Thursday, June 30, 2011

What would you do with $1million

I think I saw this question on Facebook recently (I never respond to these types of things) and today was reading a few financial blogs that explored similar territory. Most of us (myself included) like to daydream about what we'd do if Ed McMahon told us we'd won the Publisher's Clearinghouse or what we'd do if Bill Gates suddenly included us as one of his charties.

But it struck me that most of the people reading this WILL have $1million in their lifetime. If you work from age 25 (assuming a late start) to age 65 and make an average of $25,000 a year, you will have earned $1million. That's only about $12.50/hour.

So, what will you do with the $1million you will earn?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How much trouble can we get into?

My friends over at ChristianPF did a blog post on why it's important to have $1000 set aside in an emergency fund. I commented that sometimes that's not enough and other agreed. I was reminded of the first time I saw this, although at age 10 I know I didn't understand it.

My older brother and his roommate were preparing to take me for a weekend of sailing on a local lake. They loaded up the sailboat, a tent and camping supplies for the weekend and the three of us (and their dog) were ready to go. Just before we left, my brother asked his room-mate how much cash they had. They totaled the bills in their wallets and my brother said "how much trouble can we get into?"

When we got to the lake, we took binoculars and found an island suitable for camping. We prepared to sail to the island and realized we'd left the rudder and daggerboard back home. Not good for sailing. We decided to paddle the sailboat to the island, my brother and I would set up camp while his roommate made a trip back home for the pickup. When the roommate got back, he flashed his headlights at us (no cellphones) and my brother set out paddling to pick him up.

Did you know there are laws preventing the use of boats on the water after dark without lights? In hindsight, this seems like a good idea, but at the time we didn't know. My brother was picked up by some sort of lake patrol who escorted him back to our island. Since I was watching I knew something bad was going on, so I picked the only defensive weapon I could find, an axe, and went to defend my brother. I'm sure the lake patrol thought it was funny, to be greeted by a 10 year old boy with an ax.

The fines were due immediately and my brother paid them. The lake patrol took him to get his roommate, which created another funny story, but not for today. The next day, we sailed the lake without problems.

The moral of the story is to always think "how much trouble can we get into?" Car troubles can easily run into hundreds of dollars and if you need your car for work, that's an emergency. Heat/AC troubles can exceed $1000 and in SC weather, a breakdown can be an emergency (and we frequently use both in the same week in spring/fall). The question of how much you need in an emergency fund is based on "how much trouble can we get into?" If you rent an apartment, you can probably get into less trouble than a homeowner.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Libya and the War Powers Act

It looks like Congress doesn't know what to do about Libya. On the one hand, they are frustrated that President Obama hasn't asked permission for his actions there, on the other hand they don't want to publicly say that he can do what he's already doing (see story here). The real question is, does the president have the authority.

The War Powers Act came into being when Richard Nixon was in power and the Vietnam War had been going on forever. John Kennedy sent troops there and the US never officially declared war. Congress tolerated it through his short time in office and through Johnson's. After Nixon became president, Congress decided to tie his hands.

Presidents since then have complained about the constitutionality of the law. But they also followed it. There seemed to be a delicate balance of power, not completely unlike what the framers of the constitution wanted. President Obama has stated that he didn't think the law applied, the biggest reason being that we don't have troops on the ground.

Actually, I support the president on this, but there has to be some caution. The next president (in 2012 or 2016) may be a Republican and may use this argument also. In fact, I've found myself agreeing with the president a lot more lately, his decision to surge in Afghanistan, his decision not to pull all troops at once, his decision to leave troops in Iraq, his decision not to close Guantanamo. I think he's come to the realization that this presidential job is a lot harder than he believed when he asked for the job.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Regrets, I've had a few... too few to mention

The subject line is from a song sang by many different people, best done by Frank Sinatra. It ends with the line "I did it my way." The song comes to mind every now and then, not for the ending, but for the line I put in the title, the line about regrets.

I've always said I lived my life without regrets. I think most people feel that way. The country group Rascal Flatts sings about it in their song "God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you." Even the bad things in life have a way of working out. Darius Rucker's song "This" says "maybe it didn't turn out like I planned, maybe that's why I'm such, such a lucky man" says the same thing. Without the bad things in my life, I wouldn't be where I am today. The things that don't kill you make you stronger. All of those kinds of ideas.

So of all the bad things that have happened in the past, all of the mistakes I've made and all of the really, really stupid things I've done, all of those were good? Is that the rational conclusion of all of this? Or maybe, just maybe I SHOULD have some regrets?

Just thinking right now, more to come....

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is heaven just for Christians? Apparently atheists think so

All dogs go to heaven. You've seen the movie. You know a friend who is a different religion and you think they go to heaven. Or you believe that a loving God wouldn't send anyone to hell, so everyone must go to heaven.

Well, it appears the American Atheists disagree. This article quotes David Silverman the president of American Atheists as saying "Heaven is a specifically Christian place." The article basically says that the city of New York has renamed a street to "Seven in Heaven Way" to honor seven who died in the 9/11 attack. As a result, the atheists aren't happy.

Silverman said that "all memorials for fallen heroes should celebrate the diversity of our country." Now I would have thought that the memorials should point directly to those fallen heroes, but I guess I'm wrong. He also said "these heroes might have been Jews, they might have been atheists" which implies to me that he hasn't even tried to find out. It would be interesting to find out if he would change his mind about the street name if he learned that the seven heroes were all indeed Christians. I kinda doubt he would, atheists seem to want to eradicate every mention of heaven and God. Maybe we'll have to start calling these words the "h-word" or the "G-word".

But the one thing I took from this article was the atheists believe that heaven is uniquely Christian place.