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 RIGHT SNUFF

May 7, 2018


This past weekend my wife traveled to ‘Hot-Lanta (Atlanta) to attend a baby shower.  Other family members went also but I decided, for several reasons, not to attend.  After a long day of working around the house, (I really did.) I decided to get dinner at a local Italian restaurant called Provino’s.  Absolutely great Italian food.   While seated, I noticed a young couple entering and sitting in an adjoining booth at my two o’clock position.  No doubt about this one, they were on a date and apparently their first date.  He was really nervous and immediately knocked over a full glass of water.  The young lady called a waiter and she quickly removed all of the silverware, glasses, plates, etc. and moped up.  After the commotion, things settled down a bit but he then realized he had a chew of tobacco he had to “lose” before going much further.  Well he did the right thing, he excused himself and I assume took the short trip to the men’s room to dislodge the plug.  Not a great start but at least she did not walk out on him and call UBER.  I started thinking about smokeless tobacco and the health effects related to usage and decided to take a look at what we know.

I was actually startled to learn the following facts from the CDC relative to usage:

  • Adults aged eighteen (18) years and older: more than three (3) in every 100 (3.4%)
  • Men: nearly seven (7) in every 100 (6.7%)
  • Women: fewer than one (1) in every 100 (0.3%)
  • Non-Hispanic African Americans: more than one (1) in every 100 (1.2%)
  • Non-Hispanic American Indians/Alaska Natives: more than seven (7) in every 100 (7.1%)
  • Non-Hispanic Asians: fewer than one (1) in every 100 (0.6%)
  • Hispanics: fewer than one (1) in every 100 (0.9%)
  • Non-Hispanic Whites: nearly five (5) in every 100 (4.6%)

The following chart will show the usage.

Smokeless tobacco is definitely a health hazard—a considerable health hazard: *Leukoplakia, oral lesions that appear as white patches on the cheeks, gums or tongue, are commonly found present in smokeless tobacco users. Leukoplakia can be a pre-cancerous lesion which may ultimately produce oral cancer. About seventy-five (75%) percent of daily users of smokeless tobacco will get leukoplakia. (American Cancer Society) Dec 14, 2016.   Researchers estimated that in 2010 alone, smokeless tobacco caused more than 62,000 deaths due to cancers of the mouth, pharynx and esophagus, and more than 200,000 deaths from heart disease. Sep 2, 2015.   You may think that dipping is less hazardous than chewing tobacco but it definitely is NOT.  Overall, people who dip or chew get about the same amount of nicotine as regular smokers. They also get at least thirty (30) chemicals that are known to cause cancer. The most harmful cancer-causing substances in smokeless tobacco are tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs). Nov 13, 2015.    With this being the case, just how long does it take some users to develop health issues when using smokeless tobacco?  Some athletes have developed mouth cancer after only six (6) or seven (7) years of using spit tobacco. It’s hard to cure because it spreads fast. If not caught right away, major surgery is often needed to take out parts of your mouth, jaw, and tongue.

WARNING:

I’m going to show you several pictures that indicate the results of using smokeless tobacco (dipping and chewing).  These are not for the squeamish so if you need to leave this blog, now is the time to do it.

READY TO QUIT NOW?

HOMELESS

April 2, 2018


The month of March was a very active month for my wife and me.. Four weeks ago, we were in Dallas helping our family recover from the flu. Two weeks ago, we took our second granddaughter to Nashville for her birthday to see the Nashville Predators.  (She loves the Preds.)  Last week we were in Atlanta helping our oldest two granddaughters.  Tell me—what do these three cities and our hometown have in common?  Can you guess? Tragically, the answer is homeless people living on the streets and camping out on any available vacant lot.  In the greatest country on the planet, we have people living hand-to-mouth trying to scrape and fend for food.  In mid-March my wife and I were coming back from downtown traveling on eleventh street.  The waiting line into the Chattanooga Community Kitchen was at least a block long.  The Community Kitchen does a marvelous job and that service comes with great expense.  All funds come from donations and the United Way.

We are told in Matthew 26:11 the following:

Jesus Anointed at Bethany
10Aware of this, Jesus asked, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful deed to Me. 11The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have Me. 12By pouring this perfume on Me, she has prepared My body for burial.

Today that seems to be more prevalent than ever. Let’s take a look.

  • An individual may be considered homeless when they lack permanent housing and have to stay in shelters, abandoned buildings or vehicles, on the streets, or in other forms of unstable situations. They may also be considered homeless if they have to “double up” with friends or extended family members because they are unable to maintain their own housing situation.
  • More than 500,000 people are homeless in the United States: reports (Reuters) – More than 500,000 people – a quarter of them children – were homeless in the United States in 2016 amid scarce affordable housing across much of the nation, according to a study released on Thursday, Nov 19, 2015.

 

  • Staggering 2.5 million children are now homeless each year in America. This historic high represents one in every thirty (30) childrenin the United States.

 

  • The highest rates of homelessness among states are in Hawaii (465 per 100,000), followed by New York(399) and California (367). The lowest homeless counts per capita come in Mississippi (81 per 100,000), Indiana (94) and Kansas (94). Aug 8, 2014

 

  • Frequently, references indicate that homelessness, as we know it today, is rooted in severe HUD cuts during the early 1980’s. While policy changes did have a large impact exacerbating the problem, homelessness has been documented in America since 1640. In the 1640’s homelessness was seen as a moral deficiency, a character flaw. Nov 16, 2011

 

  • For women in particular, domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness.  In our country the primary causes of homelessness among families are: (1) lack off affordable housing, (2) unemployment, (3) poverty, and (4) low wages, in that order.

 

  • The Treatment Advocacy Center’s newly updated backgrounder, “How many individuals with a serious mental illness are homeless” examines the percentage of homeless individuals with serious mental illness and their abysmal quality of life. Approximately thirty-three (33) percent of the homeless are individuals with serious mental illnesses that are untreated.  Many of these people suffer from schizophrenia, schizo-effective disorder, bipolar disorder or major depression.

 

  • In Massachusetts and Ohio, twenty-seven (27) and thirty-six (36) percent of people released from mental institutions became homeless within six (6) months.

 

  • Previously hospitalized people were three times more likely to obtain food from garbage.

 

  • Studies show that psychotic individuals are much more likely to get assaulted or threatened while homeless.

 

  • Though officials believe that they are saving money by releasing patients from mental hospitals, there is a significant cost to the patient and to society at large.  “In 2001, a University of Pennsylvania study that examined 5,000 homeless people with mental illnesses in New York City found that they cost taxpayers an average of $40,500 a year for their use of emergency rooms, psychiatric hospitals, shelters and prisons.”

 

  • The last time a global survey was attempted – by the United Nations in 2005 – an estimated one hundred (100) million people were homeless worldwide. As many as 1.6 billion people lacked adequate housing (Habitat, 2015).

 

The U.S. map below just about says it all.  Take a look.

CONCLUSIONS: 

Obviously, I do not know the answer, but surely there IS an acceptable answer to those who live on the streets.  I think about all of the children and the future they have while being homeless.  Wasted potential.  Hopefully we all can think about this and put those thoughts into action.  THERE MUST BE AN ANSWER.


Jeanne Calment was a typical woman of her time. Born in Arles, France, in 1875, she lived a rather unremarkable life by most accounts — except for one thing. When she died in 1997 at the age of 122, she was on record as the oldest person to have ever lived. “I just kept getting older and couldn’t help it,” she once said.

So, what does the extraordinary life of this ordinary woman have to do with us today? More than you might think. In her day, living to be one hundred was extremely rare. But today in the United States, people one hundred and over represent the second-fastest-growing age group in the country. The fastest? Just think of that.  Many sixty-five-year-olds today will live well into their 90s.

Think of it another way: A ten-year-old child today — maybe your grandchild — has a fifty (50) percent chance of living to age of one hundred and four.  Some demographers have even speculated that the first person ever to live to be one hundred and fifty (150) is alive today.

I’m not suggesting that we should expect to live to one hundred and twenty-two (122), but as individuals and as a society, we need to prepare for a time when it is common to live to one hundred (100). We have to create a new mind-set around aging and solutions for helping us to live better as we live longer — what is called  Disrupt Aging. There are three areas where this is really important: health, wealth and self.

HEALTH:  As we think about living to one hundred (100), we simply cannot continue doing the same things we’ve been doing with regard to health. Our health has more to do with the choices we make each day in how we live our lives than it has to do with an occasional visit to the doctor’s office. We’re beginning to embrace a new vision and a new culture of health that focus more on preventing disease and emphasize well-being throughout our lives.  How many Big Mac’s have you had this week? President Trump is said to drink six to eight Diet Cokes PER DAY.  When was the last time you exercised?  How about reducing your stress level? ( Let me mention right now that I’m singing to the choir. I probably need to look in a mirror before launching this post.)  Back in March of 2017, I had a hip replacement.  My recovery, for my age, is right on target.  I know several friends who have had hip, knee, shoulder and even one ankle replacement.  What ails us, if it’s skeletal, can probably be fixed.  The cardiovascular is much more tricky and requires constant vigilance, but it can be done.

WEALTH:  One of the things people fear most about living longer is that they will outlive their money. Unfortunately, for many this fear is a very real one, especially for many younger people who tend to view saving for retirement as an exercise in futility. My mom and dad did just that as a result, I’m still working.  I enjoy working so it’s not drudgery day after day but I’m certainly old enough to retire. Then again, I just replaced the starter on my truck–$598.00. The range in our kitchen was definitely on it’s last legs and I do mean last legs.  Have you bought one of those lately? Go rob a bank.   My parents ran out of money and had to survive on Social Security and a reverse mortgage.  Not good. I would recommend to anyone—look carefully at the reverse mortgage before you sign on the dotted line.   What if instead of saving for retirement, we think of saving to do the things we’ve always wanted to do? In other words, saving not for the absence of financial hardship but for the means to thrive and be able to afford to live the life you want to live — saving for life.  The golden rule here is—-start early—even if it means a few dollars per month.

SELF:  Finally, we need to challenge outdated attitudes and stereotypes about aging. Research shows that our self-perceptions of aging influence not only how we age, but also our health status as we get older. More positive self-perceptions of aging are associated with living longer with less disability.

We need to get rid of the outdated stereotypes about aging and spark new solutions, so more of us can choose how we want to live as we age. For young people, living to one hundred is not a pipe dream, it’s a real possibility. And it’s up to us to help them realize and prepare for it, because Jeanne Calment’s strategy of just getting older because she “couldn’t help it” isn’t going to cut it.

You can see from the chart below—we are living longer. It’s going to happen and with the marvelous medical treatment we have today, one hundred year is not that far-fetched.

 

WORST POSSIBLE

January 26, 2018


There is an expression you have heard time and time again: “You have to bloom where you are planted”.  I think this means you are encouraged to flourish where you are and try to make the best of any situation until you can change that situation.

One of the best books I have read recently is “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance.  It details the story of a family having to move from Appalachian Kentucky to Ohio.  In his words, their family was “dirt-poor” and when jobs vanished they had to move just to survive.  Mr. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister and most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life.  It’s a very insightful book and one I can highly recommend to you.

Let’s face it, there are good places to live and not-so-good-places to live in the United States.  A recent Gallup survey basically tells the tale.

If you live in Illinois, Connecticut or Rhode Island, the chances are you know someone who is not happy. Not happy at all. Around a quarter of the population living in these regions have described them each as the ‘worst possible state to live in’, according to a Gallup survey. The map data doesn’t explain the nature of the residents’ grievances but that map, according to the Gallup Survey, is given below.

While twenty-one to twenty-five (21-25) per cent of people ranked these three states as the ‘worst’, Louisiana and Mississippi also featured prominently – with seventeen to twenty (17-20) per cent describing the two southern states as the worst.

On a positive note, ten states had only one to two (1-2) per cent of their population who weren’t happy: Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Texas, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Maine. Apparently weather was not a significant factor in their happiness.  If you look at individual cities, we find the following, again according to Gallup in the list below.

If you want to lead a happy life, Boulder, Colorado, it seems, is the place to be – because it was named as the happiest city in the U.S. last October.  It topped a list of twenty-five (25) of America’s happiest cities, revealed in the book The Blue Zones of Happiness, by National Geographic Explorer Dan Buettner.

Along with National Geographic and Gallup, he developed an index to measure a population’s happiness based on fifteen (15) metrics including civic engagement, walkability and healthful food options.  Boulder tops the list with walkability, access to nature and sense of community being contributing factors to its residents’ happiness.  The metro area of Santa Cruz-Watsonville California came second in the list, followed by Charlottesville, Virginia, Fort Collins, Colorado, and San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande in California. California is clearly a dreamy place to live, as eight of its cities, including the metro areas of San Diego-Carlsbad and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, make the happiness list.  Let’s now take a look at that list.

If we look at population densities by city, we find the top ten (10) as follows:

You will notice that number seventeen (17) on our most popular list is also on the most-dense list. San Fran must be a great place to live. I know, having repeated experience with Atlanta traffic, LOVE TO VISIT, but would not want to live there.  Great place with lots to do but the traffic is a real bummer.

As always, I welcome your comments.

GOTTA GET IT OFF

January 6, 2018


OKAY, how many of you have said already this year?  “MAN, I have to lose some weight.”  I have a dear friend who put on a little weight over a couple of years and he commented: “Twenty or twenty-five pounds every year and pretty soon it adds up.”  It does add up.  Let’s look at several numbers from the CDC and other sources.

  • The CDC organization estimates that three-quarters (3/4of the American population will likely be overweight or obese by 2020. The latest figures, as of 2014, show that more than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults age twenty (20) and older and seventeen percent (17%) of children and adolescents aged two through nineteen (2–19) years were obese.
  • American ObesityRates are on the Rise, Gallup Poll Finds. Americans have become even fatter than before, with nearly twenty-eight (28%) percent saying they are clinically obese, a new survey finds. … At 180 pounds this person has a BMI of thirty (30) and is considered obese.

Now, you might say—we are in good company:  According to the World Health Organization, the following countries have the highest rates of obesity.

  • Republic of Nauru. Formerly known as Pleasant Island, this tiny island country in the South Pacific only has a population of 9,300. …
  • American Samoa. …
  • Tokelau
  • Tonga
  • French Polynesia. …
  • Republic of Kiribati. …
  • Saudi Arabia. …
  • Panama.

There is absolutely no doubt that more and more Americans are over weight even surpassing the magic BMI number of 30.  We all know what reduction in weight can do for us on an individual basis, but have you ever considered what reduction in weight can do for “other items”—namely hardware?

  • Using light-weight components, (composite materials) and high-efficiency engines enabled by advanced materials for internal-combustion engines in one-quarter of U.S. fleet trucks and automobiles could possibly save more than five (5) billion gallons of fuel annually by 2030. This is according to the US Energy Department Vehicle Technologies Office.
  • This is possible because, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, The Department of Energy’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility has a capacity to produce up to twenty-five (25) tons of carbon fiber per year.
  • Replacing heavy steel with high-strength steel, aluminum, or glass fiber-reinforced polymer composites can decrease component weight by ten to sixty percent (10-60 %). Longer term, materials such as magnesium and carbon fiber-reinforced composites could reduce the weight of some components by fifty to seventy-five percent (50-75%).
  • It costs $10,000 per pound to put one pound of payload into Earth orbit. NASA’s goal is to reduce the cost of getting to space down to hundreds of dollars per pound within twenty-five (25) years and tens of dollars per pound within forty (40) years.
  • Space-X Falcon Heavy rocket will be the first ever rocket to break the $1,000 per pound per orbit barrier—less than a tenth as much as the Shuttle. ( SpaceX press release, July 13, 2017.)
  • The Solar Impulse 2 flew 40,000 Km without fuel. The 3,257-pound solar plane used sandwiched carbon fiber and honey-combed alveolate foam for the fuselage, cockpit and wing spars.

So you see, reduction in weight can have lasting affects for just about every person and some pieces of hardware.   Let’s you and I get it off.

AUGMENTED REALITY (AR)

October 13, 2017


Depending on the location, you can ask just about anybody to give a definition of Virtual Reality (VR) and they will take a stab at it. This is because gaming and the entertainment segments of our population have used VR as a new tool to promote games such as SuperHot VR, Rock Band VR, House of the Dying Sun, Minecraft VR, Robo Recall, and others.  If you ask them about Augmented Reality or AR they probably will give you the definition of VR or nothing at all.

Augmented reality, sometimes called Mixed Reality, is a technology that merges real-world objects or the environment with virtual elements generated by sensory input devices for sound, video, graphics, or GPS data.  Unlike VR, which completely replaces the real world with a virtual world, AR operates in real time and is interactive with objects found in the environment, providing an overlaid virtual display over the real one.

While popularized by gaming, AR technology has shown a prowess for bringing an interactive digital world into a person’s perceived real world, where the digital aspect can reveal more information about a real-world object that is seen in reality.  This is basically what AR strives to do.  We are going to take a look at several very real applications of AR to indicate the possibilities of this technology.

  • Augmented Reality has found a home in healthcare aiding preventative measures for professionals to receive information relative to the status of patients. Healthcare giant Cigna recently launched a program called BioBall that uses Microsoft HoloLense technology in an interactive game to test for blood pressure and body mass index or BMI. Patients hold a light, medium-sized ball in their hands in a one-minute race to capture all the images that flash on the screen in front of them. The Bio Ball senses a player’s heartbeat. At the University of Maryland’s Augmentarium virtual and augmented reality laboratory, the school is using AR I healthcare to improve how ultrasound is administered to a patient.  Physicians wearing an AR device can look at both a patient and the ultrasound device while images flash on the “hood” of the AR device itself.
  • AR is opening up new methods to teach young children a variety of subjects they might not be interested in learning or, in some cases, help those who have trouble in class catching up with their peers. The University of Helsinki’s AR program helps struggling kids learn science by enabling them to virtually interact with the molecule movement in gases, gravity, sound waves, and airplane wind physics.   AR creates new types of learning possibilities by transporting “old knowledge” into a new format.
  • Projection-based AR is emerging as a new way to case virtual elements in the real world without the use of bulky headgear or glasses. That is why AR is becoming a very popular alternative for use in the office or during meetings. Startups such as Lampix and Lightform are working on projection-based augmented reality for use in the boardroom, retail displays, hospitality rooms, digital signage, and other applications.
  • In Germany, a company called FleetBoard is in the development phase for application software that tracks logistics for truck drivers to help with the long series of pre-departure checks before setting off cross-country or for local deliveries. The Fleet Board Vehicle Lense app uses a smartphone and software to provide live image recognition to identify the truck’s number plate.  The relevant information is super-imposed in AR, thus speeding up the pre-departure process.
  • Last winter, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands started working with first responders in using AR as a tool in crime scene investigation. The handheld AR system allows on-scene investigators and remote forensic teams to minimize the potential for site contamination.  This could be extremely helpful in finding traces of DNA, preserving evidence, and getting medical help from an outside source.
  • Sandia National Laboratories is working with AR as a tool to improve security training for users who are protecting vulnerable areas such as nuclear weapons or nuclear materials. The physical security training helps guide users through real-world examples such as theft or sabotage in order to be better prepared when an event takes place.  The training can be accomplished remotely and cheaply using standalone AR headsets.
  • In Finland, the VTT Technical Research Center recently developed an AR tool for the European Space Agency (ESA) for astronauts to perform real-time equipment monitoring in space. AR prepares astronauts with in-depth practice by coordinating the activities with experts in a mixed-reality situation.
  • The U.S. Daqri International uses computer vision for industrial AR to enable data visualization while working on machinery or in a warehouse. These glasses and headsets from Daqri display project data, tasks that need to be completed and potential problems with machinery or even where an object needs to be placed or repaired.

CONCLUSIONS:

Augmented Reality merges real-world objects with virtual elements generated by sensory input devices to provide great advantages to the user.  No longer is gaming and entertainment the sole objective of its use.  This brings to life a “new normal” for professionals seeking more and better technology to provide solutions to real-world problems.

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