CAN YOU RETIRE

May 29, 2018


At some time in our working future we all hope to retire, but one burning question lingers—can you retire on what you have or will save at that point?  We are told that:

At some point in your life, you’ll be using this money to support your lifestyle. By the time you reach sixty (60), you should have six times your salary saved – that’s $360,000 if you make $60,000 per year. Unfortunately, the average sixty-something has an estimated median of $172,000 in the bank.  That is an estimate as of December 8, 2016.  Nearly half of American families have no retirement account savings at all.  This really blows my mind but this fact is what we are told by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in a new report entitled, “The State of American Retirement”.  Please take a look at the graphic below and you can see age groups vs retirement account savings.

Whereas the average savings of a family with members in the 32-to-37 age range is $31,644, the median savings is a bleak $480. At the other end, the average savings of families 56 to 61 — those nearest to retirement — is $163,557. The median is $17,000.

I think there are very specific reasons for the lack of savings, especially for younger citizens of our country.  Student loans, cost of living, pay scales, credit card debt, living above ones means, etc. all contribute to the inability to save or at least save enough for retirement.

The web site called MoneyWise.com has a very interesting solution to this problem or possible solution.  If you go to this web site and look up the following post: “Places You can Retire to for Less Than $200K” you will see a list of twenty (20) countries that can supply most if not all of your needs if your retirement is less than $200 K.  Let’s take a look at the list in order of favorability.

Thailand

Costa Rica

Nicaragua

Malaysia

Mexico

Malta

Ecuador

Spain

Portugal

Panama

Australia

Austria

Czech Republic

Slovenia

Chile

Uruguay

Vietnam

Guam

Indonesia

South Africa

MoneyWise.com completed a study comparing housing availability, cost of living, health care, crime, government and several other indicators to compile this list.  It is a very interesting study and I encourage you to take a look even if you are not considering being an expatriate. You just might change your mind.

There are two other web sites I definitely recommend you check out as follows: 1.)  The CIA Fact Book and 2.) Lonely Planet.  From these two you will find very valuable information relative to any country you wish to research.  Look before you leap might just be in order here. Another option might be spending time and not completely relocating.  Two, three, six or even nine months during one year might get you beyond worry relative to being able to afford retirement on what you have saved.  The most important thing is to DO THE RESEARCH.  Make a list, then a short list of the countries that represent the leading candidates. THEN MAKE A VISIT. Wade—don’t jump.  Several other considerations I would list are as follows:

  • Make sure you consider your family, friends and support group before you make the move. Will they be willing and able to visit on a regular basis if needed?
  • A huge factor for me would be availability of good if not excellent medical facilities.
  • Cost of transportation.
  • Language considerations. If English is an issue, how difficult would learning their language be?
  • Power supplied. (I know this is off the wall.) Does the country provide 120-volt AC, 60 cycles per second or do they provide another voltage and frequency?  In other words, will your electronics work?  Will you have to buy new equipment or can a converter do the job?
  • How difficult and costly is communication “back home”? This includes Internet services.
  • Viability of local banking institutions
  • Stability of government
  • Weather factors

This is where good research is a MUST.

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The island of Puerto Rico has a remarkably long road ahead relative to rebuilding after Maria and Irma.

After Puerto Rico was pummeled by Hurricane Maria two weeks ago, a Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds, the island has been left in shambles. After suffering widespread power outages thanks to Irma, one million Puerto Ricans have been left without electricity. Sixty thousand (60,000) still had not gotten power when Maria brought a total, island-wide power outage and severe shortages in food, water, and other supplies.

As of today, October 2, 2017 there is still no power on the island except for a handful of generators powering high-priority buildings like select hospitals.   The island most likely will not return to full power for another six to nine months. This also means that there are close to zero working cell phone towers and no reception anywhere on the island.  Communication is the life-blood of any rebuilding and humanitarian effort and without landlines and cell phones, that effort will become incredibly long and frustrating. The following digital picture will indicate the great lack of communication.

Fuel for generators is running out (though authorities in Puerto Rico insist that it’s a distribution problem, not a shortage). Puerto Ricans are waiting in six-hour lines for fuel, while many stations have run completely dry.

In most of Puerto Rico there is no water – that means no showers, no flushable toilets, and no drinkable water that’s not out of a bottle. In some of the more remote parts of the island, rescue workers are just beginning to arrive.

To indicate just how dire the situation is:  “According to the US Department of Health and Public Services, a superfund site is “any land in the United States that has been contaminated by hazardous waste and identified by the EPA as a candidate for cleanup because it poses a risk to human health and/or the environment.” These sites are put on the National Priorities List (NPL), a list of the most dire cases of environmental contamination in the US and its territories. These are places where a person can’t even walk on the ground and breathe the air without seriously endangering their health.”  That is exactly where PR is at this time.

Puerto Rico’s fallout from Maria and Irma will result in a long, long road to recovery. Even though the island is home to 3.5 million US citizens, help has definitely been delayed compared to response in the US.    The island’s pre-existing poverty and environmentally dangerous Superfund Sites will make rebuilding a tricky and toxic business, costing in the billions of dollars.

We may get better idea at the devastation by looking at the digital satellite pictures below.

A much more dramatic depiction may be seen below.

CONCLUSIONS:

As recently as 2016, the island suffered a three-day, island-wide blackout as a result of a fire. A private energy consultant noted then that the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority “appears to be running on fumes, and … desperately requires an infusion of capital — monetary, human and intellectual — to restore a functional utility.” Puerto Ricans in early 2016 were suffering power outages at rates four to five times higher than average U.S. customers, said the report from the Massachusetts-based Synapse Energy Economics.  What was a very sad situation even before Maria and Irma, is now a complete disaster.  As I mentioned above—a very long road of recovery for the island.

 

ARECIBO

September 27, 2017


Hurricane Maria, as you well know, has caused massive damage to the island of Puerto Rico.  At this writing, the entire island is without power and is struggling to exist without water, telephone communication, health and sanitation facilities.   The digital pictures below will give some indication as to the devastation.

Maria made landfall in the southeastern part of the U.S. territory Wednesday with winds reaching 155 miles per hour, knocking out electricity across the island. An amazingly strong wind devastated the storm flooded parts of downtown San Juan, downed trees and ripped the roofs from homes. Puerto Rico has little financial wherewithal to navigate a major catastrophe, given its decision in May to seek protection from creditors after a decade of economic decline, excessive borrowing and the loss of residents to the U.S. mainland.  Right now, PR is totally dependent upon the United States for recovery.

Imagine winds strong enough to damage and position an automobile in the fashion shown above.  I cannot even tell the make of this car but we must assume it weighs at least two thousand pounds and yet it is thrown in the air like a paper plane.

One huge issue is clearing roads so supplies for relief and medical attention can be delivered to the people.  This is a huge task.

One question I had—how about Arecibo?  Did the radio telescope survive and if so, what damages were sustained?  The digital below will show Arecibo Radio Telescope during “better times”.

Five decades ago, scientists sought a radio telescope that was close to the equator, according to Arecibo’s website. This location would allow the telescope to track planets passing overhead, while also probing the nature of the ionosphere — the layer of the atmosphere in which charged particles produce the northern lights.  The telescope is part of the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center. The National Science Foundation has a co-operative agreement with the three entities that operate it: SRI International, the Universities Space Research Association and UMET (Metropolitan University.) That radio telescope has provided an absolute wealth of information about our solar system and surrounding and bodies outside our solar system.

The Arecibo Observatory contains the second-largest radio telescope in the world, and that telescope has been out of service ever since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20. Maria hit the island as a Category 4 hurricane.

While Puerto Rico suffered catastrophic damage across the island, the Arecibo Observatory suffered “relatively minor damages,” Francisco Córdova, the director of the observatory, said in a Facebook post on Sunday (Sept. 24).

In the words of Mr. Cordova: “Still standing after #HurricaneMaria! We suffered some damages, but nothing that can’t be repaired or replaced! More updates to follow in the coming days as we complete our detailed inspections. We stand together with Puerto Rico as we recover from this storm.#PRStrong”.

Despite Córdova’s optimistic message, staff members and other residents of Puerto Rico are in a pretty bad situation. Power has yet to be restored to the island since the storm hit, and people are running out of fuel for generators. With roads still blocked by fallen trees and debris, transporting supplies to people in need is no simple task.

National Geographic’s Nadia Drake, who has been in contact with the observatory and has provided extensive updates via Twitter, reported that “some staff who have lost homes in town are moving on-site” to the facility, which weathered the storm pretty well overall. Drake also reported that the observatory “will likely be serving as a FEMA emergency center,” helping out members of the community who lost their homes in the storm.

The mission of Arecibo will continue but it may be a long time before the radio telescope is fully functional.  Let’s just hope the lives of the people manning the telescope can be put back in order quickly so important and continued work may again be accomplished.

IF

September 12, 2017


Like most Americans, I have been greatly saddened by the destruction caused by hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  My heart certainly goes out to all of those who have lost love ones, livelihood, and property.  Let’s quickly take a look at several facts relative to each to see if we can get some idea as to the rebuilding efforts and challenges that may lie ahead.

HARVEY:

  • Category 4 storm that creating $180.00 billion dollars in damage
  • Affected thirteen (13) million people.
  • Will require more than $125.00 billion in Federal relief.
  • As of 12 September, the death toll has reached seventy (70) people.
  • Two feet of rain fell in the first twenty-four (24) hours. Flooding forced 39,000 people out of their homes and into shelters. Dallas created a mega-shelter for 5,000 evacuees out of its main convention center.
  • Total rainfall hit 51.88 inches in Cedar Bayou on the outskirts of Houston. That’s a record for a single storm in the continental United States. “Harvey Broke a National Record Rainfall for a Single Tropical Storm,” Vox, August 30, 2017. Much of Harvey’s damage came from massive rainfall. It created a 1-in-1,000-year flood event. That means nothing of that size has happened within modern recorded history. Flooding covered southeast Texas the size of the state of New Jersey. Thirty inches of rain fell on an area near the coast the size of the state of Maryland. (Source: “Harvey Is a 1,000-year Flood Unprecedented in Scale,” The Washington Post, August 31, 2017.)
  • Hurricane Harvey damaged 203,000 homes, of which 12,700 were destroyed. There were 507,000 people who registered for assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The agency delivered 80 tractor-trailer loads of emergency supplies.
  • Federal forces rescued 10,000 people who were trapped in their homes or on flooded highways.
  • In the Gulf area, 1 million vehicles were ruined beyond repair, according to auto data firm Black Book. That includes 300,000 to 500,000 vehicles owned by individuals. (Source: “Harvey May Have Wrecked 1 Million Cars and Trucks,” USA Today, August 31, 2017.

IRMA:

The overall damage from hurricane Irene is yet to be determined but it obviously is in the billions.  Here is what we know to date.

  • Reports indicate that Irma was directly responsible for 49 deaths: five (5) in the Dominican Republic, three (3) in Haiti, and forty-one (41) in the United States. Surprisingly, there were no reported deaths in the Bahamas, where Irene was the strongest.
  • The hurricane’s strongest sustained winds, at 185 mph, blew for more than 65 consecutive hours, something no other tropical cyclone has done in the modern satellite era, which began 50 years ago, according to Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist at Colorado State University.
  • Irma’s tropical-storm-force winds and heavy rains resulted in power outages for up to three (3) million U.S. residents.
  • Irma also produced copious amounts of rain in Puerto Rico, with a maximum of 22.05 inches in Gurabo Abajo, which caused major flooding in the northeastern portion of the island.
  • In the United States, the Insurances Services Office reported that the hurricane caused an estimated $4.3 billion in losses. Doubling this figure in an attempt to account for uninsured losses results in an estimated total of $8.6 billion. Based on National Flood Insurance Program data, it is estimated that Irene caused $7.2 billion in losses from inland flooding and storm surge. Using these figures, the total damage estimate is $15.8 billion.
  • With Irma’s projected path fixed over much of the United States East Coast, over 65 million people from the Carolinas to northern New England were estimated to be at risk.
  • The storm paralleled offshore of Hispaniola, continuing to slowly intensify in the process. Shortly before making four landfalls in the Bahamas, Irene peaked as a 120 mph (190 km/h) Category 3 hurricane.
  • More 6.2 million homes in Florida are without power and scores of people have been rescued. More than 160,000 people are thought to be waiting out the storm in shelters across the state.
  • Irma also has one of the lowest pressures, at 914 millibars, ever recorded in a storm, according to Blake.
  • Irma is also one of three hurricanes now formed in the Atlantic Ocean, something that has not happened in seven years. It is followed by Hurricane Jose, which was upgraded to Category 3 yesterday, though it is unclear whether that storm will hit the United States.
  • Irma is over four (400) hundred miles across.

As I mentioned, most of the data relative to lives lost and the cost of damage are still much too early to announce for Irma.  The good news is–Americans are extremely resilient, hard-working and with great supports systems.  Those effected will rebuild.

One of my favorite writers is Rudyard Kipling. His poem IF defines and describes the American people and the American spirit much better than I ever could.

 IF

If you can keep your head when all about you

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

    And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

    And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

    To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

    If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

WHERE WERE YOU

September 11, 2017


Do you remember where you were on September 9, 2001?  At 8:46 on the morning of September 9, 2001 Mohammed Atta and other hijackers aboard American Airlines Flight 11 crash the plane into floors 93-99 of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, killing everyone on board and hundreds inside the building.

Seventeen (17) minutes later at 9:03 am – Hijackers crash United Airlines Flight 175 into floors 75-85 of the WTC’s South Tower, killing everyone on board and hundreds inside the building.

The WTC buildings, before their demise, are pictured in the digital picture below.

The first crash is shown as follows:

I was in the “cube farm” working as a mechanical engineer for the Roper Corporation, Inc when Duane Lee came over and indicated his wife had just called telling him a small plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York.  I have a private pilot’s license so my first impression was a student pilot had gotten into heavy winds and mismanaged the controls allowing the plane to veer into the tower.  Maybe mechanical problems with the aircraft.  Maybe a medical emergency.  None of these really seemed plausible because there are very specific FAA regulations regarding airplanes relative to structures.

91.119 Minimum safe altitudes; general

“Over congested areas – Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open-air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.”

” Over other than congested areas – An altitude of 500 feet above the surface except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In that case, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.”

I think we can all agree; downtown NYC is a significantly congested area so one thousand feet (1,000) above and two thousand (2,000) feet within a horizontal radius would be the norm.  Something did NOT add up.  I called one of my sons and asked him if he had heard about the small airplane hitting the tower.  SMALL—not small, an airliner.  As we were speaking, the second plane hit the south tower.  It became very obvious that we were under attack.   That fact was confirmed when at 9:37 am – Hijackers aboard Flight 77 crash the plane into the western façade of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., killing fifty-nine (59) aboard the plane and one hundred and twenty-five (125) military and civilian personnel inside the building.

At 9:42 am – For the first time in history, the FAA grounds all flights over or bound for the continental United States. Some three thousand (3,300) commercial flights and twelve hundred (1,200) private planes are guided to airports in Canada and the United States over the next two-and-a-half hours.

The resulting destruction is given with the following three pictures:

 

At 10:07 am – After passengers and crew members aboard the hijacked Flight 93 contact friends and family and learn about the attacks in New York and Washington, they mount an attempt to retake the plane. In response, hijackers deliberately crash the plane into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, killing all 40 passengers and crew aboard.

For me, this was one of the worst days in my not-so-short life.  By noon, it was obvious we were at war.  With whom, I had no idea but payback was in order and with President Bush in office that payback would be assured.  Only cowards kill innocent civilians—ONLY COWARDS.


Professor Ian Plimer could not have said it better! If you’ve read his book, you will agree, this is a good summary.  

As you well know, there is a “raging” controversy relative to global warming and what, if anything, to do about it.   Talk to one group of scientists and you get one story—talk to another group and you get a completely opposite rendition.   In my opinion, from looking at the existing data, there is a strong case to be made for global warming in certain parts of our world.  The big issues for me are how civilization contributes to that warming.   We may be in a global cycle and have no real influence on climate changes at all.  Dr. Ian Pilmer feels that mankind is definitely out of the picture as being contributory.  His comments are as follows:

Okay, here’s the bombshell.  The volcanic eruption in Iceland, since its first spewing of volcanic ash has, in just FOUR DAYS, NEGATED EVERY SINGLE EFFORT you have made in the past five years to control CO2 emissions on our planet – all of you.

Volcanic Eruption

 

Of course, you know about this evil carbon dioxide that we are trying to suppress – it’s that vital chemical compound that every plant requires to live and grow and to synthesize into oxygen for us humans and all animal life.

I know, it’s very disheartening to realize that all of the carbon emission savings you have accomplished while suffering the inconvenience and expense of driving Prius hybrids, buying fabric grocery bags, sitting up till midnight to finish your kid’s “The Green Revolution” science project, throwing out all of your non-green cleaning supplies, using only two squares of toilet paper, putting a brick in your toilet tank reservoir, selling your SUV and speedboat, vacationing at home instead of abroad, nearly getting hit every day on your bicycle, replacing all of your 50 cents light bulbs with $10.00 light bulbs …well, all of those things you have done have all gone down the tubes in just four days.  The volcanic ash emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere in just four days – yes – FOUR DAYS ONLY by that volcano in Iceland, has totally erased every single effort you have made to reduce the evil beast, carbon.  And there are around 200 active volcanoes on the planet spewing out this crud at any one time – EVERY DAY.

I don’t really want to rain on your parade too much, but I should mention that when the volcano Mt. Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, it spewed out more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the entire human race had emitted in all its years on earth.  Yes, folks, Mt. Pinatubo was active for over one year – think about it.

Of course, I shouldn’t spoil this touchy-feely tree-hugging moment and mention the effect of solar and cosmic activity and the well-recognized 800-year global heating and cooling cycle, which keep happening, despite our completely insignificant efforts to affect climate change.

And I do wish I had a silver lining to this volcanic ash cloud, but the fact of the matter is that the wildfire season across the western USA and Australia this year alone will negate your efforts to reduce carbon in our world for the next two to three years.  And it happens every year.
Just remember that your government just tried to impose a whopping carbon tax on you on the basis of the bogus “human-caused” climate change scenario.

Hey, isn’t it interesting how they don’t mention “Global Warming” any more, but just “Climate Change” – you know why?  It’s because the planet has COOLED by 0.7 degrees in the past century, and these global warming bull artists got caught with their pants down.

And just keep in mind that you might yet have an Emissions Trading Scheme – that whopping new tax – imposed on you, that will achieve absolutely nothing except make you poorer.  It won’t stop any volcanoes from erupting, that’s for sure.

But hey, relax, give the world a hug and have a nice day!

I’m going to let you be the judge on this one.  You have his side of the story.

 

GLOBAL THREATS

January 9, 2013


There are some things in life we cannot control.  As a matter of fact, I’m beginning to believe there are many things we cannot control but, we can prepare for their occurrence and survive to “fight another day”.   Sometimes being prepared is the only defense mechanism we have.   This is my personal belief.   I, quite frankly, have been extremely disappointed with the operation of FEMA and how they have responded to Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.   Apparently so much red tape the system simple does not function in a fashion that provides services as designed.  Then again, can anyone really say our government works?

The World Economic Forum Global Risks 2013 report released Tuesday, 8 January 2013, presents a stunning wake up call to the entire world.

The report begins with an unnerving theory that sluggish and stalled economies worldwide are a direct distraction from long-term environmental horrors.  ” Global risks do not respect national borders,” says Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

“Two storms — environmental and economic — are on a collision course,” says John Drzik, Chief Executive Officer of Oliver Wyman Group, one of several companies which collaborates with the Global Risks report. “If we don’t allocate the resources needed to mitigate the rising risk from severe weather events, global prosperity for future generations could be threatened.”

More than 1,000 experts and industry leaders took part in the survey. Researchers asked them to rate the biggest global threats in five categories: economic, environmental, societal, geopolitical, and technological.  The following points reveal the 10 Most Frightening Environmental Risks, based on the experts’ responses.    These have to eye-openers to you as much as they were to me.  Let’s take a look.

  • Failure to Adapt to Climate Change.  We have ample evidence that our climate, on a global basis, is changing—no doubt.  I don’t think there is consensus in the scientific community that all of the change is due to man-made circumstances.   Our climate is changing.
  • Incurable Pollution.  Air, water, soil, you name it.  Human beings are polluters.  We are sloppy with the resources we have been given to manage.  We must make changes in the way we do business on our globe.
  • Antibiotic –resistant Bacteria.   Every year scientists and doctors identify new strains of bacteria.  Bacteria that mutates from earlier strains.  Bacteria we don’t really know how to handle.
  •  Land and Water Management.    We actually should say mismanagement. We just don’t take care of the resources we have.  I honestly believe the most precious commodity on our planet is not gold, not oil, not plutonium—but water.
  • Mismanaged Urbanization.   Urban density in some cities is so great the infrastructure is collapsing.  Water, sewage, roads, bridges, natural gas pipeline, etc.   Name it and we probably need to fix it or completely replace existing services.
  • Persistent Extreme WeatherCan’t do much to mitigate this one unless global warming is part of the answer.
  • Rising Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
  •  Species Exploitation—Ecosystem Collapse.  Right now, there are five (5) billion individual species of animals, plants, etc on our planet.   Each day one or more is eradicated due to urban sprawl and loss of habitat.
  • Unprecedented Geophysical Destruction.  Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis
  • Vulnerability to Geomagnetic Storms.   Solar flares.

This summary is not very encouraging at all but at least we can agree we have a problem—a big problem.  The issues are bigger than greed, bigger than political parties, bigger than drinking beer at Ruby Tuesdays on Friday night.  We really need to get behind responsible agencies trying to bring sanity towards dinging solutions.

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