Archive for the ‘Bust Times’ Category



by Michael Snyder

Why are so many people suddenly moving away from major U.S. cities? Recently, I wrote about the mass exodus that is happening out of the state of California, but the truth is that what is happening there is just part of a national phenomenon.
The populations of some of our largest cities are steadily shrinking, and many experts are completely mystified by the seismic demographic shifts that we are now witnessing. Of course there are a whole host of reasons why people would want to move away from huge cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore and Cleveland. For some families, it simply comes down to wanting a better life for their children. But as you will see below, there are others that believe that things in this country are about to take an apocalyptic turn, and the big cities will not be a place that you want to be when economic collapse, rioting, looting, civil unrest and crime are all spiraling out of control.
According to data just released by the U.S. Census Bureau, Chicago took the prize for the biggest population loss from 2015 to 2016, and it was followed by Detroit and Baltimore…
The counties containing Chicago, Detroit and the independent city of Baltimore were the biggest population losers in the United States from 2015 to 2016, according to data released today by the Census Bureau.
Cook County, Ill., where Chicago is the county seat, had the largest population loss of any county in the country from 2015 and 2016.
Cook County alone had a “domestic migration” loss of more than 66,000 people. That is a staggering number of people to lose in a single year.
Cleveland and Milwaukee were also very high on the list, and some are pointing out that all of these cities are in relatively colder climates and are all struggling economically.
So you certainly can’t blame people living in these cities for wanting to find somewhere warmer and more economically prosperous to live.
But others that are moving away from large cities are deeply concerned about where things are ultimately headed in this country. It doesn’t take a genius to see that anger, frustration and hatred are rising all around us, and many believe that conditions are ripe for civil unrest and civil conflict. In fact, best-selling author Doug Casey believes that we could soon see a “civil war” that is set off by a “financial collapse”…
Best-selling author Doug Casey wrote “Crisis Investing” at the time when the U.S. political landscape was transitioning from the Carter Administration to the Reagan Administration. Now, Casey sees a coming crisis that is equal or worse than the Civil War. Casey explains, “In the U.S. right now, there seems to be so much antagonism it’s almost like pre-Civil War. There is actually hatred in the U.S. at this point. It used to be the Republicans and Democrats could disagree, but they could have a civil conversation about a difference of opinion. Now, it’s active hatred between these two groups. This is not going to end well.”
Casey thinks the coming financial collapse will be the trigger. Casey says, “It’s going to come down eventually. I am worried about that, but we are in a situation where the country seem like it is just before a civil war. It will be more serious than just a financial collapse, and it is likely to be set off by a financial collapse.”
Without a doubt, our financial system is certainly primed for a financial collapse, and when things get really, really bad in this country how will people respond?
Many have decided that they want to get away from the major population centers before we find out the answer to that question.
For example, not too long ago the Chicago Tribune ran a story about why so many preppers are moving to the Great Northwest. One of the individuals profiled was an ex-resident of California named Trevor Treller who moved up to north Idaho prior to the recent election…
Trevor Treller, 44, who carries a small Smith & Wesson pistol on his hip, moved to north Idaho last year from Long Beach, California, and recently paid a little less than $400,000 for a defensible three-bedroom house on five wooded acres.
Treller, a sommelier at a local resort, said Obama was a key factor in his decision. He said the president has inflamed racial tensions in America, presided over a dangerous expansion of the national debt, been “hostile” to Second Amendment rights and failed to curtail the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran.
Treller said any one of those factors could lead to crippling chaos, so he and his wife have laid in food, weapons and ammunition and are installing an iron gate across their long gravel driveway.
Of course it isn’t just ordinary Americans such as Treller that are deeply concerned about what is coming.
Less than a week ago, CNN ran an article entitled “Billionaire bunkers: How the 1% are preparing for the apocalypse“…
Many of the world’s elite, including hedge fund managers, sports stars and tech executives (Bill Gates is rumored to have bunkers at all his properties) have chosen to design their own secret shelters to house their families and staff.
Gary Lynch, general manager of Texas-based Rising S Company, says 2016 sales for their custom high-end underground bunkers grew 700% compared to 2015, while overall sales have grown 300% since the November US presidential election alone.
So why are Bill Gates and his billionaire friends so interested in buying luxury survival bunkers if everything is going to be just fine?
Can someone explain that one to me?
Everywhere you look, retail stores are closing and economic warning signs are flashing red, but those that sell survival bunkers to the elite are making tremendous amounts of money.
And I certainly wish that I could afford one of these survival bunkers, because they sound quite appealing…
One of those shelters, Vivos xPoint, is near the Black Hills of South Dakota, and consists of 575 military bunkers that served as an Army Munitions Depot until 1967.
Presently being converted into a facility that will accommodate about 5,000 people, the interiors of each bunker are outfitted by the owners at a cost of between $25,000 to $200,000 each. The price depends on whether they want a minimalist space or a home with high-end finishes.
The compound itself will be equipped with all the comforts of a small town, including a community theater, classrooms, hydroponic gardens, a medical clinic, a spa and a gym.
These elitists plan to ride out the coming American apocalypse in style while the world above them is literally going insane.
Meanwhile, most of the general population continues to be completely oblivious to what is about to happen to them, and so the events that are coming will close upon them suddenly like a trap and there will be no escape.


Five Reasons Trump Is Right to Cut NPR, PBS

Grassroots Movement in Alaska Kills Agenda 21



From the LA Times:

Interesting that the LA times did this. Lou Dobbs reported this on CNN and it cost him his job. The only network we would see this on would be FOX. All the others are staying away from it. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican this should be of great interest to you!

Just One State – be sure and read the last part… try for 3 times.

This is only one State… If this doesn’t open eyes, nothing will!

From the L. A. Times.

1. 40% of all workers in L. A. County (L. A. County has 10.2 million people) are working for cash and not paying taxes. This is because they are predominantly illegal immigrants working without a green card.

2. 95% of warrants for murder in Los Angeles are for illegal aliens.

3. 75% of people on the most wanted list in Los Angeles are illegal aliens.

4. Over 2/3 of all births in Los Angeles County are to illegal alien Mexicans on Medi-Cal, whose births were paid for bytaxpayers.

5. Nearly 35% of all inmates in California detention centers are Mexican nationals here illegally.

6. Over 300,000 illegal aliens in Los Angeles County are living in garages.

7. The FBI reports half of all gang members in Los Angeles are most likely illegal aliens from south of the border.

8. Nearly 60% of all occupants of HUD properties are illegal.

9. 21 radio stations in Los Angeles are Spanish speaking.

10. In L.A. County 5.1 million people speak English, 3.9 million speak Spanish. (There are 10.2 million people in L. A. County.)

(All 10 of the above facts were published in the Los Angeles Times)

Less than 2% of illegal aliens are picking our crops, but 29% are on welfare. Over 70% of the United States’ annual population growth (and over 90% of California, Florida, and New York) results from immigration. 29% of inmates in federal prisons are illegal aliens
I think that California should secede from the union and become part of Mexico.

Trey Gowdy’s Dream ➡ "RIP" John Boehner & Lindsey Graham

trey Capture

The VA's Bonus Culture

How senior Veterans Affairs officials get paid more for lack of performance.

as published in the Wall Street Journal 5-30-2014
It must feel like Groundhog Day at the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General. On Wednesday it issued an interim report—its 19th since 2005—documenting excessive wait times at VA hospitals. Cue the choir in Congress demanding the heave-ho for Secretary Eric Shinseki. Yet primarily responsible for the VA scandal are politicians who continue to prop up this failing government health system.

Perhaps the report’s preface should have been the admonition from Ecclesiastes that what has been will be again. According to the IG, primary-care waiting times at the Phoenix VA averaged 115 days, nearly five times what the hospital reported and eight times the VA’s 14-day target. About 3,100 veterans were queued, more than half of whom weren’t on the official waiting list.

As the IG notes, “issues identified in current allegations” about discrepancies between quoted and actual waiting times “are not new” and appear to be “a systemic problem nationwide.” Forty-two medical centers are currently under investigation for data manipulation. The IG’s recommendations to fix such scheduling “deficiencies” have all been ignored, so don’t expect the 19th report to be the charm.

A growing number of politicians are calling for Mr. Shinseki to resign, including Democratic Senators Mark Udall of Colorado, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and John Walsh of Montana. But the challenges that have befuddled Mr. Shinseki and his predecessors will surely hamper his successor. Offering up Mr. Shinseki as a sacrifice merely allows politicians to wash their hands of the scandal.

Meantime, Senate Republicans are championing legislation, passed 390-33 last week by the House, that gives the secretary plenary power to fire 450 VA officials in the “Senior Executive Service,” such as Phoenix’s Sharon Helman, who has been placed on administrative leave. While helpful, this surgical fix won’t treat the VA’s systemic problems.


Sharon Helman Associated Press
Many Democrats and unions are prescribing more money. Yet since 2005 the VA’s outlays have grown to $57.3 billion from $32.5 billion—a 76% increase—while the number of veterans seeking care has risen by 18%. IG reports make clear that throwing more at the VA would merely reward failure.

The truth is that the excessive waiting times are a symptom of a larger dysfunction that plagues government health systems. To wit, a lack of any market or performance accountability. Consider:

Last year, Ms. Helman received a $9,345 bonus, which Mr. Shinseki has called an “administrative error” and rescinded. Yet Southwest Network director Susan Bowers earlier this month told a CBS CBS -0.86% local affiliate that Ms. Helman “received the bonus for a highly successful rating,” which included “significant improvements in removing some of the access concerns, the long waits, moving to the electronic wait list.”

Bonuses for poor performance appear to be common. The Dayton Daily News reported that in 2010 former Dayton VA Medical Center Director Guy Richardson was awarded $11,874 in performance pay notwithstanding an IG probe that confirmed a dentist had failed to change his latex gloves and sterilize instruments over a span of 18 years. The dental clinic closed for several weeks in August 2010, but patients were only warned about their potential exposure to infectious diseases six months later. In 2011 Mr. Richardson was elevated to Regional Deputy Network Director in Maryland.

Local media have reported that former Pittsburgh VA executive Terry Wolf received a $12,924 bonus in 2011 amid a Legionella outbreak that sickened 21 veterans and killed six. Ms. Wolf ignored the outbreak in her own performance review, hailing the construction of a $38.2 million facility with “innovative extras” like a “rehabilitation pavilion complete with a putting green.”

Regional director Michael Moreland gave her top marks in his review and neglected to mention Legionella. Internal emails showed that Mr. Moreland and other hospital executives resisted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and media inquiries. A public warning about the outbreak wasn’t issued until Nov. 16, 2012, about the time the White House finalized Mr. Moreland as a recipient of the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award (a lifetime achievement award for civil servants), which came with a $63,000 bonus. The 57-year-old retired six months after an IG report attributed the outbreak to oversight lapses.

VA officials often fly the coop before they are disciplined. Only two “non-probationary” VA executives were fired in 2012 and 2013. However, eight facing disciplinary action resigned or retired. Regional VA executives also often paper over problems at their local VA centers to bolster their own chances of a favorable rating. Only one in 435 VA executives in 2012 received a less than fully satisfactory review. Bonuses are doled out by a performance review board comprised mainly of VA executives.

Meantime, the Government Accountability Office last year reported that 80% of the VA’s 22,500 medical-care providers received $150 million in performance pay in 2011, though there’s no “clear link between performance pay and providers’ performance.”

One radiologist who was reprimanded for incorrectly reading mammograms received a $8,261 bonus. Another physician who was disciplined for refusing to see ER patients—thereby causing six-hour delays in care—was awarded $7,500 because he met one of his 13 self-directed goals. He failed to meet the other 12, including attending staff meetings.

The problem is that the buck never stops. Lawmakers of both parties don’t want to be accused of not supporting veterans so they give the VA ever more cash to fix chronic problems like long wait times that never get fixed.

Unlike private medical systems, VA centers aren’t punished for substandard care by investors and customers. Most veterans without private insurance have no choice but to seek treatment at the VA where care is free. Politicians are more concerned with the optics of this Potemkin system than with outcomes.

A voucher system that allows veterans to get private care would inject competition into the VA and encourage improvements in quality. Yet lawmakers don’t want to rattle the status quo, particularly in election years, so they call for Mr. Shinseki’s resignation. Fixing the VA is a political challenge, which will first require the doctors in Washington to heal themselves.

Historic: 1st State Adopts Plan to Rein in Feds

state-led-conventionThe plan to put the brakes on Washington’s expansion of the federal government is under way.

Convention of States confirmed that the Georgia legislature on Thursday passed the organization’s application “to limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.”

State Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, told the organization he is “pleased that the Georgia legislature has given voice to the frustrations of millions of Georgians.”

“Enough is enough. It is time to impose fiscal and other restraints on our runaway federal government. We urge other states to join us,” said Macon, the primary sponsor of the resolution.

“We Georgians have become the hope of the nation today,” said Jacqueline Peterson, the Georgia state director for the Convention of States Project. “Many thanks to our state legislators for standing for liberty. May God bless us, every single one!”
The idea is to have an Article V Convention of States, the one process the U.S. Constitution gives to citizens to bypass the White House, Congress and even their own governors to establish a new path for the nation.

The new president in 2017 would face new limits on executive orders, Commerce Clause actions, a balanced federal budget and a ban on using international treaties to govern inside the U.S. if the state-based movement is successful.

There could even be term limits for Supreme Court justices and Congress, and a mandatory sunset of all existing federal taxes.

The ideas are being discussed in legislatures where a Convention of the States has been proposed.

The Convention of States Project, launched by Citizens for Self Governance, is working to have state lawmakers call such a convention through the Constitution’s Article V.

Thousands of Americans already have signed on in support of the idea that Americans, themselves, need to address Washington’s massive spending, over-regulation and takeover of authority from states.

State lawmakers in Alaska, Alabama, Florida and elsewhere also are now looking at plans that if approved would be submitted to Congress in support of a convention.

Michael Farris, who has been know for years as the face of the Home School Legal Defense Association and Patrick Henry College, now is on the front line of seeking a convention in which state delegates would meet, agree on a path for the country and then tell Congress what will happen.

Tell Congress?

Exactly that, if the amendments are proposed at the convention and ratified by the states.

The organization proposes a convention for “the purpose of limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.”

“We believe the grassroots is the key to calling a successful convention,” the promoters say. “The goal is to build a political operation in a minimum of 40 states, getting 100 people to volunteer in at least 75 percent of the state’s legislative districts. We believe this is very doable. Only through the support of the American people will this project have a chance to succeed.”

Among the issues that could fall under the single subject would be a balanced budget amendment, a new definition of the General Welfare Clause, a redefinition of the Commerce Clause, a ban on the use of treaty provisions inside the U.S., limits on executive orders, term limits for Congress and the Supreme Court, federal tax limits and a sunset of all existing federal taxes.

“Of course, these are merely examples of what would be up for discussion,” the promoters say. “The convention of states itself would determine which ideas deserve serious consideration, and it will take a majority of votes from the states to formally propose any amendments.”

Farris told WND he expects support for a convention to be gathered over a period of two to three legislative cycles.

The timing would align with the 2016 presidential election.

Farris said it definitely would throw a wrench in the works.

“In my opinion, a good wrench,” he said. “We are convinced that Washington, D.C., is broken and that it will never, ever fix itself.”

He said all three branches need fixing.

“The judiciary legislates, the legislative branch, the Congress uses power it never was intended to have, and the president misuses power worse that George III ever thought of,” he said.

He earlier told WND that Washington, D.C., “will never voluntarily relinquish power.”

“If we allow Washington, D.C., to continue on its current course of big government, it will utterly destroy American liberty. Debt is the most tangible method of destruction. But big government complete with spying on the American public, the improper use of executive orders, over-regulation, etc., etc., will most certainly destroy American liberty relatively soon.”

Farris said trying to elect more conservatives hasn’t worked, and there really shouldn’t be a fear that the Constitution would be opened up to destruction. After all, any change would have to be approved by voters in 38 states.

“The Founders gave us Article V for the very purpose of creating structural change when the federal government abuses its power,” Farris said. “State legislatures control this process from beginning to end. Governors are irrelevant. Congress can only name the time and place. State legislature name the delegates and give them their instructions.

“We will either get good amendments or we will get nothing,” he continued. “The people who must approve the work product – state legislatures – are the ones who name the delegates. They are also the ones who give the convention its subject matter.”

Would anyone be interested in the idea of removing federal officials?

“State legislatures currently have no power to impeach federal officials from their states. This is not a viable option. This would, however, be a proper amendment to suggest at the Convention of States we are proposing. I like the idea of giving the state governments the power to impeach congressman and senators from their states,” Farris said

Another possibility?

“The federal courts regularly refuse to rule on constitutional issues they want to avoid by calling them ‘political questions’ or by claiming that no one has standing to sue … One of my ideas for an amendment would be to automatically grant state legislatures standing to challenge any action of the federal government as violating its constitutional limitations,” he said.

There also could be a fix to the problem of an entrenched Supreme Court.

“I [would] propose reconfiguring the Supreme Court after the model of the European Court of Human Rights. There are 46 nations in that court’s jurisdiction, and every nation appoints one judge. We should expand the Supreme Court to 50 justices and have the states appoint the justices for a specific term (six or eight years) with no right of reappointment. That one change would do more to ensure a constitutional government than anything I know,” Farris said.

The Convention of States Project contends that “who decides what the law shall be is even more important than what is decided.”

“The protection of liberty requires a strict adherence to the principle that power is limited and delegated,” the organization explained.

Even the Supreme Court has acknowledged the federal government has overreached, stating in a 1992 case: “The federal government undertakes activities today that would have been unimaginable to the Framers in two senses; first, because the Framers would not have conceived that any government would conduct such activities; and second, because the Framers would not have believed that the federal government, rather than the states, would assume such responsibilities.”

The organization has posted online details of how state legislatures can advance the project.


Public Sector Cuts Work Hours to Avoid Paying Insurance Under Obamacare

by Lisa Barron
Public sector employers across the country are cutting part-time shifts so they don’t have to provide employees with healthcare coverage under Obamacare, The New York Times reported.

The healthcare law stipulates that companies with 50 or more “full-time” employees, defined as those working 30 hours or more, offer their workers health insurance or pay a penalty.

Even though the Obama administration has delayed the employer mandate twice, many public employers have already taken steps to avoid the law by restricting work hours, affecting everyone from police dispatchers to prison guards, cafeteria workers and part-time professors, the Times reports.

Mark Benigni, the superintendent of schools in Meriden, Conn., and a board member of the American Association of School Administrators, told the newspaper that the employer mandate is having “unintended consequences for school systems across the nation.”

Vigo County, Ind., for example, has reduced field trips for children and cut back transport to athletic events in order to hold down the work hours of school bus drivers.

In Medina, Ohio, Mayor Dennis Hanwell said the city has lowered the limit for part-time employees from 35 hours a week to 29, affecting office clerks, sanitation workers, park inspectors and police dispatchers.

“Our choice was to cut the hours or give them health care, and we could not afford the latter,” he told the Times.

And the University of Akron has cut back the hours of 400 part-time faculty members who were teaching more than 29 hours a week, according to spokeswoman Eileen Korey.

“We have more than 1,000 part-time faculty. Four hundred would have qualified for health insurance. That would add costs that we cannot afford,” she told the Times.

Those are just a few examples, said the newspaper, citing Labor Department figures showing that government employment at the federal state and local levels is lower today than in March 2010, and a recent survey by the National Association of State Budget Offices which found that “states plan to reduce the number of full-time employees again” this year.

Congressional Republicans now hope to use such evidence to bolster their claim that Obamacare is proving to be a drain on the economy.

Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and other Republicans have dubbed workers who face reduced hours the “Obamacare 29ers,” reports the Fiscal Times.

“Obamacare imposes large and disproportionate costs on employers and has created a new class of employees,” Camp said in a statement earlier this month.

“Many of these people have either lost or risk losing their full-time status and are being held back through no fault of their own but instead by a misguided law.”

In an Op-Ed published by the National Review Online last week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor wrote GOP lawmakers will focus on changing the law’s definition of full-time employees.

“We will confront head-on the policies of the Obama administration that punish work, such as the 29-hour-work-week provision in Obamacare that is cutting hourly workers’ wages by as much 25 percent,” he wrote.

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Debt: The Last Social Taboo?

by Dennis MillerDebt

Social taboos have dropped left and right since I was a young man raising a family, but one is unlikely to disappear any time soon: holding too much personal debt. But debt need not be a personal tragedy nor a badge of shame. For some, it is simply a practical problem with practical solutions. For others, however, it isn’t even the real problem.

In the last year I’ve watched two friends handle debt quite differently, and those differences illustrate the real taboo about debt that we seem to ignore. I have changed names and tweaked a few details to keep peace in the world, but what follows are essentially two true stories: those of Joe Able and Tom Baker.

Both Joe and Tom are early baby boomers. During their careers, both had the external trappings of success: nice homes, luxury cars, and a good amount of other cool stuff. They made good incomes and paid a lot in taxes along the way. They moved into their peak earning years during the Internet boom, and both of their companies flourished.

Many people are driven by the dream of being so wealthy they can buy anything they want, anytime they want it. Both of these men appeared to be close to living that dream.

In reality, they were ahead of themselves. While they both made a good income, they had not accumulated much wealth. Instead, they financed signs of wealth. Their justification: they made enough money to easily afford the payments.

Instead of creating wealth, they were spending to create the illusion of wealth. Neither Joe nor Tom had a problem with this approach.

Now, I recall conversations with both men about when people started calling them Mr. Able and Mr. Baker, as opposed to Joe and Tom. While neither knows the other, Joe and Tom both said it began, not because of age or gray hair, but because of people’s perception of their economic status. When you drive up to the country club in your new Mercedes so the attendant can park your car, you are Mr. So-and-so, regardless of your age.

Both enjoyed playing the role of big shot.

Well, the economy turned and their incomes were cut. It took Joe a few years, but he eventually concluded that his lifestyle was unsustainable. He realized he would never be able to retire because he had accumulated, well, basically nothing. This must have been terribly difficult for him.

Joe had to fess up to his spouse and family that he may have been “rich dad” for a decade or so, but things were going to have to change radically. Otherwise, he would become “poor dad.”

Joe’s wife had become quite comfortable with her life of luxury, so together they sought professional advice from his accountant and a qualified financial planner. Together they built a plan to get out of debt and accumulate some real capital. This was the only way they could ever enjoy retirement. Perhaps it would be more modest than they’d once envisioned, but that was OK.

To borrow Joe’s words, “I decided to stop the world. I wanted to get off!” He described it as a never-ending treadmill: work hard; make a lot of money; pay off bills; buy more cool and expensive stuff; repeat, repeat, repeat. So they built a plan and refocused. Joe and his wife worked together and are quite happy today.

Tom took a different road. He, too, realized his lifestyle was unsustainable. It was like a reality show where the family performs an intervention. Family and professionals convened in an effort to help Tom see reality. They encouraged him to change his behavior. Tom discussed his mounting debts and reduction in income very rationally, but he was unable to change his behavior.

As I looked at these two men, I noticed differences. Joe lived in a large city. Tom lived in the small town where he grew up. Joe was the proverbial little fish in a big pond; Tom was the big fish in a small pond. Everyone in town knew Tom as the kid who grew up and obviously really made something of himself. He had three luxury cars, a boat worth several hundred thousand dollars, two nice homes, and several closets full of very expensive, designer clothing.

What the public did not see was this. Tom’s business had a line of credit with the bank and was a good business. Unfortunately Tom continued to spend and maxed out his company’s line of credit and used the money for personal spending to keep up his image. The particular business is capital intensive and his company began to suffer. Now he had to make huge payments to the bank for fear his company would shut down.

The banks that were hit in the 2008 crisis began breathing down his neck and demanding more collateral as each note became due and was renewed. Tom had no leverage and gave the bank whatever they needed to keep the line of credit. A common friend says it got to the point where Tom owned nothing and the creditors owned most everything he had.

Sad to say, his friend told me he became very depressed. They called him the poster child for depression spending. He had several credit cards and bought designer clothes and new toys to make himself feel good. His children said their dad had a spending addiction.

Addiction is defined as: “The state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming … to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.” That sums it up pretty well. The addiction can be to drugs, gambling, spending, or many types of behavior, which, when carried to extremes, can be very dangerous.

About a year ago, Tom filed for personal bankruptcy. Of course, that notification hit the local paper in the little town he lived in. Everything he owned was mortgaged to the maximum; his debts were far in excess of his assets. We have spoken briefly twice since that happened and carefully avoided the subject, preferring to talk about sports or other common interests.

Tom wanted to retire and had turned over the day-to-day operation of his business to his son, which only amplified the situation. They were struggling to pay the bills and keep the company afloat.

While his personal bankruptcy took care of much of his debt, the corporation had to survive. The company had no real net worth, but the livelihood of his children and grandchildren depended on it remaining solvent. The only way to save the company was to stop paying Tom and hopefully, over time, the business will earn enough to pay off the huge line of credit Tom had accumulated and spent. Tom was smart enough to get good legal advice, and the company will likely survive and provide for the next generation.

Six months after filing for personal bankruptcy, Tom had a heart attack and died in his sleep. He was not yet 65, and appeared to be in good physical health.

While in our 50s, a common phrase used by my generation was “racing to beat the heart attack.” It was around the time we realized we had accumulated debt and would have to put in a lot of time and emotion to turn things around. As I look back, I realize just how true those words became. The stress of too much debt can literally kill you.

For many, debt is not the real problem, but rather a symptom of a much larger problem: an addiction to a self-image and a way of life. Until you address the real problem, you cannot solve the symptom—debt.

While I am not a psychiatrist, I can pick out common traits from among those who walked the walk—retired friends who have accumulated wealth and enjoy retirement on their own terms. Perhaps it is not as lavish as they once hoped, but they enjoy the absolute freedom of being debt- and stress-free. Here are some tips I have learned along the way.

Start with a financial checkup. I have written many times about the epiphany many of us experienced when we first sat down with a financial advisor to look at our fuzzy retirement goals. It can be just the dose of reality needed to change our behavior.
Set real, measurable financial goals. As we get closer to retirement, it is no longer some vague event that we hope will happen in a decade or so. The investment world has changed radically since 2008 and we need to know the real numbers. Set firm, measurable short- and long-term financial goals.
Build a workable plan. Achieving those milestones along the way is exhilarating—almost like a preview of what being debt-free is all about. If you just keep doing what you are doing and stick to your plan, you will make it.
Both spouses have to be totally committed. This was another major difference I saw between Joe and Tom. Joe’s wife was a country girl whose real values in life are family and friends. While she enjoyed Joe’s success, when the ladies at the country club would talk about their designer clothes and laugh when she told them she just bought her new blouse on sale at Target or Walmart, she felt sorry for them.

Tom did not have that kind of support. He had remarried a younger woman who thought she was marrying a big shot. I guess she just married him “for better” because, when it became evident their lifestyle was an illusion, she left him.
Realize you are not alone. As a member of Lending Club, every day I see hundreds of loan applications from people with great incomes who want to consolidate and get out of debt. It sounds funny borrowing money to get out of debt, but they want to consolidate and reduce their interest rates, which is part of the process. Many of these people are doctors and lawyers making huge amounts of money. Not only do they need to make the payments to reduce their debt; they also have to curtail their spending at the same time, something Tom was emotionally unable to do.

Since 2008, when the interest rates on CDs and fixed income securities dropped to the point of not keeping up with true inflation, even folks who have managed to accumulate some wealth have had to make some tough choices when it comes to priorities. We have many friends who have owned a lot of luxury cars who are quite proud to drive up in their new Toyota and discuss how much they saved along the way.
There is no shame in adjusting your lifestyle to the current environment. Simply put, you have to do what you have to do! While it may have been nice to feel rich during the boom times, adjusting your lifestyle and spending patterns to avoid being poor is not shameful; quite the contrary, it is prudent. Many couples tell us how they worked together and the process made their marriage even stronger. Shame? No way! Pride is much more accurate.
The solution to too much debt is twofold: first, make a true commitment to get out of debt; and, second, learn the skills to do so. Many folks have never learned to save. Once your goal is true, stress-free financial independence, it is worth giving up a lot of stuff.

Unfortunately for Tom, he was such an addict he could never make the transition, and the stress took its toll. Joe and his wife are happy, surrounded by loving family, and enjoy seeing their next generation grow and mature.

Being debt-free is a major step. You are halfway home. The next step is accumulating wealth. Instead of making payments to creditors, now you can start making those payments to yourself and prepare for the future.

On the Lighter Side

One of the most common questions I hear once folks get out of debt and begin to accumulate capital is, “Where, and how, do I start investing for retirement?” Top-rated corporate bonds, Treasuries and CDs are surefire losers at today’s rates. If you didn’t catch A Second Look at Bonds in last Friday’s Casey Daily Dispatch, I recommend taking a look. It’s the sister article to our most recent special report, Bond Basics, our need-to-know guide to investing in bonds in today’s environment. I urge anyone holding or thinking of buying bonds or CDs to take a gander at both.

Last Sunday was the National Football League conference championship games, and Denver and Seattle are headed to the Super Bowl. The game will be played in February, outdoors, in New Jersey. Generally they are played indoors or in warm weather climates. I wonder how much the weather will impact the game.

Maybe it’s just me, but I am turned off by all the mini-celebrations players do trying to attract attention—just play the game! I remember reading an interview with the late Walter Payton about end zone celebrations. He responded with something like, “Act like you have been there before.”

And finally…

“Thank you” to my friend Bob L. for sharing some more of Murphy’s less famous quotes:

He who laughs last, thinks slowest.
A day without sunshine is like, well, night.
Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.
The things that come to those who wait may be the things left by those who got there first.
God gave you toes as a device for finding furniture in the dark.
I suspect the last one was thought up by people who sell night-lights. Gazing into an open refrigerator in the middle of the night sure hampers your night vision—not that I’d know anything about that.

10 Things You Might Not Realize You're Paying For Through Washington's Budget Deal

Washington is currently considering a $1.1 trillion appropriations bill for fiscal year 2014. The 1,582-page mother of a document sets the spending priorities (not limits) for a variety of government agencies and initiatives. Here are a few you may not know about:

#1 – “Increased Intelligence Collection” Efforts Against Notorious Ugandan Guerilla Leader Joseph Kony: $30 million

#2 – Equipment for School Cafeterias: $25 million

#3 – Marketing Campaign to Prevent Domestic Terrorism: $3 million

#4 – National Endowments for the Arts and National Endowment for Humanities – $146 million

#5 – Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars – $10.5 million

#6 – HIV/AIDS Programs – $2.3 billion

#7 – Department of Education’s “First of the World” Initiative – $75 million

#8 – Veterans Affairs Employee Training and Overtime Pay – $100 million

#9 – Amtrak – $1.39 billion

#10 – Architect of the Capitol’s Office – $602 million


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