Jun 11

Is America Down and Out?

I have been hearing and reading a lot on America’s impending implosion. Talk of our own “lost decade” similar to Japan’s lost decade in the 90’s seems to be everywhere.  The markets can’t seem to pull out an up day let alone an up week. The unemployment rate is teetering on the line between bad and horrific. The housing market is just about to fall off a cliff. The United States government is broke. Rates can’t be lowered any further. Oh yeah, and we are STILL fighting so many wars costing us billions per day that I lost track. In fact, I am only reminded of these wars when the news reports more American casualties. Pessimism is running rampant and optimism is MIA.

So what should we do? Should we sell everything we own and then buy gold bullion? Maybe buy guns and stock up on canned goods – just to be extra prepared? Its times like these when you need to take a step back and slap yourself in the face or have a loved one do it for you (its better if you don’t see it coming). The answer is none of the above.

American Flag photo by Joel Mcgrath via Flickr Creative Commons

With all the negative headlines one cannot help but to feel badly. Feeling sorry for yourself is not going to make you money and put food on your table. In my opinion, as long as you have a balanced portfolio you should stay in stocks. This is not a time for gambling in the “next micorsoft” as they say, but rather it is a time for sure things. Put your money in the Cokes, Pepsis, P&Gs, Chevrons and the like. I am not a fan of any of the high-growth stocks at this point. I want slow-growing sure things that are paying me an acceptable return.  I also would not recommend buying any financial stocks, home builders or the big industrials. We can go either way here, you don’t want to be on the wrong side of a big market move holding Alcoa. Can these companies still go up? Sure. Do I know they are going up like I did in March of 2009? Not a chance. I have no clue, so I don’t want to own them.

Lets face it, you are most likely not going to be able to sell your house if there are 50 houses for sale on your block. Use common sense. So you hate he place, thats too bad. Put some money into it and make the best out of the situation. Refiance it if you are in an adjustable rate mortgage. What I am saying here is, cover your ass. Batten down your financial hatches and protect what you have.

You are in the best country in the world. If you think its bad here, throw a dart on a map of the world – you are better off than the country you hit. We have more opportunity here than anywhere else in the world. You can be born with nothing and rise to be the President of the United States or a Doctor or a Lawyer. When things start getting bad, I think of the World War II generation and how they are known as the “Greatest Generation.” They grew up during the great depression only to have to fight to free the globe from tyrannical rule as young adults. They came home and were happy to have any job and a small house to call their own. They worked hard and never complained. We need to stop complaining and start working hard.

WWII Kiss photo by So-What-85 via Flickr Creative Commons

America is not down and out. We are searching for our idenity and getting our feet back down to earth. There may be some financial hits taken, but we will be fine. We will pull ourselves up by the boot straps and go to work. We will be happy and content with what we have instead of longing for the extra things our neighbors have. If we do this, even if the economists show you  how we have had our own “lost decade”, we will all have gained something priceless – the pride in America that the Greatest Generation possessed.

WWII Vet photo by Scott Ableman via Flickr Creative Commons


Jan 11

What is Wealth?

Some are born with it. Some achieve it. Some will never experience it. Some just don’t get it. It was many years ago that I began to study the fundamentals of wealth creation. Some people have it and some people do not. The people that had it seemed to have much more fun than the people that did not! As I examined more closely, the wealthy seemed to live a more fulfilling life – and this fact was the driving factor in my personal quest to get it. I wanted a more fulfilling life.

What do you think of when you read the word wealth? Most likely, the first thoughts that pop into your mind are all the things that you can buy. Perhaps a 60-inch LCD television with remote control that can launch a rocket as well as turn on the fireplace is your dream? Or maybe a yacht moored out in the pristine blue water of a Mediterranean bay (complete with wait staff of course)? Or even a shoe closet bigger than your college apartment stocked with the finest shoes hot off the New York runways. All these things are fine and would be really cool to have, but there is a danger in this type of thinking.

Motorboat photo by Maxine Simpson via Flickr Creative Commons

Wealth is a subjective. When are you really wealthy? I recall watching an interview with a hedge fund tycoon that talked about his yearly income which was in the billions. Yes, you read income not wealth or net worth.  This guy admittedly could buy anything in the world and couldn’t spend his money in ten lifetimes. This is an extreme case to show you the sliding scale of wealth we are dealing with. Many people consider themselves wealthy if they can merely control their own life and make decisions on what to do with their money – in other words, they don’t have it spent before they make it.

People often mistakenly associate wealth with success. Although wealth may be a result of successful planning or even achieving one’s goals, it is impossible to measure success by the amount of wealth a person has accumulated. Like wealth, success is subjective. I am sure you can think of hundreds examples of success being achieved with no creation of wealth. The birth of a baby, the finishing a marathon or graduating with a bachelor’s degree can all be examples of success without the presence of wealth creation. Moreover, a person born into a wealth may project success as they have their driver drop them off at the front curb of their high school. Therefore, success may be achieved with or without wealth and wealth may be achieved with or without success.

When you measure your wealth by the amount of things you have or can have, you end up empty and always craving more. I believe wealth offers freedom and options for your life and should be defined as such. If you didn’t have to go to work what would you do? If you actually had the option to plan out your entire day from scratch, would you go to the beach, play a round of golf or write a novel? My challenge to you is to measure your wealth simply by reflecting on your day. How did you spend your day? Did you do whatever you wanted to? The most important thing wealth will buy you is freedom. What you do with your freedom is up to you.