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Monthly Archives: November 2006


Financial Education or The Lack thereof in The United States

A former client of mine loved the expression “You cannot cure stupid.”  This was not meant necessarily as a demeaning comment, the context in which it was used was to define mistakes made by individuals in his employ.  For example, stupid decisions were usually made by individuals who lacked the intellectual capacity to make an intelligent decision.   Ignorant decisions were usually made by those lacking information or lacking all of the facts.  In other words some individuals do not have the mental acuity to make good decisions while others make uninformed decisions. My client believed management should be able to know the difference in employees and use them according to their ability.  Not a bad philosophy in my opinion.

Now, what does any of this have to do with finance and education?  I believe the current financial crisis in our country is due in part to the same two terms, stupid or ignorant.  According to Forbes Magazine, consumer debt is currently at a seasonally adjusted rate of slightly over 2 Trillion. Yes, that is a T for Trillion, so you can add 12 zeros to the end of the two.  I have been told it would take around 30 years to count to one trillion.  I have no intention of finding out.  Revolving credit card debt averages slightly over $9,000 per household in the United States.  Fortunately my wife and I do not carry any credit card debt so we skew the average slightly.  Is all of this debt due to stupidity or to ignorance or a combination of both?

Having reached the age of maturity and growing weary of hauling laptop computers through airports, I took up instructing at a local 4 year institution a few years ago.  My classes are primarily freshman and sophomores and one of our projects involves determining payments and amortization schedules.  The project is straightforward and includes calculating payments for one used and one new vehicle at different interest rates and time periods.  We also include taking the difference in the two payments and investing in a savings account paying a fixed rate for five years.  The purpose of this exercise is to help students understand the power of interest over time and dollar amounts and to show how investing on a regular basis can increase ones wealth at a surprising rate.  The sad part of this exercise includes comments from students such as: What do you mean by taking the difference in two payments? What is a payment? Do I add the down payment into the amount financed” Why do I care about interest if I can afford the payment?  The list goes on.  Naturally, not all students have such a lack of knowledge regarding money and interest but the vast majority has no idea how the real world operates.  I might add that over 90% of my students own at least one credit card and over 60% are not employed while in school.  Let me see; credit cards, no income, college student, entertainment, clothes, food and all the other necessities of a normal young adult.  Where does the money come from and when if ever will it be repaid?

Although we cannot assign blame to any one person, issue or circumstance we can do something to help the next generation of adults before they become victims of consumerism.  As adults we owe it to ourselves to help cure this problem.  Who will be burdened with this debt in the future?  All of us because those who default or simply cannot pay will force the debt to be written off or declare bankruptcy.  The young people of today will be responsible for paying the social security of those currently in their 40’s and 50’s and they need to be gainfully employed without the specter of overwhelming debt.

What can we do in addition to wringing our hands and singing the blues?  Demand of your legislators that basic finance be taught no later than the 10th grade in high school.  Demand of your legislators to stop the ease with which credit cards are issued by financial institutions and so called credit card repairers!  More importantly we all owe it to ourselves and to the younger generation to learn the pain associated with the yoke of heavy debt.  Credit cards can be very useful tools for traveling, avoiding carrying large amounts of cash and for identification but they are not and should not be meant to satisfy our need for immediate gratification.  Basic understanding of personal finances should not be brain surgery.

Terry


Bubba’s Cake Baking for the Holidays

After the age of 50 some of us begin to assume different character traits.  Some of these traits may be due to a smaller dose of testosterone flowing through our bodies or it may be we have just mellowed over the years.  The kids are grown, weddings are done, and retirement is just around the corner.  Now is the time for those hobbies and pastimes we never took time for as younger individuals.  Some of us have even taken to reading Southern Living Magazine.  (There are some good looking young women in this magazine, and they cover SEC football during the fall of the year.) Southern Living also has features on golf courses and they always have several articles on one of our favorite pastimes…………FOOD.

Now the good news about cooking when you reach the double nickel (age 55) would be that your wife no longer tries to tell you how to cook or what you are doing wrong.  She does not generally care if you cook a whole pound of bacon or use a pound of butter on one dish.  My spouse is so happy she does not have to make another decision about food or a meal she says absolutely nothing about any of my cooking.  Let me tell you guys who think you have to be a girly-man to cook.  Get a grip.  This is the ideal time to partake of your favorite adult beverage.  The female of the species does not think it is inappropriate for men to drink while slaving over a hot grill or gas range.

Another benefit to cooking is the trip to the local grocery.  I have become fast friends with the wine section in my Kroger and women of all ages believe if you are a man and shopping for food that you will have the answers to all their cooking questions.  Go figure!  I do not cheat on my wife but it is always entertaining to offer sage advice to women and the occasional man regarding the proper preparation and cooking time for various dishes.  I try to stick to the basics such as pork tenderloin, chicken, steak and specialty burgers but every now and then I will offer advice on complicated dishes of which I know absolutely nothing. 

This past Thanksgiving I determined that I would make a special chocolate cake for friends and family.  The ingredients alone cost me $45.  Did I mention the recipe called for Bourbon and I figured what the hell, I may as well buy a half gallon since I was already at the store.  One can never tell when a friend or two might drop by while you are cooking and it would be downright inhospitable not to offer a libation or two.  Most of my friends like sour mash bourbon anyway and if they find out I am cooking they will make a special trip to: number one, watch me make a mess, and number two, to have a couple of drinks and solve the worlds mysteries.

The aforementioned cake includes 1/3 cup of bourbon (or was it 1 cup, I do not remember) but it was a great cake and eaten by all my friends and family.  I do remember the cake, frosting and glaze took a total of 1 pound of butter and 1 pound of sugar and ½ pound of brown sugar.  In addition there was buttermilk and powdered sugar included.  Needless to say the thing melted in your mouth and was totally consumed. 

The only bad news to the whole story is the necessity of clean up once you are finished.  When grilling the clean up is simple, burn the grease off of the grill, throw away the tin foil and disposable plates and clean up the beer cans.  Cooking inside is a totally different animal.  Your wife or significant other expects you to wash all the pans and utensils used during the cooking and to wipe off the stove and counter.  Why is that? You would think they would be so happy we cooked a meal or dessert that they would at least volunteer to clean up – I mean really – cleaning up ain’t brain surgery.  Not gonna happen.  Just go ahead and do it.

Bubba Terry


I don’t know about you, but when I see a business man/professional with dirty and nasty fingernails, it tends to tell me something about the person. It’s pretty much a given that women take care of their hands and nails better than men. And I, for one, love it. Women with pretty hands and nails are attractive. Men, on the other hand, as a rule, don’t seem to do as good a job as the women – and there really is not a good reason why they shouldn’t.  They can either do it themselves or go to a professional and get it done. I do it myself and have for about 30 years.

Manicuring is the care of hands and nails. Weird that it’s a word that starts with “man” and more men don’t practice it as much as women. It is my opinion that businessmen should take care of their hands and nails. Now I’ve done some work in the past where it was almost impossible to keep my hands and nails looking good – but I did it. From building antique replica furniture to loading airplanes to cleaning offices – to name a few – I still always managed to keep my hands and nails in pretty good shape.

I had some training. Almost 30 years ago, before I went to my 10-year high school reunion, I ran into one of the HS sweethearts and cheerleaders – a girl everyone wanted to be with in HS. Long story short – we ended up dating for a few years and attended our 10-year reunion together. Her name is Cathy. You should check out her gallery in Roswell, GA.  Anyway, Cathy purchased for me my first nail file, buffing creme and polisher, and all the other little tools you need to do your nails. And I’ve kept a nail kit together every since then.

Nail care for a man is not that difficult and it damn sure ain’t brain surgery. I do a major job on my nails every two weeks. That means I trim ’em down, do the cuticles (if necessary), take the ridges out and then buff to a light shine. Probably takes me 2 to 3 times longer than if I had a professsional manicurist do it for me but I do a lot better job. Plus there is a lot of satisfaction in doing it. In the summer time, I can knock out this job while the charcoal is getting ready in the grill – thus killing 2 birds with 1 stone (reminder to self … topic for another blog!). Maybe it doesn’t sound very manly, but I can tell you this – during my 19 years of being a batchelor, the women noticed!

If you don’t keep your nails in good shape, try it for awhile and see if you don’t feel better about yourself and see if other people notice – I’m betting they will. If you go to a manicurist, try it yourself – I’m betting you’ll like the results – and you’ll save a few bucks, too. Nice nails on a man just looks good. It says a lot about a guy. You young guys … get started now. It will pay off.

By the way, thanks Cat!

Richard


The mid-term elections were held over two weeks ago and still, in some parts of the country, a winner has not been declared. Once again, expensive electronic voting machines (with no paper trail) are being called into question as to their accuracy. All the while, the fine people of Oregon are probably sitting around laughing at the rest fo the country and saying to themselves, “This voting process thing isn’t that complicated – in ain’t brain surgery.”

Why would they being saying this? Because since 1998, the entire state has been conducting their elections via a Vote by Mail system. The citizens of this great state (obviously very smart people) voted to do away with polling places and conduct all elections by mail. Brillant … and cost effective.  This system ends up costing taxpayers about 30 percent less than polling-place elections.

Every registered voter receives a paper ballot in the mail weeks before Election Day. The ballot can be either mailed back or dropped off at one of a number of secure sites statewide.

The system has proved to be fraud-free. Oregon is one of only two states in the nation to verify every single voter signature against the signature on that voter’s registration card. Their process is transparent and open to observation. Finally, the returned paper ballots, which are the official record of the election, can be recounted by hand.

A University of Oregon study conducted five years after the adoption of voting by mail statewide showed that 80 percent of voters across the political spectrum prefer it to voting at polling places. It’s a system that answers the needs of Americans who lead increasingly busy, complex lives, balancing many work and family responsibilities.

When will the rest of the states catch the clue bus and ask their citizens whether they would like to have a Vote by Mail system? I believe that most Americans would go for it. Why don’t more state legislators put this initiative up for a vote by their citizens? It ain’t brain surgery. Just do it.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and be safe out there. And don’t forget to remember all of the men and women in our Armed Services who will not be home for Thanksgiving … especially the ones who have paid the ultimate price with the giving of their life … Remember the Fallen Heros. Thank all of them for serving our country and for protecting our freedoms and way of life.

Richard


Where did all the dads go that showed their kids how to do all the little things on a car? Like check the oil, the air in the tires, changing a flat, etc. To look around at all the cars running around, it doesn’t appear anyone keeps a tire pressure gauge in their glovebox any longer. I don’t know about you, but my dad taught us to keep the correct air pressure in our car’s tires. And I still do it today. And winter coming on, everyone needs to check the air pressure in their tires. It ain’t brain surgery.

I can’t say this any better than the following from the Car Care Council website on proper tire inflation:

Description: Proper tire inflation pressure is the specified air pressure given by a carmaker for a certain tire on a specific vehicle. This pressure specification should not be confused with a tire’s maximum pressure, which is usually listed on the tire’s sidewall. Some vehicles may specify different pressures for the front tires and the rear tires.

Purpose: Correct inflation pressure is critical for good fuel economy, safety, maximum tire life, and proper vehicle handling performance.     

Maintenance Tips/Suggestions: For the small amount of time it takes, checking tire inflation at least once a month is one of the best investments you can make to get the maximum life out of your tires. Proper inflation can also improve gas mileage by more than 3%, when maintained regularly. Keep this in mind: Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.4 percent for every 1 psi (pounds per square inch) drop in pressure of all four tires. You may want to check your tires more often during the winter months. Tires will lose about 1 psi of pressure for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit of temperature drop.

Keep an accurate tire pressure gauge in your car’s glove box (many gauges at “air stations” give false pressure readings) and check the tire pressure when the tires are cold. Never trust the appearance of a tire as a gauge for inflation. A tire could be 10 psi low on pressure and not appear to be low on air. Use the recommended inflation pressure listed in your vehicle’s owner’s manual or on the inflation sticker found on the driver’s door jamb. While you’re at it, don’t forget to check the spare. There’s nothing more annoying than a flat spare when you have a flat tire.  

Look, Christmas and the holiday gift giving season is right around the corner. Forget all the cutesy stuff and go for practical. Get the ones you love who drive a tire pressure gauge and teach them how to use it and prepare them a schedule to remember to check their tire pressure on a regular basis. It might just save their life and will save on gas and wear and tear on that expensive vehicle in the driveway. It ain’t brian surgery.

Have a great day!

Richard


This post is about one of those instances in your life that happens in about 3 seconds but it takes about 15 minutes for you to tell it. I promise, I won’t take 15 minutes.  This is about my desire to bring back vehicle inspections for all cars. You see, in GA, they did away with car inspections years ago and gave into the tree huggers and now we just do emissions inspections. If we still had car inspections – you know, make sure crap doesn’t fall off of your car – I wouldn’t be writing about this incident.

My wife and I carpool to work. I travel a total of about 15 miles – mostly on I-75 north from my home in west mid-town. Her office is about halfway to my office. About 4 miles into the trip, cruising along at 70 MPH in the far right lane, a pickup truck in the next left lane about 50 feet ahead runs over something with his tire. It shoots out into my lane about 40 feet in front of us.

First thought – a piece of wood, I can survive hitting it. In a flash, a nano-second, I see sparks coming off of this object. Definitely not wood – this is something metal … not a good thing. Nano-seconds later, this metal thing hits my car – I’m thinking it has gone under the carriage and will certainly punch a hole in an oil pan or tear up something vital to the vehicle. Wrong.  It hit the bumper.

Nano-seconds later, this thing has shot out again to about 40 feet  in front of me. My mind is saying, “What the hell is this thing – it’s alive!” It’s in the air again. It bounced off the pavement like a spring. Brain computes … “Damn, it’s a freaking shock absorber.” Headed dead center for my car and at a much higher elevation – like eye level.

Nano-seconds later, I make an evasive move to the emergency lane to try to avoid hitting this flying shock absorber. Too late. Impact. Like someone had shot this thing at us like an arrow. One end of this flying shock absorber nailed the windshield right in my vision. Almost made it all the way through The inner layer of the glass sprayed all over my lap. The impact noise was deafening. Where it ended up I have no clue. But the damage was done.

Thankfully, my wife and I were fine – just a bit shooken up. I’m out $635.07 for a new windshield – I have a $1000 deductible on my old ’94 beemer. By the time I dropped off my wife a couple of miles down the road, we had had time to compose ourselves and catch our breathe. I had a very small crack about where this flying shock absorber hit the windshield, I had planned to have a service do the small repair to keep it from spreading. As we exited the freeway to her office, sitting at a traffic signal, I said, “Well, we don’t have to worry about fixing that crack any longer.” We both had a pretty good laugh.

What ticks me off is that I was almost killed by a damn flying shock absorber. A shock absorber just fell off someone’s car. Just ain’t right. If I’d been killed, at least I know I would have been breathing clean air as I took my last breathe, thanks to the idiots who did away with the inspection process.

Requiring people who get behind the wheel of tons of steel to keep them in good working order ain’t brain surgery. Bring back vehicle inspections.

Have a great weekend.

Richard


One of the rights of passage for a lot of young males and some females is the annual preparation and participation in opening day of deer season.  For some fortunate individuals this event can actually happen twice per year, once for bow season and once for gun season.  If one is really lucky and lives in a state that separates black powder hunting from bow and gun seasons, they get to participate three times.

 

I am not one of those people against deer hunting!  I have fond memories of participating in opening day and the entire season and I actually miss some of the camaraderie enjoyed with my family and friends.  Some of my best non-hunting friends never understood why anyone would want to shoot bambi or his mother and father but they never experienced the thrill of opening day.

 

In my part of the country deer season runs for a month or more and allows one to properly prepare their deer camp or leased hunting area in advance.  The preparation process begins in late August and early September when several trips to the woods are required to build tree stands.  My father-in-law was such a perfectionist. We had to build tree houses that included sides for our deer stands.  These structures were usually 4 X 6 feet and included chairs, an alcohol heater, and an empty can in the event mother nature beckoned.

 

Opening day morning began with breakfast at my father-in-law’s house and included myself and two brothers-in-law eating a massive breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage and grits at 2:30 in the morning.  Some years we actually got some sleep.  The breakfast was completed when my father-in-law would reach for a half-gallon of Jack Daniels and announce to all of us that it was now time to quote “be somebody” and we would all partake of a least one shot of sour mash bourbon.  Well hell, when I was younger, drinking at 3 A.M. was accepted and besides we never loaded our high powered weapons until we arrived in the woods.

 

After a shot or two we would load up the vehicles with all manner of firearms, ammunition, food, liquor, beer, jackets, radios, chairs, toilet tissue, sleeping bags and anything else we would need for our day in the woods.  All of this paraphernalia was loaded into the back of an aging Ford Falcon and then four or five of us would pile in the vehicle for the 45 minute ride to the woods.  Upon arrival we would greet the hardy souls who had spent the night and then pour another shot or two just to be socialable.  The obligatory lies would be told and around 5 A.M. the caravan would drive the final 15 minutes to the hunting area. 

 

Prior to actually walking to the deer stands we had to apply doe urine to our shoes to cover our scents.  Then, under the cover of darkness we would stealthily find our way to the aforementioned deer stands (tree houses) by shining our flashlights on the path and looking for red or green plastic tape we had tied on branches.  I always had visions of Elmer Fudd walking to a deer stand on his tiptoes.  (If you do not know Elmer Fudd look it up on Google.)

 

Were the truth told just about everyone went to sleep as soon as they climbed into the stand.  There is always one exception and he or she usually got the first deer.  Naturally the truth has never been told in a deer camp so there were many stories of massive 10-point bucks walking just behind some brush so that no one could get off a good shot.  Whoever fired the first shot would wake up the rest of the fearless hunters and everyone would come down from their stands agreeing that all of the deer in the county were now long gone after the first shot was fired.  This normally happens around 9:30 in the morning.  Everyone would walk to the rally point and wait to see who had fired the shot.  If the person who fired the shot had no carcass to display as a result of his shooting then the razzing and kidding would continue for the remainder of the season.

 

By 10:30 almost everyone was back at the camp telling lies, smoking cigars and drinking their beverage of choice.  Two or three members of the hunting party would be cooking enough lunch to feed a third world country and someone would always have a portable TV with enough tin foil wrapped around the antenna to bring in some kind of signal.  The ball game would be on and drinking, smoking and eating dominated the remainder of the day.  Oh yeah, there were always one or two smart asses who wanted to hunt in the afternoon but we did not bother them if they did not bother us.

 

Deer hunting after all, ain’t brain surgery.

 

Bubba Terry