Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Bronze Door Has Been Shut

The Associated Press and FoxNews reports that Pope John Paul II has died at the age of 84.

Image hosted by

May God Bless.

(There will be no puppy pictures posted this week. Pictures will resume next Saturday)
More on Personal Retirement Accounts

Patrick Ruffini reports that 60% of those asked in a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics polls whether they support PRA's do favor the freedom of choice to invest or not. Here's the link. PRA's win when it's framed as a choice and not as a cut. My bet is those framing the question as a cut want to see SS stay as it is. It's all in the wording.

If anyone else has a better idea than PRA's, let's hear it. All I've heard from those who don't want PRA's is basically "it won't work!" and alot of that is because they don't want anything that President Bush promotes. It's the old Bush hatred at work again. Don't just tell me it won't work, show me why and show me what will. Show me something better and I'll go with it. Until then, PRA's are the best game in town.
Number Crunching PRA's

I went back over the numbers I crunched about a week ago when I began thinking about Personal Retirement Accounts. You know, the ones President Bush wants to give all Americans the option to have.

Yes, it's an option. A choice you can make. You do not have to opt in if you choose not to. I like the fact that you have a choice to opt in. I am uncertain of the amount that you can put into a PRA, I had heard it could be your entire "contribution" of 6.2%. Remember, both you and your employer each put 6.2% of your taxable income into Social Security (a total of 12.4%). Then I read 4%. It makes a difference, but when you get into six digits that 2% diference doesn't effect the end result much. It makes more of a difference in the beginning. I wish I could post my findings, but to show the entire twelve years I extrapolated out to would just take too much space. You have to do it for yourself. I'll give you the formula, though.

For the sake of simplicity, we'll use 2% as our interest rate, although in a PRA your interest could be much higher. Interest will be compounded monthly. For the sake of simplicty, we will assume you are paid weekly .

Look at your paystub to get the amount paid in FICA Regular. Multiply that number by 4 to get your monthly "contribution."

example: $100 x = $400 (principle)

Multiply $400 by 2% to get your first months interest. $400 x 2% + $8
Add the interest to your principle of $400 + $8 = $408.

In the second month, you will add $100 per week to your $408 to get $808. Multiply $808 x 2% to get your next month's interest - $808 x 2% = $16.16
Add the interest to your principle of $808.00 =$824.16

In the third month, you will add $100 per week to your $824.16 to get $1224.16 Multiply $1224.16 x 2% to get your next month's interest - $24.48
Add the interest to your principle of $1224.16 = $1248.64

In the fourth month, you will add $100 per week to your principle of $1248.64 to get $1648.64
Multiply $1648.64 x 2% to get your next month's interest - $32.97
Add the interest to your principle of $1648.64 = $1681.62

In the fifth month, you will add $100 per week to your $1681.62 to get $2081.62
Multiple $2081.62 x 2% to get your next month's interest - $41.63
Add the interest to your principle of $2081.62 to get $2123.25

If you add the interest you have received over five months, you will find that you have received $123.25. That is equivalent to more than one week's deposit of $100! That is the wonder of compound interest.

Now, take it out over a year's time. If my math is correct you have deposited $5200 ($100 per week for 52 weeks) and received interest totaling $789.58 for a grand total of $5989.58 in your Personal Retirement Account.

I did my figures in an Excel spreadsheet to eliminate the possibility of me making a math error. Any error would be in the formula. But I don't think I did.

The younger you are, the better the numbers will be. If you are over 55, your Social Security will not be effected. You will not have the option to opt into the PRA, and to be honest, it probably wouldn't be much benefit to you. In all my number crunching, I've found that you have to been in any retirement program for at least 10 years for it to make a real difference for you.

In my case, I will be retiring from my job in twelve years, so I can benefit from a PRA. when I extrapolated the figures out, the end figures were in the high six figures. I still think there must be a mistake, but I can't find it. Even if my numbers are way off, I think any account that gives me even a couple of hundred extra dollars a month can't be bad. And the fact that it will be mine, and I can leave it to my heirs is even better.

It's money that comes out of my paycheck now. It's money that I don't see and so won't miss. I will still get a "regular" Social Security check and a check from my PRA each and every month. This is in addition to my pension check. I should be able to live nicely in retirement.

I honestly don't know why anyone would not want to own at least a part of their own retirement. Yes, I know there are questions in funding. But you know what? Social Security already has lots of funding questions now.

Here are a couple of Social Security facts that the average person hasn't faced:

There is no Social Security lockbox. The government raids Social Security every chance it gets. All that Social Security is today is a a whole lot of IOU's from the government.

There are no individual Social Security accounts. The closest you as an individual come to having a SS account is a piece of paper (or a computer entry) stating that this much money has been paid to Social Security on your behalf.

Social Security will soon be paying out more than it is taking in. The only real question is when this will happen.

There is nothing in Social Security to leave to your heirs. You will receive $255 as a death benefit. If you have children under 21 they may receive a benefit until they are 21. Your spouse may be able to collect on your SS until he or she dies. But, other than those examples, your family will not receive any money from SS after your death. In fact, they may have to pay SS. It happened when my dad died. He died on September 26. We got a letter from SS requesting the return of the September payment for the 27th, 28th, 29th. and 30th. They wanted 4 days of his SS check back. If you die early in the month, say October 3 your heirs will be expected to return 28 days worth of the October payment. Yeah, this is the government that some of you look to to take care of you in your old age.

Black men should be even more in favor of PRA's than anyone else. Do you realize that the average black male does not live long enough to collect more than a few year's worth of Social Security benefits? Sorry, I don't have the average age of death or the average length of time a Black man collects SS, but I do know this fact is true. It will not help a Black man to live longer, but a PRA will help his family. A young Black man today, with a PRA, could leave hundreds of thousands, if not millions to his family.

You may say, I don't have children or heirs so why do I care about having my own account? My answer is, how well do you want to live in your retirement years? Do you want to live in your own home or in a homeless shelter? Do you want to fix your own meals or get meals from a soup kitchen? Do you want to rely on the government for your health care or do you want to make your own health care decisions? Do you want to have a little luxury in your life or do you want to live a bare to the bone existence? I know how I want to live, and I like comfort. It might not be a jetsetter's life, but I won't be worrying about where my next meal is coming from or whether I'll have to live in subsidized housing or even on the street.

The bottom line is that it is up to you as an individual to make sure that you have enough money to live on after you retire or you will be working until the day you die. You may choose to work. If so, that's your choice. I may work after I retire, but it will be by choice, not because I have to. And this is just one more way to make sure that I have that choice.

My question is: are you too lazy to think about the future and to make your own choices or are you going to be a mature adult and think for yourself about your future and how you will live? If you don't want to think about yourself, how about your spouse and kids?

Friday, April 01, 2005

Common Law Marriage

It occurred to me after I wrote the post on common law marriage that I had neglected to mention one important reason, the most important reason, why Michael could not be in a common law marriage with his girlfriend.

You might remember that I gave the legal reason (common law marriage does not exist in the state of Florida). But there was one other legal reason he couldn't be in a marriage relationship of any sort. He was still married to Terri at the time.

KipEsqure, an astute reader, pointed it out by commenting that in NY their relationship would be considered adultery. I sometimes am too literal and too focused on the issue at hand (in this case, the fact that common law marriage is not possible in Florida) to see the main point.

It was one of those, "well, duh!" moments when the light went on.
Still Waiting

An announcement is expected to be made any moment regarding Pope John Paul II's imminent death. The Pope, who has been in failing health for several years, is reportedly in a coma. If he is comatose, he is probably feeling no pain and will pass peacefully into death. This is good to know. I don't want to think of a good man, and this Pope is a good man, being in pain.

Greg Palkot of FoxNews says he does not expect a statement to be made that the Pope is clinging to life, but rather that the Pope has died. And, why would statements be issued saying that he's still holding on. We all know that. So, I agree with Palkot. The next statement made, whether in a few minutes or hours, or even days, will be of the Pope's passing.

May God have Mercy.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Pope John Paul II

I read that the Pope has been given Last Rites. I'm not Catholic, but my understanding is that Last Rites are given when a person is seriously ill, not necessarily because death is imminent.

I feel an attachment to John Paul, even though, as I said, I'm not Catholic. The main reason is that he and my Dad were just days apart in age. They looked a (very) little bit alike. And as a young man, my Dad studied for the ministry. When I would see a picture of the Pope, it would make me think of Dad and that made me feel good.

John Paul is in the last days of his life. A life which has been long, full, and rich. He can look back and be proud of his achievements. He had the courage to study for the priesthood when it was criminal to do so. He was active in the Polish resistance during WWII. He stood alongside Ronald Reagan in condeming communism. He was the first non-Italian pope in centuries. A notable achievement in its own right.

Sandy Berger

President Clinton's National Security Advisor will plea guilty to a misdemeanor charge of stealing classified documents. He knowingly took the documents, put them in his pants and jacket and called it an honest mistake.

Huh? How can it be a mistake when it was a deliberate act? Maybe it was a mistake to commit the crime? And what was honest about it?

And some of the documents are still missing?

Two men....both internationally prominent.....two very different value systems.

Thanks to KipEsquire to mentioning my post on commonlaw marriage at A Stitch in Haste. And for adding me to his blogroll. Please, take a moment or two to look over his blog. Very enjoyable.
Saying Goodbye

A little before the news of Terri's death came over the radio, there were reports that Michael Schiavo had refused to allow Terri's brother and sister in to see her. I believe that he also refused to allow her parents into her room.

I don't know if it's true or not. If it is, I don't know what his motives were in refusing. Assuming it's true, I can't imagine any reason he could have that would make his refusal acceptable.

We are human beings with certain innate needs when faced with death. Especially the death of our loved ones. Saying goodbye is not so much for them, as it is for us. When we aren't able to to say our goodbye's, it eats right to the core of our being. When we are faced with the imminent death of a loved one, we must be able to tell them we love them and will miss them. Even if the words aren't spoken out loud. We, as living, breathing, loving creatures, have to express in some manner our feelings. Some need to be there as the other person exits into the afterlife. Others don't want to be present at the end. We have the choice. When that choice is taken from us, it's taking a integral, primal part of us away. Not just the ability to choose, but to just be there.

Assuming that he refused her family in to see her before her death, Michael was just wrong. I believe in God and an afterlife. And I believe that he will have to answer to God and to Terri herself one day.
Terri Shiavo
Rest in Peace

Terri passed away this morning at the age of 41. The last 15 years of her life were spent in a condition that few people seem to agree on. Was she really in a persistent vegetative state or was she in a minimal consciousness coma or something else altogether? Was she aware of her surroundings? Did she have an awareness of self? Was she abused by her husband, did he terrorize her even after she was in nursing facilities and hospitals? There has been so much information floating around, some of it true, some not. I don't know what was true or what was not.

The last few years in particular have been mired in controversy. One of the things we know was that she never discussed with her husband what she wanted if she fell into a state where she couldn't speak for herself. It's not unusual that she didn't, she was only in her 20's afterall. Nearly immortal. When we're young, we can't think of our mortality. And, at that age, most won't face even the mortality of their parents for years.

I hope that she didn't know that her loved ones, the people she could count on for anything, her parents and her husband, were fighting over her. Her husband wanted to let her go, to terminate her existence on this earth so that she could go on to the afterlife where she would be whole and be totally conscious of what was going on around her. Her parents wanted her to live. They wanted their daughter, they wanted her to have tests and therapy and whatever it would take to give her a better life.

It's hard to let go. I know. I had to let both of my parents go. It was hard even though I knew that they would be together, and they would be healthy and happy. Knowing that doesn't make it any easier, but we have no choice. We have to let go eventually.

I have to believe that both sides wanted the best for Terri. It's how I have to deal with situations like this. I think that several chances were passed by on both sides to do what was right for Terri. There were many time when either her husband or parents could have given up the fight to win their fight for Terri. None of them would. Mistakes were made and opportunities were passed up. I give them all the benefit of a doubt that they wanted to do what was best for Terri.

I also wanted what was best for Terri. I can't begin to guess which was right. I would have had to have known Terri to know what was right. Her parents and husband all knew Terri and they couldn't agree on what was best for Terri or what she wanted. I do know one thing: I believe that God had a plan for Terri. I don't know what it was, maybe to bring interest to living wills, to bring conservatives together in a cause, or maybe there was another reason I can't know. I do know that God always has a plan and does all things in His own time.

I know that Terri is with Him now. Yes, I believe in God and I believe that Terri is with Him now. Terri deserved to be with God because she was God's child. She was loved here, and she is loved in Heaven. She is healthy and vibrant again. She will never hurt or be hurt again.

Rest in peace, Terri. You deserve it.

Monday, March 28, 2005

She's Back!

Not that I was ever gone to begin with, but I'm back on my own computer and I have Internet access. Not only do I have access, but it's wireless. My own personal computer Guru finally set up our network yesterday. We found out that the modem we had (supplied by Bright House) had bit the dust. My Guru switched it out today and we are good to go.

I installed a new wireless keyboard and mouse last night. The keyboard is ergonomically designed so that it should be less damaging to my wrists (hopefully, no carpal tunnel in my future). I just have to get used to it. The split isn't that different, but there's enough split that I do notice it. It has a built in wrist rest and so many buttons that I'm not sure what they're all for or how to use them yet. But, I'll figure it out.

I'm a happy camper tonight.

I like wireless.

I think I see a wireless printer in my future.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Common Law Marriage

I've heard several commentators refer to Michael Schiavo's living arrangments as being a common law marriage. Common law marriage has not been recognized in the state of Florida since, oh, 1967 or thereabouts. Common law marriages in effect at the time were "grandfathered" into the law, but no relationship after that would be considered as common law.

Just living together and having children together does not create a common law marriage. I would guess that all states that recognize common law marriage have certain requirements, but may have some differences. I won't go into what the requirements are because I haven't researched it. The only state I have actual knowledge of is Florida, and as I stated, it doesn't recognize common law marriage.

I learned this in a legal law class I took back in the 80's. It's possible the law has changed since then, but I doubt it.

It's a point, among many in this case, that has been nagging at me.

hmmm....maybe this would be a way for same-sex couples to have a legal relationship?
Ceasing Food and Fluids Can be Painless

This from the LA times. Then, there is this account. How can it be both ways? Maybe because of circumstances? I don't know. I hope I never find out.

If I'm ever in the situation Teri Schiavo is in, I don't want to be kept alive by machines. But, I don't want nutrition kept from me. If my loved ones feel that I am no longer there, remove the breathing apparatus and let God decide when to take me. I trust God to know when He's ready to take me Home, not people who don't know me.

And yes, I have a Living Will.