Monday, November 26, 2012

'The Anxiety Society'

48) The Anxiety Society

elcome to today's Depression Session, here at the Anxiety Society.

            Today we will cry and self medicate.  We'll bitch & moan, whine, complain and sleep.

            The only cost is your salvation.  No one can help you if you don't want to help yourself.

            If you're serious about ending it, and letting the rest of us down - friends, family, children - please do so quickly and quietly, and keep the line moving.

            If not, please hide your lethargy and temptation to complain.

            Reduce your sugar, caffeine, alcohol & drugs, and increase your sun exposure and exercise.

            ‘Fake it 'til you make it.’  Make yourself look decent since feeling good starts with looking good.

            Get out of bed.  Take a shower; regiment your existence.  Pace yourself.  Visit others.  Find a way to laugh frequently.  See a doctor, read, pray.  Repeat your affirmations three times daily - in the present tense.  Try standing and reciting them loudly.

            You cannot overcome or recover from this affliction by doing just one big thing; you must consistently do many small things.  We are biochemical beings in this incarnation, housing our essence; the correct mixture must be maintained!

            If you can't do the 'right' thing, it's better to still do some-thing, rather than noth-ing.

            Healthily help yourself.  Forgive yourself.  Don't be so hard on yourself.  Give yourself permission to be human, and sad, and feel bad.

            Take what you need and leave the rest.

            Your journey may be long and arduous.  The light at the end of the tunnel may elude you for years.  Don't let this preclude your faith; knowing this can preserve it.

            In the pool, we teach the children, “What's worse than a drowning victim?  Two drowning victims!  Take care of yourself, first!  In an airplane, we teach you to put on your oxygen mask before that of the child next you.  You must save/protect yourself and then help others - and then, HELP OTHERS; it will help you.

            Heed well, or suffer the dark.  Learn well, practice frequently, and celebrate the light.

            The first step: dealing with daily survival.

            Once you deal with emergencies, you can get your daily survival under control.  You can look ahead, set long-term goals, make a plan; and find a way to execute it.  One step at a time; one day at a time.

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

            Emergency plan, Systems, Financial Plan.

            Are you taking care of yourself?


Friday, November 16, 2012

'Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best’

47) Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best



hile I'm surrounded by people who have to deal with the effects of Hurricane Sandy, and the Nor' Easter, I encountered separate challenges.  They no longer involved the safety and comfort of family, nor wind, water, snow, power and physical destruction; I appropriately planned and managed those.   No, I received my annual holiday data corruption & emotional devastation package, a month early.

            I have karmic issues with computers et al.  My computers have always had issues that require me to make back-ups of back-ups; forget about triple redundancy; mine are squared and still have problems.  I have hardware firewalls and software firewalls, and portable drives to slide in my pocket for the next 9/11, as I grab the cat and hop my 10-speed.

            I often wonder if I should switch professions to Computer Engineer, since, like Star Trek's Enterprises, it seems that 50% of my human resources must be invested in maintaining my technology.

            It's not just computers.  It's migrated to toaster ovens, electric wires, and mechanical, low-tech devices.

            Keys & locks won't work, clocks stop, light switches break, electric lines go dead, TV boxes short out, and my cousin's cat died after I pet it!  (She believes I put out too strong an electrical charge; I must refer to my Kirlian photograph.)

            True to form, Murphy's Law and Schwartz's Corollary come into play (see prior blogs).

            Yet, once I squelch the panic, I can - must - deal with it.  If I'm patiently educated, my expectations managed, and my fears assuaged, I am able to release my anxiety, depression, stress, anger, complaining and fatalism, and obtain a rational view of my life - until the next time.

            My back-ups restore my life and my business, and I move forward.  I do what I have to do to survive, just like the homeless survivors of Breezy Point in the Rockaways who have lost their homes.

            I have a plan.

I look out for my physical safety & well-being on a daily basis; I have systems for running for my life.  I have insurances in place to prevent me from falling too far backward, and I have goals for moving forward.

            World crises may continue to worsen, from nature to energy, water & food shortages.  Some issues have been created by humans, some by nature, and they can combine and domino.  We can theorize such things as the burning of fossil fuels forming hydrocarbons; they, combined with the solar activity cycle, quicken Earth's heating.  Then, the ice caps melt, so now there’s more water in the atmosphere and less weight on Earth’s surface.  The heat with wet skies, cause worse and more frequent hurricanes, and the lower weight on Earth’s crust, may be allowing or causing earthquakes.  Tsunami!

Okay, assume I’m wrong; it isn’t worth the risk.  Life is fragile. (See earlier blog.)

Storms are more frequent, more severe and more unpredictable then we can remember.

In the middle of the US, we have the underground sea that, millions of years ago, separated the East Coast from the West.  It was formed during the last ice age.  Water was left behind by retreating glaciers, and somehow it ended up underground.  We discovered and tapped it, and we farm.

But, it’s running low.  The water isn’t replenished by rain.  No one’s really asking, and no one’s answering how to supply water to the middle of US later this century.

I’m under the impression that more than a dozen US states have official warnings about eating fish more than once a week.  The issue relates to what water sewage treatment plants don’t treat.  Some pollutants are harmful, like chemicals and pharmaceuticals.  Some seem less so, such as the caffeine, which is being found in freshly caught fish.

Many people around the world have to drink water that isn’t clear - brownish, if anything.  Many get infected from bacteria.  This could happen to everyone.

We have to PLAN.

            The planet is truly a living organism.  All of Mother Earth’s parts are inter-related.  We know that water circulates from any particular starting point around the globe, and eventually, circulates back, albeit some eons.

            The parts of your personal life and financial plan are just the same - all inter-related.

The planning process for anything in life starts when awareness is raised.

Then information is obtained, and education ensues.

Then you make a plan.

Making a plan starts with a goal - where are you going?  Start by seeing a 'Big Picture' - like a picture on the box of a jigsaw puzzle of your life.  You create the picture from your mind.

            Then, get the pieces and start by framing your picture puzzle. (Financial Statements/Reports)

Once it's framed, you must decide what sections to work on first.  (e.g. budget, tax, credit, 401(k), college, house)

            As you work and develop a plan, which takes physical, mental and psychic energy, you must remember that you can't jam the pieces in where they don't belong, so it's important to know when to take a break and walk away.  You return later - not too much later, to go back to it.  The hard part’s starting.  Once you develop habits, it becomes easier.

Eventually, all of the pieces start to come together and you can see the ‘Big Picture”

            Like many things in life, planning is important: measure twice, cut once.  However, you must execute/implement.

            Many people have great plans, but they’re always getting ready to implement them, rather than actually doing so.

Without execution/implementation, all is for naught: "For all sad words of tongue or pen. The saddest are these, 'What might have been.'" - John Greenleaf Whittier

            You can't constantly be getting ready without eventually jumping in the pool.  You must finally Do it.

As the picture comes into view, you can see how the pieces fit together.  If you get a raise at work, it increases your income taxes; but it also allows you to buy a home (because you can afford the mortgage & real estate taxes).  But the mortgage & real estate taxes are tax-deductible - which, now, lowers your taxes.  Also, your savings may be reduced by the down payment, meaning you may now want to replenish - or build- an emergency fund.  Your credit will be different.  It changes your budget, insurance, 401(k) contribution, and estate plan.

Now that you’ve identified the issues (monitored the plan), you can address them (manage the plan).

            A good plan allows for contingencies.

And that makes life easier.

            Some day is To-day.  Can you afford to keep putting things off?


Sunday, November 11, 2012

'And the Winner Is...'

46) Nor 'Easters in New York!   And the Winner Is...

o Barack Obama is, again, the President.  What does this mean for your money?

            Well, if you have a good financial plan, it will mean only adjustments since a good plan is comprehensive, and allows for flexibility and uncertainty.

            On November 13, 1789, one week after the first Tuesday following the first Monday (i.e. Election Day - although, that very first Election Day was actually held on January 7th), Ben Franklin quipped, "There's nothing certain in life except death & taxes".  So, it's timely and prudent to explore what parts of the Tax Code affect you, because some taxes are going to have to go up.  (This is a great time to start learning about the US Tax Code by watching SFN's free videos at www.WomenAndMoney.TV.)

            This could be a good year to take previously deferred income and sell anything that will have a capital gain (profit).

            Tax management usually involves doing many small things rather than one big one, so it's important to understand a wide spectrum of issues that affect you.

            Income taxes can eat up anywhere from 10% to 50% of your income.  You can't consistently generate that kind of return from securities (e.g. stocks, bonds, CDs, mutual funds, real estate, gold, etc.).  Therefore, the best, first investment you can make, other than in your financial education, is in tax management.  Saving a guaranteed 10% - 50% is smarter than trying to generate 8%, an aggressive return these days.

            Also, federal estate tax rates can eat up more than 33% of your estate, not to mention state estate taxes!  So you may want to explore the results of death!

            If you have money in a Traditional IRA or 401(k), when you die, it will be exposed to both, income tax, and estate tax!

            This means exploring legal remedies (e.g. estate planning, trusts, charitable giving, re-titling assets, beneficiary designations, etc.) to protect your money from estate taxes, and possibly Medicaid, related to long-term care issues.

            The administrative issues and costs can be as daunting as the tax & financial issues, but well worth it.  It may cost you hours and hours, and tens of thousands of dollars to protect hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.  (However, if you itemize your personal deductions on Schedule A of the 1040 tax return, you may be able to deduct some of these costs!)

            You have a responsibility to yourself and society (if not dependents, loved ones, organizations, etc.) to plan for yourself; it's part of the Social Contract.

            Besides, do you want the government to make decisions for you?  Would you trust an IRS or Medicaid officer who showed at your door, and said, "I'm here to help."?

            So who's the winner in this election?  Will Congress allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire, changing both income and estate tax?  Will they compromise?  Will they write new tax laws?  Will the laws be retroactive?!  There’s only six weeks left!  And what about the investment markets?

            Is your financial & estate plan up to date?

Who's your Trusted Family Advisor?


Friday, November 2, 2012

'Hurricanes in New York!'

45) Hurricanes in New York!


urricanes in New York - again!  Halloween snow storms, Halloween Hurricanes!  (Does anyone remember the 'Procaccino for Halloween' buttons of the 1969 NYC mayoral race?  It looks like an orange Jack O ‘Lantern.)

            Actually, hurricanes have been in New York since I don't know when.  However, my point is, ever since 9-11, people like mobilizing.

            Mobilization gives people a sense of purpose, and feeling of not being alone.

            I believe many of us have become confused or deflated since 9/11.  What had been a life of relative luxury and ethnocentrism, has become a life of feeling lost.  Tsunamis, weather, war, murder, terrorism, politics, and 1%'rs have caused so many of us to either, lose our way, or sort of give up.  We walk through the day with little sense of purpose or enthusiasm, and few long-term goals.

            The future is so uncertain and not necessarily better for us, and our children; hope wanes.  Frustration, anger, depression, and anxiety take over.  If nature works against us, we're totally helpless, if not extinct.  When the power goes off, we're more helpless than animals surviving in the forest.

            Now, I've been around the block.  I grew up in the concrete jungle in the '60s.  NYC, racism, Show Biz, the tail end of Hippiedom, drugs, free sex, Viet Nam, JFK, Women's Lib, etc.; fast-forward: full life, 9/11.  But Hurricane Sandy has really started to bring it home.

            Remember, I'm a First Responder and the teacher of first responders including lifeguards, water being a special medium.  My Go-Bag lies ready, and I have an 'escape from New York' plan.  I'm a self-anointed quasi-Renaissance Man, and my fraternity dubbed me with a powerful moniker to which I must live up.  And before the hurricane, I had just finished blogging on life purpose.

            As one good in an emergency, I will you that, in the middle of an emergency is no time to question your mettle, abilities, ethics, skills, commitment, or ability to respond appropriately.

            You go on automatic pilot, and avoid questioning yourself; hesitation kills.  It's not time to Be, it's time to Do.

            I checked w/family & friends throughout the seaboard, as I was so proud of myself, for not only living in NYC, but the right neighborhood of Manhattan, where my response to the hurricane was a highly productive Snow Day, both professionally & personally, listening to Classical WQXR.

            The second day, I went to the coffee shop, and then watched Sci-Fi, the Science channel and way too much news.  All three channels showed me the destruction of the world over and over again.  I became bored and cycled to Bikram yoga, where the classes were full.

            I began to suffer ‘Survivors Guilt’, for having it so easy while everyone I knew in lower Manhattan, or CT, LI, NJ, PA, MA, etc. was in the dark, without heat and connectivity.  And I began to ponder my existence.

Think about it: what if much of the city was wiped out or the population decimated?  In Sci-Fi, we've seen the Earth end a dozen different ways, and the Science channel shows us what the Earth would be like, if humans disappear.  And life really has ended on Earth before; life that outlived us by many millions of years.

            If life as we know it really ended what would be my purpose then?  What would I do?

            The book, 'Where's My Cheese?', shows how rigid we are by nature, in just our everyday lives.  Forget about hunting, gathering, farming, starting a fire, making clothes and building shelters.  No radio, TV, phonographs, elevators, no 9-11, no refrigerators, heat, gas for cars, A/C, telephone, computers.  How many of us know smoke & drum signals, and Morse Code?  How many can start a fire, make candles, skin an animal, build a structure?  What would the young do without digital anything?!

            Where would I go?  Who would I be?  How would I eat, and protect myself from the elements, other humans, and animals?

            We would really need to expect that it would become dog eat dog, and survival of the fittest.  And I haven't been practicing using knives, spears and bows & arrows, nor do I own a gun!

            What loss would civilization suffer?  Music, art, movies, technology, etc.

            We are such a speck.  A speck in the Universe; a speck in time.

            Why are we here?

We’re taught to plan for the worst and hope for the best, or roll with the punches.  Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong (and at the worst possible time), to which we add Schwartz’s Corollary: Murphy was an optimist.  Also, no good deed goes unpunished.  So even with a good attitude and good intentions and good plans (Eric plans, God laughs), it’s sometimes just too overwhelming.

            Yes, humans are survivors, but what happens when our spirit is gone?  How do we rediscover a sense of purpose, and recognize our place in the universe?

            Probably nothing you haven't heard, but it bears repeating:

ü  Never give up.
ü  Procreate.
ü  Live for today, plan for tomorrow.
ü  Enjoy each day as if it was your last.
ü  Use common sense, and don't be frivolous.  Make smart, conscious, deliberate decisions.
ü  Acquire, practice & employ the skills you need for survival.
ü  Acquire the resources you need for survival.
ü  Be motivated by goals, not fears.
ü  Learn, read, discuss, and explore your own philosophies and spirituality to develop a sense of self and a sense of purpose.
ü  Continue to be curious and learn.
ü  Play a responsible, ethical role in society.
ü  Fake it ‘til you make it - mobilize

            The end of the world may not yet be here (although 12/21 is just weeks away.  And what do we do if the world doesn’t end?!).  By managing expectations, and living life to the fullest, we can rediscover a life of purpose.  Without it, we do not truly live.

            Your financial plan should reflect your life:

Ø  Emergency Management (e.g. cash, water, blankets, first aid kit)
Ø  Daily survival (e.g. budgets, savings, systems)
Ø  Risk Management (e.g. emergency cash, credit, insurance, exercise)
Ø  Goal-oriented work, play, laughter & fun.

            Why are we here?  Why are you here?  What’s your purpose?  What’s your plan?  Is your financial plan a burden, or a survival tool?