Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Why Do Governments Refuse To Protect Their Citizens?

If you walk into my bedroom, your eyes will most likely gravitate immediately to the vertically hung 6-foot-by-4-foot 48-star American flag that serves as the headboard to my bed. There are only 48 stars to honor the sacrifices Americans made during World War II. The flag also nicely complements the two litho prints that frame it, one of a World War II Corsair about to land on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific, and one of a Corsair flying over some 1940s kids on their bikes in Newport Beach.

If you are a flag buff or served in any official capacity with the flag, especially in the military, you will immediately notice that it is hung incorrectly with the field of stars on your right and not on your left. The reason this flag hangs in this manner is because if you were looking down on a flag-draped coffin from the foot of the coffin, this is how the flag would appear to you. This is to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice to provide me with the freedoms that I enjoy each and every day in this country, including the freedom to live free of oppression and the freedom to speak my mind as I tend to do in these blog posts.

I am writing about this incorrectly hung flag because on the very same morning last week during which I published a blog post calling for the people and governments of the world to unite against those who want to deny us the right to these freedoms and our right to even exist, I also read an article about a French man named Jean-Baptiste Salvaing and French woman named Jessica Schneider.

I never met Jean-Baptiste Salvaing or Jessica Schneider, but I have a feeling we most likely shared at least a few common traits, interests, or beliefs. And while we might not have agreed on everything, we probably would have, at the very least, recognized each other’s right to exist. But sadly, out of the three of us, I am now the only one that does – exist that is.

One evening just last week Jean-Baptiste Salvaing and Jessica Schneider were doing what billions of us across the world do many nights – they were sitting in their home, living their lives, and I am sure like most of us, enjoying life. Then, out of nowhere, their house was broken into and they were savagely murdered. They were not murdered in a robbery, in a crime of passion, or due to some personal vendetta harbored by their murderer.

Jean-Baptiste Salvaing and Jessica Schneider were murdered solely because they were not practicing the beliefs that have been decreed for the entire world to follow by the Islamic State. A man who I will not name because I believe the names of murders should be kept out of the press chose the couple at random. He felt he had been ordered by ISIS to kill and that is what he went out and did.

And while ISIS is most definitely to blame, and the person who committed this horrible act is to blame, I would like to say unequivocally that the French government is also to blame. The murderer was convicted and jailed in 2013 for recruiting jihadists to fight in Syria, and while he was being monitored, the authorities overseeing his case had not seen anything to feel he was a threat. Wow, that sure sounds familiar doesn’t it? Seems like that is the reoccurring theme with the people that commit these acts, isn’t it? They were questioned or served their time and didn’t seem like a threat according to the people in charge.

It was nice that France’s president, who, unlike ours would have done in this situation, immediately recognized this as an act of terror. France’s president then also ordered that the flags across the nation be flown at half-staff to mourn the couple that had been murdered.

And this is why I started out by telling you about my flag that is hung incorrectly according to official standards. See, when I was reading this article about Jean-Baptiste Salvaing and Jennifer Schneider, I made a decision. I decided that if I were to be killed in a terror attack here in America and either our current inept president or a future inept president called for flags across the nation to be flown at half-staff, I would officially like to request, here and now, that his or her order not be carried out. I do not want to see the American flag flown at half-staff to mourn my death from a terror attack on American soil. I want each and every one of you in America to run Old Glory straight up to the top of that flagpole, but first, I want you to hang her upside down. Honor me, friends, by flying America’s flag improperly, just like the one I sleep under. And just like the one I sleep under, I want your improperly hung flags to symbolize something.

I want those upside down flags to symbolize the fact that I am dead because America is in distress and was unable to protect my life from a radical extremist that was hell-bent on my and America’s destruction. I want those upside down flags to symbolize how preventable my death was, but that it was not prevented due to our nation’s inability to properly wage war, her inability to not let political correctness stand in the way of the loss of life of its citizens and her inability to do the right thing when I was counting on her.

It is time for the nations of the world to stop treating jihadists like criminals and treat them like combatants – like soldiers on the field of battle who are murdering unarmed civilians. It is time to treat them like war criminals, not like stupid kids that robbed a liquor store. The man who killed Jean-Baptiste Salvaing and Jennifer Schneider should never have been on the streets of France after having been duly convicted of recruiting jihadists, and every single person in France should be mad as hell that he was, just like every person here in America should be mad as hell when someone who was obviously on the radar of the FBI or CIA commits an act of terror because they were not treated accordingly and kept from committing that act of terror.

The time has come for us to hold the governments of the world, especially our own, accountable for the inaction that is leading to the deaths of their citizens.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

How Long Are We Going To Allow These Terror Shootings To Occur?

Did you stand united with the people of France a little while back? Great! Do you stand united against whatever the cause of the Orlando shooting turns out to be? Great! Do you stand united against extremists who carry out terror attacks? Great! That’s all well and good, but what are we going to do to stop these attacks? It’s heartwarming to see the outpouring of sentiment and unity that always occurs immediately following them. If you can say one thing about humans, it’s that they really know how to come together during and immediately after a crisis. But, sadly, there is also another thing you can say about humans, and it’s that they tend to forget all about a crisis just as quickly as it came on.

Everyone is always all in an uproar when these travesties occur, and I think that is definitely the right reaction, but as with every pervious crisis, the uproar fades to the back of everyone’s minds within a few months, if not sooner. We see it with school shootings - the first few days after it happens, it’s non-stop news coverage, politicians calling for change and everyone pining for this one to be the last one. Then, something so very human happens – a week later, there’s no more news coverage, the politicians move on to other topics and ultimately, in the end, nothing changes. Then, it happens again, the whole cycle starts over, and once again, in the end, nothing changes.

With every terror attack there is an outcry across the world, but with every terror attack we also see the eventual fading of its impact. Those personally impacted by the attack are the only ones that feel it’s lingering effects, but the rest of humanity just goes about their business as usual. The military and political stalemates that have plagued America and her allies since long before September 11, 2001, just seem to continue without end, regardless of where and how often these terror attacks occur.

Our government launches air attacks in Syria, and then people die in the streets of France. Our government bombs targets in Iraq and people die in the streets of London. Our government refuses to use the term “radical Islam” while radical Islamists kill people in streets all over the world. Our government overthrows governments in the Middle East and militants slaughter the citizens of those former countries as soon as we leave. Then, we launch more air strikes and the whole thing starts all over again. Our government’s half-assed, hair-brained tactics and strategy don’t change, so naturally, the outcome of this War on Terror doesn’t change.

The endless cycle of the idiotic and ineffective use of the U.S. military by our government’s leadership that does nothing more than yield more attacks on civilians and civilization is going to just continue on forever unless they do something different, and they will only do something different if we, united as Americans, demand something different – something better – of our government and the people that are currently running it.

If after the first Gulf War, we had supported the Kurds in their uprising against Saddam Hussein, how different would the world be today? Instead, we blasted through Kuwait, patted ourselves on the back and then came home. We hung the Kurds out to dry and then were all up in arms, if only for a few weeks or so, when Saddam gassed them, but then, did nothing at all to help. When Syrian rebels rose up against Asad, we did nothing. When the fledgling Iraqi government was trying to establish a new country, our Commander-in-Chief ensured he kept a campaign promise instead of ensuring the Iraqi nation was strong enough to stand on its own, even while his generals told him he was making a huge mistake. When ISIS was coming to power, that same genius dismissed them and did nothing while they swept across land, slaughtered people and easily commandeered a good portion of the military supplies we left in Iraq, making ISIS the best-equipped militant group in the history of mankind. Throw in the oil fields we let them capture and they’re the best funded as well. And now, this group is coordinating, inspiring and helping deliver terror across the globe, just as Al-Qaeda did when we chose to ignore them back in the 1990s.

Today, Islamic extremists will slaughter Christians, Catholics, Jews, atheists or anyone else who doesn’t share their views, yet our government and it’s inept leadership refuses to even acknowledge religious zeal and philosophy, no matter how misguided, are the actual root causes of the slaughter. These people are not out to gain territory, to commandeer wealth and power - they are out to acquire the resources they need to accomplish their goal of wiping any and all non-believers in their faith off the planet, whether those non-believers be in Kurdistan, France or here in America. Are you Muslim? No? Well, they want you dead. Even if you are Muslim, do you support their ultra-idealistic slaughter of non-Muslims? No? Well, then, they want you dead. This is their belief, my friends, and as long as our government refuses to acknowledge religious zeal and fanaticism as the true reason these people want to kill us, it will never take the steps necessary to properly fight this threat.

And, just to be clear, this is a threat we need to fight – a threat we need to eradicate. This is not a threat we can simply contain to a geographic area and hope it never reaches our shores or homes. Philosophies and beliefs cannot be contained like pinning down a fighting force in a ravine until they eventually surrender. Communism does not have a geographic boundary. Fascism does not have a geographic boundary. They are philosophies and people all over the world believe in them. The same is the case with Islamic extremism. Bomb the shit out of Syria, bomb the shit out of wherever, but that alone is not going to stop the Islamic extremist that is laying low while working at Walmart or McDonald’s until the time is right or until he gets the call that it’s time to roll.

What will stop this? A lot of folks out there want you to believe that nothing can be done and that we just have to sit back and take this, or worse yet, ignore it and hope it goes away. Some say bring back every American soldier back to American soil and abandon all our bases around the world – simply pull out of the Middle East and the extremists will be placated and leave us alone. But, how do we sit back and watch as groups like ISIS commit atrocities around the world, then do nothing? Simply coming back home won’t work, either, though I can see why some people think it might. The problem with this theory, though, is that when your enemy needs your very existence to recruit and rally troops, needs you to provide them with a common evil to bring their misguided followers together and to get them to do their bidding, completely leaving that enemy alone will do nothing because they will ensure no matter what you do, you still remain the focus of their efforts and their ire.

The bottom line is doing nothing or simply retreating back home will not stop these attacks. I do believe, however, that a number of our former service members have the answer, but before I get to that, let’s explore a concept.

Let’s pause here for just a second to drive home a point. It is a difficult point to understand, especially with the lives we lead here in America, but it is a point that we all should really be coming to a realization about. There are people who wake up everyday and make it their mission to kill as many Americans or other westerners or non-believers as they can. They might not get the chance to do that very often, but they work towards that goal nonetheless, and on occasion, some actually do get the opportunity to fulfill their mission. On November 13, 2015, there were some people in France who woke up that morning and said, “Today, I am going to go out and kill as many people as I can.” And unfortunately, there were 129 people who became their victims. If you had been in that concert hall, at that stadium, sitting outside those restaurants, it could have been you. They wish it had been you. There are whole masses of people out there in the world who wish it had been you. I know that is such a hard concept to comprehend because they don’t name us by name and aren’t people we know, but make no mistake about it, they want to kill you – they want to end your life, end your children’s’ lives, end the lives of people you know and care about – all because your beliefs are different from their beliefs. I’d be remiss not to point out that those who will actually carry out these attacks and fulfill this mission are a very small segment of the world’s human population, but they do exist, so their threat should not be ignored. Read this paragraph again and let that sink in and I guarantee you still won’t fully comprehend this concept.

What we have to realize together as those who simply want to live our lives in peace the way that we see fit, and see everyone else in the world experience that same type of life, is that we are not fighting a nation state, we are not fighting an oppressive government, we are not fighting a militia or terrorists - we are fighting a belief system that doesn’t simply run counter to our own, but is a belief system that calls for the immediate death of any living human on the planet that disagrees with that belief system. It is time for us to band together as a civilization to bring this bullshit to an end, just as the world did against fascism, National Socialism and the communist regimes that murdered millions of people. We need to put politics aside, we need to put our differences aside, and we need to demand that the free governments of the world finally pull their heads out of their asses and actually do something to stop this threat before it kills more of us.

So, what’s the solution? Well, it’s not to put 300,000 American troops on the ground in Syria or Iraq and it’s definitely not to continue doing what we are doing, which is only flying over the area and dropping bombs. The solution is actually somewhere in between - work with the governments and Muslim fighters in the region who support the principles of civilization and justice and help them destroy this plague that exists within their lands, culture, and religion. The solution is to stop this bullshit political correctness in Western nations and see things for what they are – see the enemy of civilization for what it is and its fighters, combatants, soldiers, jihadists, freedom fighters, or whatever the hell you want to call them for what they are – humans hell-bent on killing those that are different from them – humans that have usurped a legitimate religion as justification for their actions and will stop and nothing to carry out those actions. This is not the first time humanity has seen this, but it is definitely real, and definitely something that all of humanity should be working together to eradicate.

We don’t need to spend $5 billion bombing carloads of high-value targets and ammunition dumps on a unilateral basis while continuing to ignore the intelligence on the ground, ignoring the advice of our own military experts and not working closely with the local militias who are willing to fight the extremists that have taken over their homelands. We need to spend our money working with the local boots on the ground that stand for the same things we do – freedom of religion, freedom to exist and freedom to live free from tyranny. We need to prop these forces up and do all we can to help them fight the battles they need to fight – to help them win the battles they need to win. We need to use our superior air power and military might to organize and support the true freedom fighters that are willing to fight against Islamic extremist militants and other oppressive regimes. If we are going to continue to thrust ourselves on to the world stage and claim jurisdiction as the police of the entire planet, then it is time for us to do the job the right way – work with allies and local fighters, providing military support while spreading good will through aid and education.

Watch the military correspondents on television and they seem to know how to combat this plague. Look to the White House and it seems like no one knows what the hell to do. Where is the disconnect? Why isn’t government listening to the experts? You want the support of the Muslim world and want them to like us? Then help them fight their fight for justice and for freedom. Don’t spend your day making sure you don’t say the words “radical Islam”, spend your day making sure you are leading the civilized world in eradicating radical Islam for the benefit of everyone alive in the world today. Spend your day helping the people around the world who are fighting oppressive regimes in order to provide a better life for their families.

And what do we do about the extremists here in our own neighborhoods and those that are on their way? We demand that our leaders shore up our immigration policy and control our borders, whether it be a physical border or simply who we let fly into this country on an aircraft or sail over on a boat. We need to enforce our immigration laws, demand real reform to the broken system we have today and make sure we know unequivocally who is here and why they are here. This is not an unreasonable demand for citizens to make of their government. Make no mistake about it, there are ISIS agents and sympathizers here in America today and they are just as capable of causing mass death as their brothers in arms in Paris. The shootings in San Bernardino and Orlando, whether tied directly to ISIS or not, are prime examples of the influence the group has on people regardless of where they were born, or where they live. And if they were my soldiers to command, I’d be sending extremists into America via it’s broken border and immigration system, especially at a time when Americans are too worried about being politically correct to protect themselves from my agents of death. A powerful enemy exploits your weaknesses and our lax immigration policy is a great one to exploit.

It is truly time for us as the actual targets of the world’s Islamist extremist militants to demand that our governments take the necessary steps to ensure our safety and eradicate this threat from the world. It is time for people to wake up and realize that they are the intended targets. They are the non-Muslims and Muslims alike that these murderers and aspiring murderers want to kill – are training to kill – are praying each day that they will have the opportunity to die while killing, therefore guaranteeing them a passage to paradise – blissful life-everlasting if only they can kill at least one of us before they themselves go on to meet their prophet, their creator and their glorious end.

And lastly, it is time for us to not just put a color transparency over our Facebook profile picture for a couple weeks then forget about this real and violent threat until the next time there is a terror attack. It is time for us to demand real change, to demand effective leadership, effective foreign policy and effective security from the people who demanded that we send them to Washington, D.C. to lead, regardless of their party and regardless of their views on domestic and foreign issues. If there is one thing our government should do, it is protect us from attacks like the one that occurred in France last November, the one that occurred in San Bernardino in December, and the one that occurred in Orlando this past weekend. Sadly, I worry they are not prepared to do so and the fact they are simply paying lip service to the fight against ISIS and other Islamic extremists instead of actually working with fighters around the world to destroy them is the biggest indicator of the real trouble we’re actually facing. ISIS fighters and other extremists are here in our neighborhoods. It’s time for us to wake up and demand our leaders do something about it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Hard Work vs. Panhandling

I know in today’s modern, progressive American society where every child gets a trophy and they are all “#1”, we’re not supposed to compare people to each other, but I recently experienced two very different spectrums of humanity over the course of a week that I just had to share.

As many of you know, we have been involuntarily re-piping all of the water pipes in our house thanks to the perfect combination of the bureaucracy that put way too much crap in the water that comes into our house and the regulatory bodies that made it perfectly legal to build my house with only the second highest grade of five possible quality grades of copper pipe. Naturally, corrosive water and cheap pipes resulted in an unbelievable amount of water leaks in our neighborhood, including six in my home over the course of a year.

As part of this re-pipe project, during a walk-through by the construction company overseeing the work crews, I was instructed to cover just about everything in the entire house in plastic tarps to save it from being covered in a very fine, but very difficult to remove layer of drywall dust. We took all the pictures off the walls, boxed up every knick-knack in the house, and then, the evening before the re-pipe was to begin, planned to cover every piece of furniture and anything not in a box in plastic.

Being the frugal individual you all know me to be, I proceeded directly to the closest Walmart to get the plastic tarps I would need to cover all of my earthly possessions from the impending, menacing drywall dust.

So, this is when I found myself leaving the Walmart parking lot, as I so often do, after a full and long day of working, prior to heading home. Plastic tarps...check! Having to go home and spend hours prepping the house for the re-pipe instead of relaxing after having worked all day...check!

Now, if you’ve ever visited the Walmart in Laguna Niguel, California, you also will have noticed that nine times out of ten when you leave the parking lot, there is a member of our not-so-transient homeless community sitting at the exit with a sign, asking you to part with some of your money on your way out of the parking lot.

You can call me heartless and selfish and so many things worse, but you will never see my car stop to hand these folks some of the money that I have earned by working day in and day out for the past 25 years. Call it a personal choice. Do I give to charity? You bet. Do I also part ways with nearly 30% of the money I earn each and every year and send it to the local, state and federal governments, which provide programs that help the less fortunate? Guilty as charged! Do I put icing on that cake by handing more money to the folks asking for it around town? No, I do not. Bless those of you that do, but I’ve made my decision and I’m sticking to it.

But this particular evening, I did slow down a bit as I passed the person manning this corner on which there is always someone with a sign, soliciting donations to their own private cause because he definitely did not fit the mold of the usual types of folks manning that corner. I was in disbelief. There, sitting on an empty milk crate, was a young man, easily older than a high school senior, but definitely not much older than your average college graduate; a good-looking guy, about 6 feet tall, fit and overtly muscular, though he was wearing a loose-fitting jacket.

So, let me get this straight...You are younger than are taller than are definitely in much better shape than me, yet I worked all day, and here you are, not working, asking me to give you some of the money I worked for today.

Now I hear all you voices of reason out there, coming down on me for not knowing this man’s circumstances and all of the reasons that he was on that corner with that sign, but as someone who has worked every type of job from manual labor to sitting at a desk as well as managing teams in both types of jobs, trust me when I tell you I think I am a pretty good judge of character of who is physically and mentally capable of working, and this kid was a Soviet propaganda minister’s dream.

Now that we have established the first point of my comparison, let me flash forward a few days for you. I spent that evening covering everything in plastic and prepping the house, and then spent the next two days working from home, holed up in one of our spare bedrooms while the re-pipe company’s hard working team ripped apart my drywall, pulled out my horrible copper piping and replaced it with brand new non-metal piping that is supposed to still be leak free long after I leave this world. While I had these teams of hard-working, polite and very respectful gentlemen working so hard on my house to fix my plumbing, I could not help but think back to the kid with the sign asking for money on the corner. But, that’s still not even the hard-working counterpoint in my comparison.

The locking doorknob and that leads from the house into the garage has been giving me trouble for some time. It’s original equipment from when they built the house back in 1997, and while I had the innards rebuilt and rekeyed back in 2002, it was very safe to say it was time to replace this lock. I gingerly locked and unlocked it each day, prolonging its life as best I could. You remember that part about me being frugal, right? But, with all of the in and out, opening and closing of that door through the first two days of the re-pipe project, by the time I was closing up shop that second afternoon, my lock was done for. There would be no more ginger-ness - it was time to replace it.

Wanting to keep the same keys, I did a Google search for a locksmith and the top search yielded a small, local operation that had some really great reviews. The reviews all said that the proprietor of this locksmith company was a young guy, but that he really knew his stuff. My Friday afternoon call to this locksmith was promptly answered and I set an appointment for Monday afternoon, following what would be day five of the six-day re-pipe project.

The locksmith did ask that I go ahead and purchase the locks I wanted him to install, but he was able to tell me over the phone the exact replacements I needed because my locks were no longer made. In fact, he was a little surprised I was still using locks that old, but said he could make quick work of rekeying the new locks to my existing key.

So, Saturday sees the first day of drywall repair, Sunday sees a day off from home refurbishment, and Monday sees me working from home in my holed up spot again. Then, Monday afternoon, just as scheduled, there is a knock on the front door, and standing there is a skinny, scrawny little guy that looks like he could still be a college student, with his locksmith license in a lanyard badge around his neck, wearing shorts and a T-shirt that says “Locksmith” on it. If you had seen this kid walking down the street, you’d have thought he was going home to do his homework.

I invite him in and after some small talk, he sets to work on rekeying the locks I had purchased. Just as he said he would, he made quick work of it, explaining to me that he installed the new locking doorknob and deadbolt I purchased, but did not swap out the strike plates in the door frame because with the door frame being sheet metal, the strike plates I already had were a much better option than the ones that came with the knob and deadbolt. He showed me how the deadbolt was hitting the strike plate a bit, but said he would modify it as needed so it would be a much better fit.

After modifying the strike plate and reinstalling it, the job was done. It took a little over half an hour, and I was amazed at how well this young tradesman had breezed through the work. I asked him what I owed him, he produced a price list, and then quoted me a price that I thought to be very reasonable and fair for the job he did. I paid him cash, told him to keep the $5 in change I was due, and he then proceeded to tell me that since he had some time to spare before his next call, if I wasn’t too busy, that he would show me something about my front door lock that I should be concerned about.

He then proceeded to show me that my front door lock, being almost 20 years old now, predated a security feature that prevents a thief from making a make-shift key that would unlock my front door with just this key and a quick, carefully placed tap. He demonstrated the maneuver for me on a spare lock he kept just for demonstration purposes as to not do any damage to my lock. And after showing me this extremely easy trick that someone could use to unlock my door, he offered to fix it for me for free since he had the time and I had been such a good customer.

This young tradesman not only put in the security measure necessary to keep my lock from opening with a makeshift key, but also proceeded to tell me that when he was cleaning my front door lock, also free of charge, he noticed the original construction pins were still in the lock. He said that this was a concern because somewhere out there could be a storage facility from the original builder of my house that held a key that would open my front door. He then told me that I no longer needed to worry about that, though, because in addition to adding the new security measure and cleaning my lock for free, he also removed the construction pins as well. He said the chances of the original construction company key surfacing were low, but even if it did happen now, the key would no longer open the door. I had a very experienced commercial locksmith out in 2002 that rekeyed that very same lock for me and never mentioned any of this to me.

With my front door lock cleaned and refurbished, as well as more strongly secured than when he arrived, this young tradesman thanked me for my business and went on to his next call. As I closed the door and began to clean up the house from that day’s re-pipe work, I could not help but think back to the guy with the sign – who was bigger, stronger, taller, and more fit than either me or my new locksmith friend, though the locksmith and the guy with the sign definitely seemed to be about the same age.

Two young Americans – one already an experienced tradesman, knowledgeable and a credit to his profession who was running his own business – and one sitting on an empty crate on the corner of the Walmart parking lot with a sign, begging for money. You say that I am not supposed to compare these two young men to each other, and I say not comparing them does the biggest disservice imaginable to this country, our people, our children, and these two young men.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Don't Hate The Money Monster

Sorry to disappoint all of you Wall Street haters out there, but the lesson of the movie Money Monster is not that Wall Street is ‘evil’. The lesson is that when you invest your money in something, whatever that may be, it is up to you to educate yourself about what you are investing in instead of simply following someone else’s advice, especially if that someone else is a talking head on TV.

If you are a seasoned investor with a well-diversified portfolio, then you are going to watch Money Monster for its entertainment value, Monday-morning quarterback the movie for a few minutes afterwards, and then move on with your life. There is nothing controversial or overly thought-provoking in the movie for you. CEO’s lying and taking advantage of loop holes, making secret deals with union leaders to avoid or prolong strikes to manipulate share prices – it’s all run-of-the-mill normal ‘evil’ capitalism to you. Markets and share prices go up and come down and based on when you buy, you’ve either made some great money by the time you sell, or you’ve taken a bath if you sell now, or worse yet, are forced to sell at market bottom for some reason, but have diversified and saved enough that you don’t have to sell at bottom, but can hold on and ride out the storm, or in the worst case scenario, completely lose that fraction of your portfolio, but have that loss cancelled out by holdings and gains in other areas. No big deal, right? Diversification, golden rule, etc., etc.

But, if you’re a novice investor or someone who is not actually invested in the market yet, you’re going to see Money Monster and it is going to reinforce all of the ‘evil’ Wall Street stereotypes that you have come to know and love over the years. The poor little guy who comes into a large sum of money and invests it without any real knowledge of money, the market, the company he is investing in, all because he is trying to do something a little smarter with the windfall than blow it on a new expensive car or ridiculously expensive home theater system. And to top it off, that poor little guy is taking the advice of an investor turned cable finance channel showman a la Jim Cramer on a single given day as he looks for that one great investment that is going to turn his $60,000 into a million bucks in no time flat. The novice and non-investors out there are going to walk out of Money Monster feeling even more conspired against and stolen from by the big banks and ‘evil’ capitalists than they already feel because of their self-perceived non-self-inflicted, down-trodden life state – still waiting for that one big break that will help them get rich, and get rich quick through a single investment.

The lesson of the movie Money Monster is this: Please, please, please, for the love of God, if you do not know anything or very little about money and you come into a chunk of it, either via inheritance, lottery, surprise duffle bag full of money mysteriously left on your door step, or some other means, DO NOT, I say again, DO NOT, invest that money without learning as much as you can about investing first! And for the sanity of all of us who are forced into the position of not feeling bad for you when you do so, DO NOT invest all of your money in a single position – a single stock, a single commodity, a single store, a single person, a single advisor, a single family member, a single family business, a single investment house, a single hedge fund, etc.

This lesson has been out there for all of us since the dawn of investing, folks. When you work at Enron, you don’t take all of your 401K money or all of your windfall from Great Aunt Shirley’s will and put it all in Enron stock. The single greatest advice on investing is NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, put all of your eggs in one basket. I know a lot of you out there that just said, “Well, duh,” to yourself and rolled your eyes, but if you watch any news interview with your average non-informed investor right after a market crash, or spend any time watching American Greed on CNBC, then you know the common theme in these post-crash or post-swindle stories is someone taking all of their money and investing it all in one place. “I took my life savings and gave it all to one guy and it was a scam and now I have nothing!” “I worked at Enron, I invested every penny at Enron, and now I have nothing!” These stories wouldn’t exist if people weren’t out there still doing this.

If you want to drive a car, we have laws in place that say you must be trained. Go try to rent a plane without a pilot’s license and see what happens. Yet, you can open a brokerage account online without any training what so ever. You can take your life savings, no matter how small or large that sum may be, and invest it in the most ridiculous way possible and there are no laws to stop you. I am not saying there should be, but capitalism, folks, she expects you to at least have some common sense and learn a little bit about something before you invest your life savings in it! And honestly, that’s not a lot to ask.

So, go see Money Monster and either enjoy it, hate it, find the main character either a hero, anti-hero or cliché uninformed investor, but please never lose sight of the fact that while the lesson of the movie may be diversify, diversify, diversify on the surface, the real message is, PLEASE, for the love of all in this world, DON’T INVEST YOUR MONEY IN THE MARKET IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING! Leave that money sitting in an FDIC insured savings account until after you take the time to learn more about investing and the market!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

When Something Remarkable Happens

Two years ago today, something remarkable happened. A job that I held for a little over seven years came to an end. The remarkable part, however, is the blessing that job ending turned out to be.

When we become unemployed, we are naturally faced with the uncertainty of how long it is going to take us to find that next job, and if we’re living paycheck to paycheck, even with a little severance pay and some stored up vacation time pay, it has the potential to be a really nerve-wracking experience.

But like I said, something pretty remarkable happened that day. When I walked out the lobby door of the building I had worked in for over seven years straight, I found myself walking to my car with a smile on my face and a sense of relief. Granted, I had planned financially for just this type of eventuality, so my cushion was there, but money aside, even in that first hour of being officially unemployed, I felt a sense of opportunity and freedom.

That is because every time in life a journey ends, a new journey begins, and it is important for us to remember that. No matter how bad an experience, no matter how shocking (or anticipated) an unexpected event can be, if we’re still breathing, then there is still a chance to turn a potential crisis into an opportunity. And if we play our cards right, we can turn that unexpected event into something really positive.

In my case, this job ending afforded me the opportunity to reflect on the past seven years with ample time to really look into what was positive and what was negative about the experience. The wonderful thing about life’s potential challenges is that they provide us with crystal clear insight into the lessons each of us is supposed to learn.

By taking the time necessary to reflect, analyze and gain an understanding of this remarkable event, I was able to truly know what I wanted my next move to be, and what I needed to do to accomplish it. I also was able to analyze and understand exactly what it was going to take to ensure I re-experienced the positives of this seven-year stint as well as ensure I did not re-experience the negatives. This reflection allowed me to conduct a job search over the next two months that put my career and so many other aspects of my life on an even better trajectory than it already had been.

So, when faced with a change, it is important that we stay calm, not only look at the positive, but also gain a true understanding of the negative, so we can learn from both, and above all, remember that just because one of life’s journeys has come to an end, a far better journey may be just around the corner.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"...How That CAN Work For Me."

You’re reading the latest article by your favorite life coach, business coach, or some other expert. You believe this person has the expertise in a subject you want to learn more about. You plug through the intro and are feeling great about what you are reading. Either you already know this person knows their stuff, or you’re coming to know that fact quickly as you read.

Then, it happens. You’ve finished reading the part in the piece that provides the instructions you should follow and it’s time for you to take action and implement the expert’s advice in your own life. You trust the person knows what they are talking about and you know their method has worked for them, but as soon as that guru tells you to try the same exact thing, your mind instantly drifts to “Well, that worked for you, but there is no way that will work for me.”

It’s hard not to think that someone’s advice based on his or her own experience with the subject will never work for you, so you are not alone. Especially if you have tried similar things in the past, but did not achieve the promised results. And while you’ll soon see that I make this statement with tongue in cheek, I am here to tell you that you are 100% correct! In most cases, the same exact thing this expert did WILL NOT work out exactly the same for you. That is because you are a different person (each of us is unique, right?) and your circumstances, while possibly similar, are not exactly the same as their circumstances.

That being said, the point of this piece is not to discourage you by telling you that you are right in thinking someone’s exact advice will not work exactly the same way for you, but to tell you that you can still heed the advice, but first, must modify that advice just enough so that it becomes practical for your own personal scenario. Don’t just throw your hands up in the air and say “Well, that will never work for me!” but instead, pause for a moment and say, “Let me see how that CAN work for me!”

The shortest route from point A to point B is a straight line, and while that may be true, when you are driving, the route that takes the least amount of time from point A to point B can change based on the driver, the type of car they are driving, their personal driving style (and speed at which they are comfortable driving), traffic patterns at that time of day as well as the influence on the route by other drivers, such as the impact caused by an accident. And just like driving from point A to point B, you should keep in mind there is more than one way to get where you need to go in life, and the shortest amount of time to traverse life’s journey can boil down to the individual making the trek.

So, instead of immediately stomping your feet and saying there is no way the route that person took will ever work for you, keep an open mind, observe, contemplate, and then apply what you already know about the subject and yourself. Factor all of this together with the knowledge their exact route to success will not work exactly the same for you, but then apply their advice to your own situation, again by thinking, “Let me see how that CAN work for me.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Why You Should Skip That New Car In Your 20s

When you are in your 20s – early 20s if you skip college and go right to work – or maybe your mid to late 20s if you finish school before taking on that first full-time job – you are most likely going to find yourself earning more money than you ever have before in your life. While this salary will pale in comparison to the money you will most likely be making in your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, etc., this new windfall in your bank account is very likely to get you thinking about buying a shiny, brand new car.

If you’re like me, you drove a few clunkers through high school and college, and the prospect of trading that money sitting in your account and that money coming in from those future paychecks for a new car is going to be a very powerful temptation.

But, while it seems like a pretty harmless financial choice because you’re young and have all those years of working ahead of you, opting for a brand new car at this point in your financial life can greatly affect the amount of money you can save and the dividends and investment gains you can earn over the course of the rest of your life.

If you insist on upgrading to a new vehicle, at least go with a pre-owned car because it will save you a lot of money up front and you won’t get hit that hard with depreciation – at least not as hard as if you buy a new car. But if you already have a car, and it’s not leaving you stranded by the side of the road once a month, it might make the most financial sense to keep the car you already own.

According to a study by the National Institute on Retirement Security, some 45% of working-age households have no assets in a retirement account, and those that do have an average balance of $40,000. The average price of a new car, according to USA Today is $33,560. How many of those households with no balance or below average balance in their retirement account have a brand new car that is costing tens of thousands of dollars? Take into consideration that most car purchases are financed, which adds financing fees on top of the price of the car, and consider the value of a new car drops 20% in the first year and by more than 50% by the fifth year, and you can clearly see how saving the money you would spend on a brand new car is clearly the better financial decision.

It is important to remember that your desire for that shiny, brand new car will definitely subside once you’re knee-deep in five years’ worth of car payments and an inflated interest rate. Plus, keep in mind that if you can pull together just $16,000 in five years (that’s $266.67 per month), and invest that money, even at a return of 7%, you would have $120,000 in 30 years. And 30 years from now, you most likely still won’t have that shiny new car you were just dying to get in your 20s.