Thoughts for the new Year

This is not a complete guide, but thoughts on how I got to where I am now. 

My Niece, Becky, just graduated from college and has a plan for her future education.  Her plan to graduate was a lot like the one I and her father Rick had.  It wasn't a matter of if, but it was when!  We both persevered in the effort to get there and applied our efforts to the result.  The goal to graduate just consumed us until it came to fruition.  For some people, it was easy, for others it was hard.  Whatever it is to you, do it until you succeed.

Very soon after I got to Vietnam,  my unit was hit with a mortar attack that killed a bunch of people and wounded many more.  I think that in the rebuilding effort of that attack, I realized that life in combat was binary.  You either lived or died.  There was no good or bad, trained or untrained in the toll.  Either you are alive or dead.  Now that I am much older, I realize the same in our life is true.  What you do with the time you have is the important thing. I, for one, do not want anyone to grieve when I am no longer alive.  I want them to celebrate that this big old guy was able to live life in a way that brought me much happiness.  I can hope that you share this happiness, but I don't live my life for that thought.

I read one day that even the most mediocre plan worked well is better than best plan if you don't work that plan.  I have attended many workshops that gave us blueprints on how to plan our life.  There are many ways to plan and many ways to work.  One of the first steps was for me a dream.  Thankfully, Barbara shared with me a lot of her vision for the future and between us we have been able to work to get there.  I would recommend that you start by putting your feet up and dreaming of what you want the future to look like.  Rich, famous, well fed, respected, healthy or just what you see the future looking like.  I would encourage you to divide you life up into segments.  The near term is this year and perhaps up to 3 years.  Next would be 4-10 years and then 10+ years.  It might even be that how and where you retire might be your vision.  I think age is a major factor.  I would then ask you to put these visions in writing.  If you look at a vision, what are the steps do you need to take to get there?  You might even break these steps into smaller steps and make them goals.  A quick and dirty listing of how you can accomplish these steps is a plan.  Let me tell you that not every plan can be accomplished in one year.  What you can afford in this year would be your budget basis.  Keep looking at this plan and someday you will be a lot closer to accomplishing your plan.

Many years ago, I was in the Guard in Topeka and one of the guys I worked with was a Financial Planner and agreed that one weekend he would look at our finances for an evening of dinner and the chance to meet my family.  Cheap at twice the price.  I guess I had just not put the pen to the paper and written down just where our retirement plans were headed.   One question we had was just how much did we think we needed in retirement.  To put it mildly, we were almost way cheaper than the reality of the cost, but also in the amount we would have.  After a short period of looking at what we had, it was clear that what we had been doing was way over planned.  His advice was "Just keep doing it."

In the area of finances, we had a talk with my grandfather in Arkansas years ago.  He retired in his 50's and told us that his way to retire was to ensure that he saved at least 7% in his personal savings.  We all know that the Federal Government saves 7% through Social Security but Curly (MY Grandfather)  said he recommended 7% above any Government program.  If you start down that road, the first step will seem large but once you start getting promotions and higher pay grades, you just keep doing that and you won't really miss the money.  For Barb, she had the KPERS that teachers contributed to but she aggressively also put money in IRA's early and then the 503b retirement program.  I put money in IRA's and the Civil Service program.  I found out that I could buy the 3 years of Military Service as credit in the Civil Service retirement program and jumped on that like a duck on a June bug.  When they revised the retirement system, they offered some of the old guys a chance to buy into a 401k  and I hit it full force.   The end result of this we have a great life and are able to share with our son and his wife in ways we didn't think possible.

One thing we did is because we moved a couple of times with the Guard. We were kind of made aware of the appreciation in real estate over time.  Barb found a couple of properties and we were able to rent them to pay them off while we were working.  Now, there is a profit being reaped that is far in excess of where any investment program would have taken us.  Yes, at least once a year when the taxes are due, we do have to give a significant part of our cash to the County for taxes.  Oh well.

Let me warn you up front that there are a lot of people that will separate you from your money and not look back.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  What ever you do, read about the investment first and understand what it completely entails. 

Good Luck in 2014.


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