Monday, October 31, 2005


I took the time today to check my attic insulation today. Happily I think I am prepared for winter. Are you?


Friday, October 28, 2005


I always liked this story.

Back in the 1960's a young Swedish fisherman wandered into a new Volvo car dealership. The experienced staff all ignored him because of his clothes and fishy smell. A new salesman however took the time to talk with him and eventually shook his hand to signify the "closing of a sale."

The sale was not for one car but 15. It seems the captain of his fishing trawler sent him to purchase a car for each of the staff members following a succesful voyage.

Things or people are not what they always appear to be.


There is no such thing as permanent job security. For most people they will change their “job” more than 8 times in their lifetimes. Sometimes the change will be voluntary but sometimes it can be an unforeseen event.

You can however enhance your changes of keeping/acquiring a job by constantly updating your skill sets OR adding a new set of different skills. Many job counselors suggest that you should spend 2% of your yearly income to update your skills.

Modern technology is constantly changling not only job skills but even the survival of entire trades. Not too many years ago “typesetting” was a valued trade - today the trade is obsolete.

On the bottom line having both the desire and ability to “learn how to learn” should enhance your job survival skills.


Thursday, October 27, 2005


The typical cost of a burial in the US (2005) is over $6,000. Recently a friend of ours had a brother die and the FAMILY was left to pay the bill (since his estate was bankrupt.) Unfortunately, none of the family members had planned for this contingency anymore than they have for their own. The family members placed the bill on a "Discover" card paying 18%+ percent.

The family could have had a funeral and cremation for less than $1,000 but the funeral director talked them into a "full and expensive burial."

LESSONs LEARNED: The family learned very little and now they are even more deeply in debt. We have signed up with a local CREMATION SOCIETY for the less than $1,000 funeral.

Everyone will die and should plan accordingly.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005


What have I done to make the lives of those around me better (and in the process improving my own life)?


Whenever you make a purchase of an item with a "warrenty" you need to keep the receipt. Even if you don't have a filing system then keep a "box" just for that purpose and throw the receipt in. In the worst scenario you just might have to "root."

If your a Type A personaility you might want to keep a database. Fortunately I just keep the "box" :)


Tuesday, October 25, 2005


"PYRRHUS • Royalty
Pyrrhus inherited the throne of Epirus in Northern Greece around 306 B.C., and as a young man proved himself on the battlefield again and again. Pyrrhus apparently had great strategic skills, but he also had the reputation of not knowing when to stop. In 281 he went to Italy and defeated the Romans at Heraclea and Asculum, but suffered bitterly heavy losses. The devastation led to his famous statement, "One more such victory and I am lost" -- hence the term "Pyrrhic victory" for any victory so costly as to be ruinous. "

Match your objectives to your resources before you begin any project. Having a written plan and KEEPING to your objectives is absolutely essential to success.


Monday, October 24, 2005


Partake in this questionaire:

What makes a GOOD leader? All of the above are important but allow me to stress the importance of these traits: (not in any particular order.)

CHARACTER: (and yes, Hitler was an "effective" leader - but not a good leader.)

Remember: "You NEVER get a second chance to make a first impression (or for that matter to correct consistent daily blunders)."

If you want people to follow you - you must maintain positive traits and envoke confidence.

It is likewise a good idea to periodically allow the people you serve to offer a review of your services (that is if you have the COURAGE to do it.) Malcolm Baldrige survey is a good starting point.


Thursday, October 20, 2005


A friend of mine (an IT director) is in the processing of making a "critical" decision which may affect his career reputation and "job security." His decision - is to convert all of an organization from one OS computer platform to another. The decision itself is not the issue - the fact that HE ALONE is making the decision without adequate input and discussion from the people he serves IS THE ISSUE. And the worst part of this decision was by imparting the message as a mass e-mailing.

NEVER send out MASS MAILING EMAILS or DOCUMENTS announcing policy changes without careful review. As they say in the military "Don't scare the civilians." Never make such decisions during a moment of panic. Always have someone ELSE read your document before distribution.

No important organizational decisions will ever win universal support but CALMNESS, OPEN DISCUSSIONs with your staff, FACTUAL EVIDENCE and an implementation PLAN to win the SUPPORT of the people you are working FOR is essential for success. Shooting from the HIP will neither win success, friends or establish credibility.

Sadly, he had been told on previous occasions that 2 of his predecessors lost their jobs over this same issue. Only time will tell.


Monday, October 17, 2005


My son and daughter-in-law are about to have their first child. Carrying the child was a new experience to both of them.

I had to smile on countless occasions when they would comment "We can't wait until we get over with this." They had no idea of the lifelong journey they were about to partake in.

Raising a child should be a full time job for the "rest of your lives." Ideally, there should never be a day or an hour you are not consciously looking over your shoulder thinking of their needs and your responsibilities. And while not every parent will share this concern with equal passion - but those who truly care will come to realize its importance.

At age 63 we still watch and care for our children. Not that they cannot do the daily issues by themselves but a life long "habit" of being a caretaker is not easily cast aside. (Footnote: My father would remind me to "water" the Xmas tree every year even when he was 92 (and the tree was plastic.))

I presume that at some point they will become "our" care takers - but I don't view that as some obligated responsibility. Hopefully, we have done all the "right things" so that we are not dependent on others - only time can tell.

Children are your legacy.


Saturday, October 15, 2005


Today my handiman told me he was going to have to raise his fees 10% to cover his increased costs. I listened patiently to his "statement" and told him " I have really enjoyed our relationship over the past years but I must now reluctantly end our arrangement as this increase was not in my budget."

My handiman squirmed over my response and finally stated "I hate to loose our relationship and will work with you. I will keep my present rates with you but please don't share this with others." I thanked him for his support.

What would I have done if he had not accepted my response. Yes, I would have moved on to find someone equally competent. In fact, I always keep an eye open for "new people" at competitive rates.

While some items can't be "negotiated" it is always important to keep to your budget/plan if you expect to remain solvent.


Thursday, October 13, 2005


We love to eat out and do it frequently. However if you keep a list of your monthly expenses you will discover just expensive this activity can be. Our monthly eating out bill runs about $500+ (or about the same as our grocery bill.)

" In 1970, Americans spent 34 percent of their food dollars away from home. Today, that figure is about 46 percent."

If you are having monetary problems this should be one of your FIRST containment costs.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005


In the corporate world the phrase "Total Cost of Ownership" is constantly asked whenever a venture is proposed prior to adoption.Sadly, few individual households apply this question to individual purchases.

What does TCO mean? Perhaps the purchase of a "car" might serve as an example.

Assume you decide to purchase a new car for $25,000. What are the variables which truly affect this purchase?

A new car MAY increase your fuel efficiency (provided that was important in the purchase).
A new car WILL decrease some costs of repairs (since they should be under warrenty.)
A new car WILL cost you SALES tax of several thousand dollars.
A new car WILL increase your PERSONAL PROPERTY tax each year by a $1,000+.
A new car WILL increase your AUTO INSURANCE tax by a $1,000+ each year.
A new car WILL not be used to transport 2x4's or trash (limits its functionality.)
A new car WILL depreciate in value by 40% in the first 5 years (loss of $10,000 in the example above.)
A new car WILL most often be purchased on a time-payment plan costing 10-20% in interest payments. (The poorer your credit rating the higher your interest rates.) The poor will always pay more!

So the $25,000 car is costing you a minimum of $5,000-7,000 per year. If someone told you this prior to selling you the car - would you buy it? (Note: the purchase of a new car is the SECOND most expensive purchase most families will ever make.)

TCO applies to every type of purchase (and even human relationships). Even small investments can cost a great deal more than you expect when unanticipated maintenance costs are high. One of my favorite examples is the "ink-jet printer." Companies virtually give the printers away so that you are compelled to purchase THEIR CARTRIDGES at vastly inflated rates.

Even when this strategy is adopted people will often not ask enough or the RIGHT questions. It is important to include multiple viewpoints when critical decisions are being made.

It is important to BALANCE all important decision with this rationale or life may not treat you kind!


Monday, October 10, 2005


It was not until I reached the age of "40" did I truly begin to appreciate the stages of "life passages." 40 was the beginning of life's reminders that I was aging. My hair began to thin and my facial features reflected my age. I gained some weight and did not have the stamina of earlier years.

At age 50 I appeared more like a Benedictine monk both in hair and weight.

At age 60+ I have experienced cancer (loosing a kidney), radical neck surgery (replacing two pads in my neck), and a host of other aches and nerve damage pains that never seem to go away.

And yet these were the physical transitions. And while they serve to remind me of my fraility but also of my good fortune.

In reflection I have been very fortunate to have a wonderful wife, great children, a better than average life style, and some good friends.

There are other "passages" on the horizon - I only hope they wait until I see my new grandson.


Saturday, October 08, 2005


Many people think it is an easy thing to "flip" a house and make a quick fortune. For some people with a trained eye and the necessary skill sets this may be true - for others it is the road to ruin.

I have been watching some "novice" speculators try to convert a $250,000 property into a $550,000 for the past 5 months. Not only did they out price the house for the neighborhood, they simply did not spend their money wisely (paying commercial rates for the redevelopment).

Most commonly people do not have a realistic comprehension of the costs of repairs and home updates. My general rule of thumb is to add 50% to your first upgrade impression and you won't be wrong.


Friday, October 07, 2005


Yesterday a neighbor sought my advice regarding a yard problem. Being retired (and having more time on my hands) has evidently raise my status among my neighbors as a household seer.

I provided the necessary advice and offered to help him with some landscaping issues in his front yard which appeared as an eye sore. After several hours I had cut out all the problems shrubs, weeded, and mulched the area. Today, I visited another neighbor and told him of my project and if he would mind if I could have some pampus grass cuttings to landscape the project. The neighbor graciously offered whatever I wanted and in another hour I had completed 80% of the project.

My neighbor just left my front porch and handed me two bottles of 20 year old wine that he assured me I would enjoy.

So what did I learn?

I felt good doing a good deed without any promise of reward.
I met another neighbor (who gave me the grasses) and (100 lbs of walnuts from trees in his backyard to husk)
I improved the appearance of the neighborhood.
I learned that my neighbor whose lawn I improved was also a retired estate lawyer and has offered to help me with my trust.
And finally, I have two bottles of fine wine...that I am reluctant to open (but will :)

You just never know how good deeds will come back to you....


Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Planning is an essential part to our survival and yet no amount of planning can take every possible "mishap" into account.

It is important to learn that "mishaps" and "disasters" will always be with us and we will need to "cope" and "respond" only after the event appears. Such occurances can be impacted by weather, disease, death, depression, finances, religious beliefs, etc.

Periodically ask yourself some of the "tough" questions and test your own responses.

"What would you do if you discovered you had a fatal disease?"
"What if your spouse could no longer have sex?"
"What would you do if the person(s) you love most died first?"

These are our life "exams" - our lessons for survival come from them. They test our religious and philosophical beliefs and come to reflect our character.

The value of keeping an eye on the horizon of life " can help you survive (emotionally and/or financially).


Tuesday, October 04, 2005


45% of Americans pay each month less than what they purchase on their credit cards. A half dozen companies (American Express, CitiCorp, etc) control 65% of this industry and MAKE over 30 billion dollars a year with ruthless fees, add-on charges, and penalties.

The average family credit card indebtedness is now over $12,000. Paying only the minimal payments means they can never pay the debts off because of the 18-30+% interest charges.

THE LESSON: Pay cash if you cannot control your spending habits. Devise a plan to pay off your debts while you can. Work to accumulate a savings account.

I only use credit cards for specific purposes: those items I want to track in my budget (e.g. groceries, gasoline, etc.) I have NEVER had a late fee or penalty in the 40+ years I have had credit cards - if I can't pay for it I do without.


The traditional rule of thumb is that you should have 3 months income in your savings account. The sad fact of 21st century American families is that the majority have no savings nor a savings plan.

The average family today is spending more than it have earns.

Evidently the childhood story of the "Ant and the Grasshopper" has not been read by everyone.

Your goal should be to save/invest 5%+ of your takehome pay. If your not doing this you will not be ready for a financial diaster OR your retirement.


Sunday, October 02, 2005


I am a list maker. I found it an essential tool to IDENTIFY, PRIORITIZE, and ASSIGN RESOURCES to family issues.

I not only KNOW what issues I face but timeframes and resources for resolution.

It also saves gasoline by placing "travel" and "tasks" into a PLAN.

It saves TIME by preventing unscheduled repetitive trips.