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"These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full", John 15:11.
  • Admittedly, no one has the definitive answer to that question.  This week I was made aware of a lady who recently retired at age 85.  This is not a misprint, she just retired at age 85 and was expressing the fear that she would not be able to exist on the amount of Social Security she had started receiving each month.  

    In February 2009 a Californian, Ian Thiermann, age 90, was forced to go back to work 30 years after his initial retirement.  Earning $10 per hour, Ian went to work in a Ben Lomond, California supermarket after losing his life savings ($700,000) in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.

    August 2010 finds many Americans living in extreme economic uncertainty.  Many are put in the unenviable position to have to choose whether to pay their rent, pay for their medications, or buy food to eat.  However, our country is in debt up to its eyeballs.  Two weeks ago the House of Representatives returned to a special called session to spend $26 billion of borrowed money on what was called a “Jobs Bill.”  Critics pointed out that the vast majority of funding that was intended to be used to hire new teachers and save the jobs of others (approximately $10 billion,) would in reality be used to shore up union teacher retirement accounts.

    Meanwhile, an increasing number of seniors find themselves having to work far beyond their anticipated retirement years.  Experience Works, a nonprofit provider of community service training and employment opportunities for older workers conducted a study released in September 2009 that covered 30 states and Puerto Rico.  Their survey found that many workers in their 60s, 70s and beyond are desperate to find work so they can keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.  According to the study, many of the participants had no intention of working past their 60th birthday, but had to change plans after being laid off or following the death of a spouse.  Some 90% of respondents 76 years and older planned to continue working for the next five years or well past their 80th birthday.

    From its inception, has advocated the position that every citizen should have their own independent sources of retirement income in addition to what they may eventually receive from Social Security.  At no time has this argument revealed such an immediate threat as is being considered by the 18-member National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.  

    The commission just announced that it is considering several recommendations that could drastically alter the future landscape of Social Security.  Changes being considered for recommendation include but are not limited to the following:

    ·    Raising the age at which participants may participate in full retirement (it is set to increase to age 67 in 2027, and some have suggest raising it to as high as age 70)
    ·    Reduction of the rate at which benefits grow each year
    ·    Reduction of COLAs…Cost of Living Adjustments
    ·    Reduction of benefits for wealthier retirees
    ·    Increasing the amount of income subject to Social Security tax
    ·    Raising the Social Security payroll tax from its current level of 6.2%, or a combined total of 12.4% paid by both employee and employer
    ·    Raising the Self employment tax from its current level of 15.3%
    ·    Plus a host of other ideas to be considered

    The commission includes 12 members of Congress, six Democrats and six Republican, plus four non-lawmakers chosen by President Obama and his appointed co-chairmen, Democrat Erskine Bowles, a former White House chief of staff, and Alan Simpson, a retired GOP senator.  The group is charged with issuing its report no later than December 1, 2010, approximately one month after the mid-term elections.

    When one considers the dismal state of today’s economy, one realizes that Social Security may not be as secure as many once thought.  When instituted in the 1930s no one ever dreamed that Social Security would ever have grown to the size it is in 2010.  No one could envision that it would ever spend more than it received or that it would one day face possible dissolution or bankruptcy.  In their wildest dreams no one could have imagined that the United States Congress would raid Social Security's coffers of $2.5 trillion over the past 20-30 years only to spent the monies on pet projects and then replace the $2.5 trillion they spent with IOUs that can be found in a filing cabinet in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

    Back to the original question:  How Secure is Social Security?  No one knows for certain because there are too many variables involved.  The more germane question might be “What are my options?”  If your name is Ian, are 90, have a job, and need more money you will probably need to continue working.  If you are an 85 year old woman who just retired but are worrying about making it on your monthly Social Security check you may have to go back to work or depend upon family, friends, and fellow church members to help meet your daily needs.  If you are 65 you may need to curtail spending and save every dime you can possibly save.  If you are 45 you should not expect to recognize the Social Security program of 2030 or 2035.  Forego buying that new car, that larger house, sending the kids to an expensive university, and begin pouring as much cash as you possibly can into Roth IRAs (nontaxable at the date of this writing,) silver, gold, land, quality real estate, or other valuable and proven commodities.

    Due to current economic conditions and the fallout of recession some economists are warning people to be prepared for a lost decade, 2010-2020.  While no one has a definitive answer for that possibility, many quietly express the fears that the “Lost Decade” may be more of a reality than they care to admit.   

    The best financial advice can muster is to advise you to save all you can, spend as little as possible, get out of debt, and make your own arrangements for your financial future.  If Social Security is ultimately rescued and one day proves to be a great retirement plan, rejoice, you will be that much farther ahead of the vast majority of Americans who stood on the sidelines and watched the game as spectators while you were on the playing field having the time of your life.  They will envy you.

    The very best advice we can offer for Christians is: don’t worry about Social Security, 401(k) s, Roth IRAs, and retirement.  While it IS wise to prepare for retirement we still need to realize that it is only retirement.  We have something far greater ahead.  Remember, “This world is not my home I’m just a passing through.”  Our real home is with Jesus and it awaits us in the not so distant future.  Don’t worry; the Lord will work everything out for those who trust him.  He reminds us:  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6

  • Joblessness is the norm for upwards of 15 million people in America.  Most newspapers and media outlets across the land herald the 9.5% rate of unemployment.  In itself, 9.5% is bad enough, but it does not begin to convey the full scope of the problem since it fails to include millions of Americans who have stopped looking for work.  Over the past three months alone, more than a million new citizens have effectively given up hope of finding a job.  An estimated six million people are no longer searching for work and have dropped out of the official 9.5% unemployment statistic.  When included, they bring the total of unemployed Americans to upwards of 15 million people.

    With each passing week their chances of finding work get slimmer.  Official government spokesmen are finally stating what has been obvious to the vast majority of American citizens for a long time…our nation, our economy; our way of life is in desperate trouble.  Our sluggish economy and hundreds of thousands of business closures and millions of layoffs have created a new class of American citizens, the “99ers.”  The 99ers are people who have spent 99 weeks drawing jobless or unemployment benefits.  Now that their 99 weeks are up and the benefits stop…they are at a loss as to where to turn.

    The 99ers are real people with real stories and real families.  Two years ago most of these people were in secure jobs.  Those jobs ended.  Most of them haven’t worked since.  Most have been diligently looking for work, but are unable to find anything at all.  Now, that 99 weeks have transpired, each is faced with the dilemma of what to do now.  For millions, the American dream has ended.  First they lost their jobs, followed by their homes, some lost their families, and then many lost their dignities.  The one bright spot is that many have either already turned to, or is in the process of turning to the Lord.  

    Will the Lord guarantee someone a job, a house, a restored family, or a renewed sense of purpose and dignity?  Not in every single case.  But those who trust him, no matter how bleak their circumstances, will find a renewed sense of purpose and a God-given dignity that they so desperately need.  What about a job, a house, or a family that has been made whole?  He promises to guide you through those minefields and any others you may face.  “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:19.  Carefully notice that he did say that he would supply all your “needs” not all your “wants.”

    Back to this American dream; the American dream is basically a term used to describe a certain way of life.  It is usually thought to include:  a job with great benefits, a house, a car, an adequate retirement, and a generally happy and easy life.  Know what?  Many Americans and perhaps 85% of the rest of the world doesn’t have it anywhere near that good and would do almost anything to have it.

    Christians, your real citizenship is in Heaven.  The lyric of the old song rings true, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.”  What can you do?  You can refocus your priorities from things that are temporary to things that are eternal.  As many have witnessed, jobs, benefits, houses, cars, and retirement accounts are temporal.  The Lord and his Kingdom of Heaven are eternal.  Place your trust, your faith, your hope, and your future in Jesus.  

    He alone is worthy!

  • The citizens of Missouri repudiated "Obama Care" last week when they adopted Proposition C by a 71 percentage point majority stating that no rule or law can compel a person or business to participate in any health care system and prohibits laws that level penalties against people who do not buy health care insurance.

    Democrats said Missouri voters rejected the new law because they still don't know enough about it.  Republicans say it exemplifies an electorate irate at a "blatant power grab" by Democrats and appear ready to punish its supporters at the ballot box this November.

    Senator Harry Red, Senate Majority Leader said:  "Once you explain what's in this bill, the American people, of course, like it."  House Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell remarked that:  "Americans weren't kidding when they said that they opposed this health care bill, and they're not going away.  This is just the beginning."  It appears to this interested observer however, that Missouri voters know too much about the bill, understand it, and flatly reject it as a viable option for their state.

    Some political analysts say that the Missouri measure's decisive margin or victory was impressive despite the high Republican turnout, and a minimum of at least 40,000 Democratic voters, indicates a strong grass-roots distrust of the health care law.

    The Missouri Hospital association spent some $400,000 warning people that passage of the ballot measure could increase hospitals' costs for treating the uninsured.

    Arizona and Oklahoma have similar constitutional amendments on the November ballots to opt out of all or part of the new federal health care reform.  In addition, Colorado and Florida are moving toward including similar propositions in their fall elections as well.

    Predicting Republican victory for both the House and Senate in the Fall election, Michael Steel, National Chairman of the RNC said:  "The Missouri votes show how completely detached the Democratic agenda is from the American electorate.

    Health care reform took another hit August 2 when a federal judge refused to dismiss a legal challenge against the law by the state of Virginia.  Some 20 other states have also challenged the law's constitutionality and these challenges will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.

    Healthcare is no more a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution than is the right to own a car, a cell phone, or a big screen TV.  These aren't rights, they are privileges.  Everyone realizes that healthcare is needed by everyone and Americans should work together to see that affordable health care is available to all.  Balance that thought with the fact that many Americans are tired of Government intrusion into increasingly more and more aspects of their lives and that most people feel that they are overtaxed already.

    Unfortunately, as Government legislates or creates regulations it often breaks more things than it fixes. Examples include a Social Security trust fund that is filled with IOUs and only memories of the Billions of Social Security dollars that were spent on other congressional projects.  Bailouts galore that haven't created the millions of promised jobs.  Medicare and Medicaid which have sustained major budget cuts to funnel funds to Nationalized healthcare.  Medicare and Medicaid fraud.  Freddie Mack's and Fannie Mae's contributions to the collapse of the housing market.

    Many Americans feel that the Government is broken and the very ones who contributed to its many problems are the ones who are attempting to fix it.  Are there any answers?  Yes, but they will not be well received because they will not be popular.  Christians need to pray for their leaders, vote, and get involved in the political process. Are we "our brother's keeper?"  No Christian should turn his back upon another person in need.  But what about personal responsibility?  How do we balance massive social needs with an economy that has tanked and a country that may be heading for a possible debt-driven bankruptcy?  Where does the incessant congressional spending stop and when does America return to her roots of a nation founded upon Christian principles?  

    We are in for an interesting fall.  


  • The most powerful, effective, safe, and easiest way to protect yourself against identity theft is to Freeze your credit with America’s three major credit reporting agencies.

    Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union are America’s major credit reporting agencies.  There are three things you can ask them to do to help you protect your credit.  

    Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union do not issue credit, they simply report the factual history of your use of credit to those who are attempting to decide whether to issue you a new credit card or line of credit to purchase a house, condo, car, TV, diamond ring, mattress, etc.

    1.  The Credit Freeze is the MOST POWERFUL tool at your disposal.  

    How can a Credit Freeze protect your credit?  It is designed to prevent a credit thief or from being able to secure any new consumer credit card or line of credit by using your personal information that they may have stolen thus enabling them to assume your identity.
    For example, suppose a credit thief, angry ex-spouse, or an estranged family member somehow manages to obtain all the vital information necessary they need to open a new account in your name.  He fills out the application using your personal information…name, address, date of birth, social security number, previous addresses, mother’s maiden name, etc. and submits it to XYZ Credit Card Company.  When XYZ processes his bogus application they check with one or more of the big three credit reporting agencies to see whether he is worthy of credit.  When they submit their electronic verification they hit the Credit Freeze you have placed upon your credit and the identity thief is promptly denied a new credit card, automotive loan, etc.  Whether he tries this once or 100 times, he is denied credit each and every time.  Your credit freeze has stopped him cold in his tracks and your good credit rating is preserved.  

    Mild Disclaimer:  While a Credit Freeze will stop 99.999% of fraudulent attempts, it can’t stop every single attempt to open a fraudulent account in your name.  Unfortunately, there is an infinitesimal chance that someone will find a way around it…for example, if an identity thief applies for a small line of credit with a local store such as: “Jim’s TV World,” he may successfully open that account because “Jims TV World” does not use one of the big three credit reporting agencies to verify the thief’s credit worthiness.  Jim may do nothing but accept his word that he will pay, or he may go so far as to call your local bank and they may give him an OK to proceed in lending “you” $1,000 for a new big screen TV.  However, if Jim had simply checked with one of the big three credit reporting agencies he would have denied the thief his credit request immediately because your Credit Freeze would have frozen Jim dead in his tracks because Jim is not crazy about losing a $1,000 TV.)

    You can initiate a credit freeze and have the ultimate sense of protection against credit theft by clicking each of the three links below and freezing your credit with the big three reporting agencies.  There is a $10 charge for this service in most states, and a slightly higher ($15-20) fee in a few others.  Your credit freeze is permanent in that it does not have to be renewed.  However, you can have the ability to temporarily suspend or “unthaw” the freeze should you decide to open a new credit account, buy a house, buy a car, etc.  You simply request that it be “unthawed” or suspended temporarily when you wish to open any new account or apply for any new loan.  Once it is temporarily suspended it is automatically renewed and your credit remains frozen until you “unthaw” it once again.  There is a small charge for unthawing, usually $10-20 per process, and no additional charge for it to be refrozen.

    Does the Freezing my credit hurt my credit score?  No, not in the least, it actually tells someone that you are a savvy consumer who is in charge of his / her credit.

    Jesus warned his disciples in Matthew 10:16  “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”  Be proactive and do something to protect your credit.

                                   Active links to initiate a Credit Freeze with credit reporting agencies...

              Equifax                                                   Experian                                                       Trans Union

    2.  The Fraud Alert is the SECOND MOST POWERFUL tool you can use.

    A Fraud Alert informs anyone checking your creditworthiness that there may be a potential theft of your identity and that anyone desiring to grant additional credit to you should be cautious because someone other than you may be applying for credit in your name.  Millions of people have paid credit protection companies such as Life Lock, etc. hundreds of millions of dollars to put a “Fraud Alert” on their credit histories.

    You can initiate a credit fraud alert by contacting Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union and asking for the alert to be placed on your account.  Fraud Alerts last for 90 days and if you desire to continue having an alert placed on your accounts must be renewed every 90 days.  Initiating a fraud alert is a simple process that involves calling each of the big three credit reporting agencies, entering some information about yourself, and requesting that a fraud alert be placed upon your accounts.  This is offered by the big three as a service that is free of charge.  For the alert to be effective you should contact all three of the agencies as simply placing it on one account will leave the other two unprotected.  For a fee, Life Lock, and other companies will do this for you.  If you are desirous of saving money you can do this yourself by contacting Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union and placing the alert yourself.  It takes less than five minutes each, it is free, and will give you the peace of mind that when a potential credit issuer pings your account to verify your credit worthiness they will at least be confronted with the fact that you have placed your potential creditors on alert that someone may have stolen your identity.  Can a thief manage to steal your credit even though there is a fraud alert placed on your account?
    The simple answer is YES!  The alert does not prevent a credit card company or other entity from issuing credit in your name…it merely alerts them to the fact that you feel that your may have been targeted by identity thieves.  XYZ Credit Card Company may go ahead and allow the thief to open a new account in your name, however, the alert may dissuade them from granting a new line of credit and the thief would be foiled.  A Fraud Alert can help but offers no guarantee of stopping fraudulent credit attempts.

    Does placing a Fraud Alert on my credit accounts hurt my credit score?  No, not in the least.

    3.  Credit Monitoring is the LEAST POWERFUL tool you can use.

    Equifax, Experian, Trans Union, and other companies offer to provide you with a credit monitoring service.  If you choose to use these services you will have to pay for them and the fees can vary widely.  In most cases, you will be sent an email alerting you that something unusual has happened regarding your credit account.   The alert will inform you that someone has applied for credit in your name.  In addition, you may log in to your credit report at any time 365 days per year and check for any irregularities or issuances of new credit.  Without initiating a Credit Freeze, the monitoring service seems to be of little value as it would simply report an event after the fact and would not prevent someone from using your identity to secure new credit using your name.  

    However, there is an advantage to credit monitoring in that it would enable you to spot and intercept any discrepancies you may have in your credit report and have them duly noted and corrected.

    4.  One of the greatest weapons you have against credit thieves is for you to use cash. 

    When paying for meals and other goods and services many have been robbed by a simple process called “skimming.”  Skimming happens when a waiter or another employee swipes your card twice; once for the restaurant, and once for themselves on their personal private card reader.  If you use cash for these transactions you avoid the risk of having your bank account cleaned out.

    Other forms of protection include single use credit cards, and the practice of Never Never Never using your debit card in restaurants, online, or in places that do not require the use of your pin number.  Thousands of horror stories have been told by people whose bank accounts have been picked clean by unscrupulous waiters, online merchants, and other thieves out to steal your hard-earned cash.