MasterPo says: This blog is about topics and issues that are of importance to me. I am not one of the countless blogging lemmings that are tripping over each other scurrying down the hill and off the cliff of blogging oblivion trying to write the greatest blog on the latest topic de'jour. Your comments are welcome.

December 22, 2008

Happy Holidays!

MasterPo wishes all his readers a happy and safe holiday season.

The Po File will be taking off the rest of the year to celebrate. Besides, not too many people spend the holiday's reading blogs.

Posts will resume in early January.

Peace and best wishes to all!

December 18, 2008

A Lost Generation

Pundits and politicians like to claim that our current young people generation will be the first in American history not to live as well or better than the prior one.

I say they are grossly mistaken!

While much could be said point-for-point about that, I’ll save that level of analysis for a future article. Instead, I want to focus on something I thing is real. Namely, the slowly disappearing concept that you can become rich in life.

The more I speak with young people (20 and 30 something’s) about increasing taxes, increasing government regulations, how harder and harder it is to start and own a business, etc. the more frequently I hear the comment “It doesn’t bother me ‘cause I’ll never be rich!”

That’s awful!!!

Think about it: People (men and women) with their entire lives ahead of them have already made up their minds they can not be successful in a monetary sense so why bother trying? Why bother caring about what crazy taxes or regulations are enacted because they won’t have to be concerned about it?

Part of this can be explained by the constant drum-beat of negative talk from politicians, specifically Democrats. When year after year you are bombarded with talk of how awful things are and about all the people loosing their shirts it takes a toll on you and your attitude.

But part is also the fault of the lack of education about exactly how people do get rich. Gaining wealth takes time. Lots of time. Wealth is rarely attained over night. For every one person who wins the lottery or who makes a killing in the stock market there are thousands of others who are well on the way to becoming rich slowly over time. Slow and steady, not sprinting, is the way to wealth. But that isn’t what is being taught (indeed, being wealthy is being taught as somehow “evil” or “unfair”) or exemplified.

It may be true that we have the first generation that doesn’t do as well as the prior one. But I say a major reason isn’t anything systemic in our economy but rather people not being taught how to gain wealth and given real examples of what it takes to really become wealthy.

The race is long and the winners are only seen at the end.

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December 16, 2008

Tech Support Response Letter

The following is a reall email a co-worker almost sent to a rather non-helpful vendor!

Use it at your own discretion.

Dear Mr. Whatever-the-hell-your-bloody-last-name-is-you-pompus-arrogant-bastard: (replace with real name)

Thank you for very much taking time in responding to my technical support question regarding the java applet “Viewone” not functioning on arbitrary platforms. As much as I appreciate you taking time to investigate my situation, I do not appreciate the manner in which you responded. I found the tone of your responses pompous, accusatory and extremely unprofessional. I also want to point out that the support you have provided as yet been a proven solution to the issue.

I want to remind you that my corporation has paid $1,800 US Dollars for a valid license which includes technical support. Our company pays for technical support so as not to waste time troubleshooting anomalies and to come to a timely solution being left to the hands of a knowledgeable professional. Requiring this support I have supplied to you as much information that was available so as not waste both our times. You as a technical support professional are expected to analyze the information and determine the relevance of the given data. You stated that the information was “rubbish” and made the accusation that the data was “Made up.” It is not my position to know whether the information at hand is pertinent or not - that is your job. Also, since you believe that the information provided was indeed fabricated; I want you to explain to me why you believe it is so. I neither have the time or the place to be sending you disinformation on a production problem that I am earnestly trying to solve because of your company’s errant software.

Again my company has paid $1,800 dollars for technical support and I expect to get our money’s worth. I am also firmly requesting the contact information of your manager. I want your manager to assign me a new technical support engineer who will professionally accommodate me and bring this technical issue to a timely resolution.



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December 12, 2008

When Liberal Worlds Collide

It’s great when liberal policies and ideals contradict each other!

Some classic examples:

Encourage people to stop smoking. A very good goal, I agree. But then state tax revenues from the sale of tobacco drop so the funding for things like children’s health care drops too!

Tell people to get off the couch and get involved in some activity for exercise. Also a good idea. But then people get more injured as they do active sports.

Encourage people not to use their cars as much to save gas and lower emissions. A lot of BS in my opinion. But then complain that people are becoming couch potatoes!

Advise people to add more insulation to their homes, better windows and weather stripping etc. Then complain that indoor air quality is very poor and affecting people’s health!

Tell people how bad meat and dairy is for them. Then arrest parents with starving children who only feed they soy!

There are many others but these are some real classics.

Always remember: No good deed ever goes unpunished!

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December 9, 2008

The True Cost of Home Ownership

By now many have debated what got the current financial problems started. I'm not going to wade into those waters. It's crowded enough.

But clear government policy (whether implicit or explicit) of getting as many people into houses as possible regardless of means to pay for those houses has a great deal to do with it. This is not "blame" the victim.

In general, house owners are what make a community a community. No insult to renters intended but generally renters move from place to place with no real ties to the locality. The permanence of a house ties you to the locality and inspires (if not forces) you to have a deeper stake in what happens locally than someone who may be here today/gone tomorrow. As such, promoting house ownership is generally a good public policy.

But when that ownership is encouraged for the mere sake of ownership that's what causes this kind of trouble. Politicians love to use the term "means testing" when it comes to various financial aid and incentives. Well, like it or not, house ownership is itself a form of "means testing". You need to have a certain level income, assets and maturity/discipline to own and maintain a house. The reality is that if someone can not afford to purchase a house on their own chances are very good they also can't afford to operate and maintain it.

House ownership is much more than just a mortgage payment:

Property taxInsurance
UtilitiesWater/Sewer charges (in many areas)
Maintenance and repairs (even a brand new house will need work more sooner than later)

Then there are the countless unforeseen events of life. Damage from a storm or an accident, appliances breaking down, or as the insurance companies like to say "Acts Of God".

Owning a house is expensive. Even if you own your house free and clear of a mortgage you will still have all these expenses and more. So even just giving a house to someone is not the solution.

Promoting house ownership is a good policy for a nation. But it should be a wake up call to our society that, as with most good things in live, something good comes with it personal responsibility.

And that is something also in very short supply in our nation these days.

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December 7, 2008



unmindful; unconscious; unaware
(source: Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.)

I’ve had it with oblivious people! More and more people are just walking around totally oblivious to what’s going on around them even if it can immediately hurt them.

On a daily basis I’m seeing people walking the streets off in a cloud. I don’t just mean someone who has a lot on their mind or someone who is pre-occupied with something else (like looking out for a small child). And not just the idiots with a cell phone seemingly glued to their ears (wake up people – you’re not impressing anyone being on the phone all the time!).

I mean people that walk behind your car as you are pulling out of a parking spot at the supermarket or mall.

I mean people who just walk across the street, not at a corner or light, and don’t even bother looking bother ways.

I mean people in cars who signal to make a turn and don’t bother looking if someone is coming the other way.

I mean people who just casually drift from one lane to another on the road without even the pretense of signaling.

I mean the people who walk in the door right behind you just presuming you’ll hold the door for them (saw a kid get wacked hard in the head like that once).

Anyone can have a momentary lapse in judgment or distraction. But I would bet a week’s pay these people act this way all day long! Just totally oblivious to the world. Someone else will watch out for them.

Normally I’d say if they get hurt they got what they deserved. But not these days. These days YOU get sued for millions$$ because YOU should have watched out for THEM! And even worse, they know it!!


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December 4, 2008

I want your job!

Dear Mr. Weatherman,

I need a job just like yours!

You see, I’m having some problems at my current job and I think being a weatherman on TV (I’ll take radio too) is just the change I need.

In my current job I have to do my own work. Everything I create is my own effort, my on research, my own analysis and my own conclusions. I could get into big trouble if I took the work of someone else and presented it as my own.

But you Mr. Weatherman only have to reading the statement from the local office of the National Weather Service. True, you do translate their high/low pressure, wind sheer, ionosphere/troposphere, cirrus/cumulous jargon into something us common folks can understand.

But you really aren’t measuring the weather conditions yourself, pouring over wind charts and satellite photos, and drawing a conclusion for a forecast. You can’t I know. That would open you and your station to liability if you failed to predict something like a tornado. So you just spew back what the NSW and NOAA say. What a great job!

At my present job I’m required to be accurate all the time. And if I’m not there are stiff penalties. I may even loose my job.

But not you Mr. Weatherman. You can be as wrong as 3-dollar bill and still keep your job! So many times I’ve followed your forecast for it to be cold and rainy on my day off so I sleep in. When I did get up it turned out to be sunny and warm all day. My day off wasted. And no one calls you on the carpet for being so wrong. In fact, you can be more wrong than right and still keep your job. The next broadcast you just go on with your forecast again, saying how great a day it was and no one asks you “Why did you say yesterday it would be a cold rainy day today? Why were you so off base?”

And don’t forget that indecision factor too. You can change your mind on your forecast a dozen times a day and no one ever tells you to get your facts straight.

But it doesn’t matter. You won’t loose face. You won’t loose any confidence by your customers. People will still tune in the next day and hang on your every word.

Oh boy! What an awesome job you have! I want one just like it!

Please send me the name of a good weather man headhunter so I can get started on my weather man career just like yours.

Thank you so much!

Very truly yours,

MasterPo, future weatherman extraordinaire

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December 1, 2008

Remember When...

This article is dedicated to my wife who gave me the inspiration for it.

Recent we were working in our home office and had the TV on. Playing was a new episode of "House" one in which House's private detective tells the female doctor/director of the hospital Dr. Cutty how much he likes her and has been trying to find excuses to be around her. Surprisingly she seems to like him too and encourages him. But, alas, it seems the show's producers have now decided to drop that story line. Oh well....

My wife said she thought it was cute how he was persistent in his quest to be around her until she finally admits she likes him too and their apparent romance begins. This got me thinking.

Yes it is romantic how his character kept pursuing the woman and finally seems to have won. But is that realistic any more in today's Politically Correct and knee-jerk reaction society? One can say he was tenacious in his goal of getting her to like him. But it can also be said he was stalking her! In other words, remember when it was romantic and sweet to make excuses to be with some one you liked?

Now a day you could be arrested or penalized in some other way as a stalker. Yet supposedly we now live in a much more "feeling", "caring" and "aware" society. But how can we be a better society when the very nature of the interaction of people that makes it a society is redefined to fit the mold of current thinking?

Reminded me of when I was in college. There was a girl I really liked. One semester I discovered she would walk from one building to another past the building I had a class in. I would purposely wait outside until she came and walked with her to the next building. She knew I was there for her, not random chance. Still, in today's age I suppose it could be said I was stalking her too rather then just showing my interest.

Other things I thought of too:

Remember when free sex was safe and sky diving was considered dangerous?

Remember when a walking to school alone was safe and the school bus driver was scary?

Remember when the local police on patrol knew who belonged in a neighborhood and who didn't?

Remember when it was OK for the cop to kick out those who didn’t?

Remember when disciplining a tantrum or obnoxious child was parenting and not child abuse?

Remember when teachers could discipline a disruptive student and not be sued for discrimination?

Remember when if someone got injured while committing a crime it was their fault not yours?

Remember when if little Jonny didn't have money for ice cream it was his parent's fault not society's?

Remember when a drunk was someone with poor character and weak will not a disease?

Remember when being fat was your own fault for eating too much of the wrong foods and not the fault of McDonald's?

Remember when if you almost got hit by a car crossing the street it was your fault for not looking both ways and not the driver's fault for not watching out for you?

Remember when people worked hard and saved every penny to buy a house and it wasn't a right to have one?

Remember when a minimum wage job was your first job on your long road of life and not a "living wage"?

Remember when the police knew how to tell the good guys from the bad guys and not everyone was a suspect?

Remember when parks were for people to use and enjoy and not closed 9 months out of the year because of some bird or frog?

Remember when towns were happy to have visitors bring business in and not make rules and permits for town-only residence?

These are just a few of the thoughts that come time mind.

Feel free to post some more.

After all, we are a far more "enlightened" society today – right?

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November 27, 2008

Forgiveness? Only In Washington

Forgiveness is a wonderful concept.

Sooner or later everyone does something they would like to be forgiven (and forgotten) about.

But don’t let what happens in Washington (D.C.) taint your opinions of forgiveness. The politicians in Washington can get away with sooooooooo much more than you and I ever could and be forgiven (at least in the popular media).

It is often said the American people are a very understanding and forgiving group. Perhaps as a collective. But individually, where you and I have to live, forgiveness isn’t so easily obtained. In fact, holding a grudge is more the norm than forgiven. This is something rarely discussed in the media because, among other things, it flies squarely in the face of being an open minded and enlightened people. Holding a grudge is seen as lower status and barbaric.

But the reality is people hold grudges a lot more than they forgive and forget. Water under the bridge flows very very slowly.

The popular media does nothing to help this. They eagerly sweep the antics and transgressions of Washington politicians (and to a large extent state and local politicians too) under the rug, especially for certain classes of politicians. Things you and I would be tared and feathered for they can still walk down the street, head held high.

This article isn’t just a rant on the politicians. It’s also call to people to realize that while life sometimes imitates art, it rarely successfully imitates politics.

The water that flows under your bridge and mine trickles by.

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November 25, 2008

Truth is in The Eye of the Beholder

(also the title of a great "Twlight Zone" episode)

It has been said that preception is 9/10th's reality. In the movie "Star Wars:The Clone Wars" the younger Obe Wan Kenobi constantly tells his apprentice Atikin Skywalker "Focus! Your focus determines your reality".

Probably so.

But most regrettably, we cannot always control how others perceive our actions. So much is open to individual interpretation. I am often so amazed that anything gets accomplished the way it’s supposed to be because actions, words, tones (or the lack thereof) are so often misjudged and misguided.

Here are just a few of a great many examples:

Recently my wife and I were watching an episode of a cooking show were teams of bakers had to make a cake in a particular theme (can’t remember the name of the show). One team, the cake sculpture they were trying to make just wasn’t coming together as the lead baker wanted. He tried several innovations on the spot but it still wasn’t working. They were running short on time. He was very dejected. The head baker wanted to drop out saying he’d rather drop out of the competition than submit a poor quality result. However, the judges said (to the camera audience) if he drops out he will always be remembered for having quit. (By the way, the judges They convinced him to stay in and eventually his team did produce a cake for judging, albeit not the best. His team didn’t win.)

Different perceptions. Who was right?

At a place I once worked a project manager left. Not sure if he quit or was fired. One of the last things he did before he left was send an email to the biggest client he supported, someone who was always calling for support and hand-holding, saying that he was no longer with the company and until someone else is assigned his account the client should contact the PMO directly for support issues. In the PM’s mind he probably thought he was doing a good, professional thing notifying a major client where to go for support in the interim so the client doesn’t get left out in the cold before someone else could be assigned. However, the PMO went ballistic calling the PM all kinds of nasty names (he was gone by then). To the PMO this wasn’t the right thing to do.

Different perceptions. Who was right?

Recently at my job I attended a meeting who the business community to review two vendor software packages as replacements for an in-house developed system. From a technical IT perspective both were similar. No great objections or benefits either way. To me it came down to which met the specific details of the business employees who would be using the software. As such, that was my input to the project. I am not a business user who will be using the software so I didn’t feel I was in a position of expertise to be able to say for sure one over the other. But that wasn’t good enough for my manager who ripped into me for not being decisive in selecting one instead of the other. I related why I didn’t take a stand but he didn’t care.

Different perceptions. Who was right?

What you call persistance someone else calls nagging.
What you call tenancity someone else calls being a pain in the ass.
What you call being assertive someone else calls forceful.
What you call holding steady to youir beliefs and point of view someone else calls uncompromising.

We have no control over what people think of what we say or do. Even if we so carefully pick our words, inflections, and actions there is no telling for sure how someone else will interpret them.

I have no solution to this, except to say: Focus.

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November 21, 2008

The President Doesn't Control My Future!

This article was written in September well before the out come of this years' Presidential election. But the truth remains the same:

My life – and more importantly, my fortune in life - is not dependent upon whoever wins the White House and which ever party is in charge of the Executive Branch of the Federal government.

Government can never make a person rich or successful. And definitely not happy.

Government can make a person poor by implementing crushing taxes, can make a person unhappy by imposing intrusive rules and regulations, and can negatively impact your success by putting unnecessary barriers in your way. But no one ever went from rags to riches overnight because of who occupied the Oval Office.

The President can not make anyone job (unless it's a government project job). The President can not start a business, design a new product, provide a vital service. What the President can do is introduce and push through legislation to make an environment positive for individuals to accomplish these things.

If you are upset that your candidate didn't win and are going to mope around for the next 4 years you're wasting your life. Even if your candidate did win your life wouldn't have changed much. People who sit and hope that a President or Senator or Congressman or Governor or Mayor etc. will pass a law – that one special law – that will catapult them into the upper levels of high income and success are living a fantasy. No more than the people who spend hundreds or even thousands a year on the lottery, rarely win, but think putting that money into an index mutual fund is way too risky.

To day is the first day of the rest of your life. Live it!

Carpe Diem – Seize the Day!

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November 18, 2008

Winners and Losers

Sometimes it seems the thin line between reality and fantasy is getting thinner by the moment.

Few other examples come to mind as the ever present drive to be thought of as a "winner" and not a "loser".

The problem is one of a grossly distorted view of what a winner and loser is. I'm not trying to split hairs and my readers well know I am defiantly not a feel-good liberal. But I do think the image of what a real winner and a real loser that is constantly being bombard upon adults as well as children is sinking in for the worse.

NOBODY wins all the time!

Just doesn't happen.

So then why do some people seem to be that way?

The answers are simpler than you think.

For one thing no one advertises their failures. Most people try very hard to burry their faults and failures and only highlight the few successes. And since you can't be around them 24/7/365 you most likely aren't going to be there to witness their failure.

Next, related to the above, people always put their successes into the spot light. And the public loves to accept it at face value. That is, people accept the singular success but don't know about the 99 or more other times the person failed.

Then there is the cover up. Here is where the conspiracy theorists may have some validity. People around the "winner" help the person cover up their losses. For reasons and motivations that could be anything the friends and associates of the "winner" willfully comply in helping to hide the losses and lavish praise upon the winnings. More than just a mutual admiration society it is almost cult-like in the loyalty to the "winner". I think it goes beyond just wanting to be part of the limelight and feel a share of the glory. I think some people actually believe they will ride the coat tails of the "winner" for their own personal gains. It happens.

Finally, after awhile the legend of the "winner" grows beyond the reality to the point where no one will believe the truth of their failures. So when someone does speak of the winner's loss or failure it's just brushed off.

Unfortunately not only do so many people believe this, they drive themselves hard to achieve the unachievable rather than accept the reality:

If you don't win all the time you're not a loser.

If you don't loose all the time you’re a winner.

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November 15, 2008

The Reality of Retirement: Myth #2 – Your Taxes Will Be Lower

I wish I knew who started this one!

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Several reasons why.

First, if you've done your homework you have computed some approximation of how much you will need for a comfortable retirement. "Comfortable" meaning living as you do now when working (presumably full-time). Your calculation probably shows a pretty hefty amount needed! Even without crunching numbers you've probably heard estimates of 30% to 50% of your pre-retirement income (gross of course). So if you made $80,000/yr pre-retirement you would need upwards of $40,000/yr after you retire.

I happen to think (based on logic and personal experience) these kinds of rule-of-thumb estimates are grossly off base. But that's a topic for another article.

So now you get $40,000/yr post-retirement income from your retirement funds (401k, IRA, annuity etc). That's what many full-time working people make too. So how can your retirement taxes be lower than a non-retired working person's taxes?! When you think about it, that doesn't make sense. Granted, income tax on $40,000 will probably be lower than income tax on $80,000. But not so dramatically less.

Second, most of the retirement income sources drawn upon were funded pre-tax. Your 401k, your pension (if you have one), probably your IRA (presuming non-ROTH), etc. All funded pre-tax. That means when you take money out government at all levels will want their cut that they have been waiting for all these years.

From personal experience managing my mother's retirement finances I attest the bight it BIG! Even though she had 20% withheld from each distribution she still ended up paying more tax on April 15. And if we needed to make an additional withdrawal from her retirement accounts then she got socked even harder!

Third, who knows what new income tax brackets and tax rates Congress will pass during your retirement years! In the last 20 years alone income tax rates have gone up and down, new brackets have been defined, consolidated, defined again, removed again etc. There is no tell what the tax rates and levels will be when you retire. And that's just on the Federal level. States and cities also change their taxes too.

Also keep in mind that some cities and states will follow you for taxes if you move else where post-retirement. This is especially so if you held a government job. The concept is you earned the money in that city/state so you should pay taxes to that city/state even if you live else where. The result is you could end up paying state and/or city level income tax to more than one location! That takes a bight out of things too!

The bottom line is that expecting significantly lower taxes post-retirement is a falsehood that will come back and hurt you if you haven't prepared or at least are aware of it.

Uncle Sam gets you in the end – always.

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November 12, 2008

The Conspiracy of Conspiracy Theories

It seems today more than ever people are rushing head-long into believing every crazy conspiracy theory that is put forth. The more ridiculous the more it's believed. There are conspiracy theories about 9/11, oil/gas, the "new world order", shadow governments, the often mentioned who shot JFK, and as Hilary Clinton made popular the "vast right-wing" conspiracy just to name a few of the more common and popular ones. Never mind that "vast" or "world wide" and "conspiracy" are oxymoronic concepts.

So why?

Why do so many otherwise seemingly reasonably intelligent people prefer to believe tightly woven conspiracy theories rather than simple answers?

I believe it is because today, perhaps more than ever, people work so hard and get so little satisfaction they would rather believe in vast secret organizations that control everything than the simple reality that life and the world holds no promises and guarantees nothing. As alarmed as people say they are at the concept of a vast conspiracy I believe that at some level they do take comfort in thinking at least someone somewhere is in control. Maybe not controlling things for the better (as the mass of people view it) but still in control.

The alternative is purely random and unrelated events. Or that bad things happen to good people and not everyone is a nice person underneath. People can't handle the "it just is" aspect of life.
This is really no different than hundreds or thousands of years ago. When there was a flood or plague or a famine people searched for answers. They found it in religion believing these bad events were the result of an angry deity who saw all their deep dark sins and was now punishing them for it. They didn't see these things as natural events that were bound to happen sooner or later. This is no different than today when people lament why someone kills themselves and takes 100 or more people with them. The conspiracy side says it's the result of anger and frustration at the victims, and that government knew it would happen and did nothing about it. In fact, perhaps even encouraged it to advance their own agenda. This as oppose to recognizing that there are evil people in the world who just want to kill.

As Michael Caine's character of Alfred in "Dark Knight" said of the Joker, quote "Some men can't be reasoned with, can't be bought. They just want to watch the world burn."

Another example: The once-in-100-years storm come and devastates an area. Rather than say "We knew this would happen someday and simply chose to live here anyway" or "We knew this always a possibility but decided not to spend the money to protect against this rare event" it's easier to blame a secret government plot to purposely inflict casualties on a certain class of people.

In some ways too this is a vote of confidence in the system. That people actually believe that government, organizations, businesses etc. are that well controlled and disciplined to be able to exert such total control without anyone being aware. Again, I think this goes back to a human need to believe there is a structured reason for events and not just the out come of hundreds of random events.

"Vast conspiracies" require the suspension of logical belief to be effective. Remember Occam's Razor: The simplest answer is usually the correct one. Is it simpler to say that bad events happen sometimes in life? Is it easier to admit there are evil people in the world who just like to hurt others? Or is it easier to believe in vast networks of shadowy organizations that control everything and no one ever spills the beans about it.

Then again, perhaps the conspiracy is just that: making people think there are vast conspiracies out there! When people will suspend their logical thought and believe in anything that's when they are truly easily controlled.

Think about it.

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November 9, 2008

Why I Fish Alone...

"I drink alone, yeah,
with nobody else.
I drink alone, yeah,
with nobody else.
Yeah, you know when I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself."
- George Thorogood

On the whole, I usually fish alone. That is part of the lure (no pun intended) of the angling sport: Just you, the water and hopefully a fish. I've spent many days and even more nights alone on a beach in the middle of nowhere. If I even saw the neck light of another angler all night it was a crowd.

There is definately something soothing about being on the water by yourself. Communing with nature. It touches something in my soul. Maybe something genetic, as we all came from the oceans way back when.

There is also the thrill of being by yourself and catching a big fish. It's more your own. No one else advised you what to use, where to fish, how to fish etc. You did it all on your own.

But, more realistically, I tend to fish alone more and more these days for less soul-full reasons and more selfish ones.

First, I put in a LOT of time and effort to find the spots I fish. "Free time" is become a very rare and precious commodity to me more and more. I don't know where the time is going but I have less and less of it as life progresses. Wish I could have bottled it from back in my youth for use now. Oh well... But the point is I put in a lot of time to find the spots and learn when and how to fish them. Call me selfish but I don't freely share that any more these days. Every anglers has burned a spot. It's the nature of the sport. But if I show someone a spot I expect reciprocation. I expect them to show me a spot too. Yes, tit-for-tat. But that doesn't happen nearly as much as it should. I have a few friends who so rarely get out that if I do take them some place new (to them) it's more like charity so I don't mind. But there are others who claim to be such great fishermen yet give me nothing in return. That isn't right.

Second reason is schedules. It's tough to get people together what with family, work, personal stuff etc.

Third, there are places and types of fishing that I want to do that don't seem to interest others. That's OK by itself. But I'm not going to forgo my desires because no one else shares them.

Fourth, and this was a bitter pill to learn, some people who talk a good game are really blow hards in the end. When I was young I know many guys who would talk constantly of their great trips to Montauk, Florida, Mexico, the Bahamas or Caribean etc. They would talk of the lodges they go to, the people they knew who would get them free stays, free boats, inside local information and all that. I couldn't go. I had school and work and not a lot of money. When I finally got old enough and established enough to be able to have the time to take and finances to afford these trips - suddenly these "great" fisherman came up with all kinds of excuses why they couldn't go. It wasn't until years later I finally realized that I had called thier bluff.

So now I mostly fish a lone because it's on my schedule, my likes, and my pleasure.

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November 6, 2008

The Middle Class Myth

Politicians, pundits and activists love to use the example of a family of 4 making $50,000 (gross of course) as "typical" middle class Americans (this is up from $40,000 in the 90's which I suppose is an improvement).


Personally, I think it's grossly over simplified. I don't see how 4 people (2 adults, 2 kids) can live decently much less "middle class" in $50,000 in a place like New York City or Long Island. Even in other parts of the country (I have lived outside NY too) things food, medicine, clothing, energy really weren't all that cheaper than NY.

But going with this example, let's project into the future using the standard compound growth equation T = P(1+I)^T where P is the principle amount (the starting amount), I is the rate of growth (interest rate) and T is the time in years. This is a standard equation you will find in any High School math or accounting book.

At 3% inflation, in 20 years that same family of 4 making $50,000 today will need to make $90,305 to have the same purchasing power as they do today at $50k! And if we assume 4% inflation they will need $110,000 (rounded)!

Let's look at it from the other end – future back to now using the same equation to compute the present value.

Assuming 3% average annual inflation, in 20 years someone making today's "middle class" income of $50,000 will be like someone now making just $28,000 (rounded)! And assuming 4% inflation that $50,000 income in 20 years is only worth $23,000 (rounded)!

For those readers who may be old enough to remember the 70's (kids – ask your parents if you don't) you remember the high 7-8-9% inflation we had, even the 10%+ inflation for a brief time. All you need is a year or so of very high inflation to drop those purchasing power amounts even more!
And of course, this is well before the effect of taxes is added in, which at present all politicians seem to be gleefully promising to raise!

I don't want to quibble of numbers, how inflation is computed, tax policies etc. I agree there are several factors that could sway this analysis for the worse or the better (my bet is on the former).
The point of this analysis is to show two things:

1) The disconnect from reality that politicians and pundits et al. have when referring to this mythical 4 person family making $50,000.

2) To ponder: Will politicians, pundits and their kind continue to refer to $50,000 as middle class in 20 years? Will they ever say "The typical middle class family of 4 making $90,000…."??? They would need to if they really want to be honest. Or in 20 years will they still think $50,000 or so is middle class?

I also hope this will be received by my readers as a wake-up call to understand all the factors that affect you income and realize it isn't because of some vast conspiracy (now there's an oxymoronic term!) but natural forces.

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November 3, 2008

Paranormal Parlor Tricks?

In the past year several relatively new devices for detecting and communicating (as is the claims) with ghosts have been showcased on various paranormal TV shows. Devices like the K2 meter, Franks Box, and most recently as of writing this the Ovules have all become rage because of their featured use on a variety of noted TV paranormal/ghost shows.

Whether or not these devices actual deliver as billed – that is, they are steps forward in detecting and communicating with the paranormal – is a topic for another time.

But all these devices do have one thing in common – no one really knows how they work!

Their creators and promoters are purposely withholding details of the internals of these devices.

For example:

- The K2 meter is said to be tuned to specific EMF "paranormal frequencies". What frequencies would that be? How were those frequencies determined? Who determined them? How was it confirmed?

- Chris Moon controls the use of the Franks Box with an iron fist. Only 25 or so people in the entire world are allowed by Chris to possess a Franks Box (practically a paranormal God Father!). He and the anointed special people who are allowed to use a Franks Box have been very cagey as to the internals of the devices. It has been said the box is an AM radio receiver that rapidly scans the lower AM frequencies where entities communicate. How was that determined? When/how was it determined that entities "hang out" on certain AM frequencies like kids in a chat room or on a CB radio? I've seen the Franks Box in action first hand and was not impressed.

- One of the features of the Ovules (and it's brother The Puck) is the ability to correlate EMF measurements to a number that corresponds to a word. So when the EMF reading is X that correlates to number N which points to word SOMETHING in a list of words burned into a chip in the device. How was this correlation of EMF to numbers determined? How and who decided what readings translate to what words? What study or research was done to support this?

In engineering there is the concept of "the black box". The black box is a generic term to mean anything that takes in data, processes it, and returns an answer but the internal workings (the processing method or approach, the very "thing" inside the box) is completely unknown. You can feed the black box different data and perhaps by carefully studying the answers you get back make some guesses as to what is in side the box. But you still don't know for sure what is in it.

I get the feel these devices are the paranormal field's "black boxes".

The designers and promoters of these devices insist they can't say what's inside or how it works for fear someone will steal their ideas.

That's load of bull!

How can any thinking person trust the result of something they don't know how it works? That's not science or investigation, not even curiosity. That's faith. Or gullibility.

Without fully knowing how these devices work inside the answers are entertaining at best, misleading at worse. But few will care.

Real paranormal investigators will take a cautious interest in these devices but will want more information on their workings. The question is: Will the inventors and promoters support the core of paranormal investigators? Or go for the thrill seekers?

My guess is that latter – that's where the money is.

Always follow the money.

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October 30, 2008

Is this REALLY Helping??

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.

Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life (and his wife will hate you forever –
sportfisherman's joke).

Recently on personal finance blog the author of the blog said he and his wife have agreed to sell their house to a poor family (not mentioned how "poor" is defined). This family has always wanted to live in a house but can't afford to buy one at market prices.

So how can they be buying this house?

The blogger and his wife have agreed to sell the poor family the house for $20,000 to $30,000 less than actual market value. In other words, they are willing to take a steep loss on the sale of their house just so these "poor" people can afford to buy it. Exactly how the poor family is going to get the money to buy the house even with the $20-$30k reduction in price isn't stated.

On the surface many people will have the knee-jerk reaction to say something like "Aw! How wonderful they willing to help out a poor family!" or "It's great that some people still put others ahead of money" and crap like that.


Even with a $20-$30k price cut who's to say they can still afford the house? Possibly barely afford it. One snag or hic-up in their plan or the economy and they are in foreclosure!

Buying the house only the first step. There's annual property tax that always goes up several percentage points every year. How will they afford that?

There are insurance costs, utility costs, and as any home owner will tell you there are always unforeseen expenses that come out of nowhere. Appliances break. Pipes break. Roofs leak. Just to name a few. How will they afford that?

And let's be realistic too. The blogger doesn't say where the "poor" family lives now but I will guess an apartment. Going to a house they will want to furnish the extra rooms. That costs. And the poor family's wife will probably want to redecorate and get new furniture for her new home (call me sexist, I don't care, but what I said is true). They'll want big TV and stereo and all the other trappings that go with living in a house instead of an apartment. In other words, more expenditures.

How will they afford it?!

While I will agree the blogger's heart is good for wanting to help, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

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October 26, 2008

How Much Is Your Future Worth?

There is the old saying that people (usually) don't plan to fail, they just fail to plan. I have seen this happen too many times not to accept it as nearly a Law of the Universe. I'm not talking about poor plans or bad judgment. I mean no plan at all and not really carrying.

Planning can be tough. It can be a very daunting idea. And frankly it can show a person the subjects they have no knowledge of and make them feel dumb (get over it!!).

So what do you do? Hire someone!

I'm not going to write an article about how to find a financial planner or personal advisor. There are zillions of those out there already
But I am going to tell you this: Good advise costs!

You can spend a lot of time and money buying books on the various subjects, perhaps taking courses and attending workshops (not a bad idea anyway to educate yourself on the subject). But not everyone has that kind of time. And usually you need the help rather quickly. Much sooner than it will take the years to read and learn the subject.

Be aware though: A good financial planner (or estate planning lawyer, CPA accountant, or other life planner/advisor) is going to command a fee for their services. You're paying for getting their education and experience. Why shouldn't someone good be compensated for it? If it was that easy you'd do it yourself!

Above all:

Don't be another Patrick!

Patrick was the 30-something man I wrote about back in August that I worked with who wouldn't even give up one night a week going out to have the money to fund an IRA. Here's a link to that blog article:

After Patrick and I had spoken about his IRA and retirement pipe dream he decided he wanted professional advise for planning his retirement. A very laudable idea. I offered to help him there too. It isn't hard to open an IRA (though with Patrick's requirements it would have been but more on that another time). But he said he wanted someone with more experience. Understandable. I'm not a financial planner. A while later he said he had found a CFP planner in Manhattan and setup an appointment.

Some weeks went by and one day I asked him if he had his meeting with the planner and how it went. "Ridiculous!" he said. Yes, he had his meeting and – oh my stars in Heaven – the planner wanted to actually charge him for a financial plan. Can you imagine that? (that's sarcasm for some of my slower readers.)

Patrick said the planner wanted to charge him $1,000 for a full financial plan. I told him I thought that wasn't an unreasonable fee, especially for a Manhattan CFP (presuming the CFP is well trained and experienced). "All I need to know is where to open an IRA. I don't need a plan!".


I tried to explain to wet-behind-the-ears Patrick that a planner needs to know your entire situation before making any suggestions. And a plan is far more than just an IRA account. There may be other things he suggests you do instead or additionally. And then make that money last after you retire. He's the expert not you!

But naïve Patrick wasn't buying it and didn't go with the plan.

How stupid!

To recap a little: Patrick when I knew him was in his mid-30's and wanted to retire early at 55, 60 the latest, and travel the world. So that means he had another 20-25 years to go until his retirement goal.

You don't think $1,000 now for a professional plan to reach that goal is worth it? That's a mere $40-$50 a year for having a road map of the rest of your financial life in place. Talk about misplaced priorities!

Ultimately Patrick did finally open a mutual fund account (don't know if it was for an IRA or not). At least he claimed to. But that's fodder for a future article.

Don't fail to plan.

Don't be a Patrick!

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October 23, 2008

Saks Sells!

Several years ago I worked with a man named Bill B. He was a mid-20's year old tobacco chewing (especially in the office!), strip-club patronizing blowhard for many other reasons. It was even rumored he was having an affair with our boss! And she was far from good looking!

But he knew how to play the name game. In this case, how to play the former employer name game.

You see, Bill would love to tell people about his days working at "Sacks" (I purposely spell it that way to help illustrate the point later – work with me).

Everyone he would meet, especially consultants and vendors, with in seconds he would say "When I worked at Sacks…", "Back when I was at Sacks…", "Over at Sacks we had this-that-whatever…" , Sacks, Sacks, Sacks! And he impressed everyone, though he himself was far from an impressive appearance with his John Candy figure, worn and cheap shirt, and cup of tobacco spit juice (just picture that in the work place!). But saying "Sacks" got him much admiration.


(here's where the spelling comes into play: )

When he spoke of "Sacks" everyone thought he meant "Sachs" as in Goldman Sachs, the high and prestigious investment banking firm. But no. He meant "Saks" as in "Saks Fifth Avenue", the high end retailer!

In truth when someone did call him on it by saying something like "Oh you were at Sachs? Did you know so-and-so in XYZ department?" or "I was at Sachs for many years, what group were you with?" etc, he would say – in a much lower tone – it was Saks Fifth Avenue.

But that happened at best 10-15% of the time. The rest of the time it was just assumed he meant Goldman Sachs. And Bill knew it. And he milked it for all he could!

Sometimes it's not what you say but what people think you're saying that matters.

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October 20, 2008

America The Great!

Yes I said it: America is a GREAT country!

It's fashionable to bash the United States these days and it's very painful to see our elected politicians smile while others piss in the face of our country yet they call it rain. Diplomacy aside, it does make you wonder.

It seems everywhere you turn for the last 10-20 years a sense of national pride in other countries is abounding. And is celebrated. But not in America. No. If you are an American and have pride in America then you're wrong. It's OK for other nationals to have pride in their country but not Americans in America.

No other nation in human history has done more for the world than America.
No other nation in history does the world turn to than America when there is a disaster, a famine, an earthquake, a big storm, a war, a plague, any crisis.

And America and Americans respond quickly. Yet we still get smacked around.


Next time there is a disaster, a famine, a plague, a war – go ask someone else to send you food and medicine and peacekeepers. Don't come here

Oh, I wish we had the stones to say that!

But we won't. Americans at the core are good people, which will probably be our undoing (the strain of trying to help everyone without getting anything in return is already showing on our society and economy!).

So until France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Lithuania, Greece, Luxemburg, Brazil, Argentina, India, and so on start sending massive air and boat lifts of food and medicine to the grief-stricken far flung corners of the world, be thankful for America.

The world you enjoy would be a much different place without us – and not for the better!

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October 17, 2008

The Grasshopper and The Ant in 21st Century America

I am sure you have heard the classic story of the grasshopper and the ant.

Classic version:

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed. The grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Be responsible for yourself!

But it needs to be brought up to date in light of how modern day America works. Here is a version I came across recently that does this very well. I don't know who the author is.

Modern version:

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving. CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, and ABC show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. America is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so? Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper, and everybody cries when they sing, "It's Not Easy Being Green." Jesse Jackson stages a demonstration in front of the ant's house where the news stations film the group singing, "We shall overcome." Jesse then has the group kneel down to pray to God for the grasshopper's sake. Nancy Pelosi & John Kerry exclaim in an interview with Larry King that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and both call for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share. Finally, the EEOC drafts the Economic Equity and! Anti-Grasshopper Act retroactive to the beginning of the summer. The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the government. Hillary gets her old law firm to represent the grasshopper in a defamation suit against the ant, and the case is tried before a panel of federal judges that Bill Clinton appointed from a list of single-parent welfare recipients. The ant loses the case. The story ends as we see the grasshopper finishing up the last bits of the ant's food while the government house he is in, which just happens to be the ant's old house, crumbles around him because he doesn't maintain it. The ant has disappeared in the snow. The grasshopper is found dead in a drug related incident and the house, now abandoned, is taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize the once peaceful neighborhood.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Be careful how you vote.

Remember this in November.

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October 14, 2008

The Reality of Retirement: Myth #1 – Using IRAs and 401ks

I thought I well understood how retirement worked. Oh was I wrong!

There are soooooo many myths and outright falsehoods out there about retirement, specifically the financial aspects of retiring and of general growing older. I feel it is necessary to set the record straight on many of these aspects.

Based on all the feedback I receive (and THANK YOU for sending it!) my blog site seems to attract a number of younger people (teens, 20-somethings and 30-somethings). Retirement is probably the furthest thing from your minds. It was when I was your age. Just a word and something that "old people" did before making the ultimate contribution to the paranormal field (if you catch my meaning).

But kids today are being forced to face the realities of the grown up world sooner and Defiantly a loss of innocents. And more to the point of this series of articles, young people are being bombarded with slogans and politician's campaign sound bites about many topics including retirement that sound good but are hollow and meaningless. By the time a young person grows up and (hopefully) attains a level of understanding of these things much valuable time will have been wasted.

My goal – my hope! – for these articles is to pass on the reality of financing (paying for) retirement and how many of the popular retirement programs really work. It is my desire that the young people who are reading this article will glean some wisdom in advance from my experience dealing with retirement finances.

My qualifications for discussing this subject? Besides a financial background from college and a life time of working in the financial industry, my mother passed away in the late fall of 2006. For the last 5 years of her life I managed her day-to-day affairs, including her retirement income sources. For fifteen years prior to her retirement she had been employed by the New York City Board of Education. She had a pension, TDA (tax-deferred annuity, think 401k), her Social Security, and a small IRA that I insisted she open before she retired. This is all I had to pay her bills during her retirement. My qualification comes from my experience having to manage her post-retirement financial life.

I will dispensing that experience now.

Myth #1 – How IRAs and 401ks Withdrawals REALLY Work!

Most people think a traditional IRA or 401k (including 403b and Thrift Savings if you are a government employee) is just like a bank account, but that you can't take out the money until your retire. And you don't pay tax on the money until then too.*

(*NOTE: the ROTH IRA and new ROTH 401k have different rules. But few people are, unfortunately, using them as compared to regular/traditional IRA and 401k accounts. So this discussion does not apply to ROTH accounts.)

That part is correct. But the withdrawal aspect is not.

Unlike a bank account (or a regular mutual fund account), with an IRA or 401k you can NOT simply take out money whenever you need to. Frankly, I don't understand why and no one in the financial community has ever given me a good explanation why not. But that's the way it works.

You can instruct the IRA/401k company to send you a check periodically (monthly, quarterly or annually). In some cases you can convert the IRA/401k to an annuity and annuitize. Or just take the annual Minimum Required Distribution (MRD – something the IRS requires of all non-ROTH retirement plans). But in general you can't just call up and request a distribution.

Yes, you can call up and request one. But most companies have restrictions on how often you can request withdrawals. Typically there has to be 30 days or so between requests. Again, I can't understand why. But that's the way it is.

Also, the time to process your withdrawal request and actually get a check out to you is much longer than with a non-retirement account. Again, I can not fathom why it is but it's so.

So what does all this mean to you? If means that if you don't annuitize your account (which is often not a good idea for reasons I'll get into in another article) or take a systematic withdrawal plan you have to very carefully plan your spending and take out what you need ahead of time. You may not be able to get access to your money as often a you will need to.

If anyone knows why IRA and 401k accounts are this way please let me know!

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October 11, 2008

Food or Fuel? (The Ethics of Alternative Fuels)

Ethanol, biodiesel, etc. All from food sources. Corn, soy, sugar etc.

I think it's great that we can make fuel from these plants. More proof of American ingenuity and creativity.

But should we?

With all the talk of alternative and renewable foods there's one topic that has escaped discuss but is so critical to the issue: What are ethical and moral implications of turning human food into fuel when we are not even close to running out of oil?

As the pundits and media at large are so fond of pointing out there are millions of people (including children) in the country and the world at large who are hungry. Yet we are diverting good edible food from hungry people to make fuel while there still is plenty of petroleum in the world.

So where are the advocates for children?
Where are the advocates for the starving?
Why aren't they complaining about this?

If all the world's oil was gone, then I'd say that's a point. But it's not. Estimates run at least another 100 years supply based on what is known to exist (and more is being discovered almost every day!). Hardly a shortage crisis.

So why literally the mad rush to take food out of people's mouths to make fuel?

As a statement of American technology and industry it's wonderful.As a political and economic message to the oil countries of the world that we can get by without them I'd say the message has been sent loud and clear.

So why keep pushing it? To spread unnecessary misery?

Sometimes it seems one of the key goals of global warmers and greenies is to hurt people just because. There can be no other logical reason to taking food away from people when there is still a well known, easily obtained and still plentiful supply of petroleum in the world.

Tell Al Gore to go on a diet.

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October 7, 2008

RFP – Replacement for Gasoline

The world is a buzz with "alternate fuel" talk. I think it's great that we can make usable fuel from other products besides petroleum.

But they have downsides. Significant ones.

I'm not going to list all the pros and cons of ethanol, bio diesel, fuel cells etc etc. That's all out there on the web for anyone to find.

Instead, let's be like a real business and put together an RFP for the replacement for gasoline.
Whatever replaces gasoline must include the following attributes and abilities as minimum requirements:

Must be as easy to locate and extract (yes, oil is relatively easy to get out of the ground).
Must be as easy and safe to transport (in spite of the news oil spills and files are rare).
Must be as easy to manufacture.
Must be as safe to store.
Must provide as much energy per unit as the same amount of gasoline.
Must be as reliable as gasoline (gas works well over a wide range of temperatures and humidity's)
Must be as cheap as gasoline is (regardless of the recent rise in price gas is not all that expensive)
Must be as easy and cheap to make engines that run on it (it's easy to make a gas powered motor)
Must produce no more exhaust than gasoline does (in spite of the claims of global warmers and greenies a gas powered motor is not all that polluting compared to other fuels)

These represent the lowest level base minimums an alternate to gasoline must have to be economically viable. Going beyond these would be great too but this is the minimum.

Until such a fuel is invented any alternates come with a price that's too high!

You can't save a society by destroying it.

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October 4, 2008

Why 2012 Concerns Me (and Should Concern You!)

The year 2012 – specifically December 21, 2012 – is commonly predicted to be the end of the world. At least the end of the world as we have always know it. As I'm sure everyone reading my blog knows it's because the Mayan calendar ending on that date which a huge number of people have concluded can only mean the end of the world.

This is one of those subjects that too has been beaten to death on a great many forums and sites so I'm not going into all that here again. Do a Google search if you need to know more. All I will add to that is the Mayans did not predict the end of the world. Simply that is the date their calendar ends and we more modern people have assigned the end of the world as the meaning to its ending.

I don't agree with that interpretation at all. For all we know December 21, 2012 could be their Y2K!
In other words 2,000 years ago when the Mayans were computing their calendar they might have said "Do we really need to go out that far? In 2,000 years let someone else take over calculating the calendar. I'm going for a beer!" Could be as simple as that.

But it doesn't matter. Many people think it will be the end of the world. And that should concern everyone.

Throughout history there have been dates predicted to be the end of the world or some other worldwide catastrophic event. Often the turn of a century or millennium. History is full of well documented accounts of what people who believed these predictions did:

Give away all they owed.
Indulged in drink, drugs, and lucidious acts.
Killed others, looted, ransacked and took out what they thought was final revenge.
Committed mass suicide.

These are the things to worry about for 2012. I fear a great many people throughout the world will do the same things now.

There will be mass suicides. Maybe mass murders. Probably in the name of religion too.

People will spend every dime on a moments pleasure, then when they wake up safe and sound on December 22, 2012 they will be broke and cry for public help!

People will commit mass adultery, maybe even rape.

Crime in general will sky rocket that year as many people figure they have nothing to loose.

I hope I'm wrong. Many people predicted cataclysmic events at the turn of the 21st century and nothing happened that day. Same for the Y2K problem (which was a real problem – see my prior article

But in my opinion (and that's the one which counts the most) December 21, 2012 will be this world's greatest obstacle to survival given the way society and culture have (unfortunately) evolved.

Duck and cover.

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October 2, 2008

Dear Wall St. – The sky is NOT falling!

When I started this blog I promised not to be one of the robotic minions of blogger all chatting about the same thing. I’m going to have to diverge slightly from that promise for this article.

Yes, the stock market is down.
Yes, the dollar is weak.
Yes, oil is soaring.
Yes, trend line this, trend line that is going downward.
Blah, blah, blah.

Someone start handing out the Kool Aid!

But sheesh! If you read the articles from the Wall Street wonks and Yahoo Finance “experts” this is the End of Days for capitalism and the American way of life. In fact, one recent article on Yahoo Finance (“25 reasons to remain cautious” by Bennet Sedacca, posted 7/2/08) states as point #24 quote “The market is technically on the verge of breaking down”.

A break down?! This isn’t 1929! And this isn’t Black Friday either. Talk about fear mongering.

I’m not going to go point for point against that article or any other. I’m not a Wall Street financier, don’t have a Harvard MBA (much to the chagrin of my college ex- girlfriend (how’s life now baby!) ) and I don’t have a CFA (though I do have a CLU and ChFC). I haven’t a clue how far this drop will go, when it will stop much less turn around, and what stocks to buy to ride this out. If I did I’d probably be playing golf with Trump right now. Well, maybe not. I don’t like golf.

But my point is markets go up, markets go down. I know this is of little comfort to anyone who just saw a 20% drop in their 401k when they are retiring in 6 months. And to those who have and are loosing their jobs you have my sympathies as I have definitely been there too.

But this is not the end of the world. The market will recover!

I recall in the late 80’s walking to a Barnes&Noble and seeing row after row of books entitled things like “The Great Stock Market Crash of the 1990’s”, “Surviving the Depression of the 90’s”, and “How To Ride Out The Next Great Depression”. Each of those books (I skimmed through several) all said the same things basically: This time it would be different. This time the way the U.S. economy and world economy is the drop will be sudden, sharp, and we won’t recover for years – if at all. Well guess what? It didn’t happen! The 1990’s were a good set of years for investing overall (no thanks to Bill-‘I never met a tax I didn’t like’-Clinton).

In fact, in my years on this planet this is now the 5th recession I’ve lived through. And in all prior recessions the pundits and Wall Street suits all said the same things: This time is different because A, B and C; This time we can’t recover because of this or that; Foreign markets will cream the U.S. economy, and so on.

Same old same-old.

Keep in mind these 3 points:

1. It’s an election year. Especially for a Presidential election the markets are always jittery. Republicans usually mean less taxes and regulation while Democrats mean more taxes and regulation. The market doesn’t really care which in the long run but not knowing which side will win people can’t make long term plans.

2. Recessions come in cycles and we are smack in the middle of a down cycle. Check your history and you’ll see.

3. The soaring price of oil (gasoline) is a shock to the American society. Our society will adjust. But there will be losers. It’s a bitter pill to swallow on top of everything else. More on that in a future article.

This triple whammy may make this recession harder. But we will recover. And those who kept their heads will be riding very high.

Remember: Money is made in down markets. You just don’t know it until the market goes up!

I’ll pass on the Kool Aid.

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