“REMEMBER THOU ART MORTAL!” DONALD TRUMP NEEDS HELP. THIS ARTICLE EXPLAINS WHY AND WHAT MUST BE DONE TO SAVE A TROUBLED PRESIDENCY.

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By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

In the days of Ancient Rome, victorious generals were permitted a Triumph. A Triumph was the greatest honor a conquering hero could get and so lavish and important that for the next few days after it occurred, the general was near to God-like status and treated accordingly.

Of course the powers that be were happy for the victory, but they also knew that any general with an army at his instant command could produce chaos and unwanted political instability. Thus each Triumph had to be carefully planned, measured, and controlled. As part of this process of keeping the Triumphal general in check, a public slave was placed on the chariot of the conqueror; his job was to whisper in his ear these chilling words, “Remember thou art mortal!”. You can imagine that no conqueror ever took kindly to such remarks, but he submitted for his own good and the good of the Republic.

Now, Donald Trump finds himself driving a chariot which is going every which way to the consternation of the people who want good government and a nation they can be proud of. There is no one now in the White House or in Trump’s inner circle to give plain, simple, timely advice to the President. There is no one in his present circle who can simply tell him the God’s honest truth.

This is causing disruptions for the good ship United States because no one is at the rudder. Thus this vessel lists, founders, reverses and veers in muddle and confusion. What can be done? What indeed… Right now advisers dispense information from many directions and for many reasons. These advice givers include Steve Bannon (Chief Strategist), Kellyanne Conway (Counselor to the President), Jared Kushner (Special Adviser to the President and Head of the White House Office of American Innovation), Reince Priebus (White House Chief of Staff), and Ivanka Trump (Special Adviser to the President).
Here is the situation. These people, no matter how bright, no matter how seemingly attached to the President are not and cannot be unvarnished truth tellers of the utmost integrity and discretion. Each of these people is an employee, admittedly at a high level, but no employee no matter how well placed, can ever give the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, It just cannot be done, especially in the White House where the Presidential incense blowing never stops.

That is why previous Presidents have invited well placed individuals, knowledgeable, loyal, without an ax to grind to assist them. These people are appointed to provide the truth as they understand it, keeping the President focused and quash silly ideas of which the Trump Administration has come up with more than its share.

On my first visit to the White House when Jimmy Carter was President, I saw this incense wafting machine at its full speed. I was taken into the Executive Office and went behind the scene where the White House staff was situated. It was like the harem of the Ancient Ottomans where the President can see no evil, speak no evil and do no evil. You were either in this circle, this charmed circle, or you were not. It was very heady stuff indeed. But it is not what is needed now or in any Presidency to keep the President real, not merely the unquestioned sovereign of the hive.

To show you what I mean, I wish to introduce you to Colonel Edward Mandell House (1858- 1938). You may not know of him now, may never have known anything previously about this once powerful American diplomat, politician and adviser to then President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921).

Colonel House, as he was familiarly known, had a challenging task; he assisted a prickly, self-satisfied, difficult man move from the back waters of New Jersey politics, from author, from President of Princeton University and then thanks to a split in the Republican Party in 1912, President of the United States. He was deft indeed, but Wilson needed the help and at this point in his astonishing career admitted it.

Like so many academics he thought himself superior to everyone; thought that he was sent from God himself to the White House to be His agent and keep those blessings flowing. House played a pivotal role in the 1912 Presidential Election and kept the campaign organization purring by focusing on the big picture, the Presidential picture. Although Woodrow Wilson upon election offered him any Cabinet post (except Secretary of State), House made the calculated decision that he would better serve Wilson and the nation by remaining outside of the formal Ins and Outs of the presidency.

As he saw it, his task was keeping Woodrow Wilson on track, focused on the achievement of his expansive and important agenda. This agenda became even more important when World War I broke out in Europe and President Wilson had to lead a reluctant and skeptical nation. All of a sudden this very sharp tongued, egotistical, academically inclined, bookish President became the most important man on earth; the man who could either refrain from taking the United States to war thereby gambling the future of all of Europe and Western Civilization or chivvy the nation bit by cautious bit to bring the nation into the war.

Of course everyone in the nation, indeed everyone on earth, had an opinion on what President Wilson should do, how he should do it, and to what extent he should do it. Here is where Colonel House fit in.

By now House was not only advising the President as executive agent; the title invented for him. He actually had his own apartment in the White House so he could slip in and out at will without the slightest recognition beyond the President himself. From the time the British passenger liner “Lusitania” was sunk by a German U-Boat (May 7th 1915) drowning 128 Americans, Colonel House was in the very center of all the developments in the fast-developing war. He became Wilson’s private and personal agent on such matters as Wilson’s 14 points, the Treaty of Versailles, and the Covenant of the League of Nations. This was important work indeed, and Colonel House did it in an exemplary fashion which is to say he was honest, discrete, totally dedicated, and loyal to Woodrow Wilson and his agenda.

First of all he was a man of the world. He had traveled widely, had business success, helped elect 4 governors of Texas and advise them. He even wrote a political novel which if not a best seller, certainly presented ideas which he would later present to President Wilson. He also believed strongly in Wilson’s progressive liberal ideas.

House knew when to push and when to hold Wilson back. His job was to ensure Wilson’s best ideas were presented to the public and his less good ideas thrust aside; all without irritating this very temperamental man. Wilson like so many prima donnas, did not want to believe or acknowledge that any one knew more than he did, and he believed he was the most important man in the world. Colonel House held the executive hand, and always always said the appropriate thing for the moment. Just one notable example will go to prove the point and show House’s importance and insight.

Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in other words the government body which could make or break Wilson’s 14 points and League of Nations. By now Wilson who believed, that he has been sent by God himself to save the world from woe and affliction. He had advised kings and queens, presidents and heads of state and was certain that he knew better than they did. Wilson believed he knew how to craft the new world order, a point of view easy to believe because millions of people worldwide had come to venerate and believe in this man whose name they screamed “Wilson, Wilson, Wilson!”

By this time Colonel House knew if the new world order was to have a League of Nations; a key point of Wilson’s message, many more people beside Wilson himself would have to be involved in the process. It could not be, could never be done by any single man no matter how beloved of the desperate people yearning for freedom, peace, and serenity. But of course by this time Wilson walked on water; he didn’t like Senator Lodge, and he definitely did not want to hear anything from him on this matter or any other matter.

Thus Colonel House, who saw the big picture, advised the President that Senator Lodge must be a part of the American delegation along with other key Republican senators. The President was adamant, no way; no how, don’t even think of it. It was a measure of how petty and out of control Wilson could be and how much he needed discrete, honest, thoughtful, and carefully considered advice. Wilson’s decision to blackball Lodge was the beginning of the end, for Wilson, for the tragic millions in Europe who needed all the help they could get, and for Colonel House himself. It didn’t happen overnight but it happened soon enough.

House had been asked to provide advice, and he had done so. Woodrow Wilson like the Roman generals who traveled with the public slave on their chariot, whispering in their ears, “Remember Thou Art Mortal!” Woodrow Wilson heard it and was irritated by it Thus he went forward to do battle with his own demons, alone, for towards the end of his life, the pressure he had created for himself induced a series of strokes which left this once most important man in the world playing out his last months in a dim room in the White House while his second wife Edith, tried to keep the Wilson Administration from falling apart, a story far too many Americans have never heard about our first woman President.
Perhaps by now she didn’t like House or his unprecedented access to the White House. Many people credited her with easing House out. Perhaps by now Colonel House had had enough; it is after all a difficult feat, to keep a head strong leader, prone to self-glorification on track, on the modest trail where he must admit and work with others.

Now then keeping Colonel House in mind, let us advise The Donald. He desperately needs a friend, a confidante, a detached adviser familiar with the Ins and Outs of Washington DC; whose sole task is to help the President and help America. Such a person doesn’t exist in the White House today. This is why the current administration resembles the Keystone Cops, smart people doing stupid, pointless things in the full glare of today’s modern media, where a small mistake can be magnified in the world media in seconds.

Take a breath now, Mr. President, and admit you need help, help that your leading advisers cannot provide because in the long run you don’t listen to them and only follow your own counsel; this is the greatest calamity of all.

“Remember Thou Art Mortal!”

You are the President of the greatest country in the world. You cannot have a finger in every pie, and you cannot have different advisers running in and out of your office with policy ideas which are contradictory and are all too often ill considered, vague and, dubious.

Consider then your predecessor Woodrow Wilson and his independent executive agent Colonel House. They forged a model which you could use to your advantage.
Remember intelligence is knowing what you don’t know and knowing where to find it; not bluffing your way from crisis to crisis holding the country and the world to ransom and all of us in it.

Failing at Retirement: 11 Mistakes Baby Boomers Are Making

Failing at Retirement: 11 Mistakes Baby Boomers Are Making

Failed test

Most baby boomers failed a quiz on retirement concepts. | iStock.com/Tupungato

Boomers, you get an F. Roughly three out of four people between the ages of 60 and 75 could not pass a quiz on basic retirement income concepts. That’s the conclusion of the 2017 Retirement Income Literacy Survey by the American College of Financial Services.

Older Americans bungled questions on topics, including Social Security, investing, and long-term care, the survey found. Fewer than 1% aced the quiz, results that David Littell, the retirement income program co-director at The American College described as “alarming.”

The news wasn’t all bad. Many people understood inflation, had a good grasp of the ins and outs of Medicare, knew about required minimum distributions from IRAs, and were clear on how a reverse mortgage worked. But most baby boomers have a long way to go to become retirement experts. From a troubling sense of overconfidence to confusion about how long their savings will need to last, let’s take a closer look at 11 ways many boomers are clueless about retirement.

1. They’re overconfident

Boomers think they know it all, though the retirement quiz results suggest otherwise. Eighty-seven percent of respondents couldn’t muster more than a D on the retirement quiz, but 61% thought they had high levels of retirement income knowledge. And three-quarters of people surveyed felt a secure retirement was ahead of them.

“More and more Americans are retiring, but so few understand basic facts and strategies when it comes to ensuring that their retirement is a comfortable one,” Littell said.

Overconfident boomers might be making simple mistakes that make it harder to enjoy the retirement they want. For example, many lack a solid retirement plan.

Next: Talk is cheap, and two-thirds of people aren’t taking this crucial step.

2. They don’t have a written retirement plan

Retirement plan with graphs and glasses

Most boomers don’t have a written retirement plan. | iStock.com

Boomers might be confident a secure retirement is in their future, but they’re not doing much to prepare for what’s ahead. Two-thirds of people surveyed didn’t have a written retirement plan, even though most experts agree having such a document is essential.

At the very least you need to figure out how much money you will likely have in retirement, how much you need to live on, and how much you can safely withdraw from your accounts given how long you expect to live. You can try to do the planning yourself, or meet with a financial adviser who can work with you to create a retirement road map.

Not only do many boomers lack a retirement plan, but they’re on shaky ground when it comes to investing for the future.

Next: Boomers probably think they know more than they really do.

3. They’re unfamiliar with investment basics

Business investment and growth

When it comes to investing, many boomers don’t know much. | iStock.com

When asked about retirement investment basics, most survey respondents came up short. While 80% understood owning a mutual fund was less risky than investing all their money in single stock, they didn’t do so well on other questions.

Most didn’t realize small company stocks generally deliver bigger returns than other types of stock and bond investments, and only 30% knew an exchange-traded fund generally has lower fees than an actively managed fund. Many also didn’t understand how changes in interest rates affect the value of bonds. (For the record, when interest rates rise, bond fund values fall.) Misunderstanding these investment concepts could lead to mistakes that jeopardize a person’s financial future, especially for DIYers who aren’t getting help from a financial pro.

Boomers are also unaware of some simple moves they could make that would increase their income in retirement.

Next: There are specific steps you can take to increase your retirement security.

4. They don’t know the best way to increase their retirement security

retirement ahead sign

Many boomers are unaware of some simple moves they can make to increase their retirement security. | iStock.com

People nearing retirement whose savings are coming up short have a few good options for increasing their retirement security. One is to keep working for a couple of years past their planned retirement date. Another is to put off claiming Social Security benefits for two years. (You’ll get an extra 8% for every year you wait to claim until age 70.) But more than half of people surveyed didn’t pick either of these options when asked what they could do to increase their retirement security. One-third thought saving an additional 3% in the five years before retirement was the best strategy, and 25% didn’t know what they should do.

Let’s look a bit closer at boomers’ Social Security knowledge.

5. They don’t know how to get more money from Social Security

Social Security Benefits Application Form with pen and glasses

Waiting to claim Social Security benefits can mean more money in the long run. | iStock.com/photojournalis

Waiting to claim Social Security is one way to increase your retirement income, and it’s an especially smart strategy if you expect to live a long time. But 40% of survey respondents weren’t aware their benefits would increase for every year they wait to claim between age 62 and 70. And just under half didn’t realize a single person who expected to live until age 90 would be best off waiting until age 70 to start getting their Social Security checks.

Curious whether you should take Social Security now or wait? A break-even analysis will show you how long you’ll need to live in order to come out ahead if you wait to take benefits.

6. They think Social Security is bulletproof

social security protest

Social Security is not as secure as some people believe it is. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

People have been wringing their hands about the future of Social Security for years, but the anxiety doesn’t seem to be filtering down to some boomers. Just 25% were aware by 2033, Social Security will probably only have enough money to pay out 75% of promised benefits to retirees.

Does that mean our government-run retirement system is on the verge of collapse? Not exactly. Younger workers are going to keep paying in to Social Security, and retirees will probably keep getting benefits. But unless changes are made, such as increasing the retirement age or raising the Social Security tax cap, some people could end up getting less in benefits than they expected.

If boomers are a bit fuzzy on Social Security specifics, they have some even bigger misconceptions about how 401(k)s work.

7. They’re worried about their 401(k) for the wrong reasons

401K plan financials

Your 401(k) should be safe, even if your company goes bankrupt. | iStock.com/GaryPhoto

There are some good reasons for boomers to be worried about their 401(k)s. For one, many don’t have enough saved in their tax-advantaged retirement account, meaning they’ll need to learn to live on less once they stop working. About 46% of boomers have less than $100,000 in their retirement account, a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers found. That’s a nest egg that will generate just a few hundred dollars a month in income, depending on how much you withdraw and your rate of return.

But it’s not low account balances that are keeping some boomers up at night. Instead, 25% of people surveyed are concerned if their company goes bankrupt, their 401(k) will be at risk. That’s not true. A company bankruptcy could jeopardize your pension, if you have one, but your 401(k) is yours no matter what happens to your employer. Your employer’s creditors can’t get at your retirement funds in your 401(k).

8. They’re underestimating how long they’ll live

emma morano

Emma Morano, then the oldest living person in the world, poses for a photograph in May 2016. She passed away April 15, 2017, at age 117. | Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images

Half of people surveyed underestimated how long the typical retiree will live. That’s a problem because not understanding average life expectancy could cause you to overspend in the early years of your retirement, leaving you broke if you live into your late 80s or 90s. In addition, many people said they wouldn’t bother to adjust their retirement plan if they had a 25% chance of living to a certain age versus a 10% chance.

So how long can you really expect to live? Your health and family history play a role, but generally a 65-year-old man has a 50% chance of living until age 87 and a 25% chance of living until age 93, according to Fidelity. A 65-year-old woman had a 50-50 chance of making it to age 90, and a 25% chance of living to 96. Yet many retiring boomers might not be anticipating a retirement that could last for three decades or more.

9. They don’t know how much they can safely withdraw from their retirement accounts

concept of Planning for retirement

Many boomers don’t know how much they can safely take from their nest egg each year. | iStock.com/jerry2313

The often-cited “4% rule” says you can withdraw 4% from your portfolio every year without a serious risk of running out of money before you die. This retirement rule isn’t universal, but it’s one you should be familiar with. Only 40% of survey respondents knew about the 4% rule. A third had no idea how much they could safely withdraw from their accounts, while 15% thought between 6% and 8% was a safe withdrawal rate.

Even if you don’t follow the 4% rule, you need to run the numbers to determine how much you can spend from your savings every year. Online calculators can help you determine how long your money will last, or a financial planner can work with you to create a customized projection.

10. They’re clueless about what their portfolio should look like

retirement

Choosing investments for a retirement portfolio can be a challenge. | iStock.com

A third of boomers admitted they had no idea how big (or small) a role stocks should play in their overall retirement portfolio. Confusion here is understandable because there’s no single right answer to this question. Some retirees want virtually no equity exposure in order to minimize risk, while others want to hang on to stocks to get better returns. Changing retirement realities (you’re likely to live longer than your parents, for example) and low returns for bonds affect how you decide to invest, but whether you’re for or against stocks in your retirement portfolio, it’s an issue you need to think about.

 

11. They haven’t planned for long-term care

elderly couple

Many boomers don’t have a plan for how they’ll pay for long-term care. | iStock.com

Only 36% of respondents said they had a long-term-care plan in place, and most had no idea how likely it was that they’d need long-term care. In reality, 70% of 65-year-olds can expect to eventually need some form of long-term care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Considering the typical stay in an assisted-living facility costs $3,628 a month and a private room in a nursing home will run you $7,698 a month, retirees would be wise to think about how they might manage those expenses. Medicare won’t cover all the costs, so the balance will need to come from your savings, long-term-care insurance, or other sources, such as help from family members.

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Married Couples Splitting Over Trump, Study Says

It’s not just Republicans and Democrats bickering it out lately. According to a new study and divorce attorneys, couples are also feuding over politics — especially President Trump — with many of them breaking up and even heading to divorce court.

New data from Wakefield Research, an Arlington, Virginia-based polling firm, one in 10 couples (married or unmarried) ended their relationships over political disagreements, with millennials parting ways at a particularly high rate of 22%.

“This study was conducted as part of Wakefield Research’s ongoing exploration of the trends driving conversations today in the U.S. and worldwide. Our research team regularly fields studies that examine how relationships are impacted by current events, so it was natural for us to ask about today’s political environment. We wanted to understand how, if at all, the current political environment was impacting romantic relationships,” Lisa Johnson Kiefer, managing director of Wakefield Research, tells FOX Business.

The survey, which was conducted nationwide with 1,000 participants from April 12 to April 18, also found that 22% of Americans know a couple whose marriage or relationship “has been negatively impacted specifically due to President Trump’s election.”

In fact, Wakefield says that 24% of Americans in a relationship or married report that since Trump was elected, “they and their partner have disagreed or argued about politics more than ever.”

New York-based divorce attorney Lois Brenner agrees with the study, saying she’s never seen so many couples fight over politics in her entire career.

“In my 35 years of matrimonial practice, I have never seen so many couples split over a political disagreement as with the Trump election. The essence is: you must agree with me. Since I specialize in the psychology of divorce, this essence has its roots in narcissism, antisocial personality disorder and even obsessive compulsive disorder. I am frequently mediating these disputes between couples to help them draft a postnuptial or separation agreement,” Brenner tells FOX Business.

Wakefield says that while finances are a common dispute for couples, over the last six months, more than one in five Americans in a relationship or marriage report having more disagreements over Trump’s policies than money woes.

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OPEN A NEW WINDOW.’ THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT’S MAY 24, 2012 REPORTON GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHTS FOR 2011, CHINESE GENERAL SECRETARY AND PRESIDENT ZEMIN,AND ME.

OPEN A NEW WINDOW.’ THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT’S MAY 24, 2012 REPORTON GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHTS FOR 2011, CHINESE GENERAL SECRETARY AND PRESIDENT ZEMIN,AND ME.

 


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by Dr. Jeffrey Lant.

Author’s program note. It is 4:58 a.m. Eastern time, and I ought to be in bed, not least because last evening I took a nasty fall and sprained my ankle. But I cannot lay about, simply cannot, with all the ingredients for an important story, perhaps a world-changing story at hand. My ankle is puffy but of no account, my brain and fingers raring to go.

Here, like a recipe, are the features:

Item: A copy of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011.”

Item: A clip of film from the 1939 tear-jerker “The Little Princess” starring that pint-sized money machine Shirley Temple.

Item: The then General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and President Jiang Zemin in my front yard, just inches away from me, just the two of us (and a chauffeur).

Item: Angela Lansbury’s always stirring song “Open a New Window” from the 1966 Broadway production of “Mame”.

And more than a dollop of cock-eyed optimism, for after all I am a Midwestern boy.

Are you ready for this ride?

Then go to any search engine and find Lansbury’s soaring achievement and play it now. Sing loud and proud… make your good wishes for a better world than the one outlined in the document before me be heard around the globe, especially in Beijing which needs to open that new window more than anyone…

“Travel a new highway/That’s never been tried before.”

Let me start this with a paean to America and a recommendation. Goodness knows we have our problems in these United States. Let’s be honest. Simply by perusing any newspaper on any given day, you’ll find the full panoply of horrors. However, when you read even a fraction of Secretary of State Hilliary Rodham Clinton’s latest report on global human rights violations (easily accessible on line), you cannot but perk up and say, “There but for the grace of God…”

Thus, Recommendation #1. I suggest the Secretary of Education (no slouch at producing long, windy, indigestible tomes), get this into the hands of every school board, superintendent, principal, teacher, student and parent. Let’s cut the America bashing and look at the record. All this would take is the will, a link, and an email suggesting this. Not difficult at all.

The shocking 2011 Chinese human rights violations.

In opening her report to Congress Clinton wrote this, “The world changed immeasurably over the course of 2011.” And mostly for the bad. Indeed, there is such a plethora of woe, you may be forgiven for wanting to pull the covers over your head and turning on the Disney Channel. This stern, even somber document relates in explicit detail just how 194 countries managed to oppress their own citizens. Now consider this: there are just 196 countries. Thus in plain language, where there are humans, there are human rights violations, even in places like the tiny principality of Andorra which was cited for failing to effectively protect the right of workers to bargain collectively.

This is bad but almost derisory when compared to the chronic, systematic rights violations daily perpetrated by the usual suspects, Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Syria, Belarus… and China. Their records are appalling, distressing, dismaying, the stuff of nightmares and a shock that seems ironically to diminish as the flagrant facts inexorably increase, no more so than with China. We know… but we do not want to acknowledge, not least because the health of our fragile economy now depends on China expanding its open door policy. Laissez les bons temps rouler… never mind garden-variety outrages like these… They are serious, of course, but not important. Thus page after page of unmitigated detail taken randomly from this deeply disturbing report…

How in 2011, there was continuing “deterioration in key aspects of the country’s human rights situation.” How this was manifested in repressions and coercions, particularly against enumerated organizations and individuals involved in rights advocacy and public interest issues. How political activists and public interest lawyers were silenced. How authorities resorted to extralegal measures including enforced disappearances, “soft detention”, strict house arrest, including house arrest of family members.

And so it goes, word by alarming word, line by disheartening line, page by page of proven indignities, not merely conjecture, but actual, certain, confirmed. Those desiring to inform the world and shine the full light of day on such malice have done their laudable work well and responsibly, and they must continue to do so, at the risk of profound dismay in the face of so much chagrin.

Jiang Zemin and me, an incident that haunts me.

On the morning of November 1, 1997, I went for my morning walk as usual. But this was to be no ordinary day. I stepped out of my residence and crossed the ancient narrow lane to the Common near at hand, my task to walk and think. But then in this city of Harvard, where there is nothing more usual than the unusual, something different occurred. It was a limousine with diplomatic trappings, a small flag… the flag of China… on the hood. The car was running slowly along the sidewalk… and then it stopped, blocking the path.

It was Jiang Zemin, Secretary General of the Chinese Communist Party (1989-2002), President of China (1993-2003).

I knew him at once and I deduced the situation immediately, for I had seen the mass of protestors marching through Harvard Square en route to Memorial Hall where this man, more powerful than any emperor, the butcher of Tiananmen Square, the very incarnation of what was once called the Red Menace, was to give an address entitled “Enhanced Mutual Understanding and Build Stronger Ties of Friendship and Cooperation.”

He was idling in his official car whilst the police cleared his path through the disruptive throng just blocks away. And so the chauffeur waited… Zemin and I, exemplars of such very different systems, face to face, no police, no escort, just us.

I did what you would have done. I smiled and waved… so did he. What next? I wanted a scene like the one from “The Little Princess”, where, at film’s end, Temple’s character throws herself at the feet of Queen Victoria and pleads successfully for the great sovereign’s help. That classic scene brought refreshing tears to millions. And no wonder, for we all want to believe that a chance encounter with greatness could change history. It is one of mankind’s enduring beliefs.

“The road not taken.”

I should have knocked on the window or beckoned him out, inviting him home, just a few steps away. I should have told him our peoples must be friends, problem-solvers, not wary, cautious, and suspicious. But of course I did none of this… thus as I read Secretary Clinton’s report of near unremitting gloom, I rebuked myself… and will always wonder “what if?” What would have happened if I’d trod the road not taken and so helped open the new window humanity so desperately needs? I’d give anything to relive that moment to find out.

 

About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Services include home business training, affiliate marketing training, earn-at-home programs, traffic tools, advertising, webcasting, hosting, design, WordPress Blogs and more. Find out why Worldprofit is considered the # 1 online Home Business Training program by getting a free Associate Membership today.

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EASTER EGGS.

A SILHOUETTE, NOT A PROFILE. BARACK OBAMA AT THE 2017 JOHN F. KENNEDY PROFILE IN COURAGE AWARD.

Will Social Security Last Until I Retire?

I’m sure you’ve heard that Social Security is running out of money, so here’s what you need to know about the current state of the program and what could happen in the future.

Mar 19, 2016 at 8:07PM
Bigstock Senior Couple Working Out Thei

SOURCE: BIGSTOCK.

For years, news outlets have been churning out headlines like “Social Security Is Going Bankrupt” and “Don’t Count on Social Security.” And although it’s true that Social Security is unsustainable in its current form, these splashy headlines are spreading the misconception that Social Security will soon disappear, leaving Americans who spent decades paying into the system high and dry.

Here’s the truth about Social Security — and why it will still be there for you.

The trust funds are running out of money
First, the bad news. Social Security will eventually run out of money unless something changes. The American population is simply aging too fast, and there isn’t enough new money flowing into the system to cover all of the benefits we’ve promised to retirees. If the projections released by the Social Security Board of Trustees are correct, the Social Security trust funds will run out of money entirely by 2034, at which point Social Security will only be able to pay out as much as it collects in payroll taxes.

Social Security taxes are currently 12.4% of taxable payroll — half paid by the employee and half paid by the employer. However, the costs of the program are equal to 14.1% of taxable payroll and rising. By 2038, Social Security benefits are expected to exceed 16.7% of taxable payroll.

The Board of Trustees estimates that the program’s trust funds will run at a large deficit until policy changes are made: “The Trustees project that this annual cash-flow deficit will average about $76 billion between 2015 and 2018 before rising steeply as income growth slows to its sustainable trend rate after the economic recovery is complete while the number of beneficiaries continues to grow at a substantially faster rate than the number of covered workers.”

The trustees expect unfunded obligations over the next 75 years to total $10.7 trillion.

But it’s not as bad as you may think
Before we deem Social Security DOA, let’s put this problem into perspective. First of all, Social Security taxes are not the only money flowing into Social Security. The reserves in the trust fund are invested in Treasury securities, and thus they earn interest.

Social Security brought in $98 billion in interest in 2014, in addition to $786 billion in tax and other non-interest revenue. Altogether, that’s $25 billion more than the benefits that were paid out — a substantial margin for the time being. The overall trust fund balance isn’t expected to start declining until 2020.

Additionally, if the system runs out of reserves in 2034 as forecast, then the money flowing in will still be able to cover 79% of scheduled benefits. So, in a worst-case scenario, Social Security will still be able to pay out nearly $800 of every $1,000 you’re expecting.

What can we do?
There are several ways to fix Social Security, and most proposed solutions fall into one of two main categories: increasing taxes or reducing benefits. American politics being what it is, the solution will most likely be a combination of the two.

There are several proposals for raising Social Security taxes. One popular solution calls for lifting the maximum amount of wages subject to Social Security tax from the current limit of $118,500 to a level that would include 90% of all earnings (currently around $250,000). According to a study by the National Academy of Social Insurance and Greenwald & Associates, this would take care of 29% of the shortfall. Another option would be to lift the cap entirely, making all income taxable for Social Security, which would have an even bigger effect, though it’s not such a popular idea among high-income Americans.

Another solution would be to increase the payroll tax by 1 to 2 percentage points above the current 6.2%. According to the trustees’ report, an increase in the payroll tax to 15.02% (that’s 7.51% from both employers and employees) would make the system solvent for another 75 years. The NASI-Greenwald study found that raising the Social Security tax to 14.4% would eliminate 52% of the shortfall and would be supported by most people so long as it were phased in over a 20-year period.

Meanwhile, a 16.4% across-the-board benefit cut would have the same effect as raising the payroll tax to 15.02%. Universal benefit cuts are extremely unpopular on both sides of the political aisle, but there are other ways to reduce the amount Social Security is paying out. For example, we could cut benefits only for high-income retirees who aren’t as reliant on this income. We could also raise the full retirement age by a year or two. However, these aren’t quite as popular as the proposed tax hikes.

The NASI study found that Americans’ preferred solution would be a combination of changes that would include:

  • Eliminating the earnings cap entirely over 10 years
  • Increasing the payroll tax rate to 14.4% of earnings over a 20-year period
  • Increasing the cost-of-living adjustment to better reflect seniors’ rising costs
  • Keep the full retirement age at 67

Such a package would have widespread support across different generations, income levels, and political parties.

Will something be done?
History tells us that Congress will act to bolster Social Security, but I wouldn’t be surprised if nothing got done until the trust funds are nearly gone. When Congress finally acts, it’s entirely possible that your Social Security taxes will increase and your full retirement age will rise. However, I can say with near certainty that something will be done, and Social Security will be there when you retire.

3 Serious Problems With the 4% Retirement Rule

The 4% rule can help you plan for your future retirement income, but you can run into deep trouble if you’re rigid about it. Here are its main flaws, and how to deal with them.

Feb 24, 2017 at 6:45PM
As you plan for retirement and form an educated estimate of how much money you’ll need, part of your calculations will involve determining how much of your savings you can withdraw each year, while still making your money last. The famous “4% rule” can help with that, but it’s not without some flaws.

Meet the 4% rule

The 4% rule has been around for a long time. It was introduced by financial advisor Bill Bengen in 1994 and was made famous in a study by several professors at Trinity University a few years later. It says that you can withdraw 4% of your nest egg in your first year of retirement, adjusting future withdrawals for inflation. This withdrawal strategy assumes a portfolio 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds, and it’s designed to make your money last through 30 years of retirement.

"4%" represented as 3-D characters in green

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Here’s an illustration of how it works: Imagine that you’ve saved $500,000 by the time you retire. In your first year of retirement, you can withdraw 4%, or $20,000. In year two, you’ll need to adjust that rate by inflation. Let’s say that inflation over the past year was at its long-term historic rate of 3%. You’ll now multiply your $20,000 withdrawal by 1.03 and you’ll get your second year’s withdrawal amount: $20,600. The following year, if inflation is still around 3%, you’ll multiply that by 1.03 and get your next withdrawal amount, $21,218.

The 4% rule can also help you estimate how much you’ll need to accumulate in the first place — once you know how much annual income you’ll want in retirement. Let’s say, for example, that you’d like to start retirement with total annual income of $60,000 and you expect to collect $25,000 from Social Security. That leaves $35,000 in income that you’ll need to generate on your own. If you assume that $35,000 is 4% of your nest egg, then you can multiply $35,000 by 25 in order to arrive at how large your nest egg will need to be: $875,000. (Why 25? Because one divided by 0.04 is 25.)

So what’s the problem with this seemingly super-helpful rule? Well, unfortunately, several things.

Interest rates have fallen: For starters, remember that the rule was created more than 20 years ago, when interest rates were higher. Mortgage rates in 1994 were in the 8% range, and one-year CDs paid about 4%. In such an environment, the bond portion of a portfolio would have been generating more income than bonds do today. (A two-year government bond recently yielded 1.2%.) We’ve been in a low-interest rate environment for a long time now, rendering our bonds less able to replenish funds withdrawn each year.

Binder labeled "retirement plan" next to a pair of glasses and sitting on sheets of graphs

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

It assumes a certain asset allocation: Then there’s the rule’s assumption that your portfolio will be split 60-40, respectively, between stocks and bonds. You might not have or want that allocation. If your portfolio is split 50-50, or you have 75% of it in stocks, then the 4% rule won’t work as advertised.

People are living longer: Data from a 2015 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows that those born in 2014 can be expected to live, on average, to age 78.8, up from 75.8 in 1995 and 70.8 in 1970. And those are just averages — many people live much longer lives and some live much shorter ones. The 4% rule aims to make your money last for 30 years, but if you retire at 62 and live to 96, your retirement will be 34 years long and you might be quite pinched in your last years.

Yellow road sign that says "proceed with caution"

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Should you use the 4% rule?

Clearly, the 4% rule is flawed. But you don’t necessarily have to throw it out altogether.

If you think you stand a decent chance of having a retirement that’s more than 30 years long, you can be more be more conservative, perhaps using a 3% or 3.5% withdrawal rate — at least in your initial years. That can be helpful during our low-interest rate environment, too. (Interest rates have begun inching up, but no one knows when they will hit various levels.) Don’t be too rigid about it, though. If the market grows briskly in your first few years, you can re-evaluate and perhaps increase your withdrawals.

Another challenge regarding the 4% rule is that every set of 20 or 30 or however many years in the stock market will be at least somewhat different — some with higher-than-average gains and some with lower-than-average gains. If you plan to follow the rule and withdraw 4% of your nest egg in your first year of retirement, you’ll be at a disadvantage if the stock market crashed in the year leading up to your retirement. Such things can happen: The S&P 500 plunged 37% in 2008. If that happens early in your retirement, you’ll either be withdrawing far less than you’d planned on or you’ll be depleting your nest egg faster. You can address this stock market-volatility issue by being flexible — withdraw less in bear markets and more in bull markets.

It’s a good idea to reassess your financial condition regularly during your retirement, too. For example, if when you’re 80 you don’t think you’ll be around in a decade and your coffers are rather full, you could start withdrawing and enjoying more each year — or just plan to leave more to your loved ones.

We all need to plan carefully for retirement. The average monthly Social Security retirement check is only $1,360 (or about $16,000 per year). You can boost your Social Security income via some strategies, but you’ll probably still need a separate nest egg of your own, and a plan to make it last. The 4% rule can be helpful for that, but use it wisely.

This is why having a home business online makes so much sense right now!!

Of polar bears. As the water rises, their prospects fall.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. What music is appropriate for the undoubted decline and possible demise of one of the grandest creatures on earth — Ursus maritimus — the polar bear? I have selected Edvard Grieg’s 1867 masterpiece “From the hall of the mountain king”, for this is the story of a race of kings, sovereigns all, ruling over a land of snow and ice… a land now melting, imperiling these princes of the North… whose prospects for survival wane as the sea waters around them rise, a rise which threatens human kind, too. This is their story… and we must heed it for they are not threatened alone. You’ll find Grieg’s suite in any search engine. Find it now… and listen to its evocative, enigmatic sound. This sound will endure…. but will the polar bears whose tale I tell this day?
The seas at the top of the world are rising, rising…
While politicians argue about cause and effect, the undeniable fact of global warming and rising seas is beyond cavil and dispute. Sea level has been rising significantly over the past century, according to a newly released study that offers the most detailed look yet at the changes in ocean levels during the past 2,100 years.
Researcher Benjamin Horton, director of the Sea Level Research Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, found that since the late 19th century — as the world’s industrialization intensified — sea level has risen more than 2 millimeters per year on average. That’s a bit less than one-tenth of an inch… a small amount that signals death for polar bears… and chaos for seaside humans, drip by inexorable drip. It’s all about rising temperatures.
Rising sea levels are among the hazards that rightly concern environmentalists and progressive governments with increasing global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels like coal and oil over the last century or so.
The heat generated works to steadily melt some of the millions of tons of ice piled up on land in Greenland, Antarctica, and elsewhere. Such melting raises ocean levels and this, in turn, raises the possibility of major flooding in highly populated coastal cities and greater storm damage in oceanfront communities.
Polar bears must swim further and further for food…
Researcher Anthony Pagano, a US Geological Survey biologist, at the International Bear Association Conference, has, in his newly released study, made it clear what happens to polar bears as the snow melts and the seas rise. He identified and studied 50 long- distance swims by adult female polar bears between 2004 and 2009 in the southern Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
“Climate change is pulling the sea ice out from under polar bears’ feet, forcing some to swim longer distances to find food and habitat,” said Geoff York, a polar bear expert at the World Wildlife Fund who coauthored the study.
And the cubs simply fall off…
York said polar bears, tracked by satellite devices, routinely swim 10 miles or more for food, principally the seals they dote on and devour. But as the seas rise, these distances increase. Twenty bears in the survey swam more than 30 miles at a time. The longest-distance swim was 426 miles; the longest-lasting swim was 12.7 days, with a few brief breaks on drift ice. All this is bad enough, but here’s the tragic element: eleven of the bears that swam long distances had young cubs when researchers attached the tracking collars. Five of those mothers lost their cubs while swimming… and thus the breed and its prospects are diminished…
Facts about the threatened polar bears, majestic, now vulnerable.
The polar bear, universally admired, is the world’s largest land carnivore and also the largest bear, together with the omnivorous Kodiak bear, which is approximately the same size. An adult male weighs around 350-680 kg (770-1,500 lb), while an adult female is about half the size. Although it is closely related to the brown bear, it has evolved to occupy a narrower ecological niche, with many body characteristics adapted for cold temperatures, for moving across snow, ice, and open water, and for hunting the seals, which make up most of its diet.
The polar bear is classified as a vulnerable species, with eight of the 19 polar bear subpopulations in decline. Researchers estimate there are 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears worldwide; they are listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act.
“Nanook of the North.”
Over the course of uncounted centuries, the intricate, necessary symbiosis between the polar elements, the polar bear, and Inuit and other indigenous peoples of the North has slowly, carefully evolved. The Northern people revered the bear whose flesh they enjoyed… they called the polar bear “nanook”… and took the name proudly for themselves.
In 1922, Robert J. Flaherty made one of the most celebrated documentaries of the silent film era, “Nanook of the North”, calling it “A Story of Life and Love In the Actual Arctic.” In the tradition of what would later be called “salvage ethnography”, Flaherty captured (and some critics said staged) the struggles of the Inuk Nanook and his family in the Canadian arctic. In 1989, this film was one of the first 25 films selected for preservation in the United States Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
But the human Nanook, though most assuredly a predator of the ursine Nanook, was never a problem, for he took only what he needed… and was never wanton. He never forgot he needed nanook. No, he is not the problem, though human kind as a whole most assuredly is. For we as a genus are thoughtless, careless always anxious to shift the guilt, the burden, the responsibility to others for what we have done.
And what’s terrible about this so sad situation is this: we know what to do and when and how to do it. We don’t need more learned studies; for studies about the future of the polar bear and its irrevocably changing environment are frequent, thorough, detailed, and unanswerable. We need action… before this matter becomes, like the histories of so many other species, academic.
But, for now, let us end as we began, with Edvard Grieg, master of unsurpassed, haunting melody. A creature of the North, knowing Winter well, he cherished the fleeting glories of Spring. In this spirit, he composed something so beautiful it is painful to listen to. He called it “Last Spring”, and you must go to any search engine now to play it. Let it fill your heart with compassion for the great creatures now completely at the mercy of their greatest predators, us. Let us pray that this song of soul by Grieg remains great music only and that there is no “Last Spring” for Ursus maritimus, beloved of man, dying through the works of man.
For where shall we find your like again; You who thrilled us so?
Where shall we look when you are gone you who have been made by God?
When you are gone who will care for why when your great heart beats no more?
God will know… … but He will not say for we who were bade to cherish failed you.
So now we lament… too late Now we shall know you not and nevermore.
Never to play again under the great northern lights once your heaven.
Where then have you gone? You whom we loved, and failed…
* * * * *
About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Republished with author’s permission by Howard Martell http://HomeProfitCoach.com . Check out Massive Traffic Ultimatum -> http://www.HomeProfitCoach.com/?rd=sk9BRJW

Successful Kids and 10 Habits of the Parents Who Raise Them

Give children chores