Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Joseph in Egypt

“Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without integrity, you really want them to be dumb and lazy.”
Warren Buffett

I would imagine most of the people reading this blog would be familiar with the story of Joseph in Egypt. For those of you who haven’t heard the story it goes something like this.

Joseph, the second youngest and favorite son of the Patriarch Jacob, was given a dream that his brothers would bow down before him. His siblings, tired of the brat, decided to kill him. On the way to do the deed, one of the brothers decided it would be more profitable to sell him as a slave to some passing Arab traders. The Arabs sold Joseph to a rich important man living in Egypt. He proved such a diligent and trustworthy person that the rich man put him in charge of his entire house. The rich man’s wife, liking what she saw, tried to seduce Joseph. Rather than betray his master, Joseph ran off as fast as his feet could carry him. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” The wife told her husband that she had been raped by Joseph. Our innocent hero ended up in jail. There he interpreted dreams for his fellow inmates. One of them, a servant of Pharaoh, after being released from prison, remembered Joseph when the wise men and magicians of Egypt failed to interpret their master’s dream. Joseph was paroled. He correctly interpreted the Pharaoh’s dream and provided him with wise counsel that simultaneously carried Egypt through seven years of famine and made Pharaoh the wealthiest man on the planet. While Pharaoh retained his status as Chairman of the Board, he was so impressed with Joseph that he made him Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Egypt, Inc. In this position Joseph was able to save his entire family group from starvation. When his brothers were kind of sort of apologizing to Joseph, he blew it off stating, “You meant it for evil. God meant it for good.”

Amy Rees Anderson, as a divorced single mom, built a start up, MediConnect Global, into a powerhouse cloud based medical records service that she eventually sold for $377 Million! Along the way she discovered that while any sufficiently bright person could be trained to write code or make a sales call, it was nearly impossible to develop character in her employees. They either got it while growing up or they didn’t. Therefore, she started emphasizing integrity in the hiring process over the normal requirements like proper credentials and experience. Here is the list of what MediConnect was looking for in new employees from one of their ads.

Integrity: Always do the right thing for the right reasons.

Respect: Treat everyone as if they matter equally because they do.

Attitude: Act with positivity in both words and actions.

Dependable/Trustworthy: Do what you say you will do.

Flexible: Adapts to change and receives and shares ideas for improvement.

Open & Implements Feedback: Ongoing willingness to improve.

Goes the Extra Mile: Go above what is expected in every task.

After hearing this list in one of her Youtube lectures, I came up with the obvious question, “How do you tell who is lying about being a person of integrity?” For the second time I sent off an email to Mrs. Anderson. For the second time she demonstrated respect to a random stranger pestering her with questions by providing an answer in less than one business day.

Here is her answer.

“When interviewing we used personality profiling tests to help us get a sense of honesty called the CPP by Wonderlic. It doesn’t work perfectly but it is a good indication to start with. Also, doing reference calls is an important piece of that as well. Then once the person is hired that is when you truly get to know their level of integrity – watch their behavior and see if it matches what they say their values are. Behavior ends up being the best indicator.”

Time to tell the truth: If you were an employer wouldn’t you want to hire people, like Joseph, who meet all the criteria enumerated on the MediConnect list? I promise you that if you managed to find somebody like that you would create a job out of thin air to get them and keep them on your team. Believe me. I have seen it. At a Government laboratory I watched a janitor, a contractor employee who could hardly speak English. Unlike his buddies, he didn’t stand around gossiping and complaining, while taking cigarette breaks. After he had finished his assigned tasks, he worked at sweeping out an entire building that was about five eights of a mile in length. Eventually, he finished this Herculean task; I believe for the first time in the sixty years of its existence. One of the shop foremen was so impressed that he wore out his management until a special entry level job was created for this particular individual. He honored his patron with continued excellence in filling his new role as a facility mechanic.

Remember, God was working for Joseph because Joseph was working for God. I like to think that I have walked in a few of the MediConnect virtues most of the time and all of them at least some of the time. I know for a fact I have failed to walk in all of them all of the time--not even close. Still, I have tried to take the high road even when betrayed by circumstances. Twice in my career I suffered a serious injustice at the hands of wicked men. On each occasion, I heard a friend speak Joseph into my life. They told me, “They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” Even though I was angry that these events happened and in the second case I couldn’t see how God could possibly use what happened to me for good, I heard those words deep down in my soul.

I am here to report that on both occasions Joseph was spoken into my life, God redeemed the situation in ways I couldn’t have possibly imagined. If you are walking the MediConnect virtues, the universe is watching. God has a way of setting things right over the course of a lifetime. If you don’t live your life with integrity, it is unlikely that you will find success and fulfillment in this world. Even if you do, the universe is watching. Psalm 73 assures us that God has placed these people on a slippery place. Their end will be their destruction. This is not your concern, but keep on watching. Over the course of my lifetime I have seen the wicked in my workplaces come to a bad end too many times for it to be coincidence.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Your Problems, My Problems, The World's Problems

As I was heading down the railroad grade towards on my morning walk, I was hard at work finding solutions to our nation’s economic and political woes. It occurred to me that it was a lot easier and more pleasant to unravel the world’s problems than it was to solve my own problems.

Once on a flight back from Denver to Washington, I noted that the man sitting in front of me on the airplane had a thick Washington Redskin’s playbook. Although I didn’t then know who he was, it was obvious he was a coach. I told him quite seriously, “You better not let people see your playbook.”

Looking a bit concerned he asked, “Why?”

I informed him that then people like me would tell him how to do his job. I added with a touch of sorrow in my voice, “I have been telling the coaches of the Washington Redskins what to do every Sunday for over twenty years. They don’t listen to me.” We had a good laugh.

Sadly, he didn’t listen to my Solomonic wisdom either. After a few years, like all football coaches, he was fired. Currently he works for the Atlanta Falcons. I wish him well.

But who is to blame if I don’t heed my own advice to me?

I think if we are honest we usually know what caused our problems with money and we know what we need to do to make changes for the better. The real problem is that doing what needs to be done is usually hard and quite painful. There is also the looming possibility of another failure.

Maybe you lost your job. If so, you might have to give up a dream. It happens to professional athletes all the time. Some of them go on to successful second careers. Some, who have invested their millions wisely, spend the rest of their lives playing golf in Hawaii with their buddies. Some end up dead of an overdose, alone in a dark alley, or doing hard time in prison.

Perhaps you are a salesman. You know you need to make more cold calls. Personally, I am not cut out for that life. I don’t know how many times a day I could stand hearing the words, “No! Go away!” However if you are a salesman, you know what it takes to get your numbers up.

It is a lot easier to remain in some familiar place where no one is demanding that you do anything to better your life. It is hard to seek out new horizons, new friends, and new opportunities.

But if what you are doing doesn’t work. Please try something else.

If you honestly don’t know ask God, your higher power, or the universe according to your understanding of things. As the Apostle James observes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

If you spend the necessary time asking yourself hard questions about your situation; if you honestly look deeply with clear unblinking eyes at the truth of your life; I believe you will find the guidance you need to overcome your problems.

However, (and this is the hard part) once you know the truth, Wisdom is proven correct by her deeds. James also observes, “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What is Living in The Forest of Your Mind?

This morning while walking through a part of the forest covered in a thick dark tangle of brush, I heard the sound of an animal off to my left. It was too big to be a squirrel and it was close to the trail. Quicker than the speed of thought my lizard brain asked my higher brain, “Should I prepare to fight or should I run away?”

My higher brain began to create stories. First it told me the sound was probably just a deer, but it quickly added, “What if it is a bear?” For just a instant I felt a wave of fear. Then it subsided as I continued down the trail.

I will never know what was hiding only a few feet away from where I was standing. Most likely, the creature was telling herself stories about the bad intentions of the big man, “He has stopped and turned towards me. Is he getting ready to pounce?”

It wasn’t totally ridiculous. I have seen a bear perhaps twelve miles from where I was standing. Bears have been spotted on the mountain that is less than five miles away. However, this experience did cause me to ponder the value of some of stories that I tell myself, particularly the ones I choose to believe.

We are all limited by the stories we choose to believe. Our failures or our unwillingness to try to change always come with a story. We didn’t have enough money. We had a bad husband. We didn’t have a good enough education to get into the college of our choice. The evil bankers ruined the economy, so we can’t find good jobs.

Telling yourself what you don’t have--never helps. Telling yourself what you can’t do-never helps. Nobody cares what you don’t have or what you can’t do. What you can’t do or what you don’t have is never going to improve your financial situation or any other challenge you face.

Instead try telling yourself a different kind of story. I finally started walking on a regular basis after years of telling myself what I couldn’t do due to the limitations of a old lower back injury, arthritic knees, and a heart arrhythmia. One morning during my final vacation before retirement, in a moment of sheer frustration I told myself, “You can walk around the block.” So that is what I did. Fairly soon after that, I was walking 2.5 miles a day. Then I stalled out at that level for a year or more. Finally my daily totals started creeping up. Today I am walking 5.25 miles on most days, although sometimes I stop at 4.25 miles.

No matter how bad your financial situation, there is something you can do to make it better. Maybe you could sell something to raise a little cash. Maybe you could find a crummy part time job delivering pizzas. That is better than nothing. You aren’t going to hear this from many personal finance authors, but maybe you could apply for Government assistance. No one wants to stay on food stamps for the rest of their lives, but if you are in trouble that is why the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) exists. You and your family have paid taxes to support others. If you need a little help don’t be ashamed to take what the law provides for your benefit.

Just don’t let the thought of a bear in the forest stop you from going out for a morning walk. Ninety nine times out of hundred, the bear isn’t there. If the bear is there, chances are he isn’t any more interested in causing you any problems than you are in causing him any problems.

If you really have a bear infestation in your neighborhood, buy a shotgun. Just don’t let the bears (real or imagined) ruin your life.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Kids Wealth and Consequences

I am currently reading Kids Wealth and Consequences by Richard Morris and Jayne Pearl. Although it is a book written for seriously wealthy parents who desire to hand off the family assets to their children in a responsible manner, I recommend it for any parents who want their children to have a healthy relationship with money. It is a difficult read. The authors are not in the business of providing answers. They are in the business of asking serious questions with psychological and spiritual overtones. They provide examples to illustrate the problems involved in raising children who know how to handle money as a component of a healthy well balanced life. They also provide illustrations of how the well intentioned actions of the best parents can backfire in unplanned disasters.

It turns out that academic studies prove that the old sayings are true.

“Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.”
American Proverb

“Rice paddies to rice paddies in three generations.”
Japanese Proverb

“The father buys, the son builds, the grandchild sells, and his son begs.”
Scottish Proverb

“Wealth never survives three generations.”
Chinese Proverb

Wealth has a way of redistributing itself. Over the passage of time, a sense of entitlement and a lack of motivation can lead children to dissipate the family fortune. A single mistake in the second or third generation can wipe out a fortune--forever. Even if the money is wisely managed in the second and third generations, a growing number of children and grandchildren can lower the value of a share of the inheritance into a number that can guarantee a comfortable lifestyle, but not enough to provide significant bequests to the great grandchildren.

Parents, no matter if you are rich or poor, your children are watching you. They will learn how to handle money by studying your actions. A recent study found that 87% of parents believe that their children will learn everything they need to know about money at school. In fact, during my K-12 years, I learned essentially nothing about the management of money in the classroom. Given what I see, I don’t believe this situation has improved in the slightest. If you don’t believe me, the same study indicated that 90% of schoolchildren stated that they learned everything they knew about money from their parents.

Let’s see how that is working out in the real world.

62% of high school seniors failed a personal finance exam.
12% of high school seniors scored a grade of C or higher on this exam.

Parents, they’re your children. You are responsible for showing them how to handle money. Don’t believe for a minute that incredibly important job is going to be handled by the school system unless your child attends one of a very few private academies that actually include basic financial literacy as a part of their curriculum. The book actually mentions some financial “boot camps” provided by trust companies and banks for the progeny of high net worth parents. After reading about one of these things that is offered by one of the University of California campuses, I found myself thinking, “Can I go? Please? Please?”

Alas, at age 64 it is too late for me. I will have to learn it on my own and as I do, I will share it with you.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

It's Your Money

The key to managing your money is mindfulness. It is your money. More importantly, it is your life. How you choose to live your life and spend your money is your decision. If this blog had a subtitle it would be, “Exploring Pathways to Financial Freedom.” I am not in the business of providing my readers with a one size fits all answers to their problems. Instead, I offer proven options and questions that I hope will help you begin your journey to financial freedom.

Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and relax. Let go of all the emotional baggage, all the hatred, all the anger, all the bitterness, all the regrets associated with money that are weighing you down When you get quiet, open your eyes and look directly into the money equation as it applies to your life as it is and your life as you wish it could become.

Money In = Money Stored + Money Spent

That equation integrated over the course of your lifetime will define your relationship with money. It is all you need to understand to begin your journey.

For most of us, Money In is our paycheck. Whether we are employees or independent businessmen we are deciding every day to exchange a piece of our life for a medium of exchange and a means of storing value we call money. If you think your life is worth more than you are earning, develop a plan to increase your earnings to a level that you believe is more appropriate. It may be painful to realize why the market doesn’t understand or appreciate your value as a human being. Overcoming past mistakes and misunderstandings about the nature of life and money may take a considerable amount of time and effort. It took me a while to comprehend why the world did not value a degree in History and English Literature. Then it took me three years as a full time student to clear a path to a new career.

There are individuals who decide that there is no dimension of their life that can be measured in dollars. They join a monastery or find a way to live off the land. I know and respect some people who have chosen this path.

The big green money machine employs a multitude of highly intelligent marketing professionals, salesmen, and bankers backed by the finest computers money can buy that are programmed by statisticians and psychologists who understand your behavior better than you understand yourself. They are hard at work night and day devising new methods to separate you from your money. They will only be too happy to turn you into a debt slave, but you have the power to say, “No.” On the other hand, I will never tell you how to spend your money. That is your decision. If you want to live in a $100 a month trailer out on somebody’s back forty and spend your money in finest restaurants in town; that is your decision. If you want to make frugality an art form so you can invest more money to finance your dreams of an early retirement; that is your decision. You decide how to balance the money equation so it reflects your values and your desires. Don’t allow the big green money machine to make those decisions for you.

It’s only money.

That may sound like a strange thing coming from someone who has made a study of the use of money, but it is only money. Even if you end up in bankruptcy court (I pray this never happens), no one is going to take you out behind the courthouse and shoot you; your children will not be sold into slavery; the workhouse and debtors prisons exist only in the novels of Charles Dickens. At worst you will be given a chance to start your financial life a second time. No one will lend you any money for ten years or so, but unless you suffered an uninsured medical emergency, borrowed money is most likely what started your problems in the first place.

Become aware of your money. Watch it mindfully as you earn it, as you use it. From month to month watch its ebb and flow.

All I ask is that you make the attempt to understand the basic truths of money management. Just try to apply these principles to problems in your life. Then watch what happens, carefully, without judgment, fear, anger, guilt or shame. If you find a method that works, keep using it. If after a reasonable length of time something doesn’t work, discard it. Then look for something new.

In the end it is only money.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Labor Day 2015

It isn’t a good story.

94, 031, 000 Americans were counted as not participating in the labor force in the most recent unemployment numbers. Some of them were laid off as they approached retirement. Age discrimination is real. Unable to find a job, they started collecting early Social Security. Even though the American workplace is safer than at any time in our history and medical advances coupled with changes in labor law allow more injured employees to return to their jobs, 10,988,000 Americans (an all time record) are collecting disability benefits. Some American workers have just given up. After spending a year or two looking for work, they are no longer actively seeking employment. Instead they sit on their sofas, drinking beer, watching TV, and listening to their wives’ complaints. For nine years, I lived on the edge of this world. Now both of those factories where I once worked are gone. The Government no longer continues to consider these “discouraged workers” a part of our workforce. Labor force participation is “stuck” at 62.6%, the lowest number in 38 years. To put this in perspective, 38 years ago in 1977 women were only just beginning to enter the workforce in large numbers. Alahambra Investment Partners notes in one of their recent reports that, after 93 months, the number of full time jobs has recovered to prerecession levels. However, during that time, the population continued to grow. Essentially, after accounting for population, there are still 13.6 million full time jobs missing from the American economy!

Prior to the crash of 2008, the employment/population ratio measuring jobs that required a high school or college education normally ran above the number for jobs not requiring a high school diploma. During the so called recovery, these numbers have flipped. The new jobs created since 2008 are typically low paying jobs for unskilled workers. The ratio for jobs requiring at least a high school education remains stuck at recessionary levels. Zero Hedge notes that the 1.4 million factory jobs lost since 2007 have been replaced with 1.5 million jobs for food servers and bartenders in the amenities & hospitality industry. Many of these new jobs were created as part-time positions to avoid the 30 hour limit, one of many perverse incentives found in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Expect this situation to grow worse as the recent bear market continues to intensify.

The bifurcation of America is continuing. The new comfortable middle class (what was called the upper middle class) and the new poor both continue to grow at the expense of the shrinking traditional middle class. This phenomenon is examined in depth in two books that I highly recommend.

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam

Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010 by Charles Murray

One of these was written by a conservative/libertarian. One was written by a liberal. Although they propose different solutions, both define the problem in remarkably similar terms.

Let me rephrase their ideas in my language. Sixty years ago, although class differences certainly existed, there were fewer philosophical and behavioral differences between lower middle class blue collar workers and white collar professionals. Although they lived in different houses and drove different cars they shared the same communities, communion at the same churches, membership in the same lodges, and they sent their kids to the same public schools. They believed in an American dream that stated something to the effect that high moral standards, hard work, and self improvement would ultimately be rewarded.

And they were rewarded! For the first time in human history an unskilled worker willing to perform mindless tasks in a noisy unpleasant environment for 40 to 50 hours a week could reasonably expect to support a wife, two kids, and a house payment and after 30 to 40 years enjoy a comfortable retirement funded by a company pension, Social Security, and his own personal savings.

Today the new comfortable middle class lives in different communities than what remains of the blue collar middle class. While a smaller number of this growing educated elite still attends church, they are actively engaged in organized community activities. At least the next generation of my coworkers at the laboratory have impeccable moral standards, a solid work ethic, and they are constantly engaged in self improvement, both training and credentials for their own careers and activities to enrich the future for their children.

Because they still believe in the American dream, they consistently engage in behavior that will allow them to realize that American dream.

Things are not going so well for the American high school graduate with no particular skills. We have shipped 20 million wealth producing industrial jobs to countries like China and allowed roughly 20 million immigrants (legal and illegal) to compete for the unskilled and semi-skilled jobs that remain in our country. This situation is only made worse by automation technology, regulations (particularly environmental regulations) that have shut down entire industries, and a tax code that rewards companies for off-shoring jobs and profits while punishing them for keeping jobs and profits in this country.

Realistically, even with both parents working full time, it is difficult for many families to maintain a middle class life style. Gradually more and more Americans are coming to the conclusion that they don’t have a chance. When they decide that the deck is stacked against them, their behavior changes for the worse. They drop out of high school. They quit looking for employment. They have children out of wedlock; this jumps the probability that those children will grow up in poverty from 8% to 40%, a five fold increase! They become involved in drugs and the criminal justice system. This is a metanarrative that almost guarantees a life of poverty and despair.

I believe our elected representative should view Jobs as Job #1.

If it creates wealth producing jobs in the private sector, it is good.
If it hinders the creation of wealth producing jobs in the private sector, it is bad.

If it incentivizes the poor to work harder and more hours, it is good.
If it incentivizes the poor not to work, it is bad.

If it protects the middle class from unfair foreign completion, it is good.
If it destroys the middle class through the use of unfair foreign competition (including H-1B visas), it is bad.

If it rewards the rich for investing in enterprises that produce wealth in this country or that brings wealth back into this country, it is good.
If it rewards the rich for investing in financial abstractions (hedge funds shorting derivatives in virtual entities such as SIVs) or enterprises that produce wealth in other countries and leaves it there, it is bad.

The purpose of this blog is to help people better understand the money equation so that they can live a better life.

Money In = Money Stored + Money Out

Writing about the right hand side of the equation is pretty easy. Most of it is purely mechanical. Balancing the money equation using a zero sum budget requires nothing beyond grade school math. Helping others jack up the numbers on the left hand side of the equation is much harder. Even when I can clearly see opportunities that exist for some people, convincing them that it is possible to obtain a better life can be terribly difficult. The cost of the game I successfully played twice, going back to school and getting another marketable degree, has increased at 5 times the rate of inflation. Over a trillion dollars in student debt is crushing the Millennial Generation. Even the entry level industrial jobs like the one I found during the recession of 1973, putting rolls of cloth in burlap bags, have gone away to other countries.

Jeremiah 8:20 The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved.

I offered this prayer for those who seek employment back in 2009. It is needed more than ever.

A Prayer For Those Who Seek Employment

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Law of the Sacrifice

“You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”
Steven Wright

This relatively innocuous Venn diagram intended as a career counseling tool was presented as an exhibit of everything wrong with our modern consumer based economy during the initiation of a thoughtful Facebook discussion of the Christian and the purpose of life. While I have plenty of issues with our modern debt based consumer economy, I find this diagram nothing more than a useful but inadequate method of visualizing our legitimate search for self actualization. No two dimensional diagram can fully capture the complexity of the choices made by a man or a woman over the entirety of their allotted three score and ten.

While it does a pretty good job as a conversation starter for exploring our gifts, aspirations, and the practical realities of life in this material world, it fails to address our relationship with God. It also fails to consider the consequences of our choices over time and how those choices might echo in eternity.

Once we become adults, it is necessary that we work in order to support and care for our family. There is a problem here. Work is part of the curse. If someone is willing to pay you to do something, there is something wrong somewhere. If it was all that wonderful you would be paying him to get to do it. So then, how do we go about living our life as close to our personal understanding of whatsoever is true, noble, right, pure, and admirable as possible in a fallen world? The Bible has a great deal to say about hard work, honesty, and high levels of personal integrity in business dealings of all sorts. We are reminded that we do not work for man, that in fact we are working for God. I believe that is true whether we know it or not since someday each of us will have to answer for what we have done while living in this body.

The Bible tells us how we should work, but it doesn’t tell us what career path we should follow. We are given free will to make those kinds of decisions. In this country we have been given more possible options, more freedom and opportunity than has been typical down through most of human history. However, exploiting our opportunities will require the sacrifice of something good to obtain that which is better.

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

A farmer holds a handful of seeds. He could sell them today and buy a couple of beers down at the corner store or he could grind them into flour and bake a loaf of bread. Or he could take a gamble based on faith, hard work, and trust in our Lord that the rain and sun will, in due season; turn his handful of corn into a hundredfold harvest.

I left the workforce for three years in order to obtain a degree in mechanical engineering. I lost the monetary cost of that education. I lost three years of opportunity cost that would have been worth something on the order of $60,000 in gross income. I have never worked that hard before or since, but in return I was able to leave the factory floor for a better life in a research and development laboratory. I was also more than able to recover a great deal more than the $60,000 I lost over the course of a 27 year career.

Choosing a career is a very difficult decision. Most of us make that initial choice during a time in life when we are the least suited to make a decision of that magnitude. At eighteen, the age of maturity in our culture, most of us have no idea how good we really are at anything, we have little understanding of what the world needs or how the world works, and we certainly don’t understand the basics of economic reality in 21st century America. Yet, we make decisions that are sometimes irrevocably destructive. Some of us are more fortunate. It only cost me three years to recover from a mistake in choosing a college major that I loved, in an area of strength, that unfortunately had nothing to do with what the world needed or anything to do with the economic realities of the 1970s.

Even if we have managed to grasp that little blue star in the middle of the Venn diagram, our responsibilities do not end with our occupation. We have continued duties beyond the workplace. In many instances, our ability to fulfill these obligations rests on not only our career choice, but on how we choose to use the fruits of our labor. If we consciously choose to live on less than we earn rather than using debt as a tool to fulfill our desires, it is likely that we will have a surplus that can be invested in the future; our own retirement, our children and grandchildren, our community, our faith. All these very desirable goals require time, money, patience, and a willingness to sacrifice what would be good to enjoy today for what would be even better tomorrow.

We are only given one life to live. How we live that life is important. However you choose to define it, try to your life as close to that little blue star as possible, never forgetting your God or a future you may never live to see.

You can still be a blessing long after you shuffle off this mortal coil.