Thursday, May 26, 2016

To Market, the Stock Market, to Grow a Nest Egg

May 26, 2016 is an anniversary of sorts. On this day 120 years ago (in 1896, you do not have to do the math!) the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) made its first appearance. The DJIA, a number representing a price-weighted average of stocks, allows investors to track whether the stock market is up or down over a specific time period. The DJIA initially listed 12 company stocks.

Americans today have a stake in the market. Whether individual stocks and mutual funds are invested in personal accounts, or money invested by an employer or insurance company for the employee’s future use, we count on long-term investments to fund vacations and college educations, rainy day events and retirement.

Although the financial markets received negative publicity, much of it deserved, following the dot-com bust and the Great Recession earlier this century, stock ownership provided a path to prosperity for individuals for generations, and not just in the United States. The Venetians began trading securities in the 1300s, and in the following centuries a number of European cities established exchanges. The Philadelphia Stock Exchange, established 1790, began the United States’ involvement in equity trading.

One example of a 20th century investor who believed the market a path to future security and prosperity was my Aunt Nettie.

A century ago – in the roaring 1920s - Aunt Nettie invested in AT&T stock. She was young, single, independent, hard working and smart. A lot of Americans invested in the stock market in the 1920s, many losing fortunes when the market tanked in 1929.

My aunt did not panic. She kept her stock, putting the certificates in a drawer and, for all practical purposes, forgetting about them. She reinvested dividends in additional shares.

Decades passed. Nettie married, returned to school, and always worked, eventually becoming nursing administrator of a New York City hospital.

Meanwhile AT&T survived the Depression and World War II. The company prospered as a growing middle class participated in a consumer-oriented society becoming addicted to the latest products and technological innovations.

AT&T did so well it caught the attention of federal trustbusters, forcing the company to split into smaller entities. The 1984 divestiture resulted in seven regional telephone companies dubbed baby bells, and an AT&T focused on long distance telephone service, manufacturing, and research and development.

Aunt Nettie received stock in all the new companies.

AT&T was not one of the original 12 DJIA companies (it was not publicly traded in 1896), but included in 1916 when the index expanded to 20 companies. Over the years other corporations were added, some removed, and currently the DJIA  comprises 30 companies . Other indices proliferate today, providing more financial information while at the same time confusing investors.

My aunt was one of millions of Americans willing to take a chance and invest in his/her future, and the country’s future, by buying stock in publicly held companies. Aunt Nettie left a legacy of confidence in a secure future while accepting the responsibility of planning for that future, ideas too many people do not adopt and practice today.

Happy anniversary DJIA!

FYI – General Electric is the only company of the original DJIA 12 still in existence trading under its original name.

Here are the rest of the original 12 DJIA companies and their status today:

American Cotton Oil Company - part of Unilever
American Sugar Company - became Amstar in 1970, then Domino Foods..
American Tobacco Company - Broken up in 1911.
Chicago Gas Company - part of Integrys Energy Group, Inc.
Distilling & Cattle Feeding Company - part of Lyondell Chemical Company
Laclede Gas Light Company - still in operation as The Laclede Group
National Lead Company – name changed to NL Industries 1971
North American Company - Broken Up in 1946 (not in the DJIA from 1896-1946; only in the index in 1896 and again 1928-30).
Tennessee Coal – merged with U.S. Steel 1907.
U.S. Leather Company – bankrupt in 1952.
United States Rubber Company – name changed to Uniroyal, acquired by Michelin 1990.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Women and the Men Who Insult Them

Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.
~Khalil Gibran

Verbal attacks on women proliferate these days and are especially cruel to women deemed ugly by public figures. The insults are thrown at women not because of their physical appearance, but as a result of displeasing the pontificator, usually by disagreeing with a political point of view.

Physical chemistry is a funny thing, and everyone does not agree on who is stunning and beautiful, cute and good-looking, or unappealing and unsightly. Ugly in these public oratorical free-for-alls is defined as individuals men find unattractive because the women do not kowtow to the male VIP. Recently certain male public figures, such as the Republican presumptive Presidential candidate, have elevated insulting, mocking and denigrating adversaries to an art form.

Why is it so difficult for some men to view women as real people?

And why do some women ignore all the negativity unleashed on women and support and defend misogynists, defined by as a person who hates, dislikes, mistrusts, or mistreats women?

I can understand Trump’s family, and specifically his wife and daughter, defending the man. A supportive family is important to a politician vying for President. Not that Trump considers himself a ‘real politician’. But being a faithful, if sometimes untruthful, supporter is one of the requirements of a Presidential candidate’s family.

But what about all those other women?

What about the Anne Coulters of the world?

I realize some women want to be taken care of, their goal in life to hook a rich husband. But if that is not possible – most of us are too old and/or flawed to be considered for Donald’s wife #4 – why lavish attention on the man and ignore his insolence and incivility?

Trump is not the only man to disparage women, recently or in the past. Ex-Pa. Governor Rendell predicted Trump would lose the Presidential election because of the votes of "ugly women." He recanted and apologized, but the negativity continues…

Today anti-women diatribes are accepted by a segment of the population, many relishing the innuendoes and attacks by politicians and trash talk hosts such as Rush Limbaugh. Over two decades ago Rush stated, “I think this reason why girls don’t do well on multiple choice tests goes all the way back to the Bible, all the way back to Genesis, Adam and Eve. God said, All right, Eve, multiple choice or multiple orgasms, what’s it going to be? We all know what was chosen.”  Rush has a legacy of anti-women (and other bigoted) speechifying. Trump has elevated the anti-woman and anti-a-lot-of-other-things oratory of Rush and his cohorts, playing to a constituency used to the harsh rhetoric.

Will Trump’s comments hurt him? In his own words from a 1991 Esquire interview: “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”

How often do you hear women denigrating the appearance of male rivals? I tried finding comments by women about men’s unattractiveness. I unearthed lots of quotes about ugly women, but almost none about unattractive men. If anyone knows any quotes about ugly men (not X-rated please), send the quote my way. Thanks!

I will end on a high note with this line by Confucius:
 Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Organized Life, Organized Body, Organized Mind?

 I possess none of the above.

Throughout my life I have tried to be neat and organized, to declutter and simplify. I make some progress, but quickly regress.

I clean closets, but they transform almost immediately into messy, clutter-filled space.

I shred papers, file documents, and order reigns. Unfortunately I blink and piles reappear all around me.

Is disorderliness a bad thing?

There are competing theories about organization vs. disorganization, clutter vs. declutter.

One school of thought declares disorganization, clutter, and general messiness leads to a muddled and chaotic life, and therefore nothing gets done.

Another school of thought states messiness suggests activity and creativity.

Obviously I am partial to the latter theory because I am not an organized, orderly person. I lean chaotic, the gene probably imbedded in my DNA.

I am not alone. Minds far wiser and brainier than mine are partial to the belief that from disarray arise good things. Albert Einstein, for one, is on my side:

If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, 
of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?  - Albert Einstein

Other famous individuals successful in a messy environment include Mark Twain, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg.

I am not making excuses. Science backs up the thesis that messiness encourages creativity. Psychologists tested peoples’ responses in a neat atmosphere and a disheveled room. The untidy place produced more creative reactions than the neat space.

An emphasis on order may be misdirected and overrated.

On the other hand studies have shown that people endowed with ‘innate conscientiousness’, defined as organized and conventional, usually eat better and live longer than people who are sloppy. They also tend to have immaculate offices, and by extension neat homes, unless they live with a messy person and can tolerate the disorder.

So what does all this mean?

I have decided to accept my messiness and my procrastination when it comes to decluttering and organizing – files, closets, kitchen cabinets, etc. I will in the future revel in my chaos and confusion and not be frustrated when unable to locate whatever it is I am looking for. Who knows what creative masterpieces may flow forth from my mind. I would never want to inhibit my imagination or productivity.

My disorder, however, does not extend to cleaning. I have a habit of putting off cleaning my house, but at some point take a deep breath and dig in (metaphorically speaking).

My mess is a dustless mess.

Just don’t look under the furniture. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

This Week Boomers Consider Rallies, Regrets, Travels, and Purchases

Mid-May suggests pursuit of spring pastimes. The weather is supposedly perfect – not too hot, not too cold. Unfortunately this year the weather did not cooperate. Yet rituals endure, and this afternoon our town celebrated spring with Chef’s Night Out. Progressing from one restaurant to another, enjoying a taste at each, the event is four hours of food indulgence. Many participants – including me – rode bikes, not using all calories consumed, but feeling less guilty than participants driving around town.

I started the week feeling the bern. New Jersey’s primary is June 7, and Bernie supporters sponsored a get-out-the-vote rally. Read about my experience in Witness to Feel the Bern.

This week fellow boomers were on the road. Laura Lee of Adventures of the New Old Farts has been traveling lately, and not just in her car! She hiked down a very steep slope to see where her homeless brother lives, north of Sedona Arizona last week.

Carol Cassara of Heart-Mind-Soul also spent this week on the road. Thinking about the past and forging good intentions in the future, she suggests we forget resolutions, since their success rate is so low. Instead, she offers a single test for anything we might do.  

Who among us hasn't had regret over something? Carol has learned that regret is not useful and gives us another way to look at life

By now all of us baby boomers have smartphones, right? Not so fast, says Tom Sightings, who is quick to tell us he has owned a smartphone for several years now. In Does a Smartphone Make Us Smart? he offers an amusing tale of how his life partner just acquired her first smartphone...and how she's already showing him up.

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about a survey that shows most consumers are confused about the term “natural” on food labels. The majority of consumers surveyed said they expect processed foods labeled “natural” to contain no artificial ingredients or processing aids, no toxic pesticides, or no GMOs. Those are not required. The term natural on food labels does not have a clear meaning. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working on a definition.

Stop by the boomers this week and say hi! The weather is supposed 
to warm and the sun break out, so may warm sunny skies brighten 
your week wherever you may be.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Spring Pastimes

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.
- Marcus Tullius Cicero

I am sitting in my family room, sweater on. Temperatures the first part of May averaged eight degrees below normal. Six of the first 11 days of the month the thermometer did not reach 60 degrees.

Computer on my lap, I stare out the window at cloudy skies. As of May 11th my town enjoyed 154 hours of daylight. Unfortunately only 21 of those hours basked in sunlight. The remainder of the time – 133 hours – gray clouds and rainy skies prevailed. Mathematically speaking that means grayness ruled 85% of the time. And the dreary streak stretched back to the last four days of April.

Anybody NOT feeling depressed?

Yesterday we got a reprieve, a beautiful sunny day. A trip to a nearby nursery and three bushes and a dozen flowers later I was digging in the yard for the first time this season.

A new azalea brightens my yard.
Weeds began proliferating weeks ago. Out they came, along with overgrown undergrowth. Flowers planted, watered and fertilized (organic nourishment only), the perennial bushes positioned strategically in barren places, exhaustion and a sense of accomplishment overwhelmed me.

I am not used to manual labor!

This morning gray skies again welcomed me. Additional gardening delayed.

A couple of magazines and a book lie on the table next to me. I look forward to a relaxing interlude, no manual labor necessary.

Yet an annoying sensation troubles, nagging me to get back to work. My bedroom beckons. Time to banish winter wear. Cannot see my closet floor, but it is somewhere under piles of stuff.

I studiously ignored the second floor of my house over the winter, unneeded territory. But as time nears when company crosses the threshold, it is imperative I traipse upstairs and check things out. I have a habit of unloading stuff on the upper floor to deal with later – papers, magazines and books, toys, household and office supplies…

Later is almost here. My house commands: Pay attention to me, take care of me, declutter me, clean me.

But first that book sitting silently next to me demands time… 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Witness to Feel the Bern

The alarm rang at 6:45 a.m. I dragged myself into the shower, dressed and meandered into the kitchen for a bowl of cereal. I flicked open my computer to scan email and local news. The picture stared at me – Bernie fans in line at 5:45 a.m., patiently waiting for his appearance later that morning.

“I don’t know if we’ll get in. People already in line,” I said to hub, engrossed in his morning cereal.

“If we don’t get in, we’ll find a place for coffee. It’s OK,” he responded. Obviously missing Bernie would not ruin his day. We wanted to see and hear Bernie, but not enough to rise pre-dawn.

We finished breakfast and headed out the door. A quick walk to the bus stop, and a few minutes later we were on our way into Atlantic City for the big event.

By the time we arrived at the Convention Center the line of enthusiastic supporters was gone, everyone inside the ballroom milling around, talking, chanting, and waiting. A mixed crowd skewed on the young side, but nowadays when we go anyplace the crowd is younger than we are, often by decades.

A man from a nearby town stood (no seating) next to us with his 10-year-old son, eager to introduce him to American campaigning in action. Another couple, directly behind us, brought their 4-year-old twins and baby in a car carrier along. I moved carefully, not wanting to tread on the baby.

This is an unusual Presidential campaign season, too long, too negative, with developments no one anticipated. The last candidates standing are not necessarily the best, but why would the best undergo a grueling campaign - attacked personally and professionally - required to win the nomination?

When I read Bernie would be in town, I decided to see and hear the man in action.

As an aging boomer, I am awed by his stamina. At 74 years old – he would be 75 if inaugurated President in January 2017 – he stood at the podium over an hour and spoke eloquently, only a few cue cards prompting him of important points he wanted to make. Later the same day he spoke in California. (New Jersey and California primaries are June 7). There is no way I could get up early, get myself together, make a long speech before a crowd of 1,000+, hop on a plane, fly cross country, get myself together again (physically and mentally) and make another major speech.

Clinton and Trump are not spring chickens either. I have to wonder how any of them will manage as President over the next four years. Most of their contemporaries will spend their days lounging in the sun, playing golf, canasta or Mah Jongg, traveling in leisurely style…

But I am getting off point.

We waited over an hour for Bernie’s appearance, standing the entire time. A local casino employee, a city councilman, the President of the local casino workers’ union, the head of Bernie’s New Jersey campaign, all spoke for a few minutes.

Finally the man himself, accompanied by his wife Jane, strolled to the podium in the center of the ballroom floor. The crowd went wild, eventually settling down so Bernie could speak.

 Bernie discussed his main campaign points, including free public college tuition for everyone, a $15 minimum wage, foreign trade strategies, reigning in Wall Street, a single payer health care system based on Medicare, and climate change policies. He spoke at length about the candidate with a strong Atlantic City connection, Donald Trump, the businessman who entered the city, established hotels, raked in the money, then declared bankruptcy, leaving employees and local businesses behind without any consideration. The event marked the beginning of a new and unfriendly period for the city. Employees lost good jobs; many businesses went bankrupt or struggled to remain in business when not paid by Trump’s bankrupt entities.

Vulture Venture capitalists like Carl Icahn swept in, uninterested in investing and bettering the community but totally engaged with taking as much money as possible out of the area. They bought distressed properties and proceeded to profit at the expense of locals, working hard at stripping employees of a living wage and benefits.

But once again I digress…

Bernie was engaging, interesting, forthright, and understandable. I add the last because, if anyone has heard or read Trump’s speeches, they are anything but…

I am unsure who will receive my vote. (full disclosure: I will NOT vote for Trump). Bernie’s chances – despite his assurances of mathematical success – are slim to none. I have read that his ultimate aim, realizing he will not be his party’s standard-bearer, is to get his ideas in the Democratic platform.

I am glad I witnessed a tiny part of our political process in action. Personally I think the Presidential campaign is too lengthy, too expensive, and strains everyone’s patience and tolerance. I am already tired of the rhetoric, and there are six more long, long months to go before Tuesday, November 8th  (182 days from May 10) - Election Day. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Best of Boomers Seek Spring, Think Food, and More

This morning another cloudy, dreary day greeted me. How many days in a row must we endure rain, cold, clouds – everything but spring-like weather! But by noon signs of hope appeared in the universe, or at least around my town. The sun made an effort to peek through the clouds, the weather warmed enough to shed a jacket and rely on a light sweater, and it did not rain.

Me and Mom.
What a nice Mother’s Day gift! Maybe spring really is around the corner. And speaking of Mother’s Day, have you ever wondered how the holiday came to be? If so check out my post A Mother’s Day: A Short History.

I stayed home this weekend. My sister-in-law and her husband, one of her daughter’s and one grandchild graced our doorstep. It is always good to see family, and we do not see many members for months at a time – unless we visit them. The shore seems to be a no-no place to be during the winter. This weekend the trail of family and friends crossing our threshold during ‘the season’ officially began.

Now that warmer weather lurks, it is time to think about our wardrobe. Are your body and your clothes a good fit? Working on shaping up for summer? Here are some healthy, low-calorie snacks that won't make you feel deprived.  And speaking of food, Carol Cassara of Heart-Mind-Soul says there are some foods she simply doesn't understand. What do you think?  

Laura Lee Carter of Adventures of the New Old Farts hit the open road this week, driving to beautiful country in search of warm weather. She just got back from a trip down south to Sedona, and what a trip it was!
Cactus in Sedona - direct from Laura Lee's blog!

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, reports it’s been a good week for consumers. One federal agency is proposing a new rule that would eliminate the bans on class action lawsuits found in the arbitration clauses of most contracts that consumers sign. Another federal agency announced new, sweeping regulations of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, including cigars, that were not regulated in the past.

Tom Sightings of Sightings Over Sixty occasionally keeps us guessing with Remember Him/Her? posts. Usually I know the answer before he tells us, but this week I must admit I was stumped, although I should have known.  See how well you know the idols of our past in Remember Him?

Stop by our boomers and leave a comment. And have a good week!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Mother’s Day: A Short History

Honoring Mom is an annual American rite, and the practice has spread around the world. But celebrating Mother is not a new idea. The ancient Greeks and Romans revered Mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele.

Rhea, Mother of the gods, goddess of fertility, motherhood and generation, represents the eternal flow of time and generations. Rhea translates to flow and ease, the ‘flow’ suggesting menstrual blood, birth waters, and milk.

Rhea’s significant other was Kronos, king of the gods. Kronos received a prophecy that one of his children would depose him. To avoid this disaster, he devoured each child as soon as it was born. Rhea eventually had enough. She bore her youngest child in secret, hid him in a cave on the island of Crete, and presented Kronos with a stone wrapped in a blanket, which he immediately consumed. The baby’s name was Zeus.

Zeus grew up, overthrew and imprisoned his father (Father’s Day was not a Greek or Roman tradition). Zeus also made his Dad throw up the previously ingested children, all of whom went on to live enchanted lives as Greek/Roman gods and goddesses.

Cybele, originally a Mid-Eastern goddess, was admitted into the Greek pantheon of gods. Celebrations in her honor included orgies in the goddess’ homeland, the highlands of Anatolia (today part of Turkey and neighboring countries).

Moving along through history, a European Christian holiday called Mothering Sunday replaced a celebration of goddesses. Commemorated on the fourth Sunday during Lent, people returned to their ‘mother church’, the main church closest to home, for a special service.

Ages passed and the religious holiday morphed into a secular day, children showering their mothers with flowers and other tokens of appreciation. Ultimately enthusiasm for setting aside one day a year to express appreciation for Mom waned, so our story continues in the New World.

America’s Mother’s Day story begins with Anna Reeves Jarvis, mother of 11, 12 or 13 babies (records are incomplete) born in the mid-1800s. Most of the children died from a variety of diseases; only four lived to maturity. Anna became a social activist and organized Mothers Clubs, the major goal of the group reducing infant mortality. Following the Civil War Jarvis arranged Mothers Friendship Day get-togethers for mothers and Union and Confederate soldiers, the objective fostering peace and reconciliation.

By the late 1800s activists promoted a day honoring Mom. Anna Jarvis, daughter of Anna Reeves Jarvis, advanced the idea of an annual day honoring the sacrifices mothers make for their children. Jarvis received financial assistance from department store owner John Wanamaker, and arranged the first Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in her hometown Grafton, West Virginia, while simultaneously Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia held a Mother’s Day observance.

Jarvis lobbied to place Mother’s Day on the national calendar, arguing holidays heavily favored men and their achievements. In 1908 she arranged a Mothers service in Andrew's Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, the church now the International Mother's Day Shrine and a National Historic Landmark.

Jarvis’ persuasive marketing paid off and in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson established the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day quickly evolved from Jarvis’ idea of visiting Mom and attending church into a uniquely American phenomenon centered on buying flowers, cards (Hallmark notes Mother’s Day is #3 on the holiday card list, outspent only by Christmas and Valentine’s Day), candy, gifts, and eating out. The day is, according to the U.S. National Restaurant Association, the most popular day to dine out. Why anyone wants to eat out when the rest of the country also patronizes eating establishments I have no idea, but people eagerly flock to restaurants for brunch and dinner, stand in lines, jostle with crowds, wait for service, get served food hopefully hot but often not...My email box overflows with restaurant ads for Mother’s Day specials.

Ironically Jarvis lived long enough to become horrified by the commercialization of the holiday and worked to abolish it. She spent all her money in the endeavor but failed, dying penniless in a sanitarium.

Today Mother’s Day is a well-established, widely celebrated national holiday, an integral part of American culture. Strongly promoted by retailers and restaurants, it is a day to honor all kinds of mothers, and another reason to open our pocketbooks and boost the American economy.

The day is also renown for homemade cards, burnt toast, scorched pancakes, kitchen disasters, carefully crafted homemade gifts, and memories.

Thanks for the memories, kids.

 Hope everyone has an enjoyable, relaxing day!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

What Happened to May?

I am not a fan of cold weather, never was, and my intolerance grows as I age. Spring is eagerly anticipated. Although spring has been around for a few weeks, scientifically speaking, real spring - the season of blooming flowers and trees, greenery, short sleeved shirts and bare feet, failed to arrive as March ended and April came and went. A couple of warm days enticed and flowers peeked above the brown earth, but these were teasers.

It was with much anticipation, therefore, that I looked forward to the month of May. The weather had to improve.

I celebrated the month's arrival in Vermont, visiting son and family, arriving on a cold, rainy day. Walking around the next day the following greeted me:

Sunday morning I awoke to a cold, dreary landscape, dressed in jeans, warm socks, long sleeved shirt, sweater and jacket, then drove to the family's morning activity - a kids' run and 10k run. My granddaughter participated in the kids' run, and son Jason came in second in the 10k run. Here is a picture of the two of them before the kids' run.
Note my granddaughter's winter jacket and hat - on May 1.

On the drive home to a warmer clime, we detoured to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and met cousins for lunch at the famous Red Lion Inn. Dating from the 1700s, the place is full of antiques, pictures of famous customers, large, comfortable upholstered chairs and couches. Uneven floorboards attest to the age of the building. On the way to the tavern we passed the following sign:
At Alice's Restaurant you could get anything you wanted.
The Stockbridge Cafe offers a menu with a lot of dishes - but does not offer anything you want!

The month of May brings promise of good things to come.
Real spring is almost here - just around the corner -  maybe tomorrow...