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having a bad day


As most of us who keep up with current events know, the middle of the country, especially cattle country, has been hit several times already this winter with huge snow storms.  Some are even calling these storms “Weather Events of Biblical Proportions” – with a historic blizzard of up to 44″ inches of snow and winds to 90 MPH that broke trees in half, knocked down utility poles, stranded hundreds of motorists in lethal snow banks, closed ALL roads, isolated scores of communities and cut power to 10’s of thousands.

To me, it is very similar to what happened along the Gulf Coast with Katrina. The difference is how the people living there have responded. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it.

Someone sent the following to me in an email. I don’t know who wrote it so I can’t give credit to them – I wish I could. It puts things in prospective.

George Bush did not come. FEMA did nothing. No one howled for the government. No one blamed the government.

No one even uttered an expletive on TV. Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton did not visit. Our Mayor did not blame Bush or anyone else. Our Governor did not blame Bush or anyone else, either.

CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX or NBC did not visit – or report on this category 5 snowstorm.  Nobody demanded $2,000 debit cards. No one asked for a FEMA Trailer House. No one looted. Nobody – I mean Nobody demanded the government do something. Nobody expected the government to do anything, either.

No Larry King, No Shepard Smith, No Oprah, No Chris Mathews. No Shaun Penn, No Barbara Striesand, No Hollywood types to be found.

Nope, we just melted the snow for water. Sent out caravans of SUV’s to pluck people out of snow engulfed cars. The truck drivers pulled people out of snow banks and didn’t ask for a penny. Local restaurants made food and the police and fire departments delivered it to the snowbound families. Families took in the stranded people – total strangers.

Even though a Category “5” blizzard of this scale has never fallen this early, we know it can happen and how to deal with it ourselves.

Maybe SOME people will get the message.  The world does Not owe you a living.

Whoever wrote this has it right. Life ain’t brain surgery. You do whatever you have to do. You prepare. You react. You do the right thing. But you damn sure shouldn’t wait around for someone to do for you. Thank God this country ain’t made up by a majority of folks like we saw on TV during Katrina.

Richard

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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


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


Atlanta is a big city with lots of traffic and gridlock. “Rush Hour” is pratically all day. Drivers in Atlanta wreck their cars a lot. This post is about some ways to decrease your odds of having a wreck. It falls into the larger category of Transportation.

Sunglasses are a pretty simple item. Wearing sunglasses while driving in the sunlight oughta be a law. Why folks don’t wear sunglasses while driving in the sun is beyond our logical reasoning. Sunglasses cut the glare. Glare causes blind spots. Blind spots cause wrecks. Pretty simple. It ain’t brain surgery. If sunglasses improve your vision while driving in the sunlight, why doesn’t everyone own a pair and use them why driving? Good question.

While we’re talking about seeing better while driving. Do your own unscientific survey the next time you head into work. Check the windshields of the drivers around you and notice how dirty and filthy they are. No wonder so many people have wrecks. Clean the damn windsheild every now and then. It takes, what, 3 minutes? Keep some Windex and paper towels in your car trunk – lord knows, gas stations don’t keep window cleaning equipment at the pumps any longer. And when we say clean the windshield, we mean clean both the inside and outside.

Most times it’s the small things that make a big difference. Nationwide, the average collision repair invoice is about $2200 – plus all the hassels. Spend a little money on a good pair of sunglasses (and use them) and keep your windshield and car windows clean. Your life while driving will better, you’ll be a safer driver, and you just might avoid an accident or save your life or someone elses (maybe ours).

It ain’t brain surgery. Until next time.

Richard & Terry