Pack your own parachute!

Man_DogParachuteToday is a real downer. We just finished a wonderful week with our youngest grandchildren. They’re now gone and the house is quiet. That’s not what is causing my mood however.

On average I read 3 hours a day to keep up with things. When we have company, I move my daily reading to a “Hold for Reading” file. This morning I printed out dozens of articles and have gone through a one inch reading stack. Without exception everything I read was negative. Some short snippets:

  • Goldman Sachs flip-flopped on gold going from buy to sell recommendations several times in the last few weeks. The implication was they issue a recommendation and take the other side of the trade from their own trading accounts. The article not only questions the ethics of the practice, but also points out their calls have been wrong, profiting their own investment accounts – at the expense of their clients.
  • Two articles reported a “secret” meeting of central bankers in Shanghai last month. The rumor is the G-20 central bankers agreed to help out China. Shortly after the rumor surfaced, the Federal Reserve announced they are likely to have one more rate increase this year instead of the four they had scheduled. Interest that would have been paid to seniors and savers is not happening, bailing out China is more important???
  • The political reporting is horrible. One pundit suggested that no matter who gets elected civil unrest would become violent.
  • Dozens of articles predicted the stock market is going to crash, and soon; citing the fact that corporate earnings have been declining and the revision to the government numbers shows our economy is in big trouble.

I quit drinking years ago; however I confess to polishing off a carton of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. I chuckled when later I received an email suggesting; “Never ask a woman how she’s doing when she is eating ice cream directly from the carton!” Damn! I can relate!

What to do, what to do?

I pride myself in looking at the challenges we face, explaining them clearly, followed with some common sense, actionable advice. If you can’t trust the government, the Federal Reserve, the political class or your broker – where can you safely invest?

I believe the best, and most often misunderstood, money advice comes from Warren Buffett when he says:

“Generally speaking, investing in yourself is the best thing you can do. Anything that improves your own talents; nobody can tax it or take it away from you. They can run up huge deficits and the dollar can become worth far less. You can have all kinds of things happen. But if you’ve got talent yourself, and you’ve maximized your talent, you’ve got a tremendous asset that can return ten-fold.

“Invest in yourself” might mean taking a continuing education class or simply spending your time improving your skills. Become a lifelong learner and your life will be wealthier, perhaps in more ways than one.”

Buffett is not a big believer in higher education; he is speaking about success in a much different manner. Ruleoneinvesting.com offers “29 Warren Buffett Quotes on Investing & Success”. I want to address a few and add some of my own.

Manage Your Time Better – As a young man I was fortunate to have some wonderful mentors. Dave was 20 years older than I am and we car-pooled to work. His lessons were priceless.

One Monday morning I rattled off the television shows I watched over the weekend. He responded with, “Miller, if you ever want to get rich, you need to stop that.” I was baffled. He went on to explain that I was wasting time sitting for hours in front of the “boob-tube”. I realized I was turning into the proverbial “Joe six-pack.” After the kids went to bed, much of my free time was spent with a beer in my hand in front of the TV.

Spend time on Personal Development – Dave said that successful people know when to relax, but still take a good bit of their non-working hours to learn and educate themselves. It might be about hobbies, investing, or improving their marketable skills. His message was use your spare time to invest in yourself for the future. That was life-changing advice.

Buffett is credited with saying; “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” Many happy, successful retirees today are sitting in the shade of their own tree, one they planted when they were young.

Do what you Love – A few months later I lost track of Dave. I made a major career change and eventually ended up in the training business, educating adults worldwide. I loved it! When your career is doing something you love, you no longer look at it as drudgery and work.

People Make Investing Seem More Difficult Than it Should – When you retire you want your nest egg to provide financial and emotional independence for the rest of your life. The skills you need are not only how to earn money, but also how to invest wisely to make it last.

Once you are retired you quickly realize, despite how you earned your money, “we are all money managers now”. Using your time wisely to educate yourself about investing is time well spent. The business schools and money managers want it to sound complicated. If it sounded simple, they would be out of a job. Learn the basics and you will not only invest better, but also sleep better.

Dennis adds some thoughts

Don’t stop the process when you are 65 – OK, so you may want to quit your full time job but do you really want to spend hours in front of the TV waiting for your judgment day? Retirement is a liberating experience; now you have choices. You now have time to follow Buffett’s advice doing things you really love.

Education and entertainment can work together – Dave helped me realize the time I spent in front of a television was nothing more than entertainment. Education does not have to be tedious or boring. I spent hours reading books about writing, humor, and investing. Education can become entertainment if the subject is something you love. A lot of education can be found on YouTube and television these days. Find that passion and you will totally get it. Educate, don’t vegetate!

Encore careers are fun and profitable – Many of my friends joke about “flunking” retirement. While some work because they can use the money, many are working at something they truly love and the money is incidental.

I never realized how much I loved writing until David Galland of Casey Research coaxed me out of retirement to write a weekly column for baby boomers and retirees. I love it, and it is something I can do as long as I want. Heck, if George Burns can entertain at age 100, I sure can write that long.

Keep your skills up doing what you love – Many friends have turned their hobbies into very profitable encore careers.

One of the neatest encore careers I have ever seen was a husband and wife who enjoyed flying. When they retired they got a job at an aircraft dealer, delivering planes all over the world. Several retirees deliver motor homes. Most tow their car behind the motor home, bring their spouse, and take their time returning home. They love the freedom and can pick and choose their assignments.

It doesn’t have to be exotic; working part time at Walmart or McDonalds can make a world of difference. You might be surprised to find many seniors are enjoying it and still feel productive.

Get out of the rat race – Lots of publications glorify the idea of moving out of the US to an inexpensive tropical paradise. Many people lose weight and have significant drops in their blood pressure with a slower pace of living. We looked into it and concluded a lot of grandparent’s are not willing to to move that far away from family.

Consider rural America; small towns where you can live inexpensively. There is much to like about a small town atmosphere where you can have a $3.99 breakfast, fresh eggs and produce and be greeted by name and a big smile.

Pack your own parachute

No one knows what the future will bring. Will the stock market collapse? Will interest rates ever come close to the projections we counted on in the past? Will civil unrest grip the country?

Packing your own parachute is a life-long commitment to invest in yourself. Continue to invest in your marketable skills, investment skills and finding fun things you enjoy makes the ride a lot safer and easier. If a serious financial collapse does occur, those who are best prepared may come out ahead and be better off when the dust clears. Heed the warnings, prepare for the worst, hope for the best and sleep well knowing you are prepared.

Screw the gloom and doom negativity. You will still have time to sit under the shade of your own tree and enjoy your ice cream!

On the Lighter Side

Sports fans have a lot going on this week with the opening of the baseball season and ending of the college basketball season. Click HERE and you will see one of the reasons I LOVE baseball. All baseball fans will probably forward the link to their friends.

Congratulations to Villanova on winning the national championship. To achieve such a pinnacle requires a lot of people to put in thousands of hours of hard work. They should be proud!

During our recent Grand Canyon visit I was showing my grandson Braidyn how to use my new camera. I explained how framing a picture gave it added depth. We walked for about 20 feet with the camera hanging from his neck and he said, “Wait a minute grandpa”. He turned around, walked back about five feet, sat on the ground and took the following photo.

GrandCanyon0416

It’s now enlarged and on our wall.

And finally…

Good friend Bob L. sent along something that seems appropriate to this week’s message:

Six Best Doctors in the World

1. Sunlight
2. Rest
3. Exercise
4. Diet
5. Self Confidence
6. Friends

I feel there should be a #7. The unconditional love of a lifelong partner, children and grandchildren.

Until next time…