America is experiencing a political revolution...
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
Charles Dickens, English novelist (1812 – 1870) A Tale of Two Cities.
America is experiencing a political revolution. Depending upon which side of the revolution you stand it is either the best of times or the worst of times.
According to various political polls across America, it is a given that several candidates of the populist Tea Party political movement will be elected in the 2010 mid-term elections. Many are predicting a certain Tea Party / Republican / Conservative Democrat take over of the House of Representatives and a possible Senate take over by the same.
A sense of anti-incumbency and skepticism rules the day. The revolution has spread to other parts of the world, as similar movements are now catching on in Italy, Australia, and parts of the European Union.
The Tea Party’s modern genesis was in protest of the February 2009 stimulus package. Since that time additional stimulus programs, continued deficit spending, earmarks, corporate takeovers, healthcare, and a host of other issues have fueled a sense of anger that has been directed at incumbents of both parties.
It is obvious that the Tea Party’s fierce animosity toward Washington and President Obama is rooted in a deep sense of pessimism. That angst centers on the direction the country is heading, and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are leading the country in the wrong direction. In a town hall meeting on September 20, President Obama indicated that he embraced some of the ideas held by the Tea Party.
Announcements like that of September 20, 2010 made by a panel of private economists declaring that the recession ended in June 2009 merely feed the skepticism. With unemployment hovering at 9.6%, the majority of Americans laughed at the notion that the recession is over.
Other of the results of that skepticism indicates that large majorities of Republicans (84 %,) Democrats (74 %,) and independents (74 %,) now favor the idea of term limits. This is further reflected by the fact that 70 % of voters disapprove of the job Congress is currently doing. That includes most Republicans (84 %) as well as more than half of Democrats (54 %.)
Who makes up the Tea Party? Some 56 percent identify themselves as conservative. Of those, 44 percent are Republicans, 43 percent are independents, and 13 percent are Democrats. How are they seen by their fellow Americans? Some 39 percent give them a favorable rating, 35 percent unfavorable rating, and 26 percent say they are unable to rate the movement.
The election of numerous Tea Party candidates is likely to have an impact upon the political landscape, which could include your future retirement prospects. A few of the Tea Party’s stated goals include:
1. Demand a balanced federal budget
2. Simplify the tax system
3. Lower taxes
4. Reduce earmarks
5. Limit growth in federal spending
6. Identify the constitutionality of every new law
7. Reject emissions trading: “cap and trade.”
8. Repeal health care legislation
Characterized by liberal, moderate, and progressive media as “out of the mainstream,” Various polls suggest that more than half of Americans are in agreement with many of the goals stated above.
What short and long term impact will the election of Tea Party and other conservative candidates have on your retirement? Believe it or not, they may actually improve its prospects.
If conservatives achieve a takeover of the House and possibly the Senate and are thus able to effect some of the economic changes as outlined above the economy could rebound and regain a sense of stability. On the other hand, congress may find itself in gridlock and the economy may continue to remain stagnant. Time will tell.
If they muster enough support (which has been promised by most every politician over the past 30 years,) to address Social Security, they may be able to improve a program many believe is headed over a cliff somewhere in the future. If they are able to stop deficit spending, balance the budget, and lower taxes one result is that you would have more of your own money to save or contribute toward retirement.
This week CNBC reported the news that the UK’s tax collection agency (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) advanced a proposal that all employers send employee paychecks to the government, after which the government would deduct what it deems appropriate and pay employees with a bank transfer. Can anyone imagine that idea being advanced in America? Sadly, there would be support for that concept among some American citizens. CNBC also reported that more than half of Americans are in favor keeping the Bush tax cuts.
Who knows where we are headed after the November mid-terms. The lame duck session could prove to be a zinger. Change is on the table for 2011. It will be interesting to see where we go from here.
America is experiencing a political revolution.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."
How many Facebook friends do you have? According to Facebook, the most famous social networking site on the web, the average Facebook user has 130 friends.
Facebook recently posted the following stats in their press room:
· More than 500 million active users
· 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day
· Average user has 130 friends
· People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook
How many friends can a Facebook user have?
Actually, the sky is the limit. Consider the following: according to one source, Charlie Rosenbury wrote a computer program that sent messages to more than 250,000 users asking them to add him as a friend. He later reported that he had 75,000 friends within three weeks.
Who holds the Facebook record?
In 2009 a user named George Fethurst surpassed Michael Jackson with more than 6,552,000 Facebook friends. However, as of February 2010, Michael Jackson had more than 10,683,000 friends.
If you have five close friends you are rich!
Someone once said: “If you have five close friends when you die you are rich.” How many truly close friends do you have? The Bible says: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24.
Jesus can be the best friend you ever had!
Jesus can be the truest friend any person can possibly have. He will remain your friend no matter how popular or unpopular you become, no matter what good or bad you do, or a ton of other things. He is one who really does stick closer than a brother.
To have friends you have to be friendly.
Who can you reach out to and befriend today? Take the initiative; don’t sit around waiting for someone to befriend you. Step out of your comfort zone and become a friend to someone who needs a friend.
Becoming friends with God is easy.
You simply ask him to be your friend and to give you the desire to be his friend. You learn about your new friend by reading his word. Start with St. John’s Gospel. Read a chapter per day. Talk to your new friend…pray. Share your most intimate feelings, fears, joys, worries, victories, and everything else with him. You will be blessed, and he will bless you. In the Bible, one person was called “Friend of God.” His name was Abraham, James 2:23. God is always looking for new friends. Are you ready to begin a relationship with him? Or, if you have grown distant in your relationship, are you ready to renew it and see it become viable again? Jesus is a friend who will believe in you when you have ceased to believe in yourself.
Jesus is the only friend who will walk in to comfort and strengthen you when other people walk out on you. Get to know him better today!
Many are beginning to believe retirement as they once knew it may be over. September 7, 2010 witnessed widespread one day strikes across France by her largest unions in protest of President Nicholas Sarkozy's bill to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. Demonstrations protesting this change were expected in more than 130 cities across France. Transportation workers began the strike last night, and schools, post offices, and government offices are expected to be closed today. Workers are upset because they see a reversal of the trend that lowered the retirement age from 65 to 60 after the 1981 election when Socialist President Francois Mitterrand was elected.
Economic conditions, massive debt, careless spending, and falling currency values across much of Europe have precipitated the need for changes to the retirement systems of several nations. In 2007, Germany adopted a plan to gradually raise its retirement age from 65 to 67. In addition, both Spain and Italy also increased their retirement ages to 65. Changes sweeping across Europe are likely to bee seen across Great Britain, and many other parts of the world, including America, sooner than many may have been expecting.
According to a BBC Newsnight poll, some 70% of the 1,000 people who were asked about retirement thought it would not be feasible for people to stop work then live on a pension for up to 30 years. In addition, some 72% of those currently working were also worried about not having the funds to live as they would like in retirement. At least 77% thought younger workers would get a worse deal, and 54% thought it was unfair that younger generations would be worse off than those currently nearing retirement age.
Professor of history at the University of Exeter, Jeremy Black, said younger people who were yet to retire were having to adjust to traumatic change in fortunes. "The relationship between the generations has been transformed. Whereas it used to be the case that up and coming generations tended to be more prosperous than their parents, now we're going to be in reverse," he said. He added that the powerful sense of entitlement among those who had grown up with a strong welfare state had now become unaffordable.
What does this mean for an American citizen facing retirement twenty years from today? Can Social Security be saved? Yes it can and will be saved in some form. While only God knows what it will look like in the future, it does mean that the retirement system you are familiar with today will undergo major overhauls before you reach your retirement age. What's more, your current projected retirement age of 67 will likely be changed to 70 by the time you actually retire. The US Social Security Administration has already embarked on a similar track years ago by raising the full retirement age from 65 to age 67. In August 2010 some Republican senators including House minority leader John Boehner (R-OH) suggested raising the retirement age to age 70. However, one could argue that it is already there because if a person scheduled to retire at age 66 today waits 48 additional months, or four more years, that individual can receive the maximum Social Security check beginning at age 70.
What should you do in preparation for these coming changes.
1. Refuse to adopt a victim mentality; though you may feel that victimhood is warranted, embrace reality, step up to the plate and assume personal responsibility for your future
2. Prepare to work longer than anticipated and save like crazy
3. Make independent arrangements for your retirement (Roths, IRAs, 401(k)s, real estate, precious metals, etc.
4. Contact your congressperson, since Social Security effectively cost you (combined with employers' matching funds) 15.3% of you income for 40+ years, you deserve to have them hear your opinions
5. Control your finances, refuse to depend upon big government, their track record leads to buy one conclusion: their goal is to control more and more of your money
6. Be prepared to lower your expectations, you may be forced to lower them since no one knows the future and where the economy will be when you retire
7. Live with a keenly increased level of awareness of economic conditions; if you don't provide for your own future retirement needs, don't make the mistake of assuming that someone else will
8. Be prepared to redefine and lessen the expectations your heirs may have concerning any future inheritances they may anticipate receiving
9. Diversify your investments
10. Most importantly, depend upon the Lord to guide you, to give you wisdom, and to take care of you during your retirement years
Thinking he was doing his company a favor, Ted was shocked to find that after announcing plans for his upcoming retirement a few months in advance, his employer terminated him immediately.
With no additional retirement funding, he retired just short of age 65 and soon began receiving a modest Social Security check. His wife, Mary had no choice but to continue to work. Ted and Mary had both worked at various jobs over their 45 year careers. Unfortunately, while rearing five children, they never seemed to have enough extra money to invest or contribute to a retirement account.
Ted and Mary did manage to buy a house at one point in their careers but later sold it when they moved to another city. They and never had the funds to purchase another. Ted had a meager whole-life life insurance policy that he cashed in at one point of hardship during their years together. Once it was redeemed, he realized the error of his decision and attempted to have the policy reinstated but was denied.
After struggling financially for a few months while adjusting to retirement, Ted was offered a part-time job by a competitor. Delighted, he quickly accepted it and worked there for five years before taking another part-time another job at age 70. Mary had since lost her job and the two lived on their Social Security checks plus the meager salary Ted earned.
By this time, Ted was a diabetic and had developed a kidney disease that required dialysis three days per week. After months of treatment and continued failing health, he was admitted to a nursing home where he lived a few weeks before dying in his sleep at age 79. Mary was left with several bills, a few dollars in a bank account, no life insurance, a mobile home she rented, and five adult children who paid for Ted’s funeral. Today, Mary, age 93, she lives out her life in an assisted living facility and enjoys visits from family and friends.
Bitter? Not on your life. Both Ted and Mary were Christians who lived their lives, reared their family, served the Lord, and touched many people’s lives in a positive way. Were Ted and Mary able to live their lives over again they would have changed a few of the things they did and didn’t do. In their later years, Ted and Mary both realized that they had made some mistakes along the way. Who do you know who hasn’t made their share of mistakes?
In retrospect, Ted could have left Mary in a better financial position had he left her with a debt free home, a well funded 401(k), and a generous life insurance policy. He left none of those for Mary.
While neither Ted nor Mary ever received any form of public assistance, Richard Wolf writes in USA Today, August 30, 2010, that Government anti-poverty programs have reached record levels. More than 50 million Americans are on Medicaid. More than 40 million Americans are on food stamps. Close to 10 million Americans receive unemployment checks, and more that 4.4 million people are on welfare.
How about your future retirement? Do you intend to depend upon one or more Government programs to get by? Can you afford to live on Social Security alone? Please don’t put yourself in that position when you reach your retirement.
Some of the things many wise people are doing now include: getting totally out of debt, buying substantial term life insurance policies, paying off their mortgage, and investing heavily in Roth IRAs (made with after-tax contributions so it is tax-free when withdrawn,) or 401(k)s.
Remember: Decisions you make today and actions you take tomorrow have major impacts upon your future retirement plans.