Saturday, January 25, 2014

Technical Problems

Blogger is not working on Google chrome for some reason and I don't have a keyboard for this iPad.  So there will be radio silence from this end until this gets straightened out.

There hasn't been a hiccup like this in 5 years or so. Hopefully it will be up and running soon.

Until then, talk among yourselves.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

Friday it will be my privilege to return to Catholic High School down the road from me to spend the day with the Econ classes.  I generally go twice each semester. Last year the State of Arkansas began requiring Juniors to have a semester of economics.  I think that's a real good idea for any of a number of reasons.  
Nobody taught me anything about money until my Uncle Howard took me aside after my father died and impressed upon me the value of setting aside money. And while I know virtually nothing about classical economic theory, I know what I have seen as a bankruptcy lawyer.  I saw my portfolio take a hit during the housing bubble.  And I have heard it all out on the swing on my front porch.  

Besides, while I may not know much about econ, I know more than those boys do.  And I have a hell of a lot of fun spending time with them.  

The teacher there is flipping the game plan.  Generally, I lead off with what has come to be known as the "hellfire and damnation" personal finance speech.  Then I come back later and we talk about buying and maintaining a home.  This year we will start off with real estate.  I guess he's got bankers and realtors lined up and he wants the kids to at least be conversant with the concepts before they show up.

Strictly as a matter of coincidence, my church will be hosting classes taught by Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University.  The classes will begin in February but the introductory talk will be tonight.  

In case you don't know Dave Ramsey, he is a popular Christian financial counselor and lecturer who, last time I looked, had a syndicated radio call-in show.  I first ran across him after the housing bubble burst.  He was on ABC's "Good Morning America" dispensing advice to strapped people trapped in houses which were "upside-down" on the mortgage.  

Anyway, Financial Peace University claims on its website to offer "A biblically based curriculum that teaches people how to handle money God's ways."  As I have written before, Ramsey is not peddling snake oil.  And he and I share many of the same approaches to real estate and insurance, for example. I agree with him that money is an emotional topic and that poor choices can ruin relationships.  I can line up 3 or 4 people off the top of my head that can attest to that.  

What I don't believe is that there is a biblical approach to personal fiance.  Not for one minute.  The Good Book also doesn't say anything about science either. But that's another lecture.

Anyway, my Bible makes copious reference to the evils of avarice and greed.  There is that.  But virtually nobody had "investment strategies" in those days.  Unless you consider thou the money changers at the temple.  And Jesus ran them off.   

Why does this matter? Because it implies that any other approach to the subject other than Ramsey's basic "debt-bad, savings good" approach to the issue is not of God.  Further, no "system" will work unless a person has the will to make it work.  As a fellow bankruptcy attorney once told me, the reasons so many Chapter Thirteen cases get dismissed is because "if they couldn't manage their finances outside of bankruptcy, they're not going to be able to do it inside of bankruptcy either." No "system" works if you don't stick with it.

Ramsey also "endorses" financial products.  This strikes me as unprofessional.  But then again, he's not a professional.  Which brings me to my next point.

 There is a difference between taking a class and sitting down with a real financial planner, who is licensed and insured, who will inspect your financial life, misdeeds and all, and render advice concerning the "big picture." Again, we must concede that there is nothing more useless than advice that is unheeded.

Here's my "system" that I share with the boys at Catholic.  When I left the government I rolled my IRA over to a man named Ray who is my financial advisor. Although he is devoutly religious this has not bled over to my business plan.  He has licenses and diplomas from real regulatory authorities and schools and stuff.  We meet twice a year to discuss how things are going.  And things are going well.  Indeed,I do not much think about it.  I pretty much pretend it doesn't exist which I can do so long as we are making money.  And that's OK.  I tell the kids that if you don't know how to invest-and I don't-hire a professional to do it for you. It is money well spent.

I have no debt other than my mortgage.  I have other money put away where I can't possibly touch it.  I tell the boys that I cannot be trusted with a wet match. Knowing yourself can be a good thing when it comes to personal finance.  I know myself enough to know that I don't need to be too liquid.  

I plan to go to the church tonight.  Not that I need to take the course although I concede that it probably wouldn't hurt me any.  But I'm curious about the presentation.  

No, Dave Ramsey isn't a crook or a charlatan and undoubtedly he has helped folks.  He's not selling snake oil.  But neither has he gone broke being Dave Ramsey.  

And his "system" is no more reliable or magical than any other just because it is allegedly favored by the big Certified Financial Planner in the sky.  No plan works unless you stick with it.  None.

And that latter consideration tends to get missed by a lot of folks whether they are diplomates of Financial Peace University or not.  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

Bobby Petrino is a fortunate man.  I don't know how a person could burn a bridge any better than he did when he left Louisville for the Atlanta Falcons in 2005. This was after signing a 10 year extension with the Cardinals.  In retrospect, that's not burning a bridge. Petrino blew it up while it was covered with rush hour traffic that included a school bus from an orphanage.

And while we are at it, let us remember that he was fired at Arkansas, not for having an affair, not exactly, but for having an affair with his hand-picked subordinate there in the football office and then lying to his AD after getting in a motorcycle wreck with said subordinate who was suspiciously young and blond. That's what got him fired.  

And he left in his wake a shell of a football program at Arkansas that has been nothing short of awful the last two years.  

So yeah.  Maybe you might think Bobby would be the last person on Earth, well other than John L. or Lane Kiffen, that Tom Jurich, the AD at Louisville would hire to fill the vacancy left when Charlie Strong left to occupy the Darryl Royal-Exxon Endowed Chair of Football at Texas.  And if you thought that, well, you would be wrong.

Jurich, who pretty much referred to Bobby as everything but a child of God when the Atlanta media contacted him after Petrino had dumped the Falcons for Arkansas, allowed as how he is a "changed person."  Yet and still, the contract between UL and  the prodigal (and supposedly former) rageaholic has a 10 million dollar buyout clause in the event he comes down again with itchy feet disease.  Just in case.

The sportswriters that have written about this have been pretty much united in their sanctimony.  One even went so far as to accusing Jurich of having no shame.

Well, of course he doesn't.  Bidness is bidness.  The athletic department is not in the business of being morally consistent or providing a life lesson to the students that poor behavior, lying and having the loyalty of a rabid dog does not pay.  Leave that shit to the pointy heads in the Philosophy department. 

This is all about money.  Louisville was 12-1 last year and they got a lot of guys coming back.  They are going into the ACC which is at least marginally tougher then the American Athletic Conference.  Hell, Florida State won the BCS title and Duke scared the bejesus out of A&M in their bowl game.  No more Memphises or UConns to slap around.  No time for looking back for the good folks at Papa John's Louisville Stadium.

Bidness is bidness.  Bobby Petrino returns to Louisville and Lane Kiffen gets hired as the OC at Alabama.  It's just about the Benjamins so long as the actual players don't get a cut of the swag.  Because that would be wrong.

One more thing.  Maybe Bobby is a "changed individual." But just in case, I hope Jurich inserted a "no motorcycles" clause in the contract and restricts Bobby's authority to make personnel decisions to the coaching staff.

Just in case.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

My Sunday Feeling

My buddy Don came through town last week en route to San Francisco where he has taken a new job.  He got in on the 30th.  Neither one of us was worth beating.  He had somehow contracted pleurisy and I was taking an involuntary walk down memory lane as I returned to the consumptive ways of my youth.  Eventually, I too was diagnosed with pleurisy and bronchitis.  But I needed to get through New Year's before heading to the doctor.

Of course, my puny condition is pretty much due to having lived in a house with a man who smoked 3 packs a day which I eventually turned into a short story that you can read here if you are so inclined:

This last bout was as bad as I can remember in years.  Even as I type every time I cough I feel like somebody is stabbing me in the back ribs on both sides.  I'm trying to lay off the codeine because I hate taking that shit.  But I am getting better. I react well to steroid injections and horse pill antibiotics.  

I cannot for the life of me imagine driving cross-country with this.  But one does what one must do.  Don's first day on the job is Monday.  As I understand it they have many files for him to dive into right off the bat.  So absent an attack of double pneumonia he had to soldier on.  

Things are tough out there.  He had to close down his law practice in North Carolina due to the slow economy.  Don is one of a handful of lawyers that do insurance coverage work for environmental issues. To make a vast oversimplification, which is the only way I can understand it, when the company he defends receives a claim based on an environmental problem, like a gas leak- or something going boom!-Don is one of the lawyers that decides if coverage exists.  If it does fine.  If he decides that no coverage exists than that decision gets his company sued.

Which is kind of a big deal since if he's wrong and loses in court his company can be held liable for "treble damages" or 3 times the amount sued for.

Like I said, he's considered one of the experts in this somewhat exotic field.  And it took him almost 2 years to find work.  It's a tough world out there, boys and girls.  And it seems to be over-run by lawyers looking for work. So he's grateful and relieved to have gotten back in the game.  

He's back in a city that he loves.  His oldest daughter Caroline flew out to help him get settled in.  What a comfort that must be.  Transitions are hard, no matter if they are for the best.  Being sick as a dog doesn't make if any easier.

As for me, I was glad to have him for a couple of days.  Don likes Hillcrest and he has friends here.  We had a nice get together New Year's Eve.  Neither of us felt at all well but nothing like food and fellowship to take your mind off your troubles.  The Tylenol 2 I popped an hour before the party didn't hurt either and suppressed my cough nicely.  My doctor is the "go-to"guy when it comes to getting through the Holidays with an upper respiratory problem.

But he's gone now and he won't be back anytime soon.  But that's OK.  Transitions are hard and he needs to keep his eye on the ball.  These jobs are tough to get.  

But it wouldn't surprise me if sooner than later his friends from this neighborhood don't find their way out there for a visit.  

Hillcrest is great and everything.  But it ain't no San Francisco.  I predict that his popularity will somehow increase under the circumstances.  

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Goodbye To All That

As I've written before, I don't really make resolutions. The word implies resolve and I don't have any.  But then again, I generally view recipes as mere suggestions.  That's kinda the way I view my plans of what I would like to do, or do differently in the new year.  

First of all, I guess I need to decide whether I am going to work more than I am currently working.  It's funny but I am kind of ambivalent about it.  When I first "retired" I figured I would be sending out resumes by the next January.  The idea of me not working was just unfathomable to me.  

And I did wind up working for a non-profit on a part time basis.  Still am.  But I'm thinking that if I'm going to practice law again, I had better get to it while I still halfway remember how.  I've agreed to serve as a mentor at the law school. So that will be interesting.  We're going to have to finesse the job shadowing part of the duties.

I don't practice law.  At least I don't do it much and I do it out of the house.  But the Dean over there says we will figure out a workaround.

Again, I'm kinda ambivalent about working again.  I have come to enjoy this new life in spite of myself.  I like working out in the morning.  I like not having much of a schedule.  I don't miss talking on the phone all the time.  I don't miss having a bunch of emails waiting on me every morning.  I did at first.  But I don't miss it anymore.  

The money isn't a problem.  I'm bringing home now more than I netted when I worked.  I'm just not saving any money which used to make me crazy.  But now I'm kinda ambivalent about that too.  I have a pretty good chunk socked away where I can't touch it. And it's not like I have an ostentatious lifestyle.  Also as an accountant friend likes to say, the beauty of a pension is that it's impossible to blow.  Well, unless you do one of those stupid assignment things where you assign the future income stream for cash payment for what the actuaries say its worth.  

But I'm not insane.  Some people are.  

So what's new on the agenda for 2014?  I'm going to keep working out with Dennis as long as it continues to amuse him.  I'm going to keep working on becoming a musician again.  Guitar is getting better and my singing during my portion of the Holiday Show for last month's Tales From The South went over pretty well.  

Back in September I foolishly agreed to be the President of our Residents Association.  So far a mob bearing pitch forks and torches hasn't appeared in my yard.  So far so good.

I hope I won't have to make quarterly payments to the IRS next year.  I hope to use that money to do more travelling.  I hope to write more.  And since I have, much to my surprise, reached an accommodation with being useless, what better way to give in to that than by playing more golf in 2014?  

I made new friends in 2013 and I look forward to spending more time with them in 2014.  I would like to start shooting in RAW and learn to do better with Photoshop.  

I would like to get my legal services client's divorce wrapped up.  

2013 wasn't so bad.  2014 has a chance to be even better.  So goodbye to 2013.  Goodbye to all that.  

It took me awhile but I'm finally good with everything and where I am at.  I am in a good spot.  

And I am very, very, lucky to be here.