Monthly Archives: January 2020

THE PREDICTORS OF SUCCESS/FAILURE

Whether it’s business or life, here are some suggestions on what to strive for.

8 Traits Shared By Those Who Succeed

• An eye for opportunity

Many successful entrepreneurs begin by sensing a need, then moving quickly to fill it. This is either an entirely new product or service, or something as simple as opening the only children’s clothing store in a large mall.

• An appetite for hard work

Most entrepreneurs work long, hard hours. They focus on their real priorities, especially when times are tough. (Those who avoid the tough problems by burying themselves in their original area of expertise often fail.)

• Discipline

It’s not just how hard you work, but the way you work that counts. Successful owners/managers resist the temptation to do what comes easiest. Instead, they do what is most essential.

• Independence

Typical entrepreneurs have a strong drive toward independence, plus the ability to be a good team player when the need for cooperation arises.

• Self-confidence

Entrepreneurs must be extremely self-confident to accept the risks involved in starting a business. This helps them overcome enormous obstacles to achieve their goals. In addition, they can temper their self-confidence with objectivity and change course and cut losses when necessary.

• Adaptability

Successful entrepreneurs adjust to the changing demands of a growing business and develop the skills to deal with them. They become managers of other people’s work so their business can grow quickly and achieve spectacular success.

• A focus on profits

Running a business brings many rewards—independence, community prestige, personal satisfaction—but entrepreneurs never lose sight of the need to make a profit. They know that return on investment is the ultimate measure of success.

• Self-awareness

Almost ALL entrepreneurs start with some weaknesses. Those who succeed recognize their limitations and are always ready to seek and use outside help when the situation demands it.

7 Mistakes That Can Kill Your Business

• Running out of cash

In the euphoria of starting a business, it’s easy to overlook the gap between making the first sales and banking the money. Often the wait is too long and many new companies run out of cash. A cash-flow budget helps you predict highs and lows in time to take corrective action fast.

• Not knowing your customers

Changes in your customers’ preferences and your competitors’ products can leave you in the dust—unless you get to know who your audience really is, what they want now, and will likely want next.

• Doing it all on your own

You might be the key to everything but you cannot DO everything and grow at the same time. Even modest initial success can overwhelm you unless you hire staff and delegate responsibility. But how do you hire the right person in the right place at the right time—and at the right price?

• Ignoring employees

Motivating and managing your employees is one of your greatest challenges. More employees mean more “people problems.” Left unresolved, they can destroy morale, productivity and profits.

• No business plan

If you rely purely on instinct to guide your business instead of a written plan, you’re headed for trouble. A plan helps you focus on where your company is going and why…and how you’re doing along the way. Creating a plan is simple, if you follow the guidelines

• Computer chaos – you have to be literate

Computers offer many benefits, but unless you know how to harness their power, you risk a nightmare of confusion and waste, in time and money. Learn the key decisions you should make before buying or changing.

• Ignore the numbers

It’s not how much money you have in the bank. As an owner/manager, your primary goal is to make a profit. You need to know where you stand on a regular basis, with a timely system of recording and analyzing key financial data.

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THE RISING WAVE OF REDISTRIBUTION POLITICS

Prices for things like homes, education, and childcare have advanced well beyond what’s affordable on a median income, leaving them behind previous generations in achieving several common American milestones.

Why are they struggling to match the success of their parents? Why are they saddled with financial burdens that appear to be outsized compared to their incomes? What happened, and what can be done?

At the moment, millennials are getting their answers from the Democratic presidential hopefuls. And they’re telling young voters that the economy is currently skewed toward those who already have assets. Recent tax reforms benefits corporations and older generations. The only way to fix the inequities in the current system is to forcibly take more assets from those who possess them through taxation and redistribute them through social programs. It’s simply a matter of identifying those who will pay more while directing the benefits to those who are best served.

This is the messaging you’re hearing from nearly all of them: Warren, Harris, Booker, Bernie, Buttigieg, Beto…even de Blasio. It’s a message that probably doesn’t resonate with many people over 50, but that’s the point. We’re the generations that were able to cobble together small but growing incomes to gather the markers of successful lives. We had car loans, home loans, and some of us even had student loans, but they were within reason given our income. As more women went to work, we put our young children in daycare and paid for after-school care, but again, the cost was well worth the benefit of the extra income from the second earner. While the message may not resonate with us, there’s no question that we will be the ones required to pay.

It’s too early to tell if Trump will be re-elected in 2020, or if the Republicans will retain their majority in the Senate. It’s likely that at least one of those two things will happen, which will slow the progress of the redistribution machine. But 2022 and 2024 aren’t that far away. As time goes on, younger voters will continue to gain more clout on the electoral maps. And by then, we’re likely to have suffered the next recession, which will only make things worse.

We need to pay attention to what the younger generation is demanding—and expecting—from the government, because it will directly affect our bank accounts and investments. From healthcare to childcare, there are several areas of life where we are likely to provide significant support, transferring assets from older to younger generations. The programs will be big, transformative, and expensive. Looking at some of the proposals from current Democratic candidates, we can get a sense of what will happen down the road.

The recurring theme in all of this is simple: Hang on to your wallet!

Young Americans Lagging Behind

The Census Bureau shows that the rate of homeownership in younger groups remains well below the long run average, even though the homeownership rate among older groups has recovered to pre-financial crisis levels. Just under 60% of Americans 35 to 44 years old own a home, whereas the national average rate of homeownership is about 65%. Thirty-six percent of those under 35 own homes, compared to the long run average of 40% for this age group. These numbers started falling during the financial crisis, bottomed in 2015, recovered a bit for two years, then went sideways in 2018.

The reason for falling homeownership is obvious: money…or rather, a lack of it.

Immediately after the financial crisis, lenders were strict in requiring large down payments. Even though housing programs have relaxed and now will offer loans with near zero down for first-time buyers, prices have run up so fast as to put the prospect of homeownership out of reach.

As for children, the U.S. birthrate just touched an historic low. The United States needs 2.1 children per woman of child-bearing age to keep the population steady, replacing each parent plus a bit for mortality and those who don’t have kids. In 2018, the birthrate fell to 1.72.

The numbers weren’t consistent across all ages. Teenage births dropped dramatically over the past decade, which is good. But births to women in their twenties were down overall, while births to moms in their early thirties were flat, and those to moms over 35 ticked higher.

The reasons for not having children, or even starting later in life than previous generations, are easy to find. The New York Times surveyed 1,858 young adults, ages 18 to 45, last year, asking why they aren’t having their ideal number of children. The respondents could list multiple reasons. The top five responses were:

• Cost of childcare: 64%
• Not enough time: 54%
• Economic concerns: 49%
• Can’t afford more children: 44%
• Financial instability: 43%

Again, the issue is about money…but Millennials are also finding themselves preoccupied during peak child-producing years by continuing efforts in education. That’ll become even more so the case for the members of Generation Z, who are attaining levels of education well beyond what the Boomers and Generation X achieved. The rate of high school graduation—not GED, but actual graduation—has increased from less than 80% in the 2000s to 85% today. College graduation rates have remained steady at about 68% of those who enroll, but a larger percentage of the younger generations are giving college…the old college try. Almost 40% of Millennials and Gen Zers earn a college degree, which is slowly dragging the overall rate of college grads in the population higher.

Of course, all this schooling comes with a financial cost. Tuition has long outpaced income, and now student loan debt is far more common. Americans carry more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, and the burden is generational. Forty percent of people under 30 carry such debt, while only 20% of those over 30 days they have any.

Among those graduating college, 70% will enter the workforce already owing money, and many others who tried college but didn’t graduate will also run into debt. The scary number being thrown around is that the average student loan det is about $38,000, but that number skews toward those who get post-graduate degrees, most of whom go on to careers that give them an income sufficient to pay their loans and still meet their goals.

The real issue lies with the typical undergrad, or even those who never graduate.

According to the Pew Research Center, students who earn a bachelor’s degree and take on student loans leave college with a median balance of $25,000. It’s not the eye-popping average of $38,000, but it’s not chump change, either. It’s a car you can’t drive, or a down payment on a home you can’t afford. Think about how long it took you to save your first $25,000.

For those who try college but don’t graduate, the median loan balance is $10,000. A lot less than the average, but remember, this is for people who don’t get the benefit of the degree.
And it’s not just that costs are shooting higher; they’re also increasing at a much faster pace than income, either putting milestones out of reach or saddling newly minted adults with prohibitive costs.

With a chasm opening between the younger generations and their financial goals, it’s no surprise to see them migrating toward a political camp that promises to address social inequities, and to do it with other people’s money.

The Growing Slant on the Young Voter

Over the past dozen years, male and female voters from each generation have zigged and zagged politically, with some getting more conservative and others becoming more liberal. The differences range from minuscule to moderate, except for those of one group: Millennial women.

As Pew Research charts show, this influential group has moved dramatically to one side of the voting booth.

From 2002 through 2017, conservatives gained ground among three groups: both men and women in the Silent Generation, and Millennial men. But the gain of any group that stands out is for Democrats among Millennial women, jumping from 54% to 70%. Because of their numbers, that transition more than offsets the growing conservative tendencies of the Silent Generation in past elections, and it’s set to seriously tilt the scales in elections to come.

In the 2018 mid-term elections, more voters under 50 turned out at the polls than voters over 50, the first time that’s happened since at least the 1970s.

By 2020, 23% of the electorate will be over 65 years old, but the boomers and older generations will be just 40% of voters, down from 70% in 2000.

As more young, educated, financially strained voters go to the polls, they will be looking for answers to their economic ills, and they will find them in the plans promoted by candidates like Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

They will vote for the social programs, but older, outnumbered voters will pay for them.

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LEFTOVERS FROM 2019

The Best Movies of 2019
Every year, my first blog in the New Year has been the movies I enjoyed the most in the previous year.

This year I’ve only had four so I couldn’t devote a whole blog to the subject; usually we have eight or 10 movies. Movies for adults are getting scarce; oh well, less support I’ll give to Hollywood.

Official Secrets is the story of Katherine Gun (Keira Knightly), a Brit intelligence specialist who handles routine classified info and comes across a memo from the NSA (US) asking the Brits to join the US in collecting compromising info on UN Secretary Council members in order to blackmail them in favor of an invasion of Iraq.

Feeling this was an unjust war, she leaks this memo to activist anti-war journalist. She confesses to the authorities. The article creates quite a stir and is defended by Ralph Fiennes in an outstanding performance.

It’s a good flic!

Fast & Furious is a fast-paced, remarkable, true story of the visionary car designer Carol Shelby (Matt Damon) and the fearless Brit car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) who together bottled corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for the Ford Motor Company and take on the dominating race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1966.

Dark Waters, inspired by a true story, a tenacious attorney, Mark Ruffalo, uncovers a dark secret that connects a growing number of unexplained deaths caused by one of the world’s largest corporations. In the process, he risks everything—his future, his family and his own life to explore the truth.

Well done!

The Farewell. The film follows a Chinese family who, when they discover their beloved grandmother has only a short while left to live, decide to keep her in the dark and schedule an impromptu wedding to gather before she passes. Billi, feeling like a fish out of water in her home county, struggles with the family’s decision to hide the truth from her grandmother.

Terrific on all accounts!

Hope 2020 will be better for adult movies

*****

Iran Drone Strike Signals Significant Escalation in Mideast Tensions

President Trump says he ordered the drone strike that killed Iran’s top military leader, General Qassem Soleimani, top planner of Iran’s misdeeds in the Middle East, to avoid a war.
Trump’s action, apparently supported by his military advisors, will raise the level of intercourse between the US and Iran. No one is sure how that will evolve.

Soleimani’s influence has already begun to fade but Iran will try to make the most of it.

*****

Americans waited two years for the Mueller report, then they couldn’t agree on what it said.

*****
Trips I Didn’t Get To Take

If you’ve been following our blogs, you know we’ve traveled quite a bit. Gabriele and I have been in over 80 small countries and in seven continents.
Because of some health and physical issues, my traveling days are over.

Here’s the list of places I still wanted to travel to:

• Suez Canal
• Israel (Return)
• Jordan (Petra)
• Turkey (expanded)
• Nepal
• Britain
• Tibet
• Northern Lights
• Northwest Passage
• New Guinea
• Montevideo, Uruguay
• Madagascar
• N.E. Canada

*****

The political left has gone to great lengths to force corporations to defund conservative and libertarian organizations and we’ve responded in kind.

Six corporations—Ford, ConocoPhillips, John Deere, GM, BP and Caterpillar—withdrew from the U.S. Climate Partnership, a corporate-green alliance pushing climate change regulations, after we convinced them that we’d make their continued membership controversial and costly for them.

John Deere & Company withdrew its membership for USCAP immediately after we launched a month-long advertising campaign on local television over its membership.

Stories about the ads appeared in its local press, including the Des Moines Register, Quad-City Times, and Dubuque Telegraph Herald, and also in the national media.

This negative press coverage was sufficient to force Deere to cry uncle.

Caterpillar dropped its membership after we recruited major Caterpillar customers to vow to stop purchasing the company’s products unless it stopped supporting cap-and-trade and funding USCAP.

The six withdrawals from USCAP were very significant. They meant that the group lost $600,000 in fees EVERY YEAR. The blow was so severe that soon after USCAP closed.

*****

So how did all this press corruption happen?

In 1983, 50 companies controlled 90 percent of the American media. Today, six conglomerates control the same 90 percent. They are National Amusements (CBS, MTV, BET, on and on), Disney (ABC, ESPN, Marvel, on and one), TimeWarner (CNN, HBO, TBS, on and on), Comcast (NBC, Dreamworks, Universal, on and on), 21 Century Newscorp (Fox, NatGeo, FX, on and on) and Sony.

*****

Don’t think outside the box…think like there is no box.

Death leaves a heart ache no one can heal.
Love leaves a memory no one can steal.

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