The Rise of Aunt Bizarro and the Demise of the American Social Security Net

Sam and his little sister, Columbia, were born in the earliest days of our zealous nation.

History records that the Wilson offspring were raised in Menotomy, Massachusetts – now known as Arlington – to parents originally from Greenock, Scotland.

Sam was always the more visible of the two.  In 1797, the stern-eyed, elbow-nosed gent married a gal from Mason, New Hampshire, and together they had four children who they raised in their Ferry Street home. Aunt Columbia, as the tots called her, was a doting kinswoman.

Sam first served our country during the War of 1812. A meat packer by trade, he provided beef rations – which he shipped in barrels – to the Army.  Branded on the side of each cask were the initials “U.S.” – signifying their ownership by the United States government.

Shattering the Mirror of Erised

In our second episode – Shattering the Mirror of Erised, SuperBOYs use powerful incantations – also known as facts and logic – to fight the mighty spell cast by Aunt Bizarro and her Mirror of Erised. Learn what happens next

But the soldiers and workers who knew good ole Sam Wilson took to joshing that the “U.S.” stood for Uncle Sam.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Aunt Columbia also tried her hand laboring as a national emblem, draping herself in the red, white and blue, and bidding to join big brother Sam on the patriotic trail.  In 1798, Philip Phile and Joseph Hopkinson teamed to write the music and lyrics for George Washington’s inaugural march, which came to be titled, “Hail, Columbia.”  Few historians properly credit Aunt Columbia as Phile’s and Hopkinson’s inspiration.

Sam and Columbia made a nice iconic tag-team, rallying the country through World Wars I and II, and adorning untold numbers of government placards and tourist postcards.

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How the Masked Forces of Evil Plot to Devour YOUR Money – and the Brave Superheroes Who Combat Them

Dank and fetid, the inner sanctums of SSH4TT (and no, it’s not what you think!) are devoid of natural light and fresh air.

Few are ever allowed to enter these unholy chambers.  Those who do, disfigured and debauched by their own villainy, steer clear of mirrors and other reminders of their foul order.Vampire

In public, these odious creatures adorn themselves in gay masks and robes.  They are lauded and paraded as paragons of perspicacity.  Millions, yeah, tens of millions of innocents flock to the doorsteps of their opulent and cavernous estates – hoping to be swathed in the aura of their being – all the while stone-blind to the magnitude of their deception.

As a corrupt order, members of SSH4TT have a singular mission – and they pursue it mercilessly. Like vampires that require fresh blood to animate their dead carcasses, SSH4TTs lust after money – other people’s money – to fuel their insatiable rapacity.

SSH4TTs conduct their business, as they have for decades, free of a worthy adversary.

That was, until now…

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What is Your Peace of Mind Quotient?

If You Don’t Already Know It, You’ll Discover It Here

Executive Summary: Knowing your true risk tolerance, or what we more broadly define as your personal Peace of Mind Quotient (POMQ), is vital to effectively directing your savings and investing strategies throughout the course of your life.

Really, until you get a handle on the emotional price you are willing to pay in pursuit of higher financial returns, you have no business chasing wealth.

People who fail to take their POMQ into account when developing their savings and investment strategies very often pay an exorbitant and unnecessarily high emotional penalty for their shortsightedness. Here we provide you with a fun and thought-provoking Peace of Mind Quotient Self-Assessment and encourage you to take five minutes or less to discover your score.

The conventional wisdom is that “peace of mind” is priceless.

It isn’t.

All of us have some level at which we are willing to tolerate stress, discomfort, worry, anxiety or other unpleasant feelings if the potential financial rewards are large enough.

Think of the popular NBC television show, Minute To Win It.  Contestants – ordinary folks with no special skills or athleticism – compete in up to ten consecutive 60-second challenges using common household items.

As the winnings mount, each challenge becomes progressively more difficult.  The suspense builds over the contestants’ fateful choice to pocket the cash they’ve already won or continue in pursuit of the ultimate prize of $1 million.  If at any step along the way they falter, the game is over and they must forfeit their earlier winnings.

Would you risk 60 seconds of intense stress and many thousands of dollars of existing gains for a shot at $1 million?

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A Do-It-Yourself Fix For The Economy, Deficit, Social Security and Unemployment

Executive Summary: The best solutions to America’s economic woes and political gridlock won’t be found in the nation’s capitol.  We must return to our roots, where family, neighbors, church and community provided shelter from financial storms and health crises.  The road to fiscal redemption begins at your doorstep.

There are all manner of proposals, schemes, social engineering programs and wishful thinking being weighed as possible government responses to the seemingly unsolvable financial problems our nation faces.

Depressing economy newsOur economy wobbles on the edge of a second recession.

Unemployment refuses to yield despite trillions of dollars of taxpayer-funded stimulus.

The words default and U.S. debt – once unthinkable in the same sentence – now harmonize with alarming regularity and require an Atlas-like effort to keep hoisting our nation’s debt ceiling higher and higher.

As for the government programs designed to safeguard the health and financial security of our senior citizens, they have been unmasked as Ponzi schemes so massive that Bernie Madoff’s multi-billion dollar Wall Street fraud is really but a drop in the bucket by comparison.

To whom do we turn to lead us out of this mess?  The President?  The leaders of the House and Senate?

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Some Common Sense Thoughts on the Need for a Declaration of Financial Independence

Executive Summary: Given the poor track record of the government and private sector when it comes to safeguarding the financial security of Americans, the authors propose a Declaration of Financial Independence in which individual citizens pledge to take responsibility for their own lifelong financial well being.

Americans need a financial revolution in 2011 as surely as we needed a political revolution in 1776.

Our system of earning, saving and investing money simply is broken.  It relies way too heavily on the tag team of government and mega-banks and financial institutions, and way too little on the self-reliance and individualism that made our nation great.

The federal government, by every reasonable standard, has proven to be a poor steward of our money and financial security.

The lockbox that was supposed to be Social Security – with Uncle Sam holding our funds – repeat, “our” funds – for us, turns out to be a thinly veiled Ponzi scheme that is rapidly draining to insolvency.  Ditto Medicaid.

It was the circus-like policies of the government-backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that led directly to the housing crash in 2008 and turned the American Dream – owning one’s own home – into a financial nightmare for tens of millions of us.

The federal government poured close to $600 billion taxpayer dollars into the bailout of unstable private businesses, including AIG, Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, General Motors, etc. – rather than permit the free market to right its own wrongs.

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How Everyone Can Love Paying Bills and Taxes: No, We’re Not Crazy!

A core tenet of the Bank on Yourself Nation is that money should always bring pleasure or satisfaction, never regret or guilt.overwhelmed by bills

For so many people, that principle seems unrealistic, especially considering how very hard it is most months just to stay afloat – paying for necessities such as groceries, medicines, utilities, transportation, insurance and the like.  Oh yes, let’s not forget the always hungry tax monster!

Seems to so many of us that our paychecks are swallowed whole by our obligations before we ever get the chance to even sample the flavor of having some accumulated cash in our pockets and bank accounts.

To which we can only respond… how wonderful!

Wonderful? Really? Paying Bills! And Taxes?”

Absolutely.

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The “5 P’s” of Successful Goal Setting

Your Path to Victory – At Long Last – Begins Here

Executive Summary:  Goal setting is a vital life skill that can be practiced year-round.  Most people don’t succeed on their first attempt.  Ironically, each setback increases the probability that the next try will come closer to the mark, if not directly hit the bulls-eye.

There are five basic tools that all goal setters should equip themselves with to increase their odds of success: Passion, Persistence, Planning, People and Positivity.5ps

It has been more than 120 days since New Year’s 2011 and by now many of us have long since given up on our various resolutions.  They were the best of intentions, but life and reality once again got in our way.

If you are one of the millions of lapsed goal setters, now is the perfect time to reboot.  Whether it’s cold and blustery outside or the trees are blooming and a warm breeze is blowing, the process of setting and reaching goals should be a year-round, all-weather, life skill.  No champagne required.

In fact, goal setting is one of life’s most important skills, given that very, very few of us are handed exactly what we want without ever having to ask and work for it.

In our busy lives, it requires determination and focus to take a “time out” and think about our ambitions and how we’re doing in pursuit of them.  Perhaps that’s why so many people try goal planning only once a year – at New Year’s – because the holiday season offers more down time to think about the Big Picture and our life’s direction.

Reading and taking action on these tips will take less than 10 minutes

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Be Smart: Ignore All The Financial Experts…

Ignore All The Financial Experts Who Advise You to Scale Back Your Expectations and Lifestyle

The chorus of gloomy financial experts is singing a ballad of restraint.  They warn that we all must adjust ourselves to a “new normal,” in which we lower our expectations and scale back our lifestyles.

The supposed villains are many and include: persistent high unemployment; the devastated real estate market; rising energy and food prices; record budget deficits; the possibility of a double-dip recession; international turmoil; and, well… you name it.

You have no choice, caution the pessimistic gurus, but to swallow:

  • Earning less on your investments and savings for the foreseeable future
  • Downgrading your current lifestyle to make up for the loss of investment returnsReduce Your Expectations
  • Having less income at your disposal due to rising prices and the threat of inflation
  • Getting socked with higher tax rates as the U.S. Government struggles to close its budget gap, and cash-strapped states and cities do likewise
  • Pushing your retirement out – perhaps indefinitely
  • Living on less if you do eventually get to retire (that is not only less than you live on now – which these downbeat advisors have always claimed is a retirement must – but less even than “the less” they were already advising you get by on just a few years ago)
  • Sticking with the financial counselors who have been at your side all along because they remain your best source for guiding your future financial planning

To all of these bitter pills, we can only respond… B.S.

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How Good of An Investor Are You Really? Ask Your Doctor!

Executive Summary: The life-long costs of neglecting your health can be staggering.  Expenses include out-of-pocket medical bills as well as losses of productivity and quality of life.  Too many people watch their investments more closely than they do their health. Illness brought on by lifestyle choices, such as smoking, overeating, lack of exercise and stress, accounts for as much as 70% of nationwide health care spending.

By Pamela Yellen and Dean Rotbart

In mid-December 2008, a skeletal Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Inc., canceled his scheduled presentation at the annual Macworld conference, triggering investor fears that the company’s visionary co-founder was seriously ill.  A month later, Jobs announced his first health-related leave of absence.  He began a second leave this past January.

During the 30-day period when concerns about Jobs originally surfaced, the shares of Apple stock dropped 14%, or $12 billion in market value.Healthcare Costs

The shareholders of Apple weren’t worried about the potential hospital bills and other medical costs that Jobs would incur.  Comparatively speaking, those expenses would be a drop in the bucket.

But Apple shareholders – confronted with the loss of Jobs’s services, perhaps for good – instantly realized the true cost of sickness must also be measured in loss of productivity, leadership and innovation, among other attributes a key executive brings to his or her company.

For tens of millions of Americans who are otherwise mindful of how and where they stake their money and retirement savings – including many successful Bank on Yourself participants – the importance of investing wisely in their physical health is a lesson they have yet to master.

That’s a huge fiscal mistake

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Mission Not Impossible: You Can Teach Teens Financial Responsibility

Executive Summary: While teens can be hard to reach, the teenage years are the perfect time to teach kids the saving, spending, earning and investing habits they’ll require to enjoy a lifetime free of financial strain and worry.

teenager withdrawing moneyThese days, money in and money out is mostly electronic, meaning the speed at which our children must make the right or wrong financial decisions has accelerated.  Launch your teens’ money management education by explaining to them why most adults fail.

Let children know that the solution can be found in the proven strategies of fiscal self-reliance that are embodied in the Bank on Yourself system and help your teens create their own vision of a secure and rewarding financial future.

There are plenty of practical steps you can take to make the entire subject matter more interesting to teens. By Pamela Yellen and Dean Rotbart

Russ Bragg has a higher financial IQ than most parents. He started out as a credit analyst for an international bank and began offering comprehensive financial planning services in 2000.  He is an expert at helping clients define and then achieve financial independence.
Teenager saving
For Bragg, you might imagine, educating his teenage son and daughter about proper money management would be a no-brainer.

If, on the other hand, you have teens of your own, you already know better

Enticed by credit card solicitations with low interest rate come-ons, Bragg’s independent-minded son was in credit counseling by the time he was 18.  Bragg’s daughter, on the other hand, while still a student, applied for and received a prestige credit line that even some of Bragg’s agency clients are unable to qualify for.

“Same mother, same father, same food, same air” and two very different outcomes, observes Bragg wryly of his children’s money management styles.

Many otherwise more-than-adequate moms and dads – those who’ve mastered subject matter as sensitive as teenage smoking, drinking, and drugs – have found their skill sets sorely lacking when it comes to the topic of money.

Welcome to Survivor: Teen Money…

A sprawling multi-year marathon and obstacle course that pits a tribe of well-intentioned parents, grandparents and other adults against the strong-willed, often perplexing sensibilities of the untamed adolescent mind. The challenge? One of modern family life’s most difficult: teaching teens to handle money responsibly.

I remember writing once that as a society we are more comfortable talking about sex and those other issues than we are about money”

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