Social conservatives feel betrayed by the popular culture, and why not? If Hollywood depicts someone with a gun or a Bible, he’s a figure of ridicule, entitled to say with Rodney Dangerfield: “I don’t get no respect.” (But Rodney’s was an act, and he got paid for it.) The coastal “sophisticates” mock the rubes, as in an episode on “True Blood,” the HBO series with werewolves, vampires and theocratic bloodsuckers, which depicts two rich Republican stereotypes at a Ted Cruz fundraiser at the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas where a massacre follows. What fun. Relief is at hand. The new movie “Boyhood” gets to the heart and kidney level of experience, shunning the superficial overlay of cultural and political divides, moving instead to authentic love and affection in intimate family relationships that transmit family values from the inside out. A scene with a boy, a Bible and a gun becomes an understated milestone of growing up. You could call this approach Tolstoy in Texas style, where unhappy families are unhappy in their own way, but share moments and episodes of happiness in their own way, too. Glib doesn’t live here. Movie director Richard Linklater, born in Houston and bred in East Texas where the Deep South begins to give way to the West, delivers a refreshingly different kind of story in his wonderful new movie set among his people and the places they live. He tells how he resents the way his people are portrayed as hicks and rubes, simplistic in the extreme. He reverses the course. In a particularly touching scene, Mason, the protagonist played by Ellar Coltrane, celebrates his 15th birthday with his loving grandparents. The older country people give the boy his first Bible, with his name engraved on the cover and the words of Christ printed in red ink inside. He gets his first gun, ready for shooting the tin cans his grandfather throws in the air. The scene is shot lovingly, without judgment, reflecting love and the enduring rites of passage across the generations. Linklater remembers a similar experience at 13 in his own life, which he calls his “redneck bar mitzvah.” His grandmother gave him a Bible, too, because “she cared about my soul.” He tells The Washington Post how his grandfather gave him the gun, that his father had given him, marking his passage to manhood. “They were sweet people,” he says. “Boyhood” was shot in real time, focusing on Mason as he marked the years from 6 to 18. His parents and his sister are portrayed in the same real time, and everyone ages, though the movie was shot from a script. It’s a drama portraying real, live moments caught perfectly in the flux of time. Polarization is the name of the game now in America, particularly in Washington with its fierce partisan fights over the social issues. That’s not where most of us spend most of our time. Linklater reckons that many people grow up like he did, even if not in Texas, but with sensibilities of right and wrong similar to those he absorbed in shades of gray with occasional splotches of color, testimony to infinite variety — some good, some not so good. “Boyhood” is a coming-of-age of a boy, but it’s the story of a family, too. In the heat of their youthful discovery of sex, his mother and father conceived a daughter and a son, but how each parent met the responsibility of raising the children changed them, too. This is generational change with more empathy than anger, more warmth than rebellion. We get realistic insights into the lopsided challenges of divorce. Mason’s single mother assumes the heavy lifting both at home and at work, while his single father is the jolly paternal playmate on weekends. The responsibilities are uneven, but so are the satisfactions. In a revelatory moment, after Mason’s high school graduation, the father tells his mother what a good job of raising him she has done. The moment is neither sentimental nor a feminist rhetorical device, but a sensitive recognition of the differences in nurture and nature. In middle age his father becomes the man that Mason’s mother had wanted him to be when he arrived on the scene in a flashy Pontiac GTO. He drives a minivan with his second family. This is social politics told across the generations, up close and personal. Richard Linklater calls it a shame that the liberals dismissed the affections and loyalty of Southern white people over “the cultural divide of religion and guns.” Bridging the divide requires “a little bit of understanding.” He offers more than a little bit in “Boyhood.” Write to Suzanne Fields at: email@example.com. Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” To find out more about Suzanne Fields and read her past columns, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM
The economic data that drives so much political debate is becoming increasingly less reliable in the digital era. That’s because new technology makes it hard to compare the 21st-century economy to anything that came before it. How, for example, do you compare the living standards of a middle-income American in the 1970s with a middle-income American today? The 1970s version had no cellphone, no Internet, no digital camera and was limited to watching one of three television networks. That sounds primitive by today’s standards. However, official Census Bureau data suggest that the median income in the United States today is barely higher than it was in the late 1970s. Income stagnation may make a great talking point in a campaign commercial, but it is out of sync with reality. I remember the ’70s. The notion that we’re no better off today is silly. When data and reality collide like this, it’s safe to assume the data are wrong. The problem is not with the government statisticians, who do a fine job generating lots and lots of precisely accurate data. The problem is that the data they are asked to generate are more appropriate for the 1970s than today. “During periods of major technological change,” Yale Professor William Nordhaus noted, capturing “the impact of new technologies on living standards is beyond the practical capability of official statistical agencies.” What’s more, the failures of official statistics are not random; they always tend to underestimate the real improvement in living standards. In the 1990s, Nordhaus presented fascinating research built around measuring the cost of lighting a single room. This was a measure that didn’t depend on technology. Obviously, lighting a room with an open fire or candle is different than with electric lights or a flashlight app, but the consumer benefit was the same. This gave the academic a tool to see how much work was required to pay for lighting a room. Among other things, he found that “an hour’s work today will buy about 300,000 times as much illumination (than) could be bought in ancient Babylonia.” By comparing centuries of such figures with official measures of living standards, Nordhaus reached a stunning conclusion. Traditional statistics understate economic growth “by a factor between 900 and 1,600 since the beginning of the 19th century.” In other words, since America’s founding, its standard of living has increased about 1,000 times as much as the official records indicate. There is no doubt the same phenomenon exists today. Consider the smartphone. What would you compare it to from the 1970s? A landline phone? A calculator? A camera? Board games? The cost of mailing a letter? The true answer is that there was nothing even remotely comparable to a smartphone in the 1970s, and our standard of living is much higher today because we have it. What all this means is that most political debates based upon official economic statistics are like an episode of “Seinfeld,” a show about nothing. To find out more about Scott Rasmussen, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2014 SCOTT RASMUSSEN DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
My mother taught her children that while we might not be the smartest people around, we could be courteous, polite and considerate of others. We were taught to say “please,” “thank you,” “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am,” not to talk with food in our mouths and a few other little niceties of life.
Now, there are some indications that manners are on the way back “in” — just in time! A survey revealed that 78 percent of Americans believed incivility had gone from bad to worse in the preceding 10 years, and many believed it had eroded values and contributed to violence in our society.
Today, many companies are sponsoring workshops to teach professional etiquette and protocol in the marketplace. Reports abound that job candidates are turned down if they begin eating before their host does and salt food before tasting it because it shows a tendency toward making hasty decisions. Those who order the most expensive items on the menu and conclude with an expensive dessert are generally not offered jobs for fear they will abuse an expense account.
Obviously, much of this involves common sense as much as manners, but it really boils down to thinking in terms of what’s in the other person’s best interests. When we think that way, we act that way, and invariably, what’s in the other person’s best interests from a business perspective turns out to be in our best interests as well.
Studies by Harvard, the Stanford Research Institute and the Carnegie Foundation suggest that success in a job depends 85 percent on people skills and only 15 percent on technical knowledge and skill. In the marketplace today, people who have the right attitude and work with others effectively are in the most demand and occupy the higher positions. Message: Use common sense, and mind your manners, and you will have something to smile about.
To find out more about Zig Ziglar and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. Subscribe to Zig Ziglar’s free email newsletter through firstname.lastname@example.org.
COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM
“I keep on asking my mom if I can play Nintendo, and she finally says yes,” says Clyde, 7.
Well, Clyde, there’s no doubt you’ve learned that persistence pays off. Your mother knows this, too. Give your mom a break and apply that same persistence to things of God. You might be surprised at how much more rewarding it is.
“When you are dead, you are knocking on the door to get into heaven. When you ask to come in, the door will open,” says Connor, 6.
Jokes abound about St. Peter examining credentials for entering the pearly gates. Some people believe in second chances, such as reincarnation. Let’s see what the Bible says.
“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:27-28).
Jesus died for our sins one time, and we have one life in which to decide whether we’ll trust him with our eternal destiny.
“Keep on trying hard, and you will receive everlasting life,” says Bruce, 11.
This is a common belief that appeals to our pride. Many things in this life are earned by persistent hard work. Eternal life is not one of them. The price is higher than anyone can pay. That’s why God sent the Lord Jesus to pay the price for us.
“If you keep asking Jesus into your heart, someday he will come,” says Sara, 8.
Sara, Jesus isn’t reluctant to impart his life to those who want it. Begging isn’t required. Jesus freely gives his eternal life to anyone who will “believe in him,” as John 3:16 so clearly states.
If our eternal destiny isn’t at stake here, why did Jesus command us to knock?
“If you pray for something, and God doesn’t answer it right away, he will answer you if you keep on praying,” says Gerald, 6.
When Jesus spoke of knocking, he also mentioned asking and seeking. To illustrate what he meant, Jesus asked, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11).
Even evil people give good gifts to their children. How much more does a good God give gifts to his children who ask? This is where persistence pays huge dividends. The key is to make sure you’re asking for the right things and persist in asking, seeking and knocking.
“Don’t quit following Jesus for one day. He will reward you,” says Grace, 10.
In the context of knocking, this is persistent prayer for the advance of God’s purpose and plan. We can pray boldly and confidently about many situations revealed in Scripture.
For example, we know it’s God’s will for Christians to pray for government leaders “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (I Timothy 2:2).
Think about this: Knocking on heaven’s door on behalf of our country and friends is a ministry to which every Christian is called.
Memorize this truth: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).
Ask this question: Do you believe in the goodness of God so you will persist in asking him for good things that glorify him?
Listen to a talking book, download the “Kids Color Me Bible” for free, watch Kid TV Interviews and travel around the world by viewing the “Mission Explorers Streaming Video” at www.KidsTalkAboutGod.org. Bible quotations are from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted. To find out more about Carey Kinsolving and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 CAREY KINSOLVING
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
Robert and Linda Ollis were on an August 2013 trip to London when they were awoken by a call from back home. Their oldest daughter, Kimberly, needed to relay a neighbor’s troubling message.
“There were two soldiers at our door,” Linda said. “They were looking for us.”
Despite being thousands of miles from their Staten Island home and Afghanistan, where their only son was serving, the parents could sense that the soldiers carried the worst possible news.
“In our hearts, we really knew,” the mother told me.
Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis was meant to be a soldier. Both his grandfathers were World War II veterans who survived the Battle of the Bulge. His dad fought in Vietnam.
“He was very, very proud of having two grandfathers who served and a father who served,” Robert said. “He always made me feel special (for serving) in Vietnam.”
Swearing an oath to defend the United States is a major achievement for any young man or woman, but for Michael, it was an almost foregone conclusion.
“There was absolutely no doubt that he was going into the Army,” Michael’s father said. “You would have one hell of an argument if you tried to stop him, which we never did. We always supported him.”
After his parents allowed him to enlist at age 17, Michael would eventually serve combat deployments in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Channeling his own experiences in Vietnam, Robert was amazed by how well his son handled his harrowing deployments to America’s post-9/11 battlefields.
“When he came home, his personality did not change,” Robert emotionally recounted. “In fact, he taught me a little bit about life.”
Staff Sgt. Ollis left for his third combat deployment, and second to Afghanistan, in January 2013. Later that summer, when his sister called their parents in London, it took five agonizing hours before Robert and Linda’s worst fears were confirmed by military personnel from the U.S. Embassy in London.
“It was surreal,” Linda said. “It just didn’t seem possible.”
Robert said his son and a wounded Polish soldier were securing the zone around a massive truck bomb blast on Aug. 28, 2013, when an insurgent ambushed them in Afghanistan’s Ghazni Province.
“Michael stepped in front of (the Polish lieutenant), took out the insurgent, and apparently must have been reaching down to disarm him also,” Robert explained.
The enemy fighter ignited his vest. Michael’s dad said the ensuing explosion caused catastrophic injuries that eventually took his 24-year-old son’s life.
“The Polish lieutenant was on the gurney next to him,” Robert said. “He said (the doctors) did everything they could.”
Today, the Polish soldier and his grateful nation are doing everything they can to thank Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis for his final act of courage. The Polish government has already bestowed its Armed Forces Gold Medal upon the fallen American soldier.
“He made a point to tell people that Michael had saved his life,” Linda said of the Polish lieutenant. “As a result of that, Michael has really been honored by the Polish people.”
The fallen hero’s parents, who posthumously accepted Michael’s Silver Star medal from the U.S. Army this past October, said the American people have also done an incredible job of saluting their son.
“We’ve received so many cards from people throughout the country, and gifts,” Michael’s mom said. “Our neighbors have been unbelievable.”
One gesture stands out. When Linda and Robert returned from receiving their son’s flag-draped casket, they noticed 24 American flags mounted on a fence near railroad tracks.
“One for each year of Michael’s life,” Linda said.
This August, Michael’s parents will travel to Poland, where their son will be saluted on the country’s Armed Forces Day. Upon returning to the United States for the anniversary of Michael’s passing, they plan to spend a quiet day in Staten Island with their surviving children.
“Being together as a family is the best way to honor him,” Michael’s dad said.
On Aug. 28, let’s honor Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis and his family by placing 24 American flags in front of our homes. The flags pay tribute to the 24 years that an American hero lived, and also to the hours of each day, which we are privileged to spend in freedom.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, 24, was killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 28, 2013. He is being honored by both the U.S. and Polish governments for saving the life of a Polish soldier during the enemy ambush that took his life. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.
Tom Sileo is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of “BROTHERS FOREVER: The Enduring Bond Between a Marine and a Navy SEAL that Transcended Their Ultimate Sacrifice.” Written with Col. Tom Manion (Ret.) and published by Da Capo Press, “BROTHERS FOREVER” will be released in spring 2014. To find out more about Tom Sileo or to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM
Philip Gara LaMarche is a secretive political operative who funnels billions of dollars from undisclosed donors to nonprofits and astroturf groups. But you won’t hear unhinged Harry Reid railing Queegishly about him on the Senate floor. Why?
Here’s why: LaMarche is a militant leftist philanthropist. He’s a protected elite — Columbia University grad, former ACLU leader and Human Rights Watch official — with ready access to the White House. He and the left’s other dark money managers preach transparency and openness, while plotting behind closed doors to secure power at every level of government.
LaMarche currently heads the shadowy Democracy Alliance (DA). In internal documents obtained and published this month by John Hinderaker of the Power Line blog, the group currently describes itself as the “center of gravity” for the progressive funding world. DA enrolls wealthy liberal “members” who coordinate and finance a web of at least 132 left-wing groups. Though some of their members’ and partners’ identities have been exposed, DA takes great care to promise a cloak of donor secrecy “to provide a comfortable environment for our partners to collectively make a real impact.”
While they bash Wall Street publicly, DA leaders have quietly recruited venture capitalists, bankers and hedge fund moguls — along with union bosses and red-diaper trust fund babies — to fund their takeover goals. Public school educators who belong to the American Federation of Teachers, headed by $500,000-plus yearly salaried President Randi Weingarten, should know that $230,000 of their hard-earned union dues go to DA, as Lachlan Markay of the Washington Free Beacon has reported.
While they bemoan “income inequality,” DA brass have wined, dined and wooed 1-percenter plutocrats with swanky get-togethers featuring New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Kentucky Secretary of State and Democratic Senate candidate Alison Grimes, and popular “comediennes” Stephanie Miller and Lizz Winstead.
“Over the past nine years,” the organization brags to potential contributors, DA has “aligned leaders in the progressive movement and political infrastructure” to “achieve victories at the ballot box and in policy fights.” Their agenda spans “social justice,” “climate change,” “voting rights,” gun control, illegal alien amnesty, campaign finance and sustained “strategic investment” to turn red states blue. That’s exactly what DA members Jared Polis and Tim Gill succeeded in doing in once-GOP-dominated Colorado in 2008.
LaMarche previously served as president and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies. As I first reported five years ago, that entity was a Bermuda-based political front stocked with acolytes of progressive billionaire George Soros. The “charity” run by LaMarche dumped some $40 million to help fund the astroturf Health Care for America Now group. As the tax disclaimer for HCAN discloses, “HCAN is related to Health Care for America Education Fund, a project of The Tides Center, a section 501(c)(3) public charity.” The Tides Center and its parent organization, the Tides Foundation, in turn have seeded some of the country’s most radical activist groups of the left, including the communist-friendly United for Peace and Justice, the jihadist-friendly National Lawyers Guild and the grievance-mongering Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The faux populist HCAN, coordinated from 1825 K Street, provided invaluable ground and air support to reinforce Democratic messaging on Obamacare. LaMarche met with Valerie Jarrett for hours-long meetings on at least two disclosed occasions before the health care juggernaut’s passage. By November 2009, he had visited the White House nine times.
I checked the most updated White House visitor logs (as incomplete and shoddy as they are). LaMarche has tripled his visits over the past five years. He is listed 23 times (21 under “Philip G. LaMarche” or “Philip LaMarche” and twice under “Gara LaMarche”). LaMarche also donated $18 million through The Atlantic Philanthropies to a Chicago charity headed by Jarrett.
Friend of Barack and Val. Bagman for Soros. Community organizer for progressive billionaires. Chances are, LaMarche and his operators have affected you, your statehouses, your businesses and your freedom, no matter where you live. Know your enemies.
Michelle Malkin is the author of “Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies” (Regnery 2010). Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM
When I was a small child, one of the most dramatic and effective business boycotts in the history of America occurred. This, of course, was the Montgomery bus boycott. By refusing to ride the bus, blacks who were being discriminated against were able to terminate many discriminatory practices not only in Alabama, but throughout the South. The white-owned businesses were clearly being unfair, and the public transportation system was no better. The actions taken were appropriate and in many cases heroic.
The power of the purse, particularly in a capitalistic society, is mighty, and business boycotts are a potent tool in the hands of the masses to enforce economic and social fairness. Through the use of the ballot and the wallet, we the people have life-or-death power over virtually every aspect of our nation.
Astute business people generally do not make their political views widely known, because they realize that about half of their customers agree with them and half do not. There is no need to unnecessarily create animosity, especially when you are trying to sell products. In the case of Costco, a company highly respected for wise business practices, Jim Sinegal, the co-founder and former CEO, has made no secret of his profound admiration for President Obama and his policies.
For the sake of disclosure, I should reveal that I have been a member of the Costco board of directors for 15 years. There are people on the board of several political persuasions, and we are all friendly and work well together because politics plays no role in business decisions. In the years that I have had the privilege of serving on the board, I have never witnessed a single incident where politics influenced a business decision. Not only would that be unwise, but it would lead to mass resignations and membership cancellations, including yours truly.
Because of Sinegal’s public support of Obama, the recent withdrawal of Dinesh D’Souza’s book “America: Imagine a World Without Her” from Costco warehouses nationwide, just before the release of the movie by the same title, was widely interpreted as a political move — the movie is very critical of the president. I spoke to current Costco CEO Craig Jelinek, who was so absorbed in the business of the company that he had been unaware of the movie prior to the resultant backlash. He readily admitted that those responsible for managing the limited book space in Costco warehouses should have been aware of the imminent release of the movie and retained the book in anticipation of a brisk stimulation of book sales, which had been sluggish.
Costco, once everybody’s favorite place, suffered a major black eye, not because of an inappropriate injection of politics into the business world, but rather owing to an uncharacteristic lack of attention to what was going on in a small segment of the sales portfolio.
Through my budget-management experiences as a division director at Johns Hopkins for many years, and through many tough financial experiences as the president and co-founder of the Carson Scholars Fund, which is active in all 50 states, I gained enormous knowledge of business practices, but that pales in significance to what I have learned as a board member of both Costco and the Kellogg Co. during the past 17 years.
Managing and growing large multinational corporations requires wisdom and experience, and I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with and learn from both politically liberal and conservative business executives. I can honestly say that wise business practices transcend political ideology, and those who intentionally inject their politics into their business do so at their own peril. Their actions will be interpreted, rightly or wrongly, based on their political views.
In the case of Costco and the D’Souza book, lack of awareness was interpreted by many conservative customers as political misconduct because of Sinegal’s views. Although he and I differ politically, he continues to be a huge financial supporter of the Carson Scholars Fund and many other educational endeavors. When he was CEO, he could not sleep at night if someone else offered a better value on a product. He cared deeply about how employees were treated, and he refused to accept a salary comparable to other CEOs in the industry. He also has nothing to do with Costco book sales, nor would he wish to at this point. We have much common ground and are friends, even though we often discuss political issues.
There is no need for political differences to precipitate hostility in personal relationships. We can build a strong, prosperous nation together if we are willing to talk and use our collective strengths to accomplish common goals. We must maintain open channels of communication, and as a society, we must learn to vote wisely with both the ballot and the wallet.
Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University and author of the new book “One Nation: What We Can All Do To Save America’s Future” (Sentinel). To find out more about Ben Carson and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 THE WASHINGTON TIMES
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The dread fear of retirement is living so long that you run out of money. Of course, there will be Social Security, but as many seniors are finding out, that’s not enough to live on. Unless you also have a lifetime pension, the greatest retirement challenge is managing your assets so they last as long as you do. And with low interest rates forcing many retirees to dig into their investments to maintain their lifestyle, the concept of “running out” becomes a distinct possibility.
Dealing with that challenge is the centerpiece of retirement planning — an inexact science, but far better than guesswork or averages. If only we knew exactly how long we might live, much of the uncertainty would disappear. And, in fact, you can get an educated guess at your longevity by going to Livingto100.com and using their calculator.
But even having a timeframe doesn’t eliminate a lot of the uncertainty about future investment returns and potential withdrawal rates. We could all breathe a bit easier if we knew we had an income that would last as long as we do!
But most planning is designed around the average life expectancy of age 83 for a person who lives to age 65. What if you live longer? That’s where longevity annuities kick in.
The concept is simple. You give the insurance company a lump sum of money now, as you retire at age 65. But you tell them you don’t really need any more current income. Instead, you would like to get a regular monthly check starting at age 83 — a check that would last for the remaining years of your life.
The insurance company figures it out. They have the statistics on average longevity. They know they can keep your money and invest it for another 18 years — until they have to start paying you that monthly check. That allows them to promise you a much larger check than if you contract for immediate payments.
Do you want to make that bet on your longevity? Two weeks ago I helped my father celebrate his 93rd birthday, and his older brother just turned 96! So the concept definitely has me thinking!
Facts to Consider
— When to Buy. If you buy at age 50 you’ll receive substantially more income than if you buy at age 65, assuming you live to start collecting. For example, according to an analysis at Bankrate.com, a male who pays $50,000 for MetLife’s longevity insurance product at age 50 would receive annual income of $42,997 once he reaches age 85.
He would receive about half that amount — $21,741 per year — if he purchased the same contract at age 60, and $15,439 if he bought it at 65. Assuming 2.5 percent annual inflation, that’s equivalent in today’s dollars to annual payments of $18,118, $11,727 and $9,422, respectively, in today’s dollars. (Since women tend to live longer, they receive slightly smaller amounts.)
Yes, you could get a much larger check if you buy a longevity annuity at a younger age — but you won’t have a good feel for your retirement income planning until you approach age 65 and know how much you have saved for retirement. That’s when you can do the planning that lets you know how long your assets are likely to hold out at various investment and withdrawal rates. And that’s probably the best age at which to purchase this type of annuity.
— Insurance Company Stability. Also, keep in mind that this is a very long-term contract — even starting at age 65. You’re anticipating payouts that won’t start for years and that you hope will continue many years longer. So you’ll want to deal with a sound insurance company that will be around to keep its promise of future payments starting 20 years or more in the future.
— Inflation and Death. Then there are the twin drawbacks of inflation and death. With the former, you have the concern that if inflation soars, your deferred payout won’t be worth much. Some policies offer inflation protection — but at a steep cost. You might be better off diversifying your remaining investments to include more equities that historically keep up with inflation.
Death protection is also costly. And remember the purpose of this investment is to enhance your life — not to provide for your heirs. If that’s your goal, simply buy more life insurance.
— Investing Inside Your Retirement Plan. These longevity annuities are such an interesting tool for retirement income planning, that as of July 1, 2014, the Treasury Department has said they are not only legal investments for 401(k) plans and IRAs, but that the amount invested in these longevity annuities will not be considered an asset when it comes to calculating minimum required withdrawals each year.
So you may start to see these products offered inside your company retirement plan. But there will be limits. The Treasury rules plan participants can use up to 25 percent of their account balance or $125,000 (whichever is less), to buy a longevity annuity without concerns about non-compliance with the age 70.5 minimum distribution requirements. Those purchase amounts will be adjusted for inflation in the future.
And it’s easy to find longevity annuities to buy outside your retirement plan. Most insurance companies have jumped on the bandwagon. Of particular note is a product from Northwestern Mutual, the Select Portfolio Deferred Income Annuity. It offers the possibility of increased payments because the company issues dividends to policyholders.
Longevity annuities are essentially a bet on your life. Do you feel lucky? It all comes down to that. And that’s The Savage Truth.
Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and is on the board of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. She appears weekly on WMAQ-Channel 5’s 4:30 p.m. newscast, and can be reached at www.terrysavage.com. She is the author of the new book, “The New Savage Number: How Much Money Do You Really Need to Retire?” “Terry answers readers’ personal finance questions on her blog at www.TerrySavage.com. To find out more about Terry Savage and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 TERRY SAVAGE PRODUCTIONS
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“Why do you think President Obama’s job rating is falling, even though the economy is recovering?” the interviewer asked.
It’s a fair question, even though the economy declined 2.9 percent in the first quarter, even though most jobs created in June were part-time, and even though labor force participation remains low.
The fact is that the economy is growing, however slowly; jobs are being created, and the unemployment rate is heading down toward what economists consider full employment. And still the president’s job rating languishes.
What’s wrong with the question is an assumption embedded within it, that what voters seek most from government and political officeholders is economic growth. I think there’s something they value even more: the maintenance of order.
This isn’t what I was taught in political science classes. Political scientists who had grown up in the 1930s’ Depression taught that politics was about “who gets what, when and how.”
Operating on that assumption, political scientists developed rules that explained past election outcomes as a function of economic variables — how much the economy grew in the second quarter of the election year, for example.
Those rules generally worked pretty well at predicting future elections — until they didn’t.
What they don’t explain very well are the political upheavals that come when voters perceive that the nation and the world are in disarray. Americans, blessed with a mostly happy history, tend to take fundamental order for granted. They recoil and rebel when things spin out of control.
Example: The political scientists taught that the big shift toward Democrats in 1874 was a response to the financial panic of 1873. Sort of like the Great Depression.
But further study convinces me it was a rebellion against Ulysses Grant’s military occupation of the South to protect blacks’ rights. Voters tired of violence voted for the anti-black Democrats, who held House majorities for 14 of the next 20 years and won the popular vote for president in five of six presidential elections in those years.
Or consider Republicans’ “back to normalcy” victory in 1920. This was a response to disorder at home (dizzying inflation and depression, waves of strikes, terrorist bombings) and abroad (Communist revolutions, continued fighting in Russia and the Middle East, rejection of Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations).
Closer to our times, Jimmy Carter was rejected in 1980 as the nation faced not only stagflation (inflation-plus-recession) at home and but also an “arc of instability” abroad.
Americans, unlike voters in many other countries, demand the maintenance of order in the world as well in their own nation. From the early days of the republic, there has been an unspoken awareness that what happens in the world affects their own lives.
In the 19th century, American merchants went out into the Mediterranean, American whalers to the Pacific, American missionaries to China and the Middle East.
American troops followed. The Navy and Marines went after the Barbary pirates on the shores of Tripoli. American gunboats opened Japan to the world in 1854 and were stationed on rivers in China from the 1840s to the 1930s.
Which brings us to today. Many things seem to be spinning out of control. Important government agencies are malfunctioning — the Internal Revenue Service, Veterans Affairs. Obamacare is producing higher health care premiums and is on track to deliver more.
Tens of thousands of underage and some not-so-underage Central American illegal immigrants are streaming across the Rio Grande, and the government is flying them to parts unknown — and sending 38 back to their home countries.
Abroad things are even worse. In Syria there is violent civil war, and next door in Iraq terrorists are proclaiming a caliphate. Israel has been forced to launch a ground attack on the terrorist Hamas regime in Gaza.
A Malaysian airliner cruising at 33,000 feet over Ukraine has been brought down by a rocket, probably by thugs armed by Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
The president, in-between fundraisers, has time for a photo-op playing pool in Colorado, but not for one on the border. He has time for only two sentences on the airliner shoot-down before a photo-op and two more fundraisers. First things first.
Not everything spinning out of control is the president’s fault. But his responses so far have confirmed voters’ sense that the nation and the world are in disarray.
This, not economic sluggishness, is why he and his party are in trouble.
Michael Barone, senior political analyst at the Washington Examiner, (www.washingtonexaminer.com), where this article first appeared, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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New York — New York, New York, a wonderful town. (The Bronx is up, and the Battery’s down.)
Sometimes derided in what New Yorkers call “flyover country,” Gotham is nevertheless a microcosm of America with its many immigrant and ethnic cultures, the work of immigrants who first clung together in self-made ghettos with shops, stores and restaurants to recall the places left behind. When these immigrants make enough money, they usually move out to more inclusive neighborhoods.
New York was built by legal immigrants. At Ellis Island, where more than 12 million immigrants made their first stop in America between 1892 and 1954, a tour guide tells the story — perhaps apocryphal, but it could be true — about an arriving immigrant who wore a signboard because he spoke no English, saying he wanted to go to Houston, meaning the street on the Lower East Side, then a Jewish neighborhood. He was by mistake put on a train to Houston, Texas — where he settled and struck oil.
These were the days and years of happier immigration. There was no chaos on the border, few questions about who was legal and who was not. It was difficult for those immigrants to get here and difficult to go back. Everyone came to stay, climb into the melting pot and become an American. New York is a city in constant change, swinging between the pride of e pluribus unum — “out of many, one” — and the discomfort that accompanies multicultural and economic differences. The roiling debate over illegal immigration sometimes leads us to forget that we are all immigrants. Ronald Reagan once remarked that America is the only country in the world where a new citizen is as American as a citizen descended from a forebear who arrived two or three centuries ago.
But New York is also different from the rest of America, with its sophisticated culture in avant-garde art galleries, museums, expensive couturiers, gourmet restaurants and an abundance of upscale organic, vegan and gluten-free markets to suit the precious and the trendy. On the upper reaches of income, the 1-percenters are status-conscious, acquisitive consumers who can afford almost any luxury the city offers.
New York is the melting pot that never quite melts, with some of the poorest driven by hope of “moving on up,” to achieve and become rich in the way of the millions who did it before, and with a shrinking middle class of young people moving away when they want to start families because they can’t afford Manhattan rents.
What draws New Yorkers together today is the memory of Sept. 11, 2001, and the rebuilt ground zero. The new National September 11 Memorial Museum has opened next to the Freedom Tower, rising from the ashes like the mythical Phoenix, testifying to the defiance of an obscene Islamist attempt to humble and humiliate.
The sacred and the secular are mixed at the museum at ground zero, documenting both what was lost and the spirit of what survives. The lost get personalities in portraits with touching detail that rises above grim statistics. Cherished artifacts, a pair of shoes, a pair of eyeglasses, a fireman’s helmet, a medal, bring life to democracy’s Valley of the Kings. Grief remains palpable in the descent into dark reflection, a pilgrimage warmed by hope of never again. A dramatic abstract sculpture created by the force of impact when one of the airplanes crashed into the North Tower between floors 93 and 99, agitates the imagination with pity and fear, steel twisted in agony and loss.
The slurry wall, 64 feet of poured concrete that kept out the Hudson River, survives, a monolith preserved as though an archaeological remnant of an ancient civilization. It’s a triumph of engineering, an emblem of the human spirit, cracked but unbowed. A surveillance video showing the hijackers going through airport security on the fateful morning unsettles but demands attention. Some critics have railed against the use of the word “jihad” in the museum’s narrative about 9/11, but the word is both reminder and touchstone for diligence in the continuing pursuit of evil men who are determined to kill us.
This week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder warned that Islamist fighters from Europe and the United States who went to fight in Syria have learned new technology from bomb-makers in Yemen, and some have been sent home with an assignment to do harm.
The Memorial Museum reminds New Yorkers and the rest of us to love thy neighbor, but beware of thy enemies. Two granite basins of rippling water fill the footprints of the destroyed twin towers, tears of grief and mourning — and of renewal and the will to fight back.
Write to Suzanne Fields at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” To find out more about Suzanne Fields and read her past columns, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.
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