Taking Stock

So there we sat, my wife and I, looking at the young man sitting across the table, smiling at us.  “Well, you have made it” he said.  “Now it is time to decide how best to invest it.  Tell me a little about how you would like to spend your retirement.”

 

The word “spend” made me a little nervous as our nest-egg had been laid by a very small chicken.  “We have thought about it” we said “and have decided that we would like to concentrate on having a place to live and eating, if you think we have enough to do both.”

 

“That would depend on your risk assessment” he replied.  “Would you consider yourselves risk takers?’

 

“Maybe a little.  We’re here aren’t we?  Chuckle, chuckle.  That’s when I realized he was no longer smiling.  I had always thought Investment Advisers had a good sense of humor, given their fees and commissions.  But in retrospect, I have never had anyone tell me an Investment Adviser joke.

 

After a pregnant pause he asked “Do you have any experience in the stock market?”

 

“No, not really” I replied.  There was one time that I got a tip on an start-up that manufactured slide rules.  It was an untapped market I was told.  No one else was making them.   For some reason, they never took off.  I think it was the marketing philosophy. Standing outside of Walmart with a sign and a cane didn’t work very well.”

 

“I think something conservative would be best for you.  Low risk, moderate gain.  Properly managed I see no reason that we couldn’t grow your investment to a point that you could travel a little from time to time.  Perhaps a two night stay in a Motel 4 in Moline with a comped dinner at Chipotles and a free tour of the public library. How does that sound?”

 

“Excuse me” I said.  “Don’t you mean Motel 6?”

 

“Oh no, that would require an upgrade.  I don’t think we can support that.”

 

“Do you get a commission on any trades you make?” I asked

 

“No, I don’t.  If I did, I could make a lot of trades and cost you a lot of money.  I work on a flat guaranteed fee.”

 

“What does it guarantee?”

 

“That regardless of market fluctuations, my kids will still go to college.”

 

“What happens if the market suddenly drops?”

 

“Well, then we would have to make some adjustments”

 

“What kinds of adjustments?”

 

“Well, for instance, do you really need two cars?   But let’s not worry about all that.  Why don’t I put together an investment portfolio and we can get back together and go over it?” Reaching into his pocket he took out two logo pens and a business card.  “Here” he said.  “These are for you.  If you have any questions, just call me.

 

Standing, I reached in my pocket and said “and this is for you” handing him my card and a slide rule.  If you need any more, let me know.

From the archives.  First published March 2014

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Weddings

I guess there was a wedding today, or so I am told.  It seems that a Prince across the pond took a bride.  Quite an affair I understand.  Lots of dignitaries and thousands of common folk, anxious to see  them and more importantly, to be seen.  Limousines, horse drawn carriages, mounted military, and enough pomp and circumstance to please even the most casual royal watcher.

But somehow it pales in comparison to another wedding I attended.  I was 22 and she was 18.  The cathedral must have been booked as we were married in the vestibule of our local Methodist Church. I didn’t walk her down the aisle as there wasn’t one.   My uniform was a cheap suit (my only suit actually, purchased for the occasion).  My bride wore a white dress, sans train or veil. I thought she was beautiful (still do).  Throngs (maybe 20) of commoners attended the wedding.  Actually it was members of her family and mine.  The ceremony was followed by a gala reception consisting of the same 20 people going to my brides house. Congratulations fell like confetti, even from those that were quietly saying this union would probably only last a year. Champagne flowed freely from the case sitting on the porch and being watched closely by my father in law to assure, how should I say this, equal distribution.

By late afternoon, we left for the first leg of our ‘honeymoon’ consisting of her father giving us a ride to the downtown hotel where we had booked a room for our first night together.  The following morning we embarked on the second leg by getting a ride with my new wife’s aunt and uncle to their house in Maine where we spent the next two nights.  We then took a bus  to Bangor, a trip of about 32 miles, since I had to be at work the following day.

Somehow the whole affair was overlooked by both the press and the media.  We just kind of blended into the populous and started trying to figure out what to do next.  We did the things we thought were right and struggled as most do to work out the kinks.  We argued, agreed, cried, laughed, and told each other we loved them every day.  We stayed busy and faithful, not noticing the years going by, or how much we had come to depend on each other.  We just held each others hand and explored the next tomorrow.

I guess we got more things right then we did wrong as we are still together today.  So I feel I can speak with some authority when I propose a toast to Harry and Meghan. ” I raise a cup (actually a long neck) to you as you embark on your future together.  May you find comfort in the knowledge that the bond, begun today, will only become stronger.  That the days you share will be chronicled by the memories stored in your hearts. May the ‘you’ in each of you become the ‘us’ in both of you. May the vows you took today become your legacy.  And may you both know the joy of loving each other for 56 years, as have we”.  Salute.

 

 

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Stealth Marketing

It is no secret to anyone that is responsible for feeding their family that the price of everything just keeps going up. A hurricane, flood, drought, or fire even in remote areas of the world always seems to have an impact on something that I eat. It’s just incomprehensible that, after forking over a hundred dollars, the clerk hands you one bag. ONE BAG. And, you even had to supply the bag. Bummer.

But that, it seems, is just the tip of the iceberg. As the price goes up, in many cases, the quantity goes down. I call it stealth marketing. It started when my wife would send me to the store with a list (so I wouldn’t forget anything), pinned to my shirt (so I wouldn’t lose it). Often she will review a recipe and add the missing ingredients to the shopping list, in minute detail. No independent thought required. However, while looking for that 16 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes, I could only find 14.5 oz cans. Further investigation revealed that you can’t buy a 16 oz can of anything anymore. And, it didn’t end there. The 5 lb. bag of sugar is now 4 lbs. The old 16 oz. tin of coffee is now 11 or 12 ozs., depending on brand. The bag of juice oranges that used to be a dozen is now 11. And that great deal I got on the 2 lb. bags of frozen shrimp turned out not to be quite so good when I realized they are now 1 1/2 lb. bags. At least a dozen eggs is still a dozen eggs. Probably because there is no additional profit to be had by raising smaller chickens and a carton on eleven would be pretty obvious. However, don’t be surprised if today’s large is tomorrows jumbo.

And don’t even get me started on the paper goods. It seems like we go through a lot of facial tissue, so I looked at the tissue count. There was a time it was 100. Our last box said 76. And yes, their ‘two ply’ is not only smaller, but thinner. And, if they add perfume or lotion, they can get you for a few more cents. Then there is the toilet tissue, probably the most diabolical of all the products. I guess most of you know that suddenly, the roll is a lot narrower then the dispenser, by easily an inch or more. But here is what I would find humorous if it weren’t so sad. Besides narrowing the roll, they have also increased the girth of the cardboard tube. and decreased the size of the toilet sheets. And you wonder why I collect coupons.

So there you have it savvy shoppers. Just leave your wallets and purses by the door and plunge right in. This whole thing is making me cynical. I was eating a White Castle slider the other day. If you don’t know what they are, they are burgers about 1/4 inch thick by about 3 inches square and are served on a bun about the size of a Parker house roll. I noted that every burger has 5 holes in it. I wondered why so I looked it up. It says they cook faster and don’t have to be flipped. They sell over 500 million a year. So just how much meat do you think they save over time by punching those little holes. Just sayin:)

From the archives.  Original published March 2014

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A Piece Of Cake

“A piece of cake” is a phrase I have used freely over the years whenever I know a task at hand is going to be really easy.  To my wife, it is a phrase that has come to represent the foray of the unenlightened into the realm of the unknown.  It seems that some of my “simple” undertakings have not gone so well and of course, those are the ones she remembers. I, however, not to be deterred, am fully confident in my ability to execute timely and successful solutions to virtually anything.

I think it began when we bought our first house back in the early seventies. I realized that we had a leak in the upstairs tub fixture that had left a wet spot in the dining room ceiling.  So, with the resolve of a seasoned handyman, and the ability of a five year old, I began removing the plastic tile from the wall around the fixture, breaking several in the process. I then cut out the wallboard and quickly found the source of my problem. Fortunately, the God of the mechanically challenged smiled on me and a quick twist of a pipe wrench stopped the leak.  Now the only task remaining was to put everything back together and what to do about the broken tiles.  I solved the tile problem by buying some new ones in a chrome finish and created a pattern with the blue tiles.  By Sunday afternoon I was finished and strutting like a rooster in a henhouse.  It wasn’t until several weeks later, while pulling paneling off a wall in the adjoining bedroom that I found, hidden behind it, the access panel to the plumbing.  It probably would have been a twenty minute fix.

Another time while living in Louisville, I came downstairs one Saturday morning, flipped the switch to the kitchen light, and nothing happened.  It was a florescent light, so my first thought was bulb.  After removing the panel, I discovered a bulb unlike the long tubes I was accustomed to.  This one was a curvy thing and I didn’t have any of those.  So off I went to the local hardware store who didn’t have any of them either.  By late morning, I located one at a Home Depot and took it home,  swapped out the bulbs, and hit the switch.  It worked just as well as it had that morning.  Now what could it be.  I hate electricity because I am scared of it so I wasn’t too keen on having to do anything too extensive.  However, it never occurred to me that I was probably already over my head.  I called a friend that was familiar with electrical issues and he said it was probably the exciter.  It would be a black box mounted in the fixture.  Only three wires.  No problem.  I got the model number off the exciter and headed back to Home Depot.  My light  bulb guy told me that I would probably have to get a new one at an electrical wholesaler.  Great.  I looked one up in the yellow pages and brought the old exciter with me.  Yup, they had one but they were a wholesaler to licensed electricians.  It took some convincing to get him to sell me one at retail.  By late afternoon, I had the new exciter installed, and again, no lights.     That is when my wife started going around flipping switches and suddenly, the light went on.  Of course.  A defective switch.  Why hadn’t I thought of that this morning.  I asked her which switch she had hit, thinking the other one must be defective.  She said “both of them but one of them was only half off so I flipped it to on”.

I will refrain from what I said, but, if you are a husband or a tinkerer, or you are a self professed handyman, you would recognize all the words.  Probably have used them a few times yourself.  And no, I am not referring to “a piece of cake”.

 

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Kitten’s In The Barn

   Stepping on the porch, he stamps his feet to remove the mud from his boots before taking them off and placing them beside the door. As he enters the kitchen, he immediately smells the familiar aroma of coffee brewing.

  “Breakfast’s ready, have a seat” his wife says. “How’re the kittens”?

  “Damn cat” he says. “Should have run her off when she showed up last year. Don’t know why she stays where she ain’t wanted. Nothing but a nuisance is all she is. Now got all those little ones running around. I hate cats”.

  She places a plate before him and pours him a cup of coffee. He hungrily digs in, sopping up his eggs with a warm biscuit. He tips his cup and pours some coffee in his saucer, blowing on it to cool it off. “Damn cat” he mumbles.

  When finished, he carries his dishes to the sink, rinsing them and setting them on the side board. When her back is turned, he quickly grabs the saucer and stuffs it in the pocket of his bib overalls. “I’m going to milk the cows” he says.

  “Take care” she calls, pretending not to notice. In another moment he is gone.

  He grabs his stool and bucket and sets to milking, the warm liquid quickly consuming the container. He rises and walks into a distant stall. Bending down, he pulls out the purloined saucer and fills it from the bucket in his hand, placing it beside the squirming litter, watching as they stagger to its brim. A hint of a smile escapes from the corners of his mouth.

  “Damn cat” he mutters. “Don’t know why she stays where she ain’t wanted”.

One of my first posts September 2012

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Strange

A few days ago, I changed my WordPress security status to Private.  I’m not sure what it did except, I have not had one reader since I did it, so I suspect I killed it.  I didn’t plan to make a change but I had some strange things happen.  Specifically, in the last three weeks, I have picked up close to a dozen new followers.  Normally, that would be a good thing, however, these followers are not WordPresser’s nor can I find where they have ever accessed my blog.  The only thing they have in common is that they all have weird addresses followed by outlook.com.  As such, unlike WordPresser’s, they do not show up anywhere as a follower ( as far as I can determine) so that I can block and/or remove them.  They just get an email every time I post something. If any of you have had something similar, I would love to hear from you.

It may all be a lot of nothing and I am just being paranoid, but I have had my identity stolen once before so I have become somewhat of a cynic.  I start thinking “now how could someone use my blog and to what end.”  Nothing good comes to mind.  But since I don’t want to be the only one that reads my blog, I have reset my security options to Hidden instead of Private.  I think that will open me back up on a somewhat more limited basis then Public, but I’m not sure.  It should, I think, remove the requirement that you have to sign in to read me.  I guess I will know if I start to get hits again. So, hello world.  Can you hear me now???

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If Only

If only when I was still young
Before most of life’s songs were sung
Lost opportunities, my mistake
When life was there for me to take
If only I had been aware
While still my course I could prepare
When days were many and my dreams
Were mine to take with ease it seems
If only I had acted then
And settled not for “could have been”
Said all the things I should have said
And chose my path instead
If only I had done all that
Realized what life is valued at
Thrown myself into the fray
What would my life look like today
How would things change from then to now
Undoubtedly I can avow
Much different then I could foresee
And I wonder, would I still be me?
If only

Originally posted February 2015

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