It’s The Debt, Dopey

Amid the suspiciously frantic bee-ess surrounding politics in the US, there are some awful facts no-one seems willing to address.

The horror of the last seven years has been (is being?) masked with theatrics and posturing, an example of how a once elevated nation has sunk to vaudevillian lows. Chief among the disasters visited upon us by the political class is the nation’s debt. Now at…let me look this up…

$19,057,405,900,000

That’s the federal government’s debt, just what the congress and president have agreed to. Around $58,000 for each one of us.

Let’s find a way to distance ourselves from the inevitable consequences of this level of servitude. First, and perhaps last, avoid personal debt. Maintaining our own freedom and liberty starts with not handing it to someone else. Debt does precisely that, whether we’re talking about a nation or you and me.

More disasters from His Imperial Obamaness.

The Independents

Gen Geo. W

It took me nearly all year, but I read Ron Chernow’s biography of Gen. Geo. Washington in 2014. Yes, Hortense, it dished on his famously wretched dentures, the cause of many a painful hour for the first President.

Dry as it was, the overwhelming picture created by the book is of a man who struggled mightily all his life. Yes, he had a beautiful home and indulged his expensive tastes, but he was often technically broke. His extended family and that of Martha caused him no end of sadness due to the premature death of her children and others of subsequent generations. George and Martha took in many young relatives over the decades, and treated them as children.

On the battlefields of the Revolutionary War, Washington lost more than he won. So much always appeared set against him, not just the might of the largest empire then known. There were spies, traitors, incompetent colleagues, a lack of money, lack of political will, lack of gunpowder, poor training, no training, illness and on and on. And yet somehow through all the bloody defeats and ragged retreats, he managed to keep his center. And he won.

Dogged determination is one thing; this is something entirely different. I want to say it was faith, but Washington was not a terribly spiritual man. So it was a kind of faith, but faith in what was right, a faith in an idea.

The Idea was quite possibly the best one man has ever generated. I wonder how George would look upon it in its 240th year? Do we need to rejoin the fight for freedom? George Washington’s fight for freedom?

Men: Change or Die

Skyler and Walter

The open secret is that men are less skilled at adopting to change than women. As a matter of generalization I guess men know this, but on an individual basis, probably not.

So let’s state it out loud: Men, you must learn flexibility in your work and professional life, or risk irrelevance or death.

Yes, that sounds dramatic, but it happens also to be true. We risk death at our own hands at an increasing rate.

They are all part of a “sandwich generation”: they sit between the baby boomers and the digital natives. And they are a group who have, according to recent statistics, lost their way. The Samaritans Suicide Statistics Report for 2014 shows that men aged 40-44 are the demographic group with the highest rate of suicide, nearly four times that of women the same age; for those aged 45-54, the rate is roughly three times higher for men than women.

This is from an article that, if you are, or know a middle-aged man, is worth a read. In my social and work circle, the biggest underlying phenomenon is this notion that women have adapted to the enormous changes in work and money-making in the last thirty years: men remained the same.

And because we stayed the same we are “remaindered”. No-one much needs the qualities and skills we have any more. We’re powerless and therefore have fewer freedoms than our fathers’ generation. The modeling we had from our fathers and grandfathers is not useful any more…but we are often too lazy or unwilling to see it.

I think this is a good summary from the article that I paraphrased:

Men need relationships, men need to be connected, men need to be heartfelt.

Whatever the opposite of bah humbug is to that.

Hourly Disconnect

A setting straight of the record: Passive Income is rarely passive. You have to work for it. I was thinking of this after yesterday’s post, pondering just how “passive” one is when you’re saving or being entrepreneurial. Not very. So.

My definition of Passive Income is money you receive not directly related to the hourly or daily work you applied to create that income. When you have a paid job, you work hourly, or daily or yearly for your wages or salary. You will receive the money for a specific duty or activity, a narrow range of clearly defined functions. Even if you are a CEO of a company, you are still expected to complete recognized, agreed-upon tasks. If you don’t do them, you’re fired.

Passive Income is about creating the assets that create the money. Those assets might be dividend-paying stocks you own, or you devise an app, or it might be a work of art – music, a book, video – for which people pay you. You’re putting stuff into the better side of your balance sheet in the anticipation that money will find its way to them, and so to you.

Clearly there’s nothing passive about any of this. When you are in the process of writing a book there is no cheque waiting at the end of the month. But you might find a royalty cheque in your mailbox for each of the subsequent thirty years. At that point it’s passive; not when you’re plugging away day after day. It’s income displacement to the future, if you like.

There’s the difference. Passive Income might even mean MORE work than you’d otherwise apply to a job. But you are working towards dependence on your own accumulated assets, not the largesse of an employer.

And the big, underplayed upside is that there is no way you can be fired. Yay.