Happy Financial New Year – Five Different Paths to Money Success.

Media is flooded with pundits spouting 2014 financial resolutions. Heck, I’m on radio and television talking up the same.

talking head

Increase savings in retirement accounts, pay down credit card debt, check your insurance coverage for gaps – all good advice.

But.

We already know this stuff. It’s drilled into our heads.

Every year.

It’s fine to be reminded of the healthy financial actions we should take.

Yet, what stops us from following through?

Before you ponder money improvements for 2014, think outside the box – deviate from the worn financial paths you have attempted to walk before.

This time you’ll succeed if you take five different paths.

1). Don’t save everything for retirement. You read it right. It’s been drummed into you how a secure financial future depends on maximizing contributions to tax-deferred options like 401(k) accounts.  But how important is it, really?

A.J Leon, writer, motivator, world explorer, big thinker, in his book, “The Life and Times of A Remarkable Misfit,” outlines 16 simple steps to make money and lose respect – Step 4 is: “Never invest in yourself. Instead sock every last penny in a 401(k) that may or may not be there to greet you when you turn 65.”

Many employers have a difficult time understanding retirement plans. From the hundreds of plans examined, I notice an overwhelming trend of bland choices coupled with high fees.

For some it’s best to settle on government-approved choices called “target-date” funds. They’re the prevalent cookie-cutter choices in your company retirement plan. Basically, they’re an all-in-one mix of mutual funds packaged and wrapped in another mutual fund, thus called a “fund of funds.” The mix of stocks, bonds and cash is designed to match up to the year you decide to re­tire.

For example, it’s 2012 and you’re 40 years old. You are planning to retire at 65 (good luck). You decide on the “BlahBlah Fund 2037.” Easy.

The logic behind a target date fund is simple even though underneath, the design is com­plicated and investment philosophies can deviate dramatically depending on the mutual fund family your employer utilizes. In other words, the returns of the Blah-Blah Fund 2037 compared to the returns of your buddy’s La-La Fund 2037 will most likely differ, some­times radically.

Let me clarify: Each fund creates a “glide path,” which means the blend of investments should gradually become less aggressive the closer one gets to retirement or the target year.

Per research by Zvi Bodie, the Norman and Adele Barron Professor of Management and Jonathan Truessard, Lecturer, both at Boston University in a 2007 paper “Making Investment Choices as Simple as Possible: An Analysis of Target Date Retirement Funds,” target date funds are approximately following the well-known rule of “100 minus your age,” for the stock portion of the mix. And this smelly piece of financial dogma needs to be abolished. Now.

Target-date funds require refinement. For those who invested their tax-deferred dollars in 2008 target-date options, hoping to begin withdrawing the money in 2008, were in for a rude awakening when their accounts suffered by over 21%.

Consult an objective financial advisor; select a balanced fund. If your choices are limited to the target-date variety, cut the “maturity” date in half.  Your estimated retirement date is 2020. That’s six years away.  Go for fund 2017. Be prepared for a 2008 surprise.

Contribute up to the employer match. Don’t leave free money on the table regardless of choices, either.

According to Federal Reserve data, the average U.S. household maintains an outstanding credit card balance of over $7,000. Based on numbers provided by www.bankrate.com, the average annual percentage rate or APR for variable-rate credit cards stands at 15.37%; fixed-rate cards stand at 13.02%.

Maybe, just maybe, your 401(k) account returns exceeded 13-15% in 2013 so it was worth carrying a credit card balance. Long term, it’s a bad financial choice. Instead of maxing out saving for retirement right now direct financial resources to pay credit card debt off in full.

2). Consider your human capital. Quantify your worth. You are your greatest investment. I know it’s tough to think this way, to choose yourself, but it’s true.  Return on self-investment is wealth yet to be achieved.

How will you increase your value in a challenging marketplace? Perhaps it’s a new skill necessary to move ahead and above a nascent U.S. economic recovery.

If a continuing education opportunity exists or improvement options are available to increase your income, do it. You’re probably never going to retire anyway and when you do decide, it’ll be much later than age 65 so maximize the ROY (return on you) today.

Check out a Human Capital Calculator here.

3). Get your head straight.  My friend Shanna and I discussed this topic, recently.  If you are jealous of those who have prospered financially and you communicate negative sentiment to others, you’re digging a toxic mindset hole that will be tough to escape.

Don’t talk yourself out of empowering money habits. It’s the lazy way out. Jealousy is an energy sucker, a cash drainer. Change your mind set in 2014. Your brain will believe what you repeat to yourself, to others.  Ask more questions of those you “envy:” How did you meet your goals? What are the daily habits you follow to gain greater financial independence? What did you learn from your mistakes? Learn from others, don’t push them away.

jealousy

Teacher, mentor, investor, best-selling author James Altucher advises:

“You have a house. You need to keep the house clean so the right guests can arrive and feel comfortable. If you clutter it with anger or envy or scarcity or fear then abundance won’t feel comfortable moving in. I say this not from a position of comfort but because when i was dead and buried, i had to clean the clutter to make my life work. And it was hard because when the house is cluttered, your mind gets depressed and lazy.”

4). Stocks are not an end-all investment. Don’t be pushed into believing stocks are the panacea the financial industry tells you they are when it comes to fighting inflation. According to Jim Otar, creator of the Retirement Optimizer and author of several books on retirement planning expanded on this topic for a recent interview:

“Many advisors are under the assumption that stocks always beat inflation. This is not true. Equities beat inflation only during the long-term bullish trends, which occupied 43% of the last century. During the remaining 57% of the time, equities did not beat inflation.”

Rental properties, oil & gas interests, angel investing (can be RISKY), inflation-linked securities, deferred-income annuities can also battle inflation and diversify a stock portfolio.

5). Stop the competition.  I hear it often: My friends are the same age and they have: More cars, more savings, more stuff.

Stop.

First, friends embellish.

It’s called the endowment effect.

Second, your best financial life begins today.

Don’t look back.

It’s never too late.

Third, forget the stuff.

Travel lighter.

Down five alternate paths.

And discover long-lasting financial success.

financial success

Emerged in Indigo – 5 Ways to Ride The Blue Spray to Better Mental Health.

“Yo, listen up, here’s a story. About a little guy that lives in the blue world. And all day and all night and everything he sees is just blue like him. Inside and outside. Blue his house with a blue rear window. And a blue corvette. And everything is blue for him. And hisself. And everybody around.”

Eiffel 65.

I woke up super early then. A teenage responsibility. To deliver New York’s “picture newspaper.” The Daily News. Sleeping residents would stir in a couple of hours expecting their papers. Along cement apartment grids. Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn.

It was one of the largest routes in the borough and I traveled it all on three-speed bicycle. I pulled a contraption rigged to handle 100 daily morning editions and the heaviest of Sunday’s news.

Before the sun was aware of its duty to Earth. Before the blue sky broke to orange. A first birth of light.

When the world was quiet. Stay quiet longer. A calm so loud it caused a ringing in the ears.

Not like this morning at 4.

News stations begin broadcasts at ungodly hours now. Roads are semi-clogged at 4 with volumes we once experienced two hours later.

I dislike how the world moves frenetic. So early. Stress. In the dark. Before the black dies to blue then blue surrenders to bursts of orange.

blue orange day

The world was simpler. Black to blue at a slower pace. Long ago you could enjoy the present. Appreciate atmospheric neon. Now – well, it’s different. 

Does it need to be?

world blue

Four in the morning was mostly test pattern territory in the 70s, accompanied by an awful buzz generated to scare the shit out of viewers and blow out mono-sound RCA television speakers.

What the hell was the significance of a test pattern anyway?

test pattern And what was with the Indian?

Seriously. Some young television producer seeking fame got lucky with a Spirograph and fooled a generation into thinking test patterns were something important. The noise that went along with them only added to the mystery. I always felt these test patterns were serious.

Like I needed to do something.

No sleep.

Seek shelter. That was it.

Evil was transmitted through black and white.

Through test patterns.

spirograph

Throughout decades, no matter who we are, where we’re from, colors have stained us. Monochrome, Technicolor. Some colors horrify. Others soothe. Many inspire. A few suffocate our spirit or maybe worse. Colors saturate memories, thoughts; alter our sense of smell, taste. Sex, lust, love, hate, anger, life, death, empathy, apathy – all just splashes of color.

Colors haunt us. Colors explode in our souls. Ignite brains, shut them down.

And once a color is attached to a thought, a moment, it’s impossible to change it. Although I’ve learned the shade can indeed, change.

The color that sticks, stays however. That’s the rule.

When I a kid. Really young, when my senses were newer and more alive, as early as five years old, the vibrancy of spectrums overwhelmed me.

In the spring, the smell of new grass glowed lime green – in summer, the aromas were windblown ribbons of yellow. Colors shaped the hours. Every day had its own color and every moment was a shade of that color.

Unfortunately, I had many gray days, too. And they puzzled me. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized they were my depression days. Depression runs deep black in my family. Both sides.

Back to blue:

blue dude A blue one for the ladies. 

When I left the corporate cocoon (broke away, forced out, whatever) after 23 years, I lost my colors. My sense of security, sense of self, all I was. Gone. At least I thought. And after a colorless adventure physically, financially, mentally, I am beginning to not only see, but feel colors again.

As I lost the ability to live in the present, worried incessantly about my future, the blue evaporated from my spirit. I was able to recall, even as far back as five years ago, how I would stare at a blue sky and wonder what the color was. My blue was definitely closer to Prussian. Dark, heavy. I thought that was the way it was supposed to be.

Life was supposed to be well, colorless. I chalked it up to low T, a demanding, lifeless boss, a publicly-traded financial services company with draconian demands. So much out of my control. All of it designed to drain my blue. I see lots of blue-drained people now. They try to paint themselves true blue with new televisions, more toys, car payments. 

Long ago, I would close my eyes, before the paper route journey began for the day. When the air felt clean, before daybreak. I could freely bask in the present, breathe deep. I remembered that.

I was sad my blue disappeared.

Blue was my color of hope back then. A spray of Azure, I think.

And now it’s coming full circle.

Black is fading to blue. I see it now.

How can you ride the blue spray to sanity? To better mental health.

Random Thoughts:

1). Try. Hard. Try. Hard. Not. To. Lose. Your. Force. In the first place.  At the first sign of color loss, even a slight fade, step back and examine the origin. It’s a warning: The color of joy, hope, is fading from your soul, reducing your life force. Recognize and say no to people, ideas, fears that cause your positive colors to bleed light and your dark colors to deepen.

It’s not easy.

This year proved to me it’s tougher that I would have ever believed.

As I look to the past, now in the present, I observe the shifting wave of blue spray. It’s right there. Ready to wash over me. Hope is returning. The shade is different however; I’ll need to examine why as I move forward down the blue road.  Once I recall hope as Azure; today it feels more Brandeis.

2).  Surround Yourself with Spirits Who Share or Enhance your Color. Now that the spray is in my grasp, how do I contain it, bold it up? Move the spectrum to blue, or dark blue? I’m learning to surround myself with blue spirits. I’ve gotten so good I can see a blue glow around the right teachers. The blue spirits come in all forms – human, animal. Young, old. They’re awash in the spray.

I can pick up on the color of a prospective teacher in a few seconds. The “fade shaders” as I call them, or the color absorbers are immediately discarded. They are removed from my mental space. Their sprays are lethal and tough to lighten once they hit you. 

3). I Feel the Blue in Those Who Eliminate Big Debts. Recently, I met with a son of a client who just paid off $30,000 in credit card bills through a strategy we worked on together. When he told me he was released from the massive debt, I could feel his blue spray return. And it felt good. It enhanced my blue. The progress which allowed him to reach a financial life benchmark changed his world for the better. He was more hopeful, powerful. A bluer world for me too.

4). Blue Signifies Cool. Cool can cleanse, preserve, enlighten, awaken. It’s that first exhale of fall when the air is cool and your breath is warm. Deep breathing allows blue spray to wash over you.

5). Batman’s Cape was Blue.  As a kid I would run around the house with a blue towel safety-pinned around my neck. Blue was the color of hope and strength. It represented helping those who needed it the most.

Naturally, I ran into shit like a dumbass and once knocked our 12 inch black & white television off a poorly constructed aluminum stand. Helping those without asking for anything in return will deepen your blue spray, embolden consistency.

Blue is indeed honorable.

Good friends are Cobalt.

Your teachers, your mentors are Sapphire.

Your spirit once black, is ready to burst Electric Indigo.

In a colorless world.

Allow your blue to emerge.

And anticipate the orange.

Of your ever-emerging life force.

batman cape

Gold Is a Rock – James Altucher. And Continues to Be – Rich Rosso

I had lunch with a smartie last year.

A smart, giving, beautiful, industrious young woman with the entire world at her feet had something important on her mind. I attempt to solve the world’s problems in Truluck’s main dining room. Her world’s problems were my problems. I knew she’d pass on what I tell her to others.

“I’m thinking of selling my regular investments and putting all the money into gold.”

“Why?”

Now, I’ve heard this commentary so many times already it’s almost like my earwax is made of a precious metal. I don’t even know why I sought an answer. I could have guessed what she was going to say and I would have been right. I respect this young lady so much so I was prone to listening. My curiosity got the best of me. The answer was what I usually hear.

Because I’m afraid,” she said.

“What are you afraid of?”

Again, I would have been shocked to hear anything new but I always keep an open mind.
Taking a mental bullet to gain knowledge should be part of your game plan. It’s how I roll.

atom bomb Gold is at home here.

“Feast, famine, life, death, the dollar, the national debt, war, earthquake, Obama, congress,jobs, inflation, deflation, interest rates, certainty over uncertainty, death, recession, depression, global annihilation, the Olson Twins weight problems.”

Gold had become “mother investor’s little helper” there for a while. Like a decade.

Until. Said mother decided to detox.

Admittedly, gold and other metals have kicked the ass out of other avenues for money.
The greatest concern today is how to gain perspective as many are now fully enmeshed in the emotional whirlwind called “recency” bias. Gold has blossomed into a recency bias monster but now the monster is bleeding. And we’ll try to convince ourselves the bleeding is temporary, or is it? I’m not smart enough to know. I’ll take being lucky and unemotional at this stage.

It went from Godzilla to Mothra real quick. Or did it? Were there signs for a period that a faith in paper currency was beginning to re-emerge?

As investors we just can’t detect the changes until something dramatic happens. And as we know, everything is dramatic in stock, metals and bond markets now.

Jason Zweig in his book “Your Money and Your Brain,” writes:

“It is human tendency to estimate probabilities not on the basis of long-term experience
but rather on a handful of the latest outcomes.”

Recency bias dulls senses. It makes humans fuzzy and unaware. Even worse is how it
strokes the flames of overconfidence in the extrapolation of current events way into the
future.

It’s a hideous bitch of deception as it convinces your brain that a recent place will
always be tomorrow’s place. And the day after tomorrow’s place. I’m all for momentum, but one needs to understand when the direction of the wind changes.

The sun will come out tomorrow because it came out today.

Why again? (I ask why and why not, a lot). Don’t ask me why.

Storm clouds can overwhelm the horizon real quick. Have you noticed the weird shit going on with the weather lately?

The Earth is not as maternal as it used to be.

The Washington Monument was cracked due to a rare earthquake.The Washington Monument for God’s sake was CRACKED. This period too shall pass. (Or get worse.)

I have a job today. Tomorrow I will have the same job. This is plain silly to bank on in
today’s economy. Employers won’t even look at you if you’re not currently employed or
“recently” unemployed. After six months you might as well be invisible.

You’re that that valuable either. Companies (especially large, publicly-traded) will do whatever they must to preserve their precious margins and that includes quickly adding you to the unemployment or underemployment stats. This will eventually change too. Well, maybe not.

I’m thinking not. Part time is the new full time. Temporary is the new permanent. And gold is NOT the new medium of exchange.

Read on: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/20/business/part-time-work-becomes-full-time-wait-for-better-job.html?smid=pl-share

Gold always holds its value. Tis’ is true. Gold has never gone to ZERO in value. Tell me
how you feel though if you purchase it at $1,800 an ounce and it goes to $1,100. You indeed lost value. I know it’s not really a loss unless you sell it. It’s a paper loss. And this will never happen, right? Got it. Now wake up!

We’ve heard it all too many times. Still hearing it: Gold will continue to move higher.

Fine.

Even if this is possible based on the warranted lack of faith in global leaders, you must remain skeptical when various signs begin to literally throw themselves at you. No investment goes the way you expect it to indefinitely.

I don’t care if it’s stocks, bonds, metals, widgets, antique toys (in original packaging), nothing goes straight up forever. Nothing. And you know what I mean.

For example, back in the 1930′s we were convinced that radio stocks would never falter.

Radio was going to “change the world.”  And it did. And the stock market got bored with it. Been there done that. Ostensibly, what was hot goes cold.

That’s a fact. Remember tech stocks? How you feeling about Apple stock these days?

old_lady_phone

Yes, Aunt Bev, I know. Buy gold. How about my favorite meatballs did you make them? 

How do you sniff out a top in the shiny stuff (or anything else)?

Random Thoughts:

1). Know the signs from relatives. People stay sharp! Watch for Aunt Beverly calling and demanding you own gold because the world is indeed over or at the minimum, going to hell. People at bingo told her the bible predicts the end of days! Vengeful gods accept gold as a medium of exchange for souls. Didn’t you know? Ok, not that accurate an indicator. But count it as a warning light. Please?

2). You notice consistent bantering about gold in elevators, on escalators. Or on rude, loud cell phone discussions at the supermarket or the movies or in public restrooms. I give you  permission to eavesdrop on conversations. Listen carefully for bloviating. We all know privacy died a long time ago. Loud bragging about an investment is a bad, bad sign. Money loss is imminent.

Once you begin to overhear more about gold than the latest sexcapades on an episode
of Real Housewives of Whatever, demand Aunt Bev sell immediately! Trust me. She
can buy back if I’m wrong. Feel free to send me an e-mail calling me an asshole
(only if I’m wrong please). Have mercy. Something tells me she’ll still make your favorite
meal when you visit (have a friend take a bite first just to be sure.)

3). Metal detector sales are through the roof. It’s the latest, greatest craze! Now more popular than pretty girls selling their alleged used panties on eBay (not allowed anymore so don’t get any ideas). Top global retailers of such equipment are experiencing a revolutionary boom in volume. Minelab, a company out of Australia that sells high-end metal detectors (about $5,600 each, not a typo) moved $118 million worth in 2010. That’s more than twice the sales numbers achieved in 2009. In 2012, gross revenues for metal detection products was strong but beginning to tail off from the peak in 2010.

You’ve lost a spouse, significant other, or friend to metal detecting. If I’m out $5,600 not including shipping and handling you can bet I’m not getting naked with anyone anytime soon. I’m planning to be feverishly obsessed with uncovering precious jewelry you lost on the beach. Probably best you move on. I’m busy. This did happen to a female friend I know in 2011. She’s much happier now.

4). More people are wearing apparel professing their love of gold. I don’t care if it’s a hat, t-shirt, dress, doggie shirt, whatever. It’s a sure warning sign of a top. No need to explain further.

golden showers oops, wrong shirt. 

According to ElvisBlog.net, a comprehensive authority on all things Elvis, the King
wore a gold lamé suit for a performance in March 1957.

At the International Amphitheater in Chicago.

The suit was designed by famous clothing artist to the country stars, Nudie
Cohn. Yes, Nudie (go ahead and laugh, it’s fine).

In 1957, gold was $34.95 per troy ounce.

A decade later in 1967 (Elvis was making embarrassing movies singing to racing cars by then) gold was $34.95 per troy ounce.

Is it a coincidence that you made zilch in gold for ten years? Maybe. Maybe not.  Respect history because we do the same stupid things over and over again.

elvis and nudie Elvis and Nudie Cohn.

4). Gold-related kiosks begin popping up in interesting or unusual places. You probably noticed more of them in your nearby mall. Oh and watch out for the gold bar vending machines and gold ATMs. They already exist overseas. And you’ve seen and heard the commercials, so many advertisements to buy gold.

5). You’re beginning to believe the stories how gold always goes up in recessions and depressions. Dr. Robert Prechter, author, financial analyst and founder of Elliot Wave International dulls the shine from this story using historical data. Excerpts from his research that appear in his E-book “Robert Prechter on Gold & Silver” are below.

In 1970, investors lost interest in stocks and preferred owning gold instead. For a period of ten years.

The same sentiment occurred again in 2001. We’re never really that different are we?

In most recessions, gold has been flat or negative in return. The recessions in 1973 and
2001 were good for gold. Only two out of eleven recessions were beneficial for gold.
Ten-year U.S. Treasury notes beat gold during every recession since 1945. T-note provided a capital gain in ten of the eleven recessions and also paid interest. The average
total return in Treasury notes per recession is a full 10 percent, beating both stocks
and gold.

5). Forty year-old nerds who live at home with their parents start blogs about gold.They’re out there. I’ve read them. They are plentiful. Nothing against nerds or blogs, I love both but there are way too many nerds on the same side of the argument.It’s what’s called on Wall Street, “a crowded trade.” It’s like a boat with everyone fishing off the same side. By then the game is about to change.

I’ve been asked my opinion on at least 50 gold blogs in 2010 and 2011 and it went real quiet in 2012. I know for a fact that a majority of those I purveyed are written by unemployed loners who live in their parents’ basements. If they own CB radios I envy them. I envy them a lot.

6). Gold can be hoarded, confiscated (it’s happened already), can’t be valued as an investment (although some get real creative), and doesn’t pay a dividend. You can only make money if you sell it. If you truly have a sell discipline for metal or anything else you own including investments, you’re in the top .1% club as most investors are notoriously lousy at selling or trimming anything of value.

If gold can be hoarded that means you can’t access it. If it backs a paper currency and
it’s hoarded by the few, that means you will have less money to spend on what you
want and need. Governments can come break down your door (figuratively but don’t
test them) and take your gold away which means you should begin investigating an adequate burial place like under a tree. Watch “Shawshank Redemption,” for guidance.

Gold pays you nothing along the way. No income.

You can redeem for liquidity but human nature tells me you’ll wait for a top or at least what you perceive as a top and wind up selling in a panic as it heads lower.

Believe me. You will. We all do it. Money managers are especially guilty.

Gold can’t be valued to indicate whether it’s cheap or expensive. Valuation is based on
fear and uncertainty. Measuring based on those metrics is anybody’s guess.

As master mentor James Altucher said on a segment of CNBC’s “Fast Money,”

“Gold is a rock.” Genius.

If your paper currency, whatever it is, say U.S. dollars, gets stronger, gold and other metals will indeed drop like rocks and dent your net worth. Big dent.

gold

Notice how when dollar is strong UUP), gold is weak. Just keeping it real, here as I abhor charts.

7). You can’t use gold to buy toothpaste. Or anything else. I tried. I was tossed out of Walgreen’s. So those people telling you it’s a “currency” are wrong. I called to subscribe to a newsletter about gold and wanted to pay in gold. The operator and her “manager” told me they won’t accept gold to pay for the newsletter on gold.

8). It’s ok to hold some gold. Or other metals as part of a diversified portfolio. Two to five percent will work. And take your time. Examine GLD and IAU, the exchange-traded funds which actually hold gold bullion.

9). Expect “flash crashes.” In everything. Precipitous, explainable moves in asset prices higher or lower. Thank the Fed for what I call “freakish asset flows” as money strives to seek returns or rapidly avoid losses thus herding and creating big returns (or losses).

We like tangible things. Stuff we can touch and feel. I can intimately caress  my house until the cops get called and take me away for indecent exposure. It doesn’t mean my home is increasing in value. Or that it’s an investment.

A house is wood, concrete, dust (sometimes a rabid raccoon in the attic – true story) and gold is indeed, a rock.

If you remember it.

You’ll be better off.

And richer for it.

Rocking Chairs – 3 Ways to Preserve Them.

I wonder, on occasion, where we find our peace. How we shift back to center. How we remain sane.

How do we recover from what’s thrown in our path without falling over?

Insane

Some succumb. Throw in the towel. Others? Well, others find a way. They discover new methods to get their rocking chairs out of the rain. Protect their haven. Their own. All that they love and find of beauty. They find a way to protect. They teeter, but never fall.

You know them. They’re strong because they rock with the changes. They maintain a steady cadence. It’s a groove others see, admire, learn from. The rockers don’t realize how strong they truly are. But they are. It’s a sense of style, beauty, responsibility, slight humor, a smile. A dimple. A sparkle. It all works together.

chair

Set your chair. Look out. Dream of what you can become. Then get up. Do it.

“I miss my porch; now my rocking chairs get wet. I can’t protect them forever,” she said.

I was reminded today the key to sanity is to wobble a bit but to never lose sight of your core. Your center. Who you are. Where you want to go. You can hide your pain, suppress your happiness for so long. And then? You blossom. You emerge stronger. Nothing can stop you.

Random Thoughts:

1). It’s ok to seesaw a bit, but continue to focus forward. You know what it’s like to sit in a rocking chair. No matter how quickly or fierce you wobble, your eyes remain fixated. Forward. You never lose sight of what’s in front of you. The gaze is amazingly straight and balanced. Allow your eyes to waver, to move, align with the movement of the rocker, and it’s only a matter of time before you get sick, become off kilter. Remember to stay on message. Straight.

2). Understand how your emotions and your investment portfolio can teeter. The problem becomes when you can’t handle the swing. You take too much risk because you don’t fully understand your risk attitude. Your current broker or financial adviser is behind the times. Still using stale “risk tolerance” questionnaires to measure your ability to handle risk. Unacceptable. They’re plain ridiculous. Dated. Dig deeper into what makes you tick. Go to http://www.myrisktolerance.com and take the test. It’ll cost you $45. It’s worth the investment. Take the results to your financial partner and rock his or her world a bit.

3). Realize the rain is temporary. Storms pass. Another porch is built. The dry & clear returns. A fresh coat of paint makes things new again. Life is like that, too. I can see a new porch in her eyes. Her thoughts.

porch and chairs

It’s only a matter of time before you’re rocking again.

She looked away. She smiled. She looked at me. Said.

“I’ll have my porch again.”

I had no doubt.

The sun was out again.

Governing Money – Lessons from the “Governor.”

In a former life, the world before hell and earth went inside out, Philip Blake was a husband, father. I think he sold insurance (and wasn’t very good at it). He probably carried too much debt, drank too much  - I’m certain erectile dysfunction was a grim reality.

I bet he fantasized about having sex with the twenty-something barista at Starbucks or even worse - the overweight college dropout with crooked, yellowed teeth and soured look from behind the register at the local Piggly Wiggly convenience haven. In other words – HO HUM. Mundane. An existence we all mistake for a life because we were told that’s what life is, ya idiot. Or as a friend would say – lame ass!

And now?

He’s bigger-than-life in a world shrinking (literally) from decay. Ain’t that a bitch!

walking dead zombie A former insurance prospect? You betcha!

The “Governor” as he’s been proclaimed by the inhabitants of the fictional town of Woodbury, exists, rules, and on occasion, thrives (code for: gets some). You know what that means. Wink, wink.

It appears the whole end of the world thing has added pep to his step. He dons cool vests and brandishes a big-ass knife low on his hip. He’s handy with an automatic weapon. Yep - he’s discovered his true, higher calling, although the path he takes on occasion, would classify him as certifiably insane. Well, if the world was as it was, once upon a time - the one of sales calls, stopping for beer and milk on the way home to the mortgage payment; praying to get it up on a weekend for the wife he’s long tired of. But in this new world?

He’s the king, baby!!

the governor hip

The Governor appearing calm, collected in front of Woodbury residents. Notice the power stance (I’ve eaten a great breakfast at the coffee shop behind him and was able to leave town, peacefully).

But this new normal is truly abnormal. It requires a huge (over) dose of out-of-the-box thinking followed by unorthodox actions to keep him and his close-knit brood, alive. Fight or die. Stay alert because at any moment you may become a food source for ravenous, rotting flesh eaters and/or victims to the living who want what you have, what you worked so hard to build. All you possess can be gone in an instant. In this place, you fear the living and dead, equally.

His life demands tremendous inner reflection, strong leadership, a healthy dose of paranoia, an intense hunger for knowledge of the deademy (my zombie bon mot for enemy,) stamina, charisma, a penchant for strong tea, an instinct to survive and on occasion, cold-blooded murder of his own species (the living) which is an odd way to re-populate the planet. The deeper he believes in his mission to preserve what’s left of the human race, the more he perceives outsiders as threats. Appears almost everyone is an outsider.

fish tanks

The Governor laments the “experiments” that just didn’t work out.

The end of the world definitely raised his stature. Forced him to rise above. Imagine a former insurance hack re-born as a new-found savior. Only in the America of the living dead. Bittersweet (bloody) success. Climbing the ladder of what’s left of the human race.

The Governor fights passionately to protect what he’s re-created - a tree-lined, bucolic microcosm of once was; the time before this time or whatever this putrid shit is now. He preserves, behind big makeshift walls made of of fat tires and metal, the lives and well-being of his followers. The ones who still breath and don’t seek to eat each other.

In this Georgia sanctuary, residents adhere to daily routines like doing laundry, taking the kids to school and on occasion, they gather together to enjoy a hearty zombie gladiator fight in the center of a dilapidated makeshift arena. Hey, we must have our sports events no matter what, right?

Born from the imagination of master comic-book genius and creator of the concept for the hit show, “The Walking Dead,” Robert Kirkman’s “Governor,” is possibly one of the most complex characters to bridge the annals of comic and television history.

the governor walking dead

The Gov, played by Brit actor David Morrissey, in a pensive mood.

Something has gone dreadfully awry on the road to Woodbury (when it’s not dressed up for television this town is really the peaceful haven of Senoia, GA). You can see it in the eyes of the town folk. They’re scared of Philip Blake. Philip Blake who knocked on their doors once trying to push term insurance. In that old life, they didn’t open the door or got the dog to chase him. Maybe a family pet bit him.

I guess change happens when you can no longer self-regulate (or have no reason to try) - you create the rules, acquire minions to reinforce them. Ostensibly, a bit of sanity erodes as you’re tormented by the memories of those you lost, those you cherished, to wide-mouthed bites of growling corpses who drool black goo. When your back is truly against the wall – you shake things up.

Ponder the horror long enough and the snap-crackle in your mind ostensibly goes pop. You’re no longer who you were. The person inside, the one who worried about following the lawn fertilization schedule to the letter on weekends, is in a dark place now. Deader than dead.

The Governor has allowed the demons to occupy a great portion of his psyche and they rest on his mind on a full time basis. He can’t win against them any longer, so he commands them steer them to push him forward. Hey, when in Rome!

Black inside, tortured but he’s moving. Getting shit done. Every day.

He’s been re-shaped, reborn, by the end of the world he knew and the path he cuts to cling desperately to what was. After observing him you cannot decide who’s more rotted inside – him or the staggering corpses who meander around the parameter, tripping over debris, bumping into burned-out husks of rusted autos of drivers not lucky enough to escape from rotting marauders of warm flesh.

To the people he protects, the Governor is the best thing around. He’ll do whatever is necessary to guard his flock from strangers – living or dead – as long as they’re loyal. There’s something admirable about his rise to power, his grandiose vision to take back a human race most likely lost forever; yet, his actions at times are so horrific, his thought process so cold blooded, you almost wish to take your chances with the ghouls outside the walls of Woodbury.

He does have his heartwarming moments. Like when he talks soothingly to the chained and straitjacketed pre-teen zombie  who once was his daughter Penny. He keeps  her nestled in what appears to be a human kennel, deep inside his quarters. He brushes her hair (which falls out), sings to her.

Penny snarls and snaps at him as he releases the chained collar tight around her neck – her jaws make a  sharp snap sound, directed toward his warmth, like a blind ravenous canine searching for a steak in the dark. She’s so long gone, however. Yet, it’s Philip’s very last cling to hope, to who she was, the young life with so much potential she represented. Represents still, as he works with a genius professor geek deep in the bowels of Woodbury who works fervently to discover what makes these dead things tick. And perhaps, just perhaps, a cure!  He denies the fact there’s truly no cure for what ails precious Penny (except a bullet to the brain).

Penny

A heartwarming moment as Penny noshes on body parts of the once living who faced the Governor’s wrath. 

And if you watch AMC’s hit show “The Walking Dead,” you’ve been fascinated by the Governor and his actions. Why? Because you know (oh, you do), that you can go bat-shit wacko if faced with the same horrific circumstances. You would be altered in ways you cannot imagine. You would work effortlessly to cling to what was, because what was there and now is gone changes you. Lose enough people you love, then you tell me.

There’s a little bit of Philip in all of us. 

There’s a bit of anger, insanity, in all of us. 

There’s a bit of bad behavior where the living are slaughtered, the dead walk (figuratively) in all of us. 

There’s a bit of motivation to protect Woodbury, the safe haven, in all of us.

And when we sit alone and stew about this stuff, allow the demons to play handball against  our psyche, then we are no longer insurance salespeople, stockbrokers, artists, psychologists, the “sane” ones. We are indeed – governors.

Random Thoughts:

1). Construct the walls around you (carefully). Just be mindful of the materials you use. Employ love, civility, warmth and mix in a small dose of paranoia for those who attempt to enter your Woodbury. On occasion, you’ll let undesirables through however, do what the Governor does – dispose of them quietly and explain to yourself how that person, entity, drug, drink was endangering the lives of your minions (or brain cells).

2). Be open to what breaks your current mindset. Recently, I had a revelation after an e-mail exchange that allowed me to easily remove someone from my Woodbury. Realize that Penny isn’t gonna return, put your own back against the wall, get winded. Then wake up. Instead of changing for the worse (as you’ll see in the Governor in the remainder of season 3 and 4), bounce hard against that wall and propel forward. Philip Blake has been broken by the horror of his experiences. He had good intentions in the beginning, but something really bad happened along the way. Watch your path. Create guardrails to not veer off to blackness.

3). Don’t be afraid to retaliate now. As the economy improves, I’m personally seeing, hearing, about people breaking the chains of their old employer and discovering healthier ways to make a living. Something I predicted in my book “Random Thoughts of a Money Muse.” Check out the link below, here’s a blurb from a recent CNBC article outlining the trend:

The steady drumbeat of “you’re just lucky to have a job” that played through the recession is finally starting to fade and employees may be getting ready to say, “I quit!” and bolt for the nearest exit.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100359891

Don’t feel bad – be slightly angry about how you’ve been treated. Rise above. You’re the Governor over your fate and as the economy slowly recovers, you should get your mental minions to focus on a brighter future.

4). Get shit done. Every day. For a time you’ll seethe, give yourself that. Then go ahead and continue to tend to your walls which surround the quaint town in your mind. Eat healthier, exercise more, find better conversationalists, seek friendships where you didn’t look before. Read a book. I’m reading Eckhart Tolle’s Stillness Speaks at this time.

5). Be bad. It’s ok. Just don’t appear to be above, criticize, or correct others. You’re not perfect and on occasion, you rot and stink worse than the walking dead. And your opinion is just that especially when wrapped in judgmental tone. You’re getting tuned out, too. Fast. The Governor has convinced himself that even the horrific things he does is for the good of his little community. He’s lost the ability to judge his behavior, self correct. You cannot do the same. Oh, unless the dead want to eat you. Then feel free. Have a glass of wine, a dessert, kick a wall (I accomplished all three last month).

6). Appreciate what you have. Now. Before the dead come back and the world goes to hell. Learn to appreciate those you care about. Feel good about your possessions; realize there’s a point when too many possessions eventually own you, especially if you’re taking on debt to “own” them.

7). Appreciate and gain protection. I know I’m making fun of Phil being a pain-in-the-ass insurance salesman in another life, but do not discount the need for life insurance. Bypass the salesperson. And think term insurance. It’s the cheapest, purest type of insurance. One of the best life free life insurance needs calculator out there is here:

http://www.lifehappens.org/life-insurance-needs-calculator/

For insurance quotes investigate http://www.selectquote.com or http://www.matrixdirect.com.

8). Know your enemies. Inside and outside your skin. Which emotions hold you back? Are there people in your life who do the same? Self assess, write it out, drink some strong tea or coffee and take some time to analyze. Then toss out of Woodbury, those threats to your well being.

9). Learn to let go. When the Governor lost his beloved Penny to a samurai blade to the head, you can tell how broken he was and about to become (terrific acting by Mr. Morrissey). You need to let go of what’s dead already. A love, a longing, a feeling, a thought, a friend, a lover, an actual shopping cart with wheels that work at the supermarket. Learning to let go means less stress. Laugh more.

10). Stand like the Governor. I mean it just looks cool, right? Hands on hips. Your body language says a lot about you.

DSC_0370

The set of “The Walking Dead.” Note the tire, metal walls. Also, the building in the background (with ladder) was the place where the Governor & Michonne fight was filmed. 

11). Don’t lose yourself in anger and regret. With his beloved Penny gone, the Governor has lost all hope (and sanity). He is consumed with the torment that goes along with surrender of the traits which make one human. And a white-hot anger about his failure to protect Penny was enough to break his sanity. Regret and anger has now overwhelmed every thought, each motivation. Perhaps a cure against living death was close.

It didn’t matter now.

It was sweltering on the “set” of Woodbury during Season 3. Then he emerged. Walking behind us. David Morrissey. In his cool signature Governor vest. Carrying a script.

When I asked my daughter why she sat off to the side instead of joining me in a discussion I was having with him, she said bluntly:

“Dad he scares me. He’s the Governor.”

Comic Gov

The Walking Dead comic-book version of the Governor.

Impressions are everything.

Aren’t they?

From mental imprints, projections are born.

Out of grief.

Fear.

Anger. 

Regret.

Don’t let them consume you.

Work to break free.

Today.

I have faith.

You’re not the Governor.

A new season of “The Walking Dead” begins October 13, on AMC – 9pm/8pm CST.

 

A Folded Cardboard Holiday. Four Ways to Stay Alive at Christmas.

I dislike Christmas. Not in a funny, green “Grinchy,” way either.

grumpy christmas

The holiday has clearly lost some of its sparkle for me, especially now, as cherished people I believed would be around for longer than a memory, decided to bail quickly from my inner wonderland. Clean gone. Like the three wise men who get misdirected by Apple Maps to the birthplace of Cee Lo Green instead of the second coming of you-know-who.

The problem with Christmas is it stirs ancient thoughts and the mental bias of anchoring. I dare you to gaze at a tree ornament you’ve unpacked this year, every year over the last ten and not recall “the moment.”  A vivid memory of  how you felt when you received it, who gave it to you, where you bought it. The weather that day you hung it from your fake Christmas tree. The eye color, hair color, smell, of the person who bought the cheap holiday trinket for you; now the damn thing has a life of its own, it possesses a wealth of memories you would sooner forget.

And for most of the year you do. Until..

You resurrect the decoration from the plastic tomb stored in the garage. From a container marked “CHRISTMAS CRAP.” Then you “go back,” or anchor to “the moment,” again and usually it isn’t good. But you can’t throw this plastic memory bank away, so you sullenly hang it from a tree branch this year. Again. Relive the pain.

Stab me with candy cane every year, it’s ok. I can take it. This year after exhuming a memory, I lost track of time and space. It was silly when I realized I had been sitting on the dusty floor of my garage for an hour and a half. Lost in space, lost in time, lost in “the moment.”

santa slay Awww

Even cardboard can push the past into the present. The other day at a friend’s house, a collector of vintage kitsch, a flood of memories washed over me. There in the corner, looking as new as the ancient day it was originally folded out was a Christmas adornment I haven’t seen or remembered in years. Yet, when I noticed it, I went back in time immediately. I went speeding through time, a return to 1972 when I first received my very own cardboard and electric (what a lethal combo)

cardboard fireplaceFireplace!!!!!

It was a lousy Christmas that year. My mother after a binge of booze and pills came home from God-knows-where, focused on the fake Christmas tree I just finished decorating, picked it up from the middle like some form of petite, brunette elf weightlifter and flung it out the third-floor living room window.

I think there were like 6,000,000 lights secured around this thing. In fact, there were so many light sets attached that when the plastic pine cliff diver advanced from the window, one of the light strings got caught on the way down causing the tree to temporarily swing about 10 feet from the ground like some type of evil holiday pendulum.

Then two days later, on December 27, a favorite cousin visited. A savior of sorts. He brought the fireplace along with small, wrapped gifts I never expected. On December 27, I had Christmas revisited thanks to Michael. We unfolded the fireplace, secured the lightbulb behind the fake flame. It might as well had been the real thing. The warmth was the same. A cousin saved my holiday. I never forgot.

Random Thoughts:

1). Tell People you Love them. Now. Today. Even when they don’t feel the same. Even if they walk away. Even if they don’t respond.Today is the day to tell them exactly what they mean to you and you’ll be there for them because your heart and soul can’t change. It won’t change. Don’t compromise.

2). Christmas is not a day, or a holiday, it’s a mindset. The harsh glow of bad memories are ok even if they pierce you like extra-pointed ends of holly. The rotten ones are tough yet you must look behind them and work hard find the lessons that move you forward. Embrace what was and analyze how it made you the person you are today.

3). In times of despair, who will save your holiday? Be open to the signs. Be open to those you’ve been closed to before. You never know the lessons they’ll teach you, the memories they’ll create for you when you unpack the ornaments next Christmas.

4). Now is the time to tie up loose ends. With people. With money. Step back. Sever or foster ties with those who create energy, and cut away the ones who take it away. On occasion, you’ll be the one who’s cut and never truly understand why. There’s a humility, a frailty to being cut. It feels hopeless. Like a Christmas tree cast from upper floors. Then, out of nowhere – hope emerges.

At the end of the year, it’s a good idea to double-check the beneficiaries on your retirement accounts and life insurance policies. It’s also an opportune time to decide how you’re going to increase your contributions to retirement plans or work to pay off credit card debt in the new year.

My middle name is Michael. I demanded my mother have it changed after that Christmas. She obliged out of guilt. It was a way to always keep a special cousin in my heart.

After losing contact with my favorite cousin years ago, I found out last year that Michael died in 2008. Alone. From AIDS. In a motel room in upstate New York. He was dead for a week before they found him.

I wasn’t there. I never knew.

I missed my chance to tell him how much I loved him. How much he saved me that day. I sent a thought to him, as I stared at a friend’s cardboard fireplace. I asked Michael to forgive me. I thanked him for what he did for me.

Don’t miss your chance.

Today’s the day..

Your day to unfold love, gratefulness, blessings.

A day to find your fireplace. Your hearth.

Do it.

Black Monday Memories & More.

 

Markets will fall again. Live with it.

Black Monday 1987 should remind investors that markets are people, people are irrational and “crashes” are part of the territory, unless you listen to Modern Portfolio Theory loons who believe market derails can only occur every 4,000 years.

Thanks Tom Zizka for the Fox interview.

 

One of the best interviews regarding the conditions high-frequency traders create:

http://www.moneyscience.com/pg/newsfeeds/Admin/item/380964/mark-cuban-highfrequency-traders-are-the-ultimate-hackers

Random Thought:

Happy Saturday!