True Friends

I finally completed the book, How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free and one of the keys to optimizing happiness in retirement is to cultivate quality friendships with a few happy and interesting people. The book points out that quality is more important than quantity and that people who try to have too many friends will hinder their happiness because they will spread themselves too thin among too many individuals.

The author recommends surrounding oneself with people who are warm, kind and have a fresh perspective on life in general. I have to admit that I am very lucky and have a few friends that I have known for over twenty five years. Below are some of the other qualities the author feels are important to have in a friend:

A true friend continues to like you whether or not you end up rich or poor, likes you despite your achievements, will not abuse you in any way, will not take advantage of you in times of weakness, will not desert you when you are down, is someone with whom you can be sincere and vulnerable, is a confidant who won’t tell your most personal secrets to someone else, will defend you in your absence when someone says something nasty about you and will get you to laugh when you become too serious about life.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson used to say “the only way to have a friend is to be one”.

Gilbert Neal (Part IV)

When in Florida I was browsing around my Uncle Gilberts den while he was on the phone with my cousin David and came across an article written in the Akron Beacon Journal when Grampa retired from the Firestone Bank. Below are some excerpts of the article:

During the decades that Mr. Neal was an executive of the bank he frequently impressed on fellow employees and especially newcomers the merit of promptness.

Mr. Neal also said that there is no better time to do anything then now unless there is a point to be gained by waiting.

Mr. Neal was a businessman with a strong leaning towards sports and had always been a believer in team effort contending that progress depends on the efforts of everyone.

I happened to have the opportunity to have lunch a few times with Grampa, Mr. and Mrs. Swartz and Mr. And Mrs. Wiegle at Portage Country Club. Swartz and Wiegle were employees of the Firestone Bank and had both worked for Grampa at one time or another. They continued to stay in touch with each other after they had retired from the bank.

I asked Wiegle if he had any good stories about working with Grampa and he said that each day Grampa would walk around the bank and ask employees how things were going. Wiegle said he had a complaint about how something was being done at the bank and one day he worked up enough courage to bring it to Grampa’s attention.

To Wiegle’s surprise Grampa said sounds like something we need to correct so I’m putting you in charge of coming up with alternatives as to how we currently handle the situation. Wiegle was perplexed and said that he thought Grampa would come up with the alternatives and not leave that task up to him. Wiegle said he wasn’t as quick to complain after that.

Making Sure History Doesn’t Repeat Itself

One of my goals in retirement was to read a book about each of the American Presidents because I love history. I was happy to find my task made much easier at the library when I stumbled upon the American President Series a compilation of books written by different authors about each of our presidents, with the exception of the last Bush and President Obama.

The aim of the American Presidents series is to present our chief executives in volumes compact enough for the busy reader (no book so far has been more than 175 pages). Each book tracks a president from birth to death and will give the reader a glimpse into each presidents character and thought process.

So far I have read about Teddy Roosevelt, William Harding, William Mckinley, Rutherford B Hayes, Ulysses S Grant, Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Roosevelt. I just finished reading a book on Herbert Hoover which I found the most interesting because back in the 1920’s he was faced with an economic situation very similar to the one we just went through in late 2008 and early 2009.

The chapter regarding the stock market crash was particularly telling because U.S. Steel stock went from $262 a share to $21, General Motors went from $92 a share to $8 and Montgomery Ward went from $138 a share to $4. Doesn’t this sound familiar ?

Our country had been through prior depressions and faced financial crises in the past, but Martin Van Buren, James Buchanan and Ulysses S. Grant and Grover Cleveland all took a hard line approach against aid to the unfortunate because they all felt that communitys looked to government for too much!

Herbert Hoover and his economic advisors expected the ensuing economic downturn after the crash to last only a few months and as history shows they were very wrong. Hoover initally wired governors to encourage states and counties to accelerate construction projects, but he offered very little money from Congress for these projects. I am reminded of the comments that the current administration made that the amount of stimulus needed to be large enough to make a difference. They clearly wanted to make sure the same mistake wasn’t made that was made back in the 1920’s. 

Hoover’s approach was to leave virtually all of the responsibility for the economic health of the nation to business and the private sector. One of the conferences he convened recommended that home owners spark a revival in the economy by adding on a sunporch to their house. He believed that grants from Washington would impair the character of recipients and would deny benefactors the opportunity to sacrifice. Don’t these arguments sound familiar ?

Things got so bad that the president of General Electric urged Hoover to issue a billion dollars worth of bonds, but Hoover was incensed saying that doing so would bankrupt the country and he continued to push towards balancing the budget. He believed the primary duty of the government was to hold expenditures within our income so he ignored all pleas for more govenrnment involvement and vetoed all public works projects.

As of the time of this posting I don’t know whether or not the Obama adminstration has done is the right thing to keep the country from avoiding a catastrophy, but the one thing I do know is that they didn’t do what Herbert Hoover did in the 1920’s.

U S Economy Gets a Lift From the Stimulus

Having secured a copy of the Wednesday, September 2, 2009 edition of the Wall Street Journal (see previous blog entry – Still Reading the Newspaper – Just Not Paying For It) for my flight home from Florida last week I was glad to see the stimulus which President Obama took so much heat over is working. I’m just surprised that this article didn’t make the front page and was buried on page A8.

Economists say the money out the door combined with the expectation of additional funds flowing soon is fueling growth above where it would have been WITHOUT ANY GOVERNMENT ACTION. Many forecasters say the stimulus spending has slowed the rate of decline in gross domestic product by two to three percentage points and is laying the groundwork for real growth in the third quarter something that seemed almost implausible just a few months ago.

Some economists say the 1% contraction in the second quarter would have been far worse, possibly as much as 3.2% if not for the stimulus. Goldman Sachs is predicting that the U.S. Economy will grow by 3.3% and that without the extra stimulus we would be somewhere around zero.

So I say good job President Obama, keep up the good work and don’t listen to the naysayers !

Still Reading The Newspaper – Just Not Paying For It

I have to admit I am a penny pincher when it comes to newspapers. Every few days while poolside at Bethel Lakes my neighbor Teresa will pass me her Columbus Dispatch when she is done reading it. Its often a jumbled mess and I have to reorganize it because she’s sort of a messy reader, but what the heck it’s free so I’m not complaining.

When she passes me the newspaper we often have the same conversation and she will tell me that she doesn’t know why she still gets the newspaper because it is getting smaller and smaller, more and more expensive and she doesn’t have time to read the whole thing anyway so she just scans it.

I’ve never been a big fan of the Columbus Dispatch and I think it’s due to the fact that I always liked Columbus’s other newspaper, the Citizen’s Journal (CJ for short), that went out of business years ago. As I recall the thing I liked about the CJ was that it had shorter articles and the writers were much more creative in their writing approach. When Columbus had two newspapers I chose the CJ and I remember alot of people being sad when it went under !

When employed at Nationwide Insurance I would always borrow the USA Today newspaper from a fellow employee after he was done reading it because I didn’t want to pay the $1.00 daily cost. One of the big wigs at Nationwide would get the Wall Street Journal, daily cost $2.00 and I asked him if he would mind passing it to me when he was finished reading it, which he did.

Last week when returning from Florida I  needed to get some reading material for the flight home. For the record the Wall Street Journal at the airport is $3.00 and the USA today is $1.50 which of course I wasn’t going to pay. So what I like to do is roam around the airport until I find a Wall Street Journal and a USA Today that some other traveler has left in their haste to catch their flight.

 Of course with the invention of the Internet there are less and less people reading newspapers, however I still read them I just don’t pay for them !