What Are You Willing to Sacrifice?

‘Tis the season for health care reform overreacting, from Democrat Pelosi’s very silly & counterproductive “unAmerican” remark, to the unbeknownst-to-anyone-including-those-creating-the-bill “death panels” – aka having access to good & factual information from your doctor on handling end-of-life preparations – charged by Republicans and on which Republicans are now backpedaling as, yes, another overreaction.  This made more interesting by the fact that it was a Republican, Senator Johnny Isakson of GA, who introduced the bill’s end of life counseling option for Medicare… Oh, and by the way, my fellow Boomers, according to Medical News Today, one of the top 10 most common medical challenges for us as we age: Death & Dying, e.g. deciding how we want to live out the end of our lives and how we want to die….

What is not being discussed, and must be if we hope to reform anything, whether it’s our evermore dysfunctional health care system or a shaky marriage, is the “give” part of “give and take”…

And I’m not referring to Congress; I’m talking about…us.

It is an accepted fact that at times we must sacrifice for the greater good.  We Boomers’ parents did that big time to ensure a world free of fascist domination; foster parents make many sacrifices so they can care for others’ abused/neglected children; and, of course, our military men and women make huge sacrifices, as do their families, to keep us safe.  Americans often are willing to sacrifice a little – and sometimes a lot – to help others.

So I asked myself, “what am I willing to sacrifice when it comes to health care reform, so that others (many) who are suffering because their insurance dropped them for having a disease that is too costly, or are uninsured and as a result are not getting the healthcare some of them desperately need, will no longer have to live that way?”  Because that, to me, is what underpins much of the debate, fuels much of the fear, and ultimately decides the outcome: “you’re asking me to give up something for this, and I don’t wanna…”

It’s natural to think only of ourselves, what we have, and that we don’t want to chance losing something of our own so that others we don’t know can gain.  But, in retrospect:

  • it’s a good thing the Continental Congress ultimately fought that desire (for 2 years the vast majority of representatives wouldn’t even discuss the option of independence, in part because they knew it would be considered treason, but in greater part because they were afraid of losing their property and standing);
  • I’m very glad those who stormed the beach at Normandy didn’t feel that way, and;
  • I’m deeply grateful that those who ultimately lost their lives to gain basic civil rights for all, didn’t place their own self-interests above that of millions of fellow Americans subjugated to egregious forms of discrmination.

Now that I know that 10’s of millions of my fellow Americans, a number that keeps growing, have, over many years, experienced serious health ramifications because they have no coverage to get then well, this is a big enough problem to warrant serious consideration of my part in fixing it. 

I am thrilled that my 89 year old mother, and all of America’s elderly (and not so elderly…) have Medicare so at least here in America we don’t let our elderly go without all the care they need to have a quality life.  But that has only been since the 1960’s, prior to that, we did treat our elderly as we do our younger citizens now, and that’s nothing in which to take pride.

So, am I willing to pay a little more so that others can be healthy?  Am I willing to get a little less so someone with cancer will be covered after all?  Doctors, are you willing to make $3K instead of $4K a year* and perhaps drive a smaller BMW?  And, of course, we already know that the insurance companies are not willing to sacrifice anything but those who cost them too much, unless forced to do so…

A major objection from the most vocal of opponents, is based in this concern: “I like my insurance (whether private of Medicare) and don’t want it impacted at all!”  Is that reasonable or completely selfish?  Is it unreasonable to ask those who feel they are not impacted by the health care issue, to make some potential sacrifice so others may have even some of what they have (the operative word being potential, as for many it may never happen)?

My answer is, I am willing to pay a little more for the same coverage if that will help others – I am not willing to continue to pay more for less to benefit the insurance companies as \is happening right now.   I say that not completely selflessly (of course…): I know full well that I do already pay for the uninsured through the 33% hike I’ve seen in my premiums over just the last year.  If you think that’s not happening to you as an insured, just call your insurer and ask why premiums keep rising – they will readily admit that it is in part because they must try to recoup the rising costs of hospital medical care, for instance, associated with the mandate to care for the uninsured regardless of their ability to pay. 

Even those with good coverage know that at any time they can be denied care for a needed procedure, canceled, or as has happened regularly over the last many years even w/employer underwritten group health plans, pay ever more for less coverage.  This while insurance executives fly to their next stockholder meeting in their private planes with gold-rimmed dinnerware and hand & foot service (I’m not fabricating this – an ex-insurance exec told all recently to the St. Pete Times, and this was part of his story).

So, now I ask you: What are you willing to sacrifice for the greater good on this issue?  A little something can really go a long way.

*According to a 2008 survey of MD’s by Modern Physician, Physician’s salaries range from a low of $175K/yr (Internist), to a high of $600K (Radiologist): averaging $387K/yr.

Top 6 Things President Obama Must Handle in the First 100 Days

We Boomers pretty much embody the nexus for the nation’s most pressing ills that must be made well if America is to once again be great.   As far-reaching as that sounds, it couldn’t be more true.

Using myself as an example, I am:

  • a business owner;
  • a mother of young adults in the work world;
  • a person who is nearing retirement;
  • a caretaker for elderly parents, and;
  • a person who is part of the generation that called for an end pollution and corporate bad behavior

These correlate to the following ills already identified as most pressing by voters and pundits alike (in order of appearance above):

  • Taxes and global trade laws
  • Job creation; adequate healthcare
  • Social Security & Medicare; retirement account capacity
  • ditto; plus Healthcare
  • Clean energy/energy efficiency

So, here is my guidance to our young and idealistic President Elect – the top 6 things to be handled in the first 100 days from a Boomer’s perspective:

  1. Economy: Ensure the proper handling of the immediate steps needed to begin meaningful economic recovery by seeking/receiving ideas from economists, not politicians, from both ends of the “how-to-fix-this” spectrum, then doing what falls in the middle-ground
  2. Healthcare: any form of “universal healthcare” is at best a long way off in this country (rightly or wrongly…) and at worst not going to happen at all in this country; ensure a first step response that will at least mitigate the outrageous costs of healthcare/health insurance, thus providing immediate relief that will go far to create a healthier populace (on which, after all, all else is dependent)
  3. Taxes: Immediately roll back or eliminate tax breaks for companies that cheat (off shore bank accounts to avoid taxes, for example), steal (eliminate jobs here in the US so their CEO’s can grab hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation), and pollute without care for the planetary result but to increase their bottom-line; rework the tax code to eliminate huge tax loopholes for those making over a certain amount (your cut-off of $250,000 is fine) so they are paying a fair ratio of income tax to income
  4. Social Security/Medicare: SS – move the cap at which SS deductions are taken, from the current $89K to $250K; Medicare – immediately establish a department that investigates/handles only Medicare fraud, as I can tell you from first hand experience that what we’re doing now is completely inadequate, and the money being greedily siphoned from this excellent program could pay for it and the department’s salaries, possibly 2X over
  5. NAFTA: do not eliminate this treaty, instead make it more effective and even-handed for all countries involved (including ours….)
  6. Job Creation through Clean Energy Sources (value added…Energy Independence): In addition to the aspects of #’s 3 & 5 above that will result in the creation of a certain amount of jobs, immediately invest in alternative energy projects and the job training needed to prepare unemployed/soon to be unemployed folks from last century industries, for those jobs.

And your foundation for all of this: Be unwavering on your determination that ideology will not trump reality, particularly within your own party.

My fellow Boomers and I were around in the heady days of the 60’s/70’s that America (if not the world…) is in process of reliving.  Unfortunately, we became “the Man” we so distrusted; we became the polluters and resource wasters we so derided; in essence, we got lost from our ideals, too busy making a living to remember the importance of sustaining life.

Do not get lost once in the Oval Office.  Keep your grounding.  Make sure that you and the youth you so inspire, don’t stop living your ideals as we did.

Build on our historic successes and don’t repeat our failures.  Then, maybe this time around America can finish what it started.

Boomers + Economy: Doesn't Need to = Panic…

Yes my fellow Boomers…you’re hearing it everywhere; our current state of economic affairs are ABSOLUTELY DEVASTATING for us as we head toward our much anticipated retirement days in the sun.  Here’s an example (contracted) from US News and World Report:

3 Ways the Economic Crisis Is Destroying Baby Boomer Retirement

  1. Stock Market declines: During the past 12 months, retirement accounts have lost $1.6 trillion or 18.3 percent of their value, according to Urban Institute
  2. Falling Home prices: The average home price fell 3.9 percent from January 2007 to May 2008, according to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight
  3. Decreasing Job markets: Contracting credit markets could weaken the labor market, thus limiting employment opportunities for older adults

And although the writer of this USNWR article does provide ideas for how to offset today’s admittedly troubling economic conditions, many others do not, staying firm on the newspaper-selling, google-search-engine attracting, dire news, all of which can understandably make a Boomer feel…well, panicky.

Don’t.

Here’s why, issue by issue.

Stock Market Declines

Will the recovery from this mess take years?  As Sarah would say, “you betcha!” 

But the operative word is “recovery”.  We do, in fact, have a few years to hold on and wait out this inevitable, years-in-the-making, needed correction to our (and our nation’s) overspending, under-saving, and the massive, voter permitted deregulation of an industry that has proven itself at least 2 other times in the past 30 years of being incapable of controlling itself (but immensely capable of poor decision-making and business practices founded in greed).

Panic, sell off your stocks, and you create precisely the situation you fear; a self-fulfilling prophesy.  My guess is that all of us were smart enough to have generally diverse portolios.  This economic situation is why we have such diversity, so trust it.  Selling your stocks will just make your situation worse (because it will take the market into a greater downspin), and has no upside (because you’re selling at such a huge loss).  Worst case scenario, you will have to work an extra year or two to compensate for the losses your portfolio is experiencing right now.  But your investments will come back.  If you don’t panic and crash the system.

Working

OMG, as our kids would text-speak, there is plenty of work for us right now!  Whether you’re recently laid off (due to the economy…) or seeking your retirement second career a little sooner than you’d originally budgeted for, there are “recession-proof” industries/jobs that will snap up a Boomer with our experience and background, in the proverbial heart-beat!

This from the Miami Examiner’s Baby Boomer Expert (Paul Briand):

Uncle Sam to Baby Boomers: I want you

The last time some Uncle Sam needed some Baby Boomers was during the Vietnam War … as soldiers.

Now, according to a new partnership, there is need anew … as workers.

The Partnership for Public Service has started the FedExperience pilot program with federal agencies, corporate partners, and other stakeholders to match government’s critical hiring needs with the talents of experienced, older workers.

The partnership sees a win-win relationship between the government and older workers.

I’ll add to that a list of other, Boomer friendly and recession-proof jobs available right now:

  • Mechanical and Electical Engineer
  • Sales Executive
  • Technology Executive (for those of you with or able to get quickly get your Computer Science degree)
  • Customer Support/Management
  • Database Administration
  • Product and Project Management
  • Testing/QA
  • Financial staff at every level (from Finance execs, to accountants and bookkeepers)
  • Business Analysis & Development
  • Adminstrative/Executive Assistant
  • Nursing/PA/NP

And yes, you may have to put off for a little while your dreams of business ownership, but there’s no need to throw out that dream.  Just postpone it perhaps for a year or two.  That said, if you do want to go for it now, sign up for my free report Forbes 9 Best Boomer Markets: http://tinyurl.com/3rlrpe

Retiring

Is your house worth less right now?  It is.  But the housing market is already reaching its bottoming-out point and will rebound in less than one year.  So just hang in there a little longer before you take that reverse mortgage or consider moving.

Will you have to revamp your retirement timeline or plans?  Perhaps, but again, our retirement is hardly IN RUINS!!!  It is on hold for a while, or will look differently than we’d hoped for a while.

Ultimately, Boomers, this is not a catastrophe; it is a major but temporary inconvenience.  It is scarey, but not fearsome.  We will not all be living a new millennial version of The Grapes of Wrath; we will be living a little leaner, which isn’t a bad thing anyway, really.

We’re going to be fine.  But not if we panic.

The Bail out…is a cop out

Why, you say, do I say that the wall street bail out, in essence, won’t work?  Here’s an excerpt from an article on this topic found in Money Morning, that explains it well.  To read the full article, go to: http://www.moneymorning.com/ppc/senate_agg.html?gclid=CKPn18iok5YCFQhdswodiCp_FA and subscribe.

Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: Why the Senate Bailout Bill Will Fail Taxpayers

 

In plain English, here’s what’s wrong with the proposed plan and what alternatives should be immediately vetted and constituted into a new plan.

The Treasury plan was originally predicated on buying $700 billion of collateralized residential mortgage-backed securities that banks could not unload. The idea was that the banks would get the money, which they could then turn around and lend to keep the credit markets open and credit flowing throughout the economy. In the meantime, the Treasury Department would sit on the securities until it is able to sell them, hopefully at a profit. The idea, from a theoretical standpoint,isn’t stupid. It is, however, impossible to implement to any degree that will result in its intended effect.

Here’s why:

  • There are more than $1 trillion worth of subprime collateralized mortgage-backed securities out there – and that’s just one type of problematic derivative security. The bottom line: $700 billion isn’t enough. Period.
  • The purchase plan is not limited to just residential mortgage-backed securities. Surprise! What else will Treasury buy?
  • Who’s going to fight off the lobbying groups out to influence the managers that the Treasury Department hires to direct money to their masters? Did we mention that $700 billion wasn’t enough?
  • The government plan is even more under-funded than people realize, for it doesn’t authorize the full $700 billion: Indeed, it starts with only $350 billion, leaving an even greater shortfall. Did we mention that $700 billion wasn’t enough?
  • Treasury is going to hire banking-industry managers to manage the process. Those managers are going to serve themselves – just as they served themselves to get us into the crisis.
  • There is no defined mechanism to determine what price the Treasury Department will pay for what it buys. For argument’s sake, even if Treasury were to only buy the problem securities its leadership speaks of in public – residential mortgage-backed securities – there are problems if it prices them too low: If that happens, some holders won’t sell them, taking the chance that if they hold them long enough they will be worth more than Treasury is willing to pay. How will those financial institutions regain liquidity if they won’t sell the securities needed to make this happen?
  • Since Treasury can’t buy all the problem securities, if it prices what it’s going to buy too low, all remaining holders will have to mark down their holdings and take more write-downs and losses. How will that create confidence and facilitate “liquidity”?
  • However, if the Treasury Department prices the securities too high, several problems quickly emerge: Hedge funds will rush to sell their current holdings, and may very well speculate by buying up more securities to sell them at a higher price (profit) to Treasury, meaning that the Treasury Department plan won’t necessarily be helping banks directly. What’s more, if those securities are priced too high, and the market for them continues to fall, taxpayers will eat the losses – a reality that likely will lead to an end to further program funding.

While the idea that taxpayers should get warrants and ownership in the entities that we buy securities from is theoretically a good idea, there are some issues. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest potential pitfalls:

  • Foreign banks aren’t going to be thrilled about that; yes, they are included in the list of whom the Treasury will buy from.
  • Are taxpayers going to be limited partners in hedge funds? What if those hedge funds implode?
  • The U.S. Treasury Department could end up in control of our banks. Considering how well they run the government’s fiscal house, is that what we want?
  • Who is going to decide when to sell any of government’s ownership interests, should they turn out to be profitable? Will we own these businesses forever?
  • Is government going to control private enterprise? Is this a ruse? Are we heading into an era under the stewardship of a socialist government?
  • There is no direct support for homeowners in the plan and no support mechanism for falling home prices. And yet, these twin evils are the root causes of what has happened.