ascribe to the tenets and beliefs that define traditional Christianity, but don’t try to ‘save’ me, please. I try to live my life the right way and simply choose not to talk about it. If that bothers you, then it’s your problem and not mine.

This is not all I have to say about this, but I appreciate most readers have limits and for many of you, you may have reached yours.