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Financial Stress in Times of Transition

Financial Stress Adaptation

By Rick Kahler CFP®

Stress is what happens when something you care about is at stake. This definition comes from Susan Bradley, CFP, author of Sudden Money and a specialist in the financial aspect of life transitions.

The stress around these transitions is a common reason that people seek out financial advice. We tend to be driven to consult advisors as a result of stressful changes in our lives, such as a divorce, a sudden money event like an inheritance or insurance settlement, an investment or job loss, retirement, or the death of a loved one.

While all these life events certainly have financial components, it’s almost always the emotional components of the change—how we respond to them—that are the cause of the stress.

Any change includes three stages: an ending, a period of passage while we relate and adapt to the change, and a new beginning. This period of transition can be fraught with emotion and behaviors that can trip us up in many ways, including financially.

Susan identifies nine such emotions and behaviors that she sees commonly in people in transition.

1. Lack of identity. If the transition results in the loss of a familiar role—spouse or employee, for example—you may struggle with “Who am I now? “There is often confusion and ambivalence about the future, and an inability to make decisions.

2. Confusion/Overwhelm/Fog. There is a sense of defeat by everything. You may physically slump, have a glazed-over look, and ask others to repeat a lot. It’s hard to understand, be present, respond, focus, or move forward.

3. Hopelessness. You may have a sense of having given up, not being in control of your fate, or being a victim. It may seem that there is nothing you can do to change yourself or the outcome. Financial decision-making is very difficult.

4. Invincibility. This can happen with a big positive change in your finances. You may think everything is going to turn out fine. You may feel euphoric, confident, and smarter than your advisors. You may spend more and take greater investment risks.

5. Mental and Physical Fatigue. Change can be exhausting, and the exhaustion can go undetected by others and even yourself. You may have difficulty following an agenda and tasks.

6. Numb/Withdrawn. You may feel ambivalent about and indifferent to exploring the changes in your life, what you want, and what the future may hold. You don’t give much feedback and are withdrawn and non-expressive. You may miss or not return phone calls or emails. The planning process often comes to a standstill.

7. Narrow or Fractured Focus. You may either be preoccupied with one area that excludes everything else or have an inability to focus on anything. In either case, focusing on what’s important becomes difficult or impossible.

8. Inconsistent Behavior. This is the inability to hold to one position. Instead, you may change your mind repeatedly or switch between opposite positions. You are uncertain and often embrace opposites in your wants and desires in the same breath. Making decisions become impossible.

9. Combative. You may hold on to feelings of anger, resentment, victimization, and rage regardless of the facts. You are outwardly emotionally expressive and challenging. You don’t respond well to logic and practicality. A combative person doesn’t have problems making decisions, but does have difficulty making good decisions that are in their best interests.

Assessment

Emotions and behaviors like these are generally temporary. Financial decisions made in the midst of transition-based stress, though, can have lasting negative consequences. The support of trustworthy advisors can be invaluable in navigating through both painful and joyful life changes.

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Risk Management, Liability Insurance, and Asset Protection Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™8Comprehensive Financial Planning Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™

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The Surprising Spending Patterns of High Earners

If you want to guess someone’s income level, look at what they buy

By Rick Kahler CFP®

***

Obviously, the rich and the poor will spend their available funds on different things.  Just what those things are, however, is less obvious. To illustrate, here is a pop quiz: Since 1992, what two products most consistently indicated that those using them were in the top 25% of all income earners in the U. S.?

Guessing a new car or a house would be logical, but wrong. The top two products indicative of being in that top one-fourth were dishwashers and dishwashing detergent. According to a fascinating study done by Marianne Bertrand and Emir Kamencia, “Coming Apart? Cultural Distances in the United States Over Time,” published in June 2018, if you use either there is about a 70% chance you are in the highest-earning 25%.

The study’s broader focus was on cultural differences, but what I couldn’t stop reading was the economic information. The products indicating affluence were nowhere near what I would have guessed.

Let’s start with 1992. The top product purchased by the rich was a dishwasher. If you owned one, there was a 70.4% chance you were in the top quartile of income earners. If you used dishwasher detergent, the chances were 70.2% you earned a high income. If you took a vacation where you traveled away from home, the chances were 67.0% you were high income. The top brands purchased by the affluent/rich were Grey Poupon Dijon mustard (62.2%), Kodak film (61.6%), and Thomas English muffins (61.5%). The top TV shows watched were Autoworks 200 (57.3%), Bush Clash (57.1%), and Tour du Pont (56.7%). Sorry, but I’ve never heard of any of these shows.

Moving on to 2004, the preferences of high income earners shifted slightly. The top product purchased by the affluent was a new vehicle (73.6%), followed by dishwashing detergent (71.6%), and owning a dishwasher (70.8%). A vacation was in fourth place with 70.5%. The top brands indicating affluence were Land O’ Lakes butter (59.2%), Kikkoman soy sauce (58.7%), and people who did not use a BIC lighter (58.7%). The top TV shows were the Super Bowl (58.5%), NFL Monday Night Football (56.1%), and NFL Regular Season Football (55.9%).

Jaguar Touring sedan XJ-V8-LWB

What about today? In 2016—the last year of data studied—the top product was a vacation (70.9%), owning a passport (70.3%), and having a Bluetooth in your vehicle (70.2%). Eight of the top 10 items related to travel or technology. The other two? Numbers five and six were owning a dishwasher and using dishwasher detergent. The top brand indicative of a high income was far and away Apple, with an iPhone first (69.1%) and an iPad second (66.9%). Across all years in their data, no individual brand was as predictive of being high-income than these two products. Other brands high on the list were Verizon Wireless (61.0%), an Android phone (59.5%), and Kikkoman soy sauce. Top TV shows were the Super Bowl (57.1%), Love It Or List It (55.9%), and Property Brothers (55.7%).

Keep in mind that the study showed seven out of 10 people who own iPhones, travel on vacation, or use dishwashers are in the top 25% of income earners. Not all people who do these things are affluent. Still, the odds that they are high earners are far better than the odds of winning any game of chance in Deadwood.

Assessment

So next time you want to size up the chances of someone being high income, ask them where they went on vacation this year and whether they took vacation photos with an iPhone or iPad. Or just ask how often they run their dishwasher.

Conclusion

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Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements.

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***

Risk Management, Liability Insurance, and Asset Protection Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™8Comprehensive Financial Planning Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™

Poverty in the USA

Fewer people in the US are living in poverty

By Rick Kahler CFP®

According to the October 2017 annual report of the Hamilton Project of the Brookings Institute, the number of Americans living in poverty declined by 13%, or 6 million people, in the two years from 2014 to 2016. That’s encouraging news.

Not so encouraging is that 40.6 million people still live under the government poverty level. This is about one out of every eight Americans. The department of Health and Human Services sets the poverty rate at $32,580 or less for a family of six and $16,020 or less for two people.

Who are those officially classified as poor?

According to IPUMS, an organization associated with the University of Minnesota which integrates worldwide census data, 33% are children under age 18 and 11% are seniors over age 65. So 56% of those living in poverty are of working age, ages 18-65.

Of those who are working age, 21% are disabled, 15% are caregivers, 13% are students, and 10% are early retirees or unclassified, which leaves 41% available to work full time. This is 24% of all people who are in poverty, or about 9.8 million people.

Of that 9.8 million, 65% work part time, 25% work full time, and 10% don’t work. This means just under one million of the 40.6 million people in poverty are actually able to work but unemployed.

Something I found interesting was that of the 65% who work part time, two-thirds (4.3 million) choose to do so and only one-third (2.1 million) would like to work full time. If we add the one million who are unemployed and the 2.1 million part time workers who want full time employment, we have 3.1 million people in poverty who would like to work full time, but can’t find work. This is just 7.4% of all people considered to be below the poverty level.

That leads me to wonder what might change if the 4.3 million choosing to work part time actually worked full time. Might a significant portion of them pull themselves and their families out of poverty? Is it possible that many of these people choose to live in poverty? Or might some of them choose to work part time because earning more would be countered by factors like higher child care costs or losses in government benefits? While I don’t have any statistics on this, I have a hunch it is both.

Keven Winder, a life coach who blogs at thriveinexile.com, has a post from June 2017 titled “The Poverty of the Poor.” He says, “The cause of poverty is not solely education, politics, or the need for jobs. It’s not mental illness, addiction, housing, or food programs,” which he contends are by-products of poverty. “Poverty is deeper. Poverty is disengagement from that which powers us.”

It seems to me that Winder is using “disengagement” to mean what might be described as emotional poverty. The type of emotional disengagement that helps keep people in poverty may be no different from that of a person who earns a comfortable income but chooses not to save for retirement. Or someone who loses a job but has too much false pride to take a lesser one even temporarily.

We know the cure for financial behaviors based in emotional disengagement is not more information. Those choosing to work part time and live in poverty don’t need budget figures on how earning more would increase their standard of living. The behavior goes much deeper and is emotionally entrenched.

Assessment

Certainly, financial therapy might make a difference. Unfortunately, it’s still unavailable for too many of those who need it the most.

Conclusion

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https://www.crcpress.com/Comprehensive-Financial-Planning-Strategies-for-Doctors-and-Advisors-Best/Marcinko-Hetico/p/book/9781482240283

***

About USAFACTS.com

About the Website: USAFACTS.com

By Staff Reporters

Principles

USAFacts is a new data-driven portrait of the American population, our government’s finances, and government’s impact on society. They are a non-partisan, not-for-profit civic initiative and have no political agenda or commercial motive. They provide this information as a free public service and are committed to maintaining and expanding it in the future.

USA FACTS rely exclusively on publicly available government data sources. They don’t make judgments or prescribe specific policies. Whether government money is spent wisely or not, whether our quality of life is improving or getting worse – that’s for you to decide. They hope to spur serious, reasoned, and informed debate on the purpose and functions of government. Such debate is vital to our democracy. They hope that USAFacts will make a modest contribution toward building consensus and finding solutions.

More

There’s more to USAFacts than their website. They also offer an annual report, a summary report, and a “10-K” modeled on the document public companies submit annually to the SEC for transparency and accountability to their investors.

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Innspiration

USAFacts was inspired by a conversation Steve Ballmer [former CEO Microsoft Corporation] had with his wife, Connie. She wanted him to get more involved in philanthropic work. He thought it made sense to first find out what government does with the money it raises.

Assessment

Where does the money come from and where is it spent? Whom does it serve? And most importantly, what are the outcomes?

Visit: http://www.USAFACTS.com

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

OUR OTHER PRINT BOOKS AND RELATED INFORMATION SOURCES:

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***

CEO Compensation is Down

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NO, IT’S UP – YOU BETTER JUDGE FOR YOURSELF        

ArtBy Arthur Chalekian GEPC

[Financial Consultant]

The New York Times reported the 200 most-highly-paid CEOs in the United States collectively experienced a pay cut last year!

CEOs’ average compensation – all CEOs compensation added together and then divided by 200 – fell by 15 percent from 2014 to 2015.

Of course, you know what they say about lies and statistics

Equilar, the company responsible for the study, reported CEO pay grew modestly in 2015. They looked at median CEO pay – the number in the middle. It was $16.6 million for fiscal 2015. That’s up 5 percent from the previous year.

No matter how you interpret the results, not one CEO earned more than $100 million. CEOs in the technology industry had the highest median pay while those in basic materials (which includes oil and gas companies) had the lowest, according to Equilar.

Many people have argued company performance should inform CEO pay, but there wasn’t much evidence this was the case. Although there may have been a basis for CEO pay changes, there was no clear correlation to shareholder returns or company revenues.

For instance:

  • A 702 percent increase in pay was awarded when total shareholder return was down 5 percent, and company revenues were down 1 percent.
  • A 286 percent increase in pay was awarded when total shareholder return was up 16 percent, and company revenues were up 9 percent.
  • A 48 percent reduction in pay occurred when total shareholder return was up 25 percent, and company revenues were up 4 percent.

Assessment

The portion of 2015 corporate budgets allotted to pay hikes for employees increased by 2.8 percent, on average, according to Mercer. The report said, “… the highest-performing employees received average base pay increases of 4.8 percent in 2015 compared to 2.7 percent for average performers and 0.2 percent for the lowest performers …”

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

OUR OTHER PRINT BOOKS AND RELATED INFORMATION SOURCES:

Risk Management, Liability Insurance, and Asset Protection Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™ Risk Management, Liability Insurance, and Asset Protection Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™

***

On Income Inequality

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A Passionate Discussion

Rick Kahler MS CFP

By Rick Kahler MS CFP®

Income inequality is a topic of passionate discussion today in many of the circles I move in. The discussion typically starts with a foregone conclusion that income inequality is a huge problem in the US. Some solutions I hear include increasing the top income tax bracket to 90%, initiating an annual wealth tax, or increasing the estate tax to 100%.

While leveling the playing field will certainly solve income inequality, it won’t solve the real problem. When I say that, I often get stares of bewilderment and disdain. It isn’t unusual for people to slowly distance themselves as if I had shapeshifted into Donald Trump.

How bad is it?

First, how bad is income inequality in the US? It’s certainly no worse today than it’s been in the last 80 years. The CIA World Factbook 2015 Gini Index, a rating where 0 is equal income and 100 is completely unequal income, finds the US rates a 45.0, exactly what it was in 1929. That puts us in 38th place, slightly above the global median, which is 39.4. The worst 30 countries have ratings of 46.8 to 63.2.

Regardless of the fact that it has not increased over the last 80 years, what is the real problem with income inequality? A common assumption is that it has created an America where most people don’t have enough to afford a minimal quality of life.

But is that true?

In a column from October 2015, George Will cites a new book, On Equality, by Harry G. Frankfurt, a Princeton emeritus professor of philosophy. Frankfurt drives home a main contention that economic inequality is not inherently morally objectionable and that “doing worse than others does not entail doing badly.” His alternative to economic egalitarianism is the “doctrine of sufficiency,” which is that the moral imperative should be that everyone have enough.

Now, consider this

If you are a US citizen with an income of over $32,400, you are in the world’s top 1%. Globally, you are considered “rich.” Indeed, the poorest 1% of US citizens have more wealth than two-thirds of the world’s people. Clearly, income inequality in the US doesn’t inherently mean everyone in society doesn’t have enough. This would suggest that complaints about US income inequality may be in response to something other than having enough.

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budget

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Perhaps the real problem is more of a “discontent of those who are comfortable but envious,” as George Will suggests. Consider this: to be in the top 1% in income in the US you need to earn over $380,000 a year. Someone earning $32,400 a year, even though they are in the global top 1%, may easily lose that perspective when viewing someone earning over $380,000. The comparison could foster discontent by stirring up feelings of envy, jealousy, unworthiness, shame, and guilt. Rather than taking responsibility for and exploring these difficult emotions, instead we often shove them deep within and demonize others.

Will suggests that the biggest underlying producer of income inequality is freedom. Freedom includes the power to choose careers, such as opting to be a teacher rather than an engineer with full knowledge that teachers generally earn substantially less than engineers. The economic and non-economic benefits of each profession are dictated by market forces, rather than those in government deciding the winners and losers.

Assessment

Envy of the rich is almost timeless and universal. Properly reframed, it also can be motivating. Contrary to common perception, 85% of the top 1% did not inherit wealth but are first-generation millionaires or billionaires. Perhaps envy didn’t drive them to try to tear down what others had achieved. Instead, it motivated them to build their own success. 

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

OUR OTHER PRINT BOOKS AND RELATED INFORMATION SOURCES:

Comprehensive Financial Planning Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™

***

The Central Banks are at it Again!

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Central banks were at it again – and markets loved it!
Art
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By Arthur Chalekian GEPC [Elite Financial Partners]
 ***
Several weeks ago, European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi surprised markets when he indicated the ECB’s governing council was considering cutting interest rates and engaging in another round of quantitative easing.
The Economist explained European monetary policy was heavily tilted toward growth before the announcement:
 ***
“The ECB is already delivering a hefty stimulus to the Euro area, following decisions taken between June 2014 and early 2015. It has introduced a negative interest rate, of minus 0.2%, which is charged on deposits left by banks with the ECB. It has also been providing ultra-cheap, long-term funding to banks provided that they improve their lending record to the private sector. And, most important of all, in January it announced a full-blooded program of quantitative easing (QE) – creating money to buy financial assets – which got under way in March with purchases of €60 billion ($68 billion) of mainly public debt each month until at least September 2016.”
***
Despite these hefty measures, recovery in the Euro area has been anemic, and deflation remains a significant issue. According to Draghi, Euro area QE is expected to continue until there is “a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation.” Europe is shooting for 2 percent inflation, just like the United States.
***
The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) eased monetary policy last week, too. On Monday, data showed the Chinese economy grew by 6.9 percent during the third quarter, year-over-year. Projections for future growth remain muted, according to BloombergBusiness. On Friday, the PBOC indicated it was cutting interest rates for the sixth time in 12 months.
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stock-exchange
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U.S. markets thrilled to the news. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, and NASDAQ were all up more than 2 percent for the week. Many global markets delivered positive returns for the week, as well.
***
Conclusion
Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

OUR OTHER PRINT BOOKS AND RELATED INFORMATION SOURCES:

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[PHYSICIAN FOCUSED FINANCIAL PLANNING AND RISK MANAGEMENT COMPANION TEXTBOOK SET]

  Risk Management, Liability Insurance, and Asset Protection Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™ Comprehensive Financial Planning Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™

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CRAFTING A BUSINESS PLAN AND STARTING A MEDICAL PRACTICE

[Understanding Business Models, the Entrepreneurial Spirit and Obtaining Capital]

Dr. DEM

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA CMP™

Medical Office Business Plan

We have been involved in the highly competitive private, and/or “for-profit”, education sector for two decades. Yet, are also familiar with the larger public university and sustainable ecosystem.

Solo Medical Practice NOT Dead!

For example, we’ve participated in start-up business competitions, and refereed PhD / MBA Capstone presentations at Georgia State University, Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology; including at Triangle Technology Park, NC; and the Whitman School of Business in Syracuse, NY.

Funding was achieved for emerging initiatives deemed most efficient and profitable; like solo and small group medical practices and clinics.

Executive Service Line [ESL] education

Also known as Executive Service Line [ESL] education, this business model refers to academic programs for business leaders and adults that are generally non-credit and non-degree-granting, but may lead to professional certifications.

Estimates by Business Week magazine suggest that executive education in the United States is a $900 million annual business with approximately 80 percent provided by university schools. Beside the educational benefits, monetary dividends are reaped as open enrollment eases matriculation access. Similar programs at the Wharton School, Darden, Harvard and the Goizueta Business School at Emory University charge premium rates for the implied institutional moniker.

Assessment

And, an imperative is that electronic technology be used to expand the universe of targeted adult-learners. This is for aspiring professionals and executives, or those already in the workforce. The tuition gathering universe is thus expanded beyond the School. We have developed and launched several such successful programs that were merged or sold to private investors, colleges and hedge funds

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Millionaire versus Billionaire

By Rick Kahler MS CFP®  http://www.KahlerFinancial.com

Rick Kahler MS CFP

Doctor – Would you like to build up a million-dollar nest egg by the time you retire?

For middle-class earners, that goal is challenging but possible if you start at age 25 and save $1750 a month. Many married couples could do this by maxing out their 401(k) contributions. Or; you could take the route that many people follow and build a small business – or medical practice – into a million-dollar asset.

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Billion … with a “B”

What if you want to accumulate a billion-dollar nest egg instead? Starting at the same age of 25, you would need to save $21 million a year. Good luck with getting any employer match on that.

There’s a vast difference between a million and a billion. It’s completely misleading when activists, politicians, and the media refer glibly to “millionaires and billionaires” as if the two are almost interchangeable. Someone with a net worth of one million dollars isn’t even close to being in the same category as someone worth one billion.

Here are a few more examples to clarify the difference:

  • One million seconds from now is about 11 and a half days away. One billion seconds from now is about 31 and a half years in the future.
  • A million hours ago was 114 years in the past, early in the 20th century; our ancestors were using electricity and telephones. A billion hours ago was over 114,155 years in the past; our ancestors had evolved into Homo sapiens but were still using primitive stone tools.
  • Put one million ants on one side of a scale and a female Asian elephant on the other side. The million ants, at around six pounds, would hardly register against the elephant’s three tons. Put a billion ants on the scale, however, and they would balance or even outweigh the elephant.
  • One million pennies stacked on top of each other would make a tower nearly a mile high. One billion pennies stacked on top of each other would make a tower almost 870 miles high.
  • If you earned $45,000 a year and stashed it all under your mattress, you’d have one million dollars at the end of 22 years. To accumulate one billion dollars at that same rate, you’d need the help of your many-times-great grandchildren, because it would take 22,000 years.

Security versus Wealth

In today’s world, being a millionaire represents financial security, not vast wealth. At a withdrawal rate of 3%—the amount most experts consider sustainable—an investment portfolio of one million dollars will provide an income of $30,000 a year. Combined with Social Security, that would be enough to live comfortably but not lavishly in retirement.

Three percent of one billion dollars, on the other hand, will furnish an income of $30 million a year; definitely private jet and gated estate territory.

If millions and billions aren’t challenging enough, here’s a quick look at trillions. One trillion is a million millions, or a thousand billions. It would take one thousand elephants to balance the weight of one trillion ants. Astronomers estimate the number of stars in our Milky Way galaxy between 100 billion and 400 billion; not even close to a trillion. No wonder it’s so hard for most of us to wrap our minds around information like, “The current US national debt is more than 16.7 trillion dollars.”

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Assessment

Becoming a millionaire? It’s not only achievable, but wise if you want financial security in old age. Becoming a billionaire? You’d better plan to invent something amazing, write several dozen international best-sellers, or build an incredibly successful business. Becoming a trillionaire? Don’t waste your time thinking about it. For good reason, the word isn’t even in the dictionary.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

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Personal financial success in the PP-ACA era will be more difficult to achieve than ever before. It requires the next generation of doctors to rethink frugality, delay gratification, and redefine the very definition of success and work–life balance. And, they will surely need the subject matter medical specificity and new-wave professional guidance offered in this book.

This book is a ‘must-read’ for all health care professionals, and their financial advisors, who wish to take an active role in creating a new subset of informed and pioneering professionals known as Certified Medical Planners™.

Dr. Mark D. Dollard FACFAS [Private Practice, Tyson Corner, Virginia

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Physician Couples and Money Management

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On Cash Management Techniques

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® www.KahlerFinancial.com

Rick Kahler MS CFPMoney is just one of many challenges to becoming part of a couple; especially for physicians. Probably the most common question couples ask me concerns the best way to handle their cash management.

Specifically, they wonder if they should combine all their cash flow into one joint checking account, keep everything separate, or have some combination of both.

Stock Answers

My stock answer is “yes.” It seems that, the older I become, the fewer right answers there are and the more often I say, “It depends.” This is one of those situations where there is no one best method.

Future Physicians

Let’s consider the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.

  1. Combining everything in one joint account

The plus side of this scenario is that there is total financial transparency as to where the money comes from and goes to. Each party has full access to and opportunity to be fully aware of the money flow. It’s easy to track. There are no secrets.

Which brings us to the downside: there are no secrets, no autonomy. Each party can see the other’s spending and spend the other’s money. This works well in some relationships where the shared belief is, “My money is your money and your money is my money.” It doesn’t work well absent that philosophy. I find this scenario is often problematic when one or both of the parties want autonomy over how they spend their money without the watchful (often critical) eye of the other. Often this arrangement doesn’t work well in second marriages or where both parties have careers.

  1. Keeping everything completely separate

The positive of this scenario is that each party has complete autonomy and control over his or her money. This often works well for two-career couples or second marriages where both partners came into the union with significant pensions or assets. It may also be a good fit for unmarried couples. If one partner is a spendthrift, it can protect the other partner from unauthorized purchases.

The negatives are that it can be more difficult to manage joint expenses like housing costs and that neither party has any specifics into the spending of the other. If a partner has any type of addiction, separate accounts can serve to enable the addiction by hiding the extent of the problem from the other partner.

  1. Combination of joint and separate accounts

The advantage to this scenario is that it provides more autonomy than putting everything into a joint account, yet it offers an easier way to manage joint expenses. It can often result in a clear agreement on what is mine, yours, and ours. Some couples have a system where each one’s earnings are their own, and they each contribute put fixed amounts into joint account. Another method is to deposit all the income into the joint account and give each partner a periodic allowance.

The disadvantages to this are the need to manage three accounts and to decide who writes the checks from the joint account.

Spouses

Case Example:

Personally, my wife and I use the third option. As the major breadwinner, I deposit most of my income into the joint account, from which she pays all the family bills. A smaller amount of my income goes into my separate account that I use to pay for private schooling, funding 529 plans, and personal care like massages and haircuts.

Assessment

Problems often arise when partners assume the money should be managed (or is being managed) in a certain way. No matter which approach couples use, the most important factor is to discuss it and agree, as equal partners, to a system that works for them.

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Assessment

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About Theranos

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What is Is – How it Works

[By Staff Reporters]

The next time your doctor recommends a blood test, you may be able to swing by your local Walgreens. You can have your finger pricked and receive results within four hours. The process of blood testing has remained the same since the 1960s. Doctors and nurses drawing vials of blood, from you, that are sent to labs leaving patients waiting for results for days or weeks.

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theranos

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Enter Theranos

Theranos is a privately held health technology and medical laboratory services company based in Palo Alto, California that provides blood tests. The company’s blood testing platform uses a few drops of blood obtained via a fingerstick rather than vials of blood obtained via traditional venipuncture, using microfluidics technology.

Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theranos

Founder Elizabeth Holmes

At 30, Elizabeth Holmes makes her debut on the Forbes 400 as the youngest self-made woman billionaire. She dropped out her sophomore year of Stanford University to found Palo Alto, Calif.-based blood testing company Theranos in 2003 with money she saved for college. With a painless prick, her labs can quickly test a drop of blood at a fraction of the price of commercial labs which need more than one vial. Theranos has raised $400 million from venture capitalists, valuing the company at $9 billion, and Holmes’ 50% stake at $4.5 billion. She has assembled a stellar board that includes elder statesmen George Shultz and Henry Kissinger. Last year, Walgreens, the largest U.S. retail pharmacy chain, with more than 8,100 stores, announced plans to roll out Theranos Wellness Centers inside its pharmacies.

Link: http://news.therawfoodworld.com/walgreens-implements-new-technology-uses-just-one-drop-blood-run-dozens-tests/

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blood test

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Getting the Most from College 529 Plans

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A List of Suggestions

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® http://www.KahlerFinancial.com

Rick Kahler CFPWhen it comes to 529 college savings plans, the best strategy is to start early and start big. Don’t wait to set up an account until your teenager is starting to wonder which schools might offer skateboarding scholarships.

These accounts are excellent vehicles to save for college, in large part because of the tax-free growth they offer. Here are some suggestions for getting the most benefit from a 529 plan.

The List

1. Start as early as possible. The best time to start a 529 plan is at birth. Well, maybe a few weeks later; you do need to wait until the kid gets a Social Security number. The earlier an account is established, the more years of growth it will provide. Ideally, the plan and the child will grow together.

2. In the early years, invest more aggressively. It would be a shame to open a plan for a two-year-old and put everything in a money market fund or bonds; the goal in early years is growth. It’s a good idea to invest heavily in equities for about the first 10 years, then gradually move to bonds and other low-risk options. Many plans have an age-based option that does this automatically.

3. Fund the plan as much as you can when the child is young. Obviously, this can be a challenge for young families. If you can, however, it’s good to start with higher monthly amounts even if you need to taper off your contributions as the child gets older. The goal is to get as much into the plan as you can.

4. Consider using the five-year option. If someone has the ability to put a large amount into a child’s 529 plan all at once, it’s possible to contribute as much as $70,000 that is considered a contribution in advance for the following five years. The five-year period is to minimize federal gift tax purposes. This option might be most applicable for grandparents as part of their own estate planning.

5. Pay attention to fees and performance. Many 529 plans are sold through investment firms, and the commissions paid to those firms vary. Some offer mutual funds with relatively high annual fees. Fees are required to be clearly disclosed. It’s also a good idea to look at the performance of the fund managers. As an example of how to find this information, the South Dakota 529 plan has a FAQ section on its website with details on fees, performance, and funds.

6. Compare several state plans. While some states do offer tax breaks for residents who use their 529 plans, you aren’t limited to the plan from your own state. You can open new accounts in or move existing accounts to other states.

7. The more plans, the better. One child can be the beneficiary of several plans, perhaps set up by parents and both sets of grandparents. Or grandparents, say, could contribute to accounts opened by parents. The potential disadvantage here is that the money then belongs to the owner of the account.

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college

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One Last Point

Don’t get so excited by the idea of maximizing a 529 plan that you forget one essential guideline: Parents should fund their own retirement accounts ahead of funding college accounts for the kids.

Assessment

There are many places to find a little extra money for kids’ 529 plans. A few possibilities are cash gifts from relatives, contributions from grandparents, tax refunds, or bonuses. But the worst place to find that money is your own retirement fund. It isn’t wise to sacrifice a healthy retirement plan in order to create a healthy 529 plan.

More: Comprehensive Financial Planning Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™

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Low Interest Rate Traps

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IRs at Historic Lows

[By David K. Luke MIM CMP™ http://www.NetWorthAdvice.com]

David K. LukeWhile our economy is still in a “Land of Make Believe”, despite the “mini-crash” today and with interest rates still at historic low levels, now is a good time to remind ourselves of a couple tempting financial missteps:

Taking On New Debt

Debt is Debt!

When you borrow money to buy that second home, nice boat, or remodel the kitchen, it is easier to justify considering the lower monthly payments at 3 to 6%. That $110,000 Sea Ray 300 Sundeck boat you have always wanted is only $729 a month (240 months @ 5% no down). Affordable, right?

Whether or not it easily fits within your budget is one thing, but the low interest rate does not negate the fact that you now have an $110,000 liability on your Balance Sheet. Depending on depreciation and resale factors, you may also be draining your net worth with such a purchase if you end up “upside down” on the value.

Neglecting Existing Debt

Your mortgage is under 3.5%. Your practice just scored a low interest rate on a needed new piece of medical equipment. Your local bank just quoted you 1.99% on a new car loan. Life is good for medical professionals!

Perhaps because the emotional benefits of paying off debt is difficult to quantify, paying off low interest rate loans is not usually a priority for most physicians. Professor Obvious states: “Once a debt is paid, you have freed yourself of future recurring interest costs and an outstanding obligation.” While this seems like a trite concept, the point is that funds that have been previously used to pay interest, no matter how low the rate was, can be used for other purposes. Unfortunately physicians and financial advisors, CPAs, estate planning attorneys tend to be over analytical and miss the “happiness factor” of getting out of debt and owning your abode and other assets. For the strictly number-oriented person or over analytical physician, this can be a sticking point. After all, why pay off a 3.5 % mortgage (that after tax is costing you around 2.5% or less)?

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Euro Debt

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A physician would never remortgage their home to invest in a mutual fund. In fact, it is now accepted by FINRA, the SEC, and other regulatory bodies in the financial services industry that a financial advisor that encourages a client to leverage principle residence equity (take out a 1st or 2nd mortgage) to make a security investment is akin to committing malpractice. Yet I hear the rationale that funds are being deployed to other “investments” rather than paying off a low interest rate mortgage.

Life Is Good!

From a financial planning perspective, avoiding new debt and retiring existing debt obligations as soon as reasonable gives a physician and his or her family more options. Taking a locum tenens position, retiring early, and working less hours are just a few of these options.

Assessment

With a little consideration and restraint on your personal debt situation, even at these low interest rates, financial freedom and the resulting empowerment is achievable earlier.

Conclusion

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Developing the Millionaire’s Mindset [Part 1]

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By Rick Kahler MS CFP® http://www.KahlerFinancial.com

Rick Kahler CFPIf you’re a new graduate, nursing or medical student, taking your first steps into the adult world, here is the most important financial advice I can offer: Develop a millionaire mindset.

This absolutely does not mean making wealth your life goal. But, thinking like a millionaire will help you build a solid financial foundation to support you in reaching your life goals.

Definitions

First of all, let me define “millionaire.” A millionaire is someone with a net worth of one million dollars. That amount would generate an income of around $30,000 a year. In today’s world, that’s not even close to lavish-lifestyle wealth.

You probably know several millionaires. If you don’t think of them as rich, it’s most likely because they practice the millionaire mindset.

Here’s how:

1. Spend like a millionaire

The number-one common denominator of wealth accumulators is frugality. Millionaires shop sales, clip coupons, read labels, compare prices, and bargain. People who build wealth usually don’t wear designer clothes, drive luxury cars, live in extravagant houses, or shop at Neiman Marcus. They typically wear jeans bought on sale, drive used Toyotas, live in middle class neighborhoods, and shop at Walmart.

There’s no place in a millionaire mindset for credit card debt. Pay cash for everything but your home. Use a credit card only for convenience and pay it off every month. If you ever find yourself unable to pay the full amount, cut up your card. Pay off the balance as quickly as you can, and then don’t use a credit card for at least one year.

2. Work like a millionaire

Most millionaires work long hours, and most of them love what they do. They often have some “skin in the game” by owning part or all of their own businesses. As much as possible, find a job and career you love. When you do, your work becomes play. Invest time and money to keep your career skills and knowledge current. The millionaire mindset knows that your career is your most valuable financial asset.

3. Budget like a millionaire

Most college students live on budgets that allow only a Ramen noodle lifestyle. When you start getting career paychecks, keep that lifestyle for a time. Don’t increase your budget when you get a new job, a raise, or a promotion. Always have your lifestyle at least one step below your income.

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Millionaire's Jaguar

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To budget like a millionaire, follow these steps on every gross dollar you earn:

  • First, pay your taxes. Estimate your total tax liability and be sure your employer withholds enough to cover it. If you are self-employed, deposit a percentage of every check into a savings account that you use solely to pay your quarterly estimated taxes. Never “raid” these funds.
  • Second, put away at least 20% or more of every gross dollar you earn until you have six months to one year of living expenses in an emergency account. Then continue to invest that 20% of your gross pay in qualified retirement plans like 401ks, 403bs, or IRAs.
  • Third, pay your fixed expenses like housing and utilities.
  • Fourth, set up short-term savings accounts for foreseeable future “unexpected” lump-sum expenses like car and home repairs, vacations, holiday giving, college tuition, and medical emergencies.
  • Fifth, go ahead and blow the rest any way you wish. For most people, this means living on 30 to 60 cents out of every gross dollar you earn.

Assessment

The ways you spend, budget, and work are only part of the millionaire mindset. In a future ME-P, we’ll look at other ways you can build a fulfilling life by thinking like a millionaire.

PART TWO: Developing the Millionaire’s Mindset [Part 2]

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Trim Daily Expenditures or Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff?

By Lon Jefferies MBA CFP® http://www.NewWorthAdvice.com

Lon JefferiesHow often do you see articles containing money saving tips? Make dinner at home more often and eat out less, rent movies rather than going out, bring lunch to work rather than visit a restaurant, take advantage of coupons, and brew your coffee rather than driving-through Starbucks.

Do Advice Tips Work?

Are these tips worthwhile? If we spare the $8 expense of a lunch five days per week, 50 weeks per year, we could save $2,000 – nothing to scoff at!

However, what’s the cost of these savings? Eating at our desk everyday removes our ability to get outside and away from our work for that important hour, and prevents us from spending time, talking to, and laughing with friends. Is there a better way?

The DOL Report

According to a new study released by the Department of Labor, the average U.S household earns $65,132 per year before taxes, and spends an average of $50,631 on annual expenditures (excluding taxes and savings). Of that spending, $20,093, or 39.7%, goes towards housing expenses.

Additionally, $11,211, another 22.1%, goes towards transportation and automobiles. Combined, those elements make up 61.8% of the average household’s spending!

By comparison, only $10,835, or 21.4%, of our spending goes toward food, apparel and services, and entertainment combined. If we are going to explore ways to reduce spending, shouldn’t we start with the elements that are costing us the most?

Example:

For instance, most financial professionals say only 28% of our gross income should be committed to housing costs. Of the average $65,132 gross income, 28% would mean reducing our housing spending from $20,093 to $18,236, saving us $1,857 per year.

Assuming a 250-day work year, this savings could allow us to spend nearly $7.50 per day on lunch, enjoying our friends, and taking a break from the office.

More dramatically, reducing our mortgage payment by $500 per month, saving us $6,000 per year, pays for a whole lot of dinner and movie date nights.

Similarly, assume we spend $4 per day enjoying our morning coffee at Starbucks with friends five times a week, for 50 weeks a year. Annually this would cost us $1,000. Now suppose we purchase a nice used automobile for $15,000 rather than a new car for $25,000. This saves us $10,000 or 10 years worth of coffee breaks with friends (plus interest!).

Prioritize

Of course, everyone has different priorities. I suggest spending your money on what you are passionate about. For the occasional car fanatic, perhaps spending more on a car that makes you happy each day is preferable to other spending options.

Likewise, if homes happen to be your hot spot, heavy spending in this area makes sense.

Different Doctors?

However, I’d suggest that for most people, the experience of constantly eating with friends or spending a night out with your spouse is more likely to bring happiness than the possession of an expensive home or car. After all, would you rather eat out with friends or clip coupons alone in a large kitchen?

But, are doctors any different?

Budgets

Assessment

Consequently, reducing large expenses like a home mortgage or car loan may be the most effective way to stay within your budget and maintain your level of happiness – especially for docs!

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I Love Used [Previously Owned] Cars –– But!

Dr. Marcinko

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA CMP™

By Nalley Lexus Roswell

As a doctor and financial advisor, I love a good used car.

Why? Let some else take the monetary depreciation hit. A vehicle about 2-4 years old, depending on make or model, is usually about right.

Take my own favorite auto, for example. It is a Jaguar 2000 XJ-V8-L, and she is a classic beauty. My daughter even named her Ele; short for Elegant. And, I show her off every chance I get.

But, did I pay $90,000 for her as a new vehicle? No Way!

Ageism

Allow me to say it again.  I love a good used car. But unfortunately, cars like people, get old over time.

So, if your car is starting to look and feel a bit tired and you don’t have the cash, or are too smart to go for a new one, you can consider investing in some car interior upgrades. An interior upgrade doesn’t need to cost a fortune, and you might be surprised at what a difference it can make. And it is a nice treat for your car as Fall approaches.

My Jaguar's engine after a steam

My Five Tips

Here are 5 car interior upgrades we at are confident will help make your ride more enjoyable without breaking the bank.

1. New seat covers

Car seats quickly get worn and tired, fabric can get ripped or stained, and leather or PVC can age and crack, making the seats rather less comfortable. New seat covers could make a big difference. There are a huge variety of different covers on the market with styles to suit all budgets and tastes. If you want to spend a bit more, consider having some or all of the seats completely re-upholstered. You’ll soon be enjoying a much more comfortable drive.

2. Driver’s seat upgrades

If the driver’s seat really isn’t comfortable any more, then a more viable option might be to upgrade the whole seat. A sports seat will provide a more comfortable, responsive driving position, offering much more support to different parts of your body.

3. Upgraded audio system

Music can make even the longest car journeys more bearable, so why not consider investing in an upgraded audio system? Talk to your local dealer, or neighborhood kid, about getting a price on a new system and having it fitted. You may be quite limited by the dimensions of the cavity on your dashboard, so make sure you measure accurately and opt for a device that you can secure when the car is not in use to minimize the risk of theft.

4. Air purifier

Although you may use your air conditioner, the air in the cabin of your car can still get stale. Unless you open your car windows all the time, the chances are that you are continually breathing dead air. An air purifier can be bought cheaply, and in most cases, installs easily into the cigarette lighter socket.

5. Car mounts

Car mounts are an increasingly popular way for drivers and their passengers to make better use of their gadgets on the move. A dashboard car mount can help you store and use your iPhone or iPod Touch on the go. A mount on your sun visor can be used to keep your sunglasses safe and secure. You can even get a mount, which attaches to the back of the driver or front passenger seat and then folds down into a table for the rear passenger to use for a laptop.

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Jaguar Touring sedan XJ-V8-LWB

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Jaguar front seat

Conclusion

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Medical Risk Management: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/9780763733421

Hospitals: http://www.crcpress.com/product/isbn/9781439879900

Physician Advisors: www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

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On Overspending and Overeating?

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Is there a Causal Relationship?

Rick Kahler CFPBy Rick Kahler CFP® http://www.KahlerFinancial.com

Over the years, I’ve noticed a commonality among people with money problems. Many of them are also overweight. Is there a relationship between overspending and overeating?

Behavioral science

Until now, I couldn’t be sure my experience was anything more than circumstantial. But I recently read about a 2009 study done by Dr. Eva Munster at the University of Mainz in Germany. It found that people who were in deep consumer debt were 2.5 times more likely to be overweight than those who were debt free. This confirms what I’ve observed over the past 15 years.

It isn’t possible to pinpoint one simple reason for this link. Among the causes I’ve seen suggested are overeating because of the stress of being in debt, difficulty buying healthful food with limited income, or an inability to delay gratification in both spending and eating.

Based on my work with people in financial trouble, however, I suspect a deeper root cause. Just as chronic money problems aren’t about the money, chronic weight problems probably aren’t about the food.

Evidence?

For supporting evidence, I went to an expert: my daughter. London recently took a graduate level course in previewing medicine. I asked her what the medical link between overspending and overeating might be. She explained that sugar is addictive and lights up the same part of the brain that narcotics do. It produces a euphoric response within the brain that calls for more of the substance when the euphoria subsides.

She wondered whether people addicted to sugar might overspend on junk food to feed their addiction. They might also spend money they really don’t have on diets, fitness centers, and the higher medical costs associated with being overweight.

I pointed out that I spend a lot on healthy food that costs more than junk food. I also spend money on a fitness center and medical costs to pay for the damage I do to my body compulsively working out. “Well, I guess my argument doesn’t hold much weight,” she quipped.

She pondered for a moment. “Oh, I think I got it. I’ll bet for some people spending money lights up the same part of the brain as sugar and narcotics?”

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Obesity in the USA

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Bingo!

That is why the key to changing any addictive behavior—eating, drinking, using drugs, or overspending—is not simply about eliminating the substance or the activity. Something else just pops up to take its place. That’s why many people who successfully stop drinking gain weight or get into serious money problems. The brain just substitutes one dopamine producer for another.

The ultimate answer is a sort of “rewiring” of the brain to create new neuropathways that do not require the harmful substance or activity to produce the same euphoric event. The latest research on the brain tells us this rewiring is completely doable.

I’ve seen that permanently changing the most entrenched damaging money behaviors takes more than knowledge about money or budgeting. Experts on obesity tell us the solution to permanently losing weight rarely lies with learning more about nutrition or finding the right diet. Making deep life changes such as these requires looking into the past. This recovery process takes time, effort, and money. It’s a path that many people are just not willing to follow.

Assessment

But there may be some good news. If the underlying causes for overeating and overspending are the same, then doing the work to recover from one is likely to help someone recover from the other, as well. It’s a sort of “two for the price of one” sale. In terms of long-term financial, physical, and emotional well-being, it seems like a bargain.

More: Are Doctors Spenders or Savers?

Conclusion

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Medical Risk Management: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/9780763733421

Hospitals: http://www.crcpress.com/product/isbn/9781439879900

Physician Advisors: www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

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Doctors as Private Financiers?

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Doctors Acting as Lenders, White-Knights and Venture Capitalists

By Rick Kahler CFP® http://www.KahlerFinancial.com

Rick Kahler CFP

Every now and then I get a call from a doctor client wanting my opinion about starting a business with a friend, investing money in a business owned by a family member, or co-signing a loan to help a family member buy a business. Being in business with family is something I know a little bit about, having been in partnership with my father and brother for 40 years. Going into business with family members or close friends can carry a high degree of risk, both financially and emotionally.

In part this is because it is uncomfortable or difficult to ask the necessary dollars-and-cents questions. We don’t want to seem uncaring, unsupportive, or untrusting. We are concerned about damaging the relationship. Yet the relationship is far more likely to suffer if we don’t ask those questions and the venture fails.

My Rules

The following are some things to consider before you invest or go into business with someone close to you:

1. Don’t even consider putting money into a business without seeing a detailed business plan. Ask the same questions about risks, costs, and potential profits that you would ask if this person were not a family member.

2. Insist that the person at least talk to other possible investors who aren’t emotionally involved. This will give both of you some feedback from neutral third parties about the validity of the opportunity. A banker or a potential investor who isn’t a family member will ask questions you may not even think of asking.

3. Do your own research and seek out some independent advice. A financial advisor or someone with a lot of business experience can be a valuable source of questions, information, and alternatives.

4. Ask yourself whether you want to be involved in this business. Does it support your own goals? Do you know anything about this field or have any interest in it? Sometimes people invest on behalf of family members because they feel they “should.” Yet, had those same proposals come from acquaintances or business colleagues, they would almost certainly have said no without a second thought.

5. Try to think of other ways you might be supportive without putting money into the venture. Maybe you can think of lower-risk alternatives or other possible sources of funding. Remember, too, that if your wish is to support and encourage family members, helping them jump into an unacceptably risky investment isn’t exactly doing them any favors.

6. Pay close attention to any difficult feeling you are experiencing when considering investing in this enterprise. Explore any feelings like fear, anxiety, or sadness to determine if there is further wisdom to be gleaned. Perhaps you may be unconsciously ignoring some crucial warning signs.

7. Communicate clearly. Emphasize from the beginning that protecting the relationship is your most important consideration. If you decide not to get involved, be direct about it. Saying no right away is more respectful than is stringing the person along because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Yes, choosing not to invest in a family member’s project may cause some tension in the relationship. That’s minor compared to the damage the relationship could incur if you invest and the business fails.

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Achievement

Assessment

Sometimes, the best way for a successful doctor to support a family member’s financial well-being is to turn down an investment request. If outside parties are not willing to commit funds to a project, maybe there’s a message there that both of you need to hear. If you wouldn’t make an investment on its own merits, you almost certainly shouldn’t make it just because it involves a friend or family member.

Conclusion

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Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

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Practice Management: http://www.springerpub.com/product/9780826105752

Physician Financial Planning: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/0763745790

Medical Risk Management: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/9780763733421

Hospitals: http://www.crcpress.com/product/isbn/9781439879900

Physician Advisors: www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

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Be Your Own Banker?

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BYOB—or not

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM www.KahlerFinancial.com

Rick Kahler CFPDoctors – I’m not inviting you to a “bring your own beverage” party. I’m warning you away from a get-rich scheme called “Be Your Own Banker.”

This idea has floated around the Internet and late-night television for a while now. One of the latest versions is touted on a website that I’m not going to name because I don’t want anyone getting sucked into what is essentially one step from being a scam.

Once you drill down past the initial layers of ambiguity, the basic concept seems simple enough. You buy a large whole-life insurance policy. After you pay into it for several years, it will accumulate a cash value. Then, any time you make a major purchase like a new car, you can borrow against your insurance policy instead of going to a bank.

Paying Your Self

According to the people selling this concept, you are the big winner here because you’re paying interest to yourself, not the bank.

The BYOB salespeople are incredible marketers. This must be where political campaign managers ply their trade in between elections. They blast our financial system, banks and bankers, mutual fund managers, and financial advisors. They profess to care about the customers they call “clients.”

The half-truths and misstatements from these sellers are enough to elevate the blood pressure of any fee-only financial planner. They use terms like “depositing cash into a life insurance policy” and “having control of your own banking system.”

Amid all this unbelievable double-talk, they forget to mention one little detail. All that money that you “invest” in your whole life insurance policy is paid in the form of premiums. You aren’t paying it to yourself. You’re paying it to large life insurance companies—which, by the way, are an integral part of the financial system they blast.

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good news

A Closer Look

Let’s look at some actual numbers. You pay $12,500 a year in premiums for a $125,000 whole life insurance policy. In four years, after paying in a total of $50,000, you would have $46,110 dollars in your account. Yes, this is less than you put in, as the fees and premiums add up to be more than the growth rate. You can borrow up to 90% of the net value, or $41,500.

You will pay the company 5% for borrowing your own money. Supposedly, the interest is paid to yourself and adds to the cash value of the policy. But a deeper look shows that the interest you pay yourself must be over and above the interest paid to the company, which is just another name for “premium.” The insurance company charges you interest regardless of the “interest” you pay yourself.

What happens if you don’t pay back the loan? The interest keeps compounding, adding to the amount of the loan and eating up the cash value of the policy. This could eventually leave you facing some nasty tax consequences, potentially including having to pay income taxes on phantom income.

Instead of paying that $12,500 a year in premiums, you could put it into a deductible 401(k) plan and invest the funds in a diversified portfolio. You’d even be better off to put it into a taxable account. Then if you needed a new car or water heater, you’d have cash and wouldn’t have to borrow from yourself or anyone else.

Assessment

After spending hours researching “being your own banker,” my staff and I understand what BYOB really means. It stands for “Bring Your Own Bottle”—of pain reliever. You’ll need it for the headache of trying to understand this slick advertising scheme. It makes no sense for anyone except those selling the life insurance policy.

Conclusion

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Are Doctors Protecting their Credit Standing?

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Avoiding Credit Errors

By Lon Jefferies, MBA CFP™  http://www.NetWorthAdvice.comLon Jefferies

A clean, accurate credit history is a critical piece of the personal finance puzzle for doctors and us all. Staying on top of your credit standing over time can mean big savings since credit scores often determine your access to loans, interest rates, and monthly payments. An error on the report of any of the three major credit agencies – Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion – could be catastrophic next time you apply for a loan.

The Services

There are multiple credit-monitoring services you can utilize that charge approximately $15 per month, but these fees likely aren’t necessary. You can order a free credit report from each of the three major credit agencies every year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

Additionally, several services will send you updates from the credit bureaus at no cost. Credit Sesame will track data on your Experian report daily and instantly email you if anything suspicious pops up. There are over 35 triggers for alerts, including new accounts opened, late payments, credit inquires, and address changes. The website also provides a running credit score daily.

Credit Karma has a similar tool that provides free daily monitoring of your TransUnion report. This tool also provides valuable data such as how many lines of credit are evaluated on your credit report and your auto insurance score (used to determine your insurance premiums).

Again, both monitoring tools are free, don’t require a credit card, and take no longer than a couple minutes to sign up for.

stand-out

Assessment

Getting an instant heads-up that there’s been a change in your report could help you fix errors quickly, catch an identity theft at work, or get on top of a delinquent account. As a doctor, you’ve worked hard to establish your credit, so make sure you protect it.

Conclusion

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OUR OTHER PRINT BOOKS AND RELATED INFORMATION SOURCES:

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Medical Risk Management: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/9780763733421

Hospitals: http://www.crcpress.com/product/isbn/9781439879900

Physician Advisors: www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

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Strategic Importance of Healthcare Capital Investing

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For Leaders, Governors, Physicians and Hospital Executives

[By Calvin Weise CPA, CMA]

Some of the most important strategic decisions hospital executives make are related to capital expenditures. Almost every hospital has capital investment opportunities that are far in excess of their capital capacity. Capital investments are bets on the future. How these capital bets are placed has long-lasting implications. It is of utmost importance that hospitals bet right.

Hospitals as Business Entity

Hospitals are capital intensive businesses. Hospital buildings are unique structures that require large amounts of capital to construct and maintain. Inside these buildings are pieces of expensive equipment that have fairly short lives. Technological innovations continually drive demand for new and more expensive equipment and facilities. The ability to continually generate capital is the lifeblood of hospitals. In order to compete and succeed, it’s imperative for hospitals to continually invest in large amounts of capital equipment and expensive facilities.

Capital investment is fueled by profit. In order to continually make the necessary capital investments, hospitals must be profitable. Hospitals unable to generate sufficient profit will fail to make important capital investments, weakening their ability to compete and survive.

Hospital managers bear important responsibility in choosing which capital investments to make. There are always more capital opportunities than capital capacity. In many cases, capital opportunities not taken by hospitals create openings for others with capital capacity to fill the vacuum. By not taking such opportunities, hospitals are weakened, and their operating risk increases.

Responsibility

Stewardship is a term that aptly describes the responsibility borne by hospital managers in making capital investments. The New Testament parable of the talents describes this kind of stewardship. In this story, a merchant entrusted three managers with money to invest. One manager was given five units, another two, and a third one. At the end of the investment period, the two managers given five units and two units reported a 100% return. The manager given one unit reported zero return — he was fired and his unit was given to the first manager.

Healthcare Investment Risks

Leadership

This is stewardship — and hospital managers are stewards of their organizations’ assets. Too often, not-for-profit hospital managers hold an erroneous view of the returns expected of them. Like the third manager in the parable, they think zero return on equity is acceptable. They understand capital investment funded by debt needs to cover the interest on the debt, but they view capital investments funded by equity as having no cost associated with the equity. From an accounting perspective, they are right. From a stewardship perspective they are dead wrong — just like the third manager in the parable.

Here’s why: as stewards, they are responsible for managing the entrusted assets. They can either put these assets at risk themselves, or they can put those assets in the market and let other managers put them at risk. If they choose to put them at risk themselves, then they have the mandate of creating as much value from putting them at risk as they would realize if they put them in the market for other managers to put at risk. They have the duty to realize returns that are equivalent to the returns they could realize in the market; otherwise, they should just put them in the market. They can either invest in hospital assets or work the assets themselves, or they can invest in financial market assets so others can work the assets. When they choose to invest in hospital assets, the required return is not zero. That’s the return they get fired for. The required return is equivalent to market returns.

Assessment

Thus, when evaluating performance of hospital management teams, the minimum acceptable performance level is return on equity that is equivalent to the return that could be realized by investing the hospital assets in the market. And when evaluating a capital investment opportunity, it is important to apply a capital charge equivalent to the hospital’s weighted cost of capital — a measure that imputes an appropriate cost to the equity portion of the capital along with the stated interest rate for the debt portion of the capital structure.

Conclusion

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Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

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Hospitals: http://www.crcpress.com/product/isbn/9781439879900

Physician Advisors: www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

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Paying for College

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Maybe Not!

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM www.KahlerFinancial.com

Rick Kahler CFPDo you want to give your children the best possible chance to do well in college, earn higher salaries, and save more for their retirement? Then, don’t pay for their college education.

One of the most popular money scripts I encounter is the notion that being a good parent means paying for your child’s college. Many parents do this at the expense of taking care of themselves in retirement, which is a very high price to pay.

The most popular reason I hear from clients for funding children’s’ education is empowerment. They want to spare kids the burden of repaying school loans after graduation. They also want them to be able to focus on their studies without the distraction of having to work to put themselves through college. For most parents, allowing students to concentrate on classes so they can perform well, make better grades, and obtain better jobs, is a sacrifice worth making.

The Myth

There’s just one problem with this scenario. It’s a myth.

In most cases, parents who fund their kid’s’ college education are insuring they will actually do worse in school than those who have to pay their own way. This is the finding of new research conducted by Laura T. Hamilton, published January 7, 2012, by The American Sociological Review under the title “More Is More or More Is Less?” Her study shows that students whose education is funded by parents or through student loans actually have lower GPA’s than students who in some way must work to put themselves through school.

Hamilton found that students who have to “do something” requiring them to take personal responsibility for obtaining the funds for their education do best and carry higher GPA’s. This includes those who receive grants, scholarships, or veteran’s benefits, or who participate in work-study programs.

Parental funds or borrowing “provide the time, money, and proximity (i.e., living on or near campus) necessary to delve deeply into college peer cultures,” Hamilton notes. The gift of time that student loans and parental funding provide isn’t usually poured into studies. Instead, students tend to focus that extra time on increasing their social life. The average college student receiving money from loans or parents spends less time on studies in college than in high school. Even though they spend about 28 hours a week attending class and studying, the research found they devote a full 41 hours a week to social and recreational endeavors.

Put more succinctly, students who have to work to pay their way through college spend slightly more time studying and significantly less time partying.

The Results 

The net result in this is a big personal and societal lose-lose. Those of you who have sacrificed your retirement to help your children through college have potentially done harm to both your children and yourselves. Your kids have probably done worse in college, thus obtaining lower paying jobs. This loss of potential income has downsides for both children and parents. Previous research has shown that parents who don’t fully fund their own retirement years will actually end up costing their children five times as much as the kids would have spent by funding their own college education.

Understandably, a few of you are now choking on your last sip of coffee as you read the last paragraph. This is not at all the outcome you intended.

Money

Assessment

The evidence is clear. Parents who take care of fully funding their own retirement instead of sacrificing to pay for their kids’ education are not being selfish. Instead, they give their children something far more valuable than the cost of tuition: the gift of success and achievement.

Conclusion

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How Banks Make Money From Home Loans

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Understanding the Fractional Reserve US Banking System

The following infographic explains how banks make money from the deposits of customers. Fractional Reserve Banking is a banking system where banks keep a fraction of deposits from a customer, then use the rest for loans to other customers.

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banks-money-home-loans

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Assessment

Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractional-reserve_banking

More:

Conclusion

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Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

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Understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Your Financial Goals

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Of Financial Wants … and Needs

Courtesy Hemant Beniwal

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financial needs 300x262 Maslows hierarchy of needs & your financial goals

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Numeric Figures Life’s Purpose

Financial goals are basically numerical figures of your purpose of life. We all have a purpose in life and the goals should be a part of that purpose. In fact the goals should make you achieve that purpose of life.

The Goals

Your financial goal should have a reasonable priority in fact these goals should be in parallel to your life goals.

Understand what motivates you to keep your goals on track. Lot of time it has been seen that people lose hope or lack motivation in between and they start showing signs of back stepping and indulging in some other interest.

Some time back I wrote about “Setting SMART Financial Goals” which talked about setting Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant & Time-bound goals. But what about purpose of life, prioratising goals & motivation to achieve them.

I think Maslow’s hierarch of needs can help you in identifying purpose of your life, prioratising goals & giving enough motivation to achieve them. If you don’t know about Maslow’s hierarchy check Wikipedia page.

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Maslows-hierarchy-of-needs-your-financial-goals-Infographics

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Assessment

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It’s not how much you own [assets] – It’s how much you control

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Are non-asset owners financially ahead?

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM http://www.KahlerFinancial.com

Rick Kahler CFPOwning a home is part of the American Dream. Financial experts tell us owning a car is better than leasing. And who would think of not owning the clothes you wear? The concept of “that’s mine” runs so deep it’s probably hardwired into our brains. To prove it, just try to take a toy away from a two-year-old.

On the other hand, the control of an asset is often more valuable than ownership. If you could lease a new $25,000 car for one dollar a month for 10 years, do you really care if you don’t own it? Absolutely not!

Or take a middle-aged tenant with a lifetime lease on a property subject to rent controls who pays rent at a tenth of current market rates. Who has the more value from that asset, the tenant or the owner? Clearly, the tenant has a valuable leasehold interest that in some cases could be worth more than the ownership interest.

If we can have regular access to something, whether it’s using a beach house through a home swap, sharing power tools, or renting a trailer to haul a piano, we don’t need to own it. Often, we’re financially ahead not to own it.

Income Receipt

Can this same concept apply to the income you receive? It may. For some people, having access to benefits and services they don’t “own” through their earnings may be the better deal. This is the conclusion Gary Alexander, Secretary of Public Welfare for Pennsylvania, reached in a paper called “Welfare’s Failure and the Solution.”

He published a chart showing the government benefits that accrue to single mothers. Alexander states, “The single mom is better off earning gross income of $29,000 with $57,327 in net income and benefits than to earn gross income of $69,000 with net income and benefits of $57,045.”

According to Alexander, benefits that accrue in Pennsylvania to a single mom with two preschool children, who earns $29,000, include health insurance for her children ($5,000), various childcare benefits ($15,000), housing ($6,000), and food ($2,300). A single mom earning $69,000 doesn’t qualify for any of these benefits and actually takes home $182 less than the mom earning $29,000.

A chart in Alexander’s paper with even more serious implications illustrates that 110 million privately employed workers in the US now support 88 million welfare recipients and government workers. This trend is not economically sustainable. While the government can print all the money needed to fund the 88 million, inflation becomes a huge concern. If inflation and taxes continue to climb, at some point, the producers/taxpayers may say “enough.” They will either choose to become recipients instead of producers, or they might relocate themselves and their skills to a country that rewards productivity and incentive.

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landlords

A painful reality in America

The financial blog ZeroHedge.com published an article on this topic on November 27, 2012. The piece calls it a “painful reality in America” that “for increasingly more it is now more lucrative—in the form of actual disposable income—to sit, do nothing, and collect various welfare entitlements, than to work.”

This is a difficult subject to raise. I am sure my inbox will fill with unhappy emails from folks who will miss my point and others who will give me illustrations of those less fortunate who legitimately depend on welfare.

Assessment

However, the painful long-term costs and consequences of welfare is one of the essential topics we need to talk about if we are to solve our nation’s fiscal problems. If our representatives come to depend more for reelection on those who receive tax funds than those who provide tax funds, we will only dig ourselves further into debt.

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Doctors Uniquely Giving Locally in 2013

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On Innovative Charitable Giving

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM www.KahlerFinancial.com

Rick Kahler CFP“Shop locally.” “Eat locally.” Do a quick Internet search for either of these terms and you get a host of results. Plenty of people are interested in saving energy and supporting locally-owned businesses by doing their buying close to home.

So, many doctors – like other folks – are committed to eating locally grown food that there’s even a name for them: locavores. Being a locavore in South Dakota in the wintertime, by the way, can be a challenge.

If buying locally matters to you, here’s another aspect of it to think about: giving locally as we begin the new year 2013.

The Holiday Season

This time of year especially, we are flooded with requests from worthwhile causes. Many of these are well-known national or international organizations with sophisticated fund-raising efforts. Amid their appeals, requests from local charities may be easy to overlook. Yet many small organizations do a great deal of good in their home towns.

Issues to Consider

Before you decide whether giving locally or nationally is a better option for your gift budget, here are a few things to consider:

1. No matter whether an organization is local or international, always check to see how much of the money it raises goes to administrative costs and how much actually reaches the people the charity serves. Most charities have websites where this information is readily available.

2. What kind of giving matters most to you? If you want to support the arts, chances are that a local organization like your community theatre or concert association will make good use of your funds. If you’d rather support agencies that help with natural disasters, an international organization is probably the most effective place for your money.

3. Do you want to give actual items rather than money? If so, local charities would usually be better choices. Many places, for example, use “Angel Trees” to ask for gifts for children or the elderly. If you’d prefer to help the hungry with canned goods rather than cash, you’ll want to give to your local food bank or homeless shelter.

4. Find out whether you can specify that your gift is used locally. Many national organizations like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, or food banks are happy to receive gifts that are designated for your local chapter.

5. Just as local government is closer to the people it serves, local charities may be more in touch with specific community needs. If you give locally, you can talk to people in charge and find out exactly where your money goes.

6. Giving locally allows you to combine financial giving with hands-on service that may be more satisfying than just giving money. You could help serve meals at a shelter, pack gift boxes, volunteer at a food bank, or distribute gifts.

7. Just because a charity is local, however, don’t automatically assume it uses its money wisely or efficiently. Always check. Sometimes a small organization may be trying to duplicate what an older or larger organization can do more efficiently. Sometimes local organizations are run by people who are well-meaning but don’t necessarily have the skills or contacts to make the best use of the donations they receive.

8. Remember that giving is an individual decision. Choose the level and type of giving that fits best for you, instead of trying to match what others do or give what someone else thinks you should.

charity

Assessment

Finally, keep a balanced perspective. There are many worthwhile organizations, and you can’t possibly give to them all. Don’t waste energy feeling guilty about the ones you skip. Instead, appreciate the giving you do in your own way and let it add joy and satisfaction to your holiday season.

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How Bad Is Our National Debt Problem, Anyway?

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And … Will a Deal Fix It?

By Theodoric Meyer
ProPublica, Dec. 28, 2012, 12:34 p.m.

President Obama will meet with congressional leaders today [1] in another attempt to avert the fiscal cliff — the automatic tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 1st unless Congress can strike a deal. The cuts and tax hikes, which total more than $500 billion, are so large and so sudden that many economists fear they would plunge the country back into recession.

As Washington tries to hash out a deal, we’ve taken a step back to break down the numbers behind our deficit — how it grew so big, why it is actually shrinking and whether a deal can bring it under control.

How much are we in debt?

The federal debt is just shy of $16.4 trillion [2] at the moment, which also happens to be the debt limit that Congress set in 2011. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner announced on Wednesday [3] that the nation would hit the limit on Dec. 31. The Treasury can take some “extraordinary measures” to keep paying its bills for a few weeks, but it’ll run out of cash by February or March unless Congress raises the limit again.

And that’s different from the deficit, right?

Yes. The debt is the total amount of the government’s outstanding obligations. The deficit is how much the government is in the red in a given year. In the 2012 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, the deficit amounted to $1.1 trillion [4].

That seems like a huge number. How did the deficit get so big?

The 2012 deficit was actually the smallest one since 2008. But it’s still a giant shortfall.

As Binyamin Appelbaum noted in The New York Times [5], the federal government has run a deficit in 45 of the last 50 years. (The exceptions were 1969 and 1998 through 2001.) The financial crisis in 2008, however, caused the deficit to skyrocket, as tax revenues fell because of the slump in incomes and production, and government spending on the stimulus and safety net measures such as unemployment insurance shot up. The deficit for the 2008 fiscal year was $455 billion. In 2009, it surged to more than $1.4 trillion.

Since then, the deficit has been falling, albeit very slowly. The government took in 6.4 percent more in taxes in 2012 than in 2011, as the economy improved a bit and several tax breaks expired. And it spent less on Medicaid, unemployment insurance and the continuing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What about the total debt? How much of that is President Obama’s fault?

The debt has grown by nearly $6 trillion since Obama took office, from $10.5 trillion to $16.4 trillion.

Figuring out how much of that is due to Obama is tougher. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, working with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, calculated in January [6] that the legislation Obama had actually signed — as opposed to factors like the economy — had added about $983 billion to the debt.

Klein has also rounded up several charts [7] that break down exactly what’s caused our debt to grow so large. The biggest single factor has been the weak economy; President George W. Bush’s tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also fueled the debt buildup, as did President Obama’s stimulus.

Have debt levels ever been this high before?

Yes, proportionally. Economists like talk about a country’s debt in relation to its gross domestic product (a measure of the economy’s total annual output). And instead of using a country’s total outstanding debt to calculate this debt-to-GDP ratio, economists typically use the amount of debt held by the public. (Somewhat confusingly, the federal government holds about $5 trillion in obligations to itself, most of which is money owed to the funds that support Social Security and other programs.)

Using this measurement, our debt was about 67.7 percent of GDP last year. As this chart compiled by Quartz’s Ritchie King shows [8], that’s the highest our debt-to-GDP ratio has been since the 1940s, when the need to finance World War II caused the debt to surge to 112.7 percent of GDP. But the economy grew fast enough after the war that the debt soon became a much smaller percentage of the country’s GDP.

It’s worth noting that a number of other developed countries have higher debt-to-GDP ratios [9] than the U.S. Germany’s public debt is 80.6 percent of GDP, and Canada’s is 87.4 percent. The euro zone’s most troubled countries fare even worse: Italy’s debt is 120.1 percent of GDP; Greece’s is 165.3 percent.

US Capitol

At least we’re not Greece. How much longer can we keep borrowing?

That’s a tough one. Some commentators — including Paul Krugman, the Nobel-winning economist and columnist for The New York Times — have argued that our current deficits are mostly a product of the sluggish economy. The deficit, Krugman wrote last week [10], “is a side-effect of an economic depression, and the first order of business should be to end that depression — which means, among other things, leaving the deficit alone for now.”

Other economists — including Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, who studied eight centuries’ worth of financial crises for their book “This Time Is Different” — argue that countries with debt-to-GDP ratios above a certain level tend to experience slower economic growth. Reinhart and Rogoff suggest the level is around 90 percent of GDP [11] — which the U.S. is rapidly approaching. A recent Congressional Research Service report [12] concluded that while the debt-to-GDP ratio can’t keep rising forever, “it can rise for a time.” The report continued:

It is hard to predict at what point bond holders would deem it to be unsustainable. A few other advanced economies have debt-to-GDP ratios higher than that of the United States. Some of those countries in Europe have recently seen their financing costs rise to the point that they are unable to finance their deficits solely through private markets. But Japan has the highest debt-to-GDP ratio of any advanced economy, and it has continued to be able to finance its debt at extremely low costs.

How does all this fit into the fiscal cliff?  Would a deal to avert it fix our debt problem?

Actually, going over the fiscal cliff would almost singlehandedly erase the deficit. Tax rates would shoot up, and the fiscal cliff’s indiscriminate budget cuts would slash military and safety-net spending alike.

The problem is that all those tax increases and spending cuts would likely throw the economy back into a recession, causing the deficit to balloon again. “The economy will, I think, go off a cliff,” said Ben Bernanke [13], the Federal Reserve chairman.

(For more detail, see The Washington Post’s exhaustive fiscal cliff explainer [14].)

What the two sides are trying to do is identify cuts that are ultimately deep enough to bring down the deficit — and thus, eventually, the debt — without stalling the economy. But negotiations collapsed last week [15] after John Boehner, the Republican House speaker, tried and failed to pass a “Plan B” alternative to the president’s proposal in the House. Obama is set to meet with congressional leaders today to try to strike a deal to block at least some of the cliff’s impact by Monday night. But its prospects seem dim.

“I have to be very honest,” Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader, said on Thursday. “I don’t know timewise how it can happen now.”

Assessment

Of course, some analysts have pointed out that people on both the Republican and the Democratic sides may actually want to move the cliff just slightly down the road into the next Congress, which convenes Thursday, Jan. 3. The advantages: Boehner can be safely re-elected as Speaker before he has to do serious twisting of arms of fellow GOP House members to get their votes for any compromise plan. And there will be a few more Democrats in the House and the Senate for the White House to rely on in enlisting the votes it needs to ratify any such deal. The disadvantage: Delay makes the risk of miscalculation greater for either or both sides — and for the public.

Link: http://www.propublica.org/article/how-bad-is-our-debt-problem-anyway-and-will-a-deal-fix-it

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How To Stay Within Your Holiday Budget

   Yes – it Can be Done with these Secrets!
 By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA CMP
 www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

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For some doctors and many Americans, the holiday season is all about excess, and all the gifts, travel, drinks, decadent food, and party dresses can leave a gaping hole in your personal finances. And so, as a Certified Medical Planner, I know that a holiday budget is a helpful tool for managing your spending during the holiday season, so that you don’t start out the New Year in the red. Of course, a holiday budget is only effective if you stick with it, and these shopping tips can help you do just that.

Hallelujah!

Shorten your gift list

Sure, the holiday season is about generosity, but that doesn’t mean you need  to buy an extravagant gift for everyone on the neighborhood block or office floor. Gifts are easily one of the largest expense categories during the holiday season, so the fewer gifts you have to buy; the easier it is to stay within your holiday budget. When times are tight, it’s okay to scrutinize your gift list and cut out anyone whom you don’t really need or even want to buy for. This important step should be done before you even make your holiday budget.

Set a spending limit for each person

Once you’ve whittled down your gift list, set a spending limit for each person on that list. You may want to spend the most on family and friends, but these are also the relationships that leave the most room for creativity.

For example, it might be fun to have your family make gifts for one another this year or create a challenge among friends to see who can find the best gift for the least amount of money. Your boss, CMO or CXO on the other hand, may not appreciate inexpensive gifts like your homemade fudge or a handcrafted ornament.

Shop ahead for deals

When the holiday season is fast approaching, you’re pretty much forced to pay whatever prices the stores are offering, although you can sometimes save money by shopping online at websites like Amazon and eBay. However, if you’re smart, you’ll start your holiday shopping early, leaving yourself time to hunt down only the very best deals.

Shop with cash

Putting the credit cards away and shopping with cash is another smart way to stay within your holiday budget. In fact, shopping with cash is a good general rule for living within your means year-round, but it’s especially effective during the holiday season, when impulse purchases really go through the roof. If you only bring a designated amount of cash with you on each shopping trip, you’ll be forced to stick within your budget. Setting a time limit on your holiday shopping can also have the same budget-bolstering effect.

ME-P Classified Blast!

Simplify holiday parties

For many medical professionals, lavish parties are another major expense of the holiday season. If you’re invited to tons of holiday parties every year, you can stay within your holiday budget by choosing to RSVP to only a few; this saves on party attire, gas, cab fare, parking, host/hostess gifts, drinks, and more.

If you plan to host your own party, forget about all the unnecessary decadence that your guests will have forgotten by mid-January; instead, keep things simple, but classy, and keep your guest list small to help stay within your holiday budget.

Assessment

These are just a few of the many ways that you can stay within your holiday budget this season. Nearly any money-saving tips that you employ year-round can be tailored to help you save on your holiday shopping. As long as you take the time to create a holiday budget, and then stick to that plan, you should save major green and subsequently stay out of the red.

How very festive of you!

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Benchmarking Small Business Financial Fitness

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A Small Business Snapshot

Small Biz Finances

Source: Intuit

Assessment

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Understanding Variations in the Cost of Living

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Understanding the C-O-L

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On the Decline of US Economic Freedom

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A Remarkable Plunge in Economic Freedom

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM www.KahlerFinancial.com

The United States has experienced a “remarkable plunge in economic freedom” over the past ten years. This is the conclusion of the 2012 Economic Freedom of the World Annual Report, by Gwartney, Lawson, and Hall.

The GLH Report

The report measures the degree to which a country supports the cornerstones of economic freedom, defined as personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to compete, and the security of privately owned property. It surveys forty-two variables used to construct an index that measures 144 countries in five areas of economic freedom: the size of government, property rights, sound money, freedom to trade, and regulation.

Historical Review

For 20 years, from 1980 to 2000, the U.S. usually ranked as the third freest economy in the world behind Hong Kong and Singapore. By 2005 the U.S. fell to eighth, and by 2010 it was ranked 18th. In addition to Hong Kong and Singapore, the US is now less economically free than New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Bahrain, Mauritius, Finland, Chile, UAE, Ireland, United Kingdom, Estonia, Taiwan, Denmark, and Qatar. Right on our heels within .08 of a point are Kuwait, Cyprus, Japan, Oman, Jordan, and Peru.

Size of Government 

The size of government measures the degree to which a country relies on personal choice and free markets rather than government control of markets and politics. Countries with low levels of government spending, a smaller government sector, and lower tax rates did best in this measure. The U.S. ranks 78th in this category and has seen the size of its government and control over markets significantly expand in the past 10 years.

The security of property rights and a legal system that protects them is the foundation of economic freedom and free markets. If businesses and individuals don’t have confidence that contracts will be enforced and their investments protected, it sabotages their incentive to produce. And production is at the heart of any strong economy. The U.S. ranks 28th among nations in property rights and a strong legal system. This decline is one of the more surprising to me.

Reasons for Low US Ratings

The report suggests several reasons for the low rating. One is the U.S. expansion of eminent domain powers that now allows cities to condemn private property for resale to private developers, something that was once unthinkable. Another example is the violation of the property rights of bondholders in the government bailout of GM. Finally, the ramifications of the wars on drugs and terrorism, with laws allowing the government to invade and seize property, have contributed to the sharp decline of property rights.

Sound money is the oil that keeps an economy running. While sovereign governments cannot involuntarily go bankrupt because they can create money, they are constrained by inflation. To earn a high rating in this category a country must have a low and stable rate of inflation. This is where the US scored highest, ranking seventh.

Most Free Countries

The countries with the most freedom to trade internationally have low tariffs, easy clearance and efficient administration of customs, and few controls on the movement of capital. The US ranks 57th in free trade!

Finally, a free economy avoids regulations that restrict entry into markets and restrict exchange. It allows markets to determine prices and avoids regulations that increase costs and restrict people’s ability to get into business. Here, the U.S. ranks 31st.

Report Executive Summary

Link: http://www.cato.org/pubs/efw/efw2012/efw-2012-executive-summary.pdf

Assessment

Clearly, there can be no doubt that the U.S. is in economic decline. The economic freedoms we once took for granted are slowly slipping away. Only time will tell if we will rally and turn back toward the economic principles that once made American the envy of the world, or whether we will continue our slow fall to mediocrity.

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Understanding the Domestic Unemployment Numbers

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How Can Unemployment Be Going Down?

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM www.KahlerFinancial.com

In an economy that isn’t exactly robust, how can unemployment be going down? The recent drop in the unemployment rate from 8.1% to 7.8% caught almost everyone, including me, by surprise. The GDP grew by only 1.5% in the first quarter, and its growth was under 2% for the last 12 years. To get the economy moving again we will need growth of 3% a year.

It isn’t surprising that many pundits were questioning the timing within minutes after the latest unemployment numbers were announced. After all, unemployment is one of the major issues in the Presidential election. Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch and several Fox News commentators even suggested the administration was cooking the books.

The BLS

I don’t believe the Bureau of Labor Statistics is manipulating unemployment data. The process of computing the data is straightforward and transparent. Two surveys go into projecting the unemployment rate, one covering 400,000 businesses and the other questioning 60,000 households. The surveys ask about the number of full-time and part-time employees, whether the part-time employees really want full-time employment, and whether those without a job have looked for a job within the last month.

Cooked Books?

But that doesn’t mean the books aren’t cooked. They are.

“The way the government derives the unemployment numbers has changed significantly over the last 30 years,” writes John Mauldin, editor of the economic newsletter Thoughts from the Frontline, in the October 8, 2012, issue. “Whatever administration is involved, the new equations for determining unemployment result in a lower unemployment rate than they would have if the 1980’s methodology were still in place.”

The Changes

One of the more bizarre changes in the unemployment rate calculation is that people are not considered unemployed unless they have looked for a job in the last 30 days, even if they currently receive unemployment benefits. Mauldin says there are probably many people who haven’t looked for a job in the last 30 days and that most, if not all, of them would consider themselves unemployed. “If you’re not disabled and you’re receiving unemployment or welfare benefits I think you should be counted as unemployed,” he says. He estimates our actual unemployment rate is well over 12%, which doesn’t take into account the 50% of college graduates who are underemployed.

Don’t Blame Obama

Before you blame the Obama administration for the dumbing down of the unemployment rate, this is the same way the Bush administration calculated unemployment.

It’s the same story with the Consumer Price Index, which the government has continually tweaked to give the illusion of a lower CPI than if the 1980’s formula was used.

ShadowStats.com, run by John Williams, calculates the current unemployment and inflation rates using the formulas from the 1980’s. According to that methodology, Williams calculates the unemployment rate (U-6) is 15% and the CPI is 9%.

Regaining Jobs?

The economy has currently regained about half of the jobs lost in the Great Recession of 2008-2009. According to the Liscio Report, it will take another 40 months to reach the level of employment we had prior to the recession. That is if we don’t have another recession, which is doubtful. If all the tax increases slated for January 1 go into effect, the Congressional Budget Office says GDP will shrink 2.9%, which guarantees a recession.

Assessment

So, what was behind the fall in the unemployment rate this month? According to Mauldin, the entire drop came from an increase in part-time workers. He says, “That such significant numbers of people can only find part-time work is not a sign of a strong and growing economy.”

When we look a little deeper, maybe the latest unemployment numbers aren’t such a surprise after all.

Conclusion

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About Small Business Micro-Loans

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Change the World with Twenty Bucks

Microloans have been helping out around the world for years: see Kiva.

In one instance, the recipient was selected for a loan under $100. Although only about 70% of the loan was repaid, it was accompanied by a thank-you letter from the SB recipient, who was so grateful, that the money was paid back just after the designated time period. And, the fact is that most microloans are paid back in-full.

Assessment

Small business is how most citizens of third-world countries make a living.

Supporting business and growth by supplying microloans is an import thing. But, to personally help keep a sustainable source of food on the table for these families is the real satisfaction that all medical professionals should experience – at least once – on some level of participation.

Conclusion

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The US Income Gap as a New Reality Check for Doctors NOT Going Broke

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Sobering News for all Medical Professionals – To Be Thankful

By Ann Miller RN MHA

Poverty in America

Source: http://www.infographicsarchive.com/economics/infographic-poverty-in-america-the-struggle-to-get-ahead/

Assessment

Conclusion

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Doctors to Get a Smaller Piece of American Pie?

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And Contracting Lifestyles for Us All

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM www.KahlerFinancial.com

“Any way you slice the pie, Americans better come to grips with the fact their lifestyles are going to contract.” That’s the bottom line I’ve gleaned from attending several conferences and listening to some of the nation’s top economists recently.

But, what about Doctors and Medical Professioanals?

New Medical Practice Entrepreneurial Business Rules for Young Physicians [circa 2012]

The Fundamentals

Basically, the US is spending far more than it takes in via tax revenues, creating an annual deficit. The shortfall is covered by borrowing the money, which adds to the national debt. The Treasury Department borrows the money from two sources: private investors (individuals, banks, companies, and other governments) and the Federal Reserve Bank.

The Federal Reserve Bank

Where does the Federal Reserve get money? I’ve written about this before and our Editor has commented on it. They create it with a keystroke, which is the digital-age equivalent of printing money.

The Modern US Monetary System

It’s important to understand that the US government has no intention of ever paying down the US debt. Neither politicians nor economists can agree on whether to stop borrowing (or creating) money to fund the annual deficit. To actually reduce the national debt, we must run surpluses, something we haven’t done in over 15 years and then it was only for one year. We actually have never paid off our debt from WWII.

Deficit Spending

Reducing our deficit spending requires us either to raise taxes, cut spending, or borrow (which includes creating) more money. If we raise taxes to cover the deficit, we will most likely force a recession or depression. We simply can’t take $1.3 trillion out of the private sector without imploding the economy. If we cut spending, we will most likely create a recession or depression, as we simply can’t cut $1.3 trillion of government spending overnight without imploding the economy. If we do both, we will most likely still have a recession or depression.

Print or Borrow

At the moment, Congress can’t agree what to do, so we continue to borrow and print money. An increasing national debt means higher borrowing costs (interest). This means we need more revenues (from taxes or creating more money) to continue to fund Social Security, Medicare, welfare programs, infrastructure, and national defense. Creating (printing) money can lead to rising inflation, though it doesn’t automatically do so, as Japan has demonstrated for 20 years. This results in the devaluation of our global purchasing power, meaning the cost of everything we buy from other countries increases. It’s clear that the most appealing option to politicians and most economists is to continue to borrow and inflate.

Why the Government is Not-Like Medical Professionals

The Message

No matter how you cut and paste these options, one result is the same. Americans’ lifestyles will contract. This will come either from less government support and services, less spendable income via higher taxes, or an erosion of purchasing power from a declining dollar. This is the last message most Americans want to hear. The attitude is like that of the overspender who recently asked me, “How can I cut my expenses but maintain my current lifestyle?” The most honest answer is, “Sorry, but it can’t be done.” True, it’s possible to find creative ways to keep the parts of your lifestyle that matter the most. However, reducing expenses almost always means a lifestyle reduction. This is one reason so many people resist budgeting.

Assessment

For most doctors, lawyers, CPAs, FAs, laborers and all Americans, budgeting means reducing spending, even though that isn’t inherently what budgeting is. In its purest form, it is becoming aware of our current spending patterns and redirecting income to the areas of spending that will best support our desired lifestyle. The more our income shrinks, the more crucial it becomes to redirect it carefully and consciously.

Personal Budgeting Guidelines for Doctors

Conclusion

In other words, if we have to settle for a smaller piece of pie, we’d better make sure we’re buying the kind of pie we really want.

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Understanding The Federal Reserve Act

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[By Staff Reporters]

Uncovering The FED

In the early 20th century, a financial crisis led panicked citizens to withdraw all their money at once, damaging banks. By 1913, Congress responded with the Federal Reserve Act, creating 12 regional banks acting as a federal bank to deal in local and global affairs with both private banks and the federal government.

Balancing v. Manipulation

Some say the Fed was meant to create a balanced economy, while others argue its purpose was to inorganically manipulate free enterprise, rescuing banks that we’d be better off without.

Assessment

Is the Fed still doing its job today? What secrets are being kept from us and how are the Fed’s actions impacting our economy?

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Conclusion

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The Modern US Monetary System

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On Modern Monetary Realism

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM www.KahlerFinancial.com

In a previous ME-P column I explained why any currency-issuing country, like the US, will never default on its obligations or run out of money with which to purchase goods and services priced in its own currency. Sovereign nations that are currency issuers have no solvency constraints, unlike currency users such as individuals, corporations, and government entities that don’t issue currency.

Why the Government is Not-Like Medical Professionals

On Modern Monetary Realism

To follow up, let’s look at what has become known as Modern Monetary Realism (MMR).  Economist Cullen O. Roche describes it in a 2011 article on his Pragmatic Capitalism website titled “Understanding the Monetary System.”

This theory came into existence in 1971 when President Nixon eliminated the gold standard and allowed the government to print money at will. This was a paradigm shift in our monetary policy that’s gone largely unnoticed for decades by many educators, economists, and politicians.

Guiding MMR Principles

The principles of MMR are:

  • The Federal Reserve works in partnership with the US Treasury to issue currency. All other units of government, private entities, and individuals are users of the currency.
  • The government creates money by minting coins, printing cash, and issuing reserves. The private banking sector creates money by creating loans and bank deposits.
  • The Federal Government cannot “go broke.” It is inaccurate to compare it to households, companies, and local governments, which all are users of money and can go bankrupt.
  • The major constraint on currency issuers (sovereign governments like the US) is inflation. It behooves governments to manage the money supply prudently in order to avoid impoverishing their citizens through devaluing the currency.
  • Floating exchange rates between countries are a necessity to help maintain equilibrium and flexibility in the global economy. Nations that unduly inflate their currency suffer the consequences of devalued currency, shrinking purchasing power, and contracting lifestyles.
  • The debt of a sovereign currency issuer is default-free. The issuer can always meet debt obligations in the currency which it issues.

Cullen O. Roche Speaks

Roche suggests that a functional government supports the country’s financial system in four ways:

  1. The US government was created by the people, for the people. “It exists to further the prosperity of the private sector—not to benefit at its expense.” Roche argues that when government becomes corrupt by obtaining too much power or issuing too much currency that results in high inflation, it then becomes susceptible to a revolt and dissolution.
  2. Government’s role is to be actively involved in regulating and helping to build an infrastructure within which the private sector can generate economic growth. Roche views regulation as not only beneficial, but necessary to temper the inevitable irrationality that can disrupt markets. Still, he emphasizes that it is the private sector, not the public sector, which drives innovation, productivity, and economic growth.
  3. Money, while a creation of law, must be accepted by the private sector while prudently regulated by the federal government, keeping in mind that the purpose of the regulation is to maximize private sector prosperity.
  4. “Because the Federal government is not a business or a household it should not manage its balance sheet for its own benefit,” notes Roche, “but in a way that most benefits the private sector and encourages private sector prosperity, productivity, innovation and growth.”

Assessment

Like me, you may need to re-read this a couple of times to begin to grasp the concepts. Once you throw off the outdated pre-1971 model of the monetary system, understanding the basics of MMR isn’t difficult. Knowing the basics of how our monetary system works will help physicians, and all of us, frame the important issues in the turmoil unfolding in Europe and in our own upcoming elections. 

Conclusion

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Why the Government is Not-Like Medical Professionals

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An Endless Supply of US Dollars

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM www.KahlerFinancial.com

Is the United States in danger of bankruptcy? Contrary to what you may read in the media or hear from many politicians, no, it isn’t. The US Treasury will never run out of dollars. Unlike doctors and medical professionals, it’s impossible.

Reasons Why?

The reason is relatively simple. The US government owns a printing press. As long as goods, services, or obligations are priced in US dollars, the supply of dollars to our government to buy those goods and services is unlimited. This is not true of individual physicians, corporations, cities, states, and countries that don’t issue their own currency.

For most people, this is a hard concept to grasp, with good reason. The capacity of our government to create an unconstrained supply of dollars is a relatively new phenomenon.

The Gold Standard

Until 1971, all US currency was theoretically redeemable in gold. This was known as the gold standard. In the early decades of the 20th century, you could actually go to a bank and change your dollars for gold. That ability was terminated in 1933, but the dollar’s value was still tied to gold. This basically meant the only way the US government could create new dollars was by obtaining more gold, the supply of which only increases by the new amount of gold mined.

Nixon

In 1971 we had a paradigm change in monetary policy that many still don’t understand. President Nixon decoupled the dollar from the gold standard [Nixon also wanted to flood the country with MDs, and drive down physician income, by opening up medical school admissions]. It became a fiat currency, which is used as a medium of exchange but has no intrinsic value. Suddenly, the US government was no longer constrained by solvency issues and could never run out of money. It could create as many dollars as it wished ie; inflation].

Constraints

This didn’t mean it had no constraints. The major constraint to an issuer of fiat currency is inflation. However, creating money does not guarantee inflation if the newly created money is not spent. Japan, for example, is still fighting deflation even though they’ve been pumping money into reserves like crazy for 20 years.

What should have caused a massive rethinking and reeducating of the financial sector went relatively unnoticed. Text books, professors, economists, and politicians largely continued to follow many pre-1971 monetary principles that became irrelevant overnight.

Unlike the federal government, US states, cities, and other government entities cannot print money. They have to get it the old-fashioned way—from taxes, fees, or borrowing. It’s entirely possible for these entities to go bankrupt, just like individuals and corporations, if their outflow exceeds their inflow.

Europe

Interestingly, the same is true for member countries of the European Union. When in 1999 they adopted the Euro and gave up their sovereign right to print their own money, they took on the same status as states. Therefore, a country like Greece, which is a user of currency as a member of the European Union, can involuntarily default on its obligations.

This is a significant difference between the United States and Greece. While Greece can (and most likely will) go bankrupt because it doesn’t have an unlimited supply of Euros, the US can’t go bankrupt because it does have an unlimited supply of dollars.

The major threat that sovereign countries face is not running out of money, but devaluing their currency through inflation. A devalued currency is one that loses its purchasing power and often results in a lower standard of living.

Assessment

Just because the US can’t involuntarily default on its obligations doesn’t mean we can keep on over spending and pretend we don’t have any money worries. As a nation, we still need to acknowledge and deal with our serious financial problems. So should our doctors, financial planners and financial advisors.

Conclusion

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Life Planning 101 for Young Adults and New Doctors

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My Annual Graduation and Wedding Advice

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM

www.KahlerFinancial.com

June is traditionally filled with college and medical school graduations and weddings; rituals that mark two of our most important life transitions. Whether you are a new physician walking across the stage or a new spouse walking down the aisle, you’re focusing on your future. It’s a perfect opportunity to think about what you need to do financially to provide for that future.

My Best Financial Advice

Here, adapted from a column I originally wrote a few years ago, is what I might call “Life Planning 101 for Beginning Adults.” It’s a summary of my best financial advice for graduates, newlyweds, and anyone else just starting out in their adult lives and careers; including doctors. Here’s how anyone can manage money wisely to create a life with more security, flexibility, and opportunity.

  1. On every gross dollar you earn, pay your taxes first. Estimate your total tax liability and be sure your employer withholds enough to cover it. If you are self-employed, set up a savings account, deposit a percentage of every check, and use that money to pay your quarterly estimated taxes. Never “raid” these funds.
  2. Save for the future by putting away 20% or more of every gross dollar you earn until you have six months to one year of living expenses in an emergency account [physicians may actually need more]. Then begin investing in your employer’s 401(k) or a retirement plan. If you are self-employed, set up a retirement plan that will allow you to invest as much as you possibly can. My co-authored book Conscious Finance (www.consciousfinance.com) includes a chapter on how to begin investing.
  3. Set up a short-term savings account for future lump sum expenses like car and home repairs, vacations, holiday giving, college tuition,and medical emergencies Figure out how much you’ll need to save from each paycheck to fund all of them annually; then, if possible, have your employer automatically send that amount to a savings account.
  4. After you’ve taken out for your taxes, long-term savings, and short-term savings, you get to blow the rest any way you want. For most people, this means living on 30 to 60 cents out of every gross dollar you earn.
  5. To maintain a comfortable lifestyle, spend frugally. Shop sales, clip coupons, read labels, compare and bargain. People who build wealth usually don’t wear designer clothes, drive luxury cars, live in extravagant houses, or shop at Neiman Marcus [doctors beware]. They typically wear jeans bought on sale, drive Fords, live in middle class neighborhoods, and shop at Walmart.
  6. Pay cash for everything but your home. For convenience, you can use a debit card. Never use a credit card unless you pay it off every month. If you ever find yourself unable to pay off your card, cut it up. Pay off the balance as quickly as you can, and then don’t use a credit card for at least one year.
  7. When you get a raise, a new job, or a promotion, don’t change your lifestyle. Save at least half of the increased income.
  8. Your career is your number one financial asset. As much as possible, find a job you love. Invest in educating yourself and keeping abreast of changes in your career field.

Assessment

Use money as a tool, not a goal. Money itself will never give you meaning or make you happy, but it is a valuable tool to support your quest for meaning and happiness.  This self-disciplined approach isn’t going to help you get rich in a hurry. What it will do is establish a lifetime pattern of sound money management. It can help you create a satisfying, responsible relationship with money now as well as a secure, prosperous future.

Conclusion

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US Senate Seeks [Medical] Student Loan Solution

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Will Medical and Health Sciences Students Benefit?

By Children’s Home Society of Florida Foundation

The Senate was still unable to craft a compromise last week on efforts to maintain the current student loan interest rate. If there is no action before July 1st, the student loan interest rate on most loans will increase from 3.4% to 6.8%. Both major parties have proposed a one year freeze on the interest rate at 3.4%. However, the leaders from the two parties have different opinions on how to offset or pay for the $6 billion cost of that interest rate freeze.

Democrats

The Democratic proposal by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) carries the title Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012 (S. 2343). It failed on a vote of 51-43 last week, nine votes below the required 60-vote threshold for passage.

Republicans

The Republican alternative is the Interest Rate Reduction Act (S. 2366). It also failed on a vote of 34-62.

Both Sides

Senate Democrats proposed requiring Subchapter S corporations with three or fewer members and income levels of $200,000 per year ($250,000 for joint filers) to make payroll tax contributions on all income. The Republican solution is to repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund.

Response

In response to the vote, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stated, “For the second time this month, they voted to ask millions of students to pay an average of $1,000 each rather than close a loophole that allows the very wealthy to avoid paying their fair share.”

Assessment

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated, “In order to cover the cost of a temporary rate freeze that both parties want, they proposed to divert $6 billion from Medicare and to raise taxes on small businesses – hurting the very companies we are counting on to hire today’s college graduates.”

Editor’s Note: There is very broad support for a one year extension and it is an election year. While the parties have been unable to agree on offsets during the past year, eventually they may choose to pass the bill without offsets. It is quite possible that will happen with the student loan interest freeze.

Conclusion

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Is 2012 a Good Year to Buy a House?

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Doctors Appreciating the Reasons of Home Ownership

[By staff reporters]

There may be several reasons for a medical professional to buy a home. For example, you’re ready to practice and commit to a certain area and call it home. You’re ready to make a financial investment, or housing prices have dropped to an affordable level and the market is highly favorable for home buyers.

Rule of Thumb

But, how do you tell if it’s a buyer’s market? In a buyer’s market, the price of a home will be under 20 times a year’s worth of rent for an equivalent home. If the price of a home is more than 20 times the annual rent, it’s generally better to rent.

Current Climate

Today’s housing climate is better for home buyers. The average price of homes for sale in the US is currently around 19 times the average annual rent. The general housing climate is much friendlier than a few years ago, but still fluctuates greatly depending on your specific location. Some of the buyer’s markets in 2011 were Charlotte, Inland Empire, Phoenix, Raleigh, Sacramento, San Diego and San Jose.

Source: www.SeaHomes.com

Assessment

The decision to buy or rent also depends on your lifestyle and long-term goals. 2011 saw a resurgence in buyer’s markets across the country and that trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. It’s true that housing markets will fluctuate from year-to-year, but owning property usually remains a wise investment over time.

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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Medical Risk Management: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/9780763733421

Hospitals: http://www.crcpress.com/product/isbn/9781439879900

Physician Advisors: www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

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Some Ways to Lower the Cost of Higher Education

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Exploring Solutions to the College Tuition Bubble

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM www.KahlerFinancial.com

My daughter is a high-school sophomore, so any essay on the cost of college is uncomfortably personal for me.

Nevertheless, let’s take a look at some possible solutions to the problem of high college costs.

Some Possible Solutions to the High Cost of College

1. Don’t just hope for scholarships, pursue them.

The most important college-saving strategy a student can have may be focusing on getting top grades in high school in order to qualify for scholarships. Even straight-A students, however, shouldn’t sit passively and wait for scholarship offers to roll in.

Instead, actively go after them. Research online and through your high school to find out what is available. Many organizations, individuals, and institutions offer small, specialized scholarships. Most of these are only a few hundred dollars, but they are well worth trying for. Surprisingly often, there are few applicants for these awards because people don’t take the time to research them and apply. One warning: don’t pay a service to find scholarships. Even if a so-called agency isn’t a scam, the service is unnecessary since the information is readily available.

2. Explore career options early.

Volunteering, summer jobs, internships, and shadowing programs are all valuable ways to find out more about careers a student might be interested in. I know my first job, cleaning cages at a veterinarian’s office, was enough to prove to me that animal medicine wasn’t my career niche. If schools don’t offer career shadowing opportunities, many professionals would be glad to let a student follow them around for a day or two. It’s important to make sure students are interested in the career a given degree prepares them for, not just the subject area of the degree itself.

3. Summer jobs.

If your children have summer jobs, require them to save half their earnings for college. Be wary of letting kids overdo it with part-time jobs during the school year. If their grades and scholarship opportunities suffer as a result, the job may cost more than it’s worth in the long term.

4. Shop for value.

Find out whether neighboring states offer reciprocal in-state tuition rates. Compare tuition costs, fees, housing and travel costs, class sizes, and career placement numbers. Don’t just assume a big-name school offers more opportunities. Depending on the career field, a degree from a state institution may be a far better value than one from an Ivy League school.

5. Two or Four years.

Remember that “higher education” doesn’t have to mean “four-year college”.  Don’t overlook other options such as vocational schools or apprenticeship programs. Careers such as massage therapy, welding, and medical technology can pay very well without requiring a four-year degree. Compare values here, as well. Some for-profit technical schools can be more expensive than state universities. Also investigate jobs in high-demand fields that may offer on-the-job training or tuition reimbursement.

6. Postpone college.

Consider encouraging your kids to work for a year or two and postpone college until they know what their career goals are. The risk with this approach, of course, is that they may end up not going to college at all.

7. Plan.

Have a five-year plan, or even six or seven. There’s no rule that says a student has to graduate in four years. One option is to “pay as you go” as much as possible by taking fewer classes and working part-time or even full-time. Even if it takes longer, graduating with much less debt can still mean starting out ahead.

Assessment

Although some of the ideas above may be anathema to some highly educated and well-heeled doctors, lawyers and accountants, we all realize that education certainly is an important way to invest in higher earnings and career success. Planning ahead and doing plenty of homework before classes start is a good way to make sure that investment is a wise one.

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Link: http://feeds.feedburner.com/HealthcareFinancialsthePostForcxos

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

Our Other Print Books and Related Information Sources:

Health Dictionary Series: http://www.springerpub.com/Search/marcinko

Practice Management: http://www.springerpub.com/product/9780826105752

Physician Financial Planning: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/0763745790

Medical Risk Management: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/9780763733421

Hospitals: http://www.crcpress.com/product/isbn/9781439879900

Physician Advisors: www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

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The High Cost of College Loans

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Slowing Down the Speeding Train of Educational Debt

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM

www.KahlerFinancial.com

Trying to improve on the free market system almost always ends badly. Take medical school or college tuition as an example. It’s an important segment of our economy, since for most a college education is a door to higher wages and a better lifestyle.

Tuition Due in Cash

In the days before college loans were as ubiquitous as mountain pine beetles in the Black Hills of SD, college costs were like any other service. They were due in cash. Students and their parents had to save money or pay tuition out of their earnings. Many students worked their way through college. Those whose parents didn’t save, who couldn’t or didn’t want to work, or who didn’t have high enough grades to get scholarships didn’t go to college.

Supply and Demand Basics

Since colleges competed for students, of course, schools had to keep a close watch on their tuition rates. Raising tuition too much resulted in fewer students. Fewer students meant falling revenues. The two forces of supply (college capacity) and demand (the ability to pay the tuition) kept college costs in check.

Political Fiat

Understandably, getting a loan to pay for college tuition was difficult. What sane bank or investor would make a loan to an unemployed teenager with no collateral to speak of? If you could find someone willing to make such a risky loan, the interest rate was more like the high rates charged by credit card companies.

Well-intended politicians decided it wasn’t fair that those who didn’t have the means to pay the tuition were denied college educations. They decided the solution would be to require the taxpayers to loan unemployed teenagers the money they needed to pay their tuition, sometimes at interest rates lower than what the most creditworthy could obtain.

Easy Money

With tuition money easy to obtain through loans, demand for a college education increased. With the increased demand came higher tuition costs. This easy money is the primary reason that college tuition costs have far outpaced inflation and gone up twice as fast as medical costs since 1985.

Unfortunately, one consequence of loaning money to someone the private sector deems a poor risk is that many of those borrowers will be unable to repay the debt. That’s why the private sector took a pass on making the loans in the first place. It should come as no surprise that 60% of all student loans are currently in default. According to The Kiplinger Letter, December 2, 2011, that default rate will only get worse, as the unemployment rate of those aged 20 to 24 is around 14%. Today, taxpayers are on the hook for over 70% of the $1 trillion in outstanding student loans.

Rising Appetites

And the appetite for loans continues to rise. This year we will add another $100 billion in college debt to the books. Today, the average student graduates with over $27,000 of debt owed to institutions or the government and another $7,000 owed to parents. It isn’t uncommon for a medical student to amass over $200,000 of student loan debt.

College Loan Debt

The more college loan debt that graduates take into the workplace, the less they have to spend for vehicles, rent, and consumer goods. The 60% who are in default on their debt will also mar their credit ratings, so their purchasing power will suffer for years to come.

Assessment

If taxpayers ever decide to quit footing the bill, many colleges’ tuition rates will fall. They may crash as hard as housing prices did in Florida, Arizona, and California. It will be a buyer’s market. But, that day could be years away. In the meantime, savvy students will do whatever they can to minimize their college tuition and graduate debt-free. 

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Link: http://feeds.feedburner.com/HealthcareFinancialsthePostForcxos

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

Our Other Print Books and Related Information Sources:

Health Dictionary Series: http://www.springerpub.com/Search/marcinko

Practice Management: http://www.springerpub.com/product/9780826105752

Physician Financial Planning: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/0763745790

Medical Risk Management: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/9780763733421

Hospitals: http://www.crcpress.com/product/isbn/9781439879900

Physician Advisors: www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

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Reasons Why Doctors Should Get New Automobile Tires

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My Diatribe on Saving Lives

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA

[Editor-in-Chief]

Even though the price of crude oil, and hence gasoline is down of late, we’ve had an excellent response from doctor readers regarding our recent ME-Ps on automobiles, car insurance, driving costs, and fuel efficiency, etc. So, while not a forum for auto enthusiasts –  it is Memorial Day weekend after all – I’ll try to give our readers what they want with this personal essay.

Tires

Regardless of how well you care for your tires, the time will come when you must replace them. Safety as well as convenience is at stake. You don’t want a flat tire, but driving with worn tires also makes your car more difficult to control, especially in bad weather. Although many doctors get so busy they forget to check their tires, others do not know how to tell when they need to replace their tires. The following pointers will help you learn how:

Tread Depth

As tires roll over highways, the friction between them and the road wear down their treads. When tires have inadequate tread depth, they will not grip the road well and can lead to unsafe driving conditions, especially in the rain. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says the minimum safe depth of a tread is 1/32 of an inch. You may not have a ruler handy to measure your tread, but a simple technique makes checking your treads easy.

Take a penny and insert it into the tread groove with Lincoln’s head pointed downward toward the center of the wheel, facing outward. If you can see Lincoln’s forehead, the tire still has useful life. If you can see Lincoln’s hair on top of his head, you will soon need a replacement. Finally, if you can see the top of Lincoln’s head or the empty space above it, you should replace the tire as soon as possible.

Tire Inflation

tires

Wear Indicators

In the United States, tires have wear bars that provide a visual signal when they need replacement. Wear bars are shorter than healthy treads, so they are not noticeable to most drivers. When treads wear, the wear bars become visible and look like bridges across the tread grooves. When this happens, you need to buy new tires. Some doctors have trouble identifying wear bars at first, so if you can’t see them on your tires, ask a service technician or your local mechanic to show you.

***

tires

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Age

Tires lose their integrity with age. Heat, sunlight, chemicals from the road, and gases from the air cause tires to corrode and oxidize, making them unsafe for use. This problem can especially affect spare tires which often sit in trunks unnoticed and unused for prolonged periods. Develop a replacement plan for any cars you own that get little use and for your spare tires. Tires wear at different rates depending on how often the car is driven and how many miles are put on it each year, so there is no exact time frame for tire replacement.

Other Signs of Wear

Not all tires wear evenly, so all medical professionals should periodically inspect every part of their tires. Look for uneven wear and flat spots on the edge of the tread. Replace tires that bulge on the sides. Visible wires signal that a tire has gone too far. The wires you see come from the metal belts that strengthen tires; manufacturers do not intend for this part of a tire to contact the road.

To avoid problems with your tires, inspect them regularly or have your mechanic or dealership inspect them anytime you go in for service or an appointment. Try adding a reminder to your task list, calendar, or schedule to make sure your tires never leave you stranded or put you or your car in danger.

My Tires

My own luxury weekend “fun” vehicle is a vintage European, pearl white, touring Jaguar XJ -V8- LWB. I love the control, precision and feel of my high-performance Pirelli P6 tires. It’s how I roll.

GOMER [Get Out of My Emergency Room]

I covered the emergency room for more than a decade; auto accidents due to poor tire tread are endemic especially at night and in the rain. So, please check your tires, and replace them if needed; today. We want our ME-P readership to grow. The life you save may be your own.

Assessment

This ME-P is a follow-up, by reader request, of a prior popular essay of mine. How Smart Doctors Can Save Big at the Pump I appreciate your interest.

More photos: https://healthcarefinancials.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/dems-jaguar.pdf

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

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How Much Money Do Americans [Doctors] Really Save?

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Not Nealry Enough – Much More Needed

This infographic from BillShrink.com displays the average savings accounts of typical Americans.

The Averages

It begins by showng the median household income, minus taxes, plus tax returns, which equals about $40,500 per year. The average American spends 94% of their disposable income, leading only $2,400 to be saved each year by this “average American,” but only 41% actually put that money into savings. That said, 43% of Americans spend more than they earn, leaving them in debt. When compared to the rest of the world, Americans save far less, with China saving 30% of their income on average.

Reasons for Not Saving

After displaying this staggering data, the infographic goes into a list of reasons by Americans can’t save money. These reasons include the following:

  • Lifestyle maintenace
  • Instant gratification
  • Credit cards don’t feel like real money
  • Avoiding the truth about their bank account
  • Egotism
  • Keeping up with the Jones’, other doctors’, etc.

Assessment

For anyone who has a problem saving, this infographic could be eye opening. If we as Americans could come to terms with the 5 reasons it’s hard to save, we could likely overcome these and start saving more. But, what about medical professionals?

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Link: http://feeds.feedburner.com/HealthcareFinancialsthePostForcxos

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

Our Other Print Books and Related Information Sources:

Health Dictionary Series: http://www.springerpub.com/Search/marcinko

Practice Management: http://www.springerpub.com/product/9780826105752

Physician Financial Planning: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/0763745790

Medical Risk Management: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/9780763733421

Hospitals: http://www.crcpress.com/product/isbn/9781439879900

Physician Advisors: www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

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