Tag Archives: baby boomers

Honoring our Veterans Today

11 Nov
Fall has arrived at MJ Everson Financial, our Flag is out for Veterans Day

Fall has arrived at MJ Everson Financial, our Flag is out for Veterans Day

 Today is Veterans Day. We set aside November 11 to honor anyone who has served in the U.S Armed Forces.

Having never served myself, I’m often unsure the proper way to honor those who have.  What I’ve done over the years is call those I know who have served and thank them personally for their service.

In October 1995, I visited Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.  It was a life changing experience.  A lot of the soldiers buried there were kids.  From 16 to 20 years old, most of the tombstones listed birthdays that meant the men and women buried there were the same age I was at the time of that visit.

Here I was, rolling around Europe leisurely. There they were fighting for that freedom I so sadly took for granted at that time.

The moment brought to light an idea that I had been given some very tremendous gifts and opportunities in the lottery of being born in America. The sight of the seemingly endless tombstones snapped me into a reality that I was perhaps being ungrateful for those gifts and needed to do a better job maximizing those opportunities and honoring the sacrifices of these soldiers.

Omaha Beach CemeterySince that visit, I’ve read history on these soldiers. It has truly fascinated me how many of them died and that they seemed to do so for mainly better reasons than any war before or since. Time and again you read how these men knew what they were doing. Believed in their fight.  They believed they were fighting against the Germans and the Axis in order to preserve our free way of life. There is so much honor in that.  These men didn’t think of fancy cars and big homes. They valued their freedom and were willing to sacrifice their own lives to preserve that freedom for others.

Take a moment today and think about those among us who have served. To thank them and their families for that service.

Maybe you have a moment today to reach out to a member or veteran of our armed forces.  Thank them. Buy them lunch. Visit with them.  It doesn’t go far enough in thanking them, but I suppose it is better than no notice at all. Here are a few more ways to reach out and show your thanks today.

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A Better Way

13 Aug

In the past, I’ve posted many times about our association with B Corporation.  As a certified B Corp since July 2009, we’re very proud of this ideal and the growing movement. Today, over 1,000 companies world-wide, large and small, live and work by the triple bottom line ideal.

But aside from the outliers like Patagonia or King Arthur Flour, the early adopters were much smaller companies like ours. Admittedly, our impact on the global economy is negligible at best. I often wondered if it would really ever take off and truly begin to change the way companies do business. Or would this idea fail to attract enough attention to truly make a difference.

I no longer wonder.  Today, article after article in business press (Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Entrepreneur) , or in main stream media like the New Yorker or New York Times continue to see this ideal as a better way forward for global companies.

You can blame President Obama, Congress, evil corporations, Wall Street, whomever and whichever you like for the massive imbalances between rich and poor, for the poor state of the environment or the shaky ground of the economy.  But the quickest way to fix all of these things is intentional consumer purchasing.  Yep, we’re to blame.  Not them.

Stop buying from WalMart.  Start buying from a company like Costco which treats their employees remarkably better. Quite simply, it is that easy.  Being more careful about which companies get your dollar is all this really is. We spend blindly, as Americans.  Once we begin to open our eyes to who gets our hard-earned money, the world of business will be forced to react.  In fact, as you can read by all these links, it already is reacting.

Don’t believe me?  Have a look at how Unilever’s new CEO is running that massive, multi-national company these days.  Businesses are starting to see that raping the Earth, screwing their employees and simply enriching their shareholders is not exactly the best recipe for success.

Want to Throw Up in Your Mouth a Little Bit? Read this…

28 May

Some of the stuff I talk about here is from my own reading. But we often get input and links from clients. Much of it very good. I thought I’d share this very irritating little piece of reporting on Hedge Funds and Private Equity companies and all the many fees they charge.

It is so frustrating to me that there is no capacity at all withr the folks managing these companies to see how negatively they impact everything. Yes, everything.  You see, when they take their unearned and certainly undeserved fees, they take it from you and me. From the folks who start new companies. From those company employees. From the folks who buy that company’s goods and services. They take money out of the pockets of teachers and other public workers because the fees lower the amount of money in the pensions that invest with these jerks. They rapaciously steal money from all Americans and think they deserve and should be allowed to do so unfettered and, get this, untaxed!

Money disappears the community at large and sinks into the ever growing bank accounts of these scum bags.  And guess what, not only do these craven and morally bereft jackalopes pay themselves ungodly fees they never earned, they also DO NOT PAY INCOME TAXES on most of those fees.  That means, that after they are done sucking more money out of the economy than a Dyson on steroids, they pay very little taxes on that money which further depletes our economy.

Guess who (besides the guys I’m running out of good names to call that run the funds) doesn’t want this behavior stop? Guess who believes this sort of activity is American and good for us all?  Your Republican and Democratic Senators and Congresspeople. Seems politicians are the only place these fund managers feel good ‘giving a little piece of the pie.’  An enormous, $3trillion pie it is!

Thanks Pat Britton for sending this to me. Now, excuse me while I go vomit.

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Very Grateful It Is Friday!

23 May

Monday, we learned about the sudden death of a long-time client. Vicki was only 55. She was healthy.  She didn’t have cancer.  She just died.

It was my first call Monday morning.  It jolted me more than any cup of coffee.  It shocked me.  I’ve been dealing with a lot of death of late. My Dad last fall, good clients and friends this year. It isn’t ever easy. But all of these people were older and had been sick and we had, I suppose, mentally prepared a bit for the news of their deaths.

But not Vicki.  Her husband if one of my review calls I often dread, to be honest.  He can be quite a stickler with me on returns, fees and generally speaking, has seemed to enjoy keeping me on my toes over the years.  So, when I called, I had already steeled myself for his tough questions.

But when he picked up, his tenor was different. Did he have a cold? His voice was not all together present.  He sounded sick or something.  “Vicki died last Thursday, Matt. I needed to let you know but I just couldn’t talk last week.”

 Some time has passed since Monday morning.  But the shock has barely worn off for me.  55! Not sick. She just didn’t wake up that Friday.  My God, what would I do if that were Sarah? How would I cope? How could life ever return to normal?

 That what is so inspirational about this man, Dan.  He is touching and helping people who are sick. Who might not expect to live.  This is amazingly heartfelt and real.  Sure, Starbucks is a big old evil corporation.  But Dan is an angel.  Keep it up, Dan. You’ve made me wonder how I can do the same.

 Enjoy your weekend folks.  I’m happy you will have one to enjoy and I’m grateful I will too!

Is it Any Wonder Cultures Clash?

19 May

Click here to read a  fascinating look at the way cultures of the world approach negotiations.

To quote the article “By focusing on the cultural roots of national behavior, both in society and business, we can foresee and calculate with a surprising degree of accuracy how others will react to our plans for them, and we can make certain assumptions as to how they will approach us.”

Well, that could be pretty handy, no? It has me recall a time when I worked in the Sheraton Hotel at the Brussels Airport. I was an intern and working in control of the food and beverages. The hotel had four restaurants plus room service, not to mention it fed its own employees. There was a lot of food and drinks being consumed.

All I had to do was measure yesterday’s levels against today’s levels and cross-reference that to the orders being submitted by the various restaurant chefs. Pretty easy I thought. Until cultures started clashing.

In other words, If there were four bottles of a particular wine yesterday and there were only 2 today, I should see that two bottles were ordered at some point in one of the restaurants that day.

I had noticed that the cheeses of one particular restaurant were at lower totals than their corresponding orders. “How should I reconcile this?” I asked my boss, a very uninterested and rather dumb fellow.

“I’d ask the Chef!” he said.

“I have already done that. He believes my math is wrong. It isn’t. Someone is stealing cheese. What is my next step?” I said.

“I’d ask the Chef if he is stealing cheese.” m boss said sarcastically. I could see he wasn’t going to offer me guidance.

I did go talk to the Chef and it turned into a raging argument with both of us accusing the other of lying. I ended the conversation with “Look, I’m just an intern, I could care less if you’re stealing cheese. Don’t call me a liar. I’ve got a report to turn in, I’m going to turn it in with my numbers. I’ll be in America by the time the GM reads it. Your call, Frenchie.”

Had I only had this chart, I’d have known his yelling was simply step three in French negotiations and I would have been so much better off! See how us Americans lay the cards all out? “Where is the missing cheese, Monsieur?” I spelled it out, I confronted and provoked him, we had a fight…but we did not ever reach clarity.

Had I understood their culture better, I could have simply restated the logic and we’d be good. This sort of chart could be so useful for folks in international business. I just found it very interesting.

Can You More Easily Overdose on Water than on Pot?

30 Apr

That is a catchy headline, isn’t it?  I thought so too, which is why I clicked on this article from Forbes.

I find it interesting how much misinformation and mythology exists on drug use. Whether it is performance enhancing drugs or athletes or marijuana for stoners, true scientific data is sparse.  Which means bogus stories can grow to become legitimate.

It is pretty clear that marijuana and PEDs and the overuse of anything, even water apparently, can have adverse effects on people.  What isn’t as clear is if any of the PEDs or if pot can be used safely.

Even if not safe, are there moderate levels that the user can know about? We know that smoking and drinking alcohol are inherently bad in large doses. But we Americans allow these products sold by and large.  But if a multi-million dollar ballplayer wants to heal more quickly from injury, he is banned from such an idea.

We know that our system of weapon regulations is flawed.  Yet a elder who just wants to keep a meal down after a recent chemotherapy session is still forced to buy marijuana in a somewhat clandestine manner.

Isn’t all that a bit hypocritical?

The Value of Education

10 Apr

There is nothing more valuable than education.  That stated, I have been telling anyone who will listen that paying for a higher education is becoming a dicey proposal.

Not only for parents of college age kids, but also for those thinking of going back and getting a masters or PHD.

The Economist has put together a nice interactive chart of the cost and return of college education in America.  I found it very useful! Check it out.

Eat and sleep and you will live a long time!

10 Mar

This according to Misao Okawa, a Japanese woman born in 1898.  That is not one of my many typos. She is 116 years old!

Misao-Okawa_2840965b

How impressive and inspiring! Check out her great story here! 

Can the Damaged Brain Repair Itself?

3 Mar

People with Alzheimer’s, former NFL players, returning veterans from war may find this video very hopeful.

All of us, I believe, will find this information very intriguing.  After all, is there anything more important for our lives than the brain?

Siddharthan Chandran does a very nice job of making a complicated topic quite understandable. If you’re interested in how your brain works or how it might even work better, take 15 minutes to check out this video. Truly inspiring science.

Should 401(k) Platforms Allow for More Diverse Investments?

6 Feb

This article was presented as opinion in the Wall Street Journal last week. In it, the author, a fellow named Scott Higbee, argues that 401(k) plans should open up their options to things like hedge funds, private equity and other investment offerings that are currently not on the table for most employees participating in these plans.

He used the Super Bowl coaches as examples of how complication and diversity can be the ticket to success.  Funny thing is, most football experts agree- Seattle, who we now know trounced the Broncos 43-8, don’t employ any fancy schemes or complicated tactics to dominate opponents on the gridiron.

Seattle simply has all 11 players on each side of the field clear on their role and each man executes his own role very well. Funnily enough, if you have a simple blend of quality choices in your 401(k), one need not over-complicate things to achieve long-term success. Quite the opposite of what Mr. Bigbee is talking about. Seattle keeps their playbook relatively simple and do simple very well. Super Bowl champion well.

We can use that simple analogy for 401(k) plans.  Adding in complicated derivatives or private debt offerings, as Higbee suggests, will only further cloud an already overcast sky for employees trying to save for their future. If participants understand their options, if the fees and objectives are transparent, if the conflicts of interest are removed, there is no better way for American’s to save.

Scientific studies have proven that participation in 401(k) plans increases and in general people save more money when their options are clear and easy. For every mechanical engineer in the company that would love to play markets daily, there are 20 less sophisticated employee participants who are overwhelmed by the language of finance and the daunting task of managing their own investments. Mr. Higbee wants to add to their challenge. When most folks just need simple ways to help their savings grow over the long-term.

I don’t know Mr. Higbee personally, so I don’t want to take an easy swipe at his motives for such an opinion. But perhaps, just maybe, it is because the business he is in is currently shut out of a $4.3 trillion dollar market place and they want in? Perhaps I’m just being cynical…

I can’t believe the path to righting the lilting American savings ship is to add a further degree of complication so a massive private equity industry, that make profits hand over fist, have another avenue of exploiting the American worker.

I can just see the faces of 401(k) plan participants in Santa Rosa and around the Bay Area that we advise when I try explain the types of investments Bigbee wants them to have in their plans.

Something like the kids in Ferris Bueller’s classroom…

The answer to helping Americans save more comes is not a further layer of confusion and risk. But rather hewing to the old Navy acronym from the 1960’s, KISS. Keep it Simple, Stupid.

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