Saturday, May 18, 2019

Money Mistakes of the Poor & Middle Class (plus solutions)

Common money mistakes typically made by folks in the lower and middle classes can "lock them in place," preventing them from improving their circumstances. These mistakes tend to be learned by example, unintentionally passed on from one generation to the next, thus dooming generations of the same family to the same financial struggles. The mistakes made are different between the classes, but are easily identifiable, as are the solutions.

The Poor

The money mistakes made by the poor are mostly related to the desire or need to get quick, easy money for a myriad of potential reasons - anything from an unexpected repair expense to "the rent is due and I don't have enough cash to cover it."  This problem is caused by a combination of poor planning and lack of capital  (savings). Here are some of the specific mistakes the poor make in trying to get quick cash:
  • Playing the Lottery - Studies have shown that the majority of lottery tickets are sold in poorer zip codes. Lotteries really are a sneaky tax on the poor. Other forms of gambling fit here, too.
  • Pay Day Loans - These loans are easy to get and therefore very popular, yet with their extremely high interest rates and short pay-back periods (the next paycheck), these loans trap folks in never-ending cycles of doom.
  • Car Title Loans - A high-interest way to lose your car.
  • Pawn Shops - Ever notice that these flourish in and near poor areas? There's a reason for that...
  • Rent to Own - High-interest installment plans on furniture and other items that were already overpriced to begin with.

Middle Class 

The money mistakes made by the middle class are mostly related to living beyond their means, often keeping up appearances to impress others. The more their friends and neighbors do it, they more they feel pressure to buy new cars, the most house they can afford rather than the house they need, take impressive vacations, and so forth. Here are some of the specific mistakes the middle class make while trying to "keep up with the Joneses":  
  • Credit Cards - There is over a trillion dollars of credit card debt in America, the vast majority of which is owed by the middle class.
  • Student Loans - There is nothing wrong with going to college, but there is something wrong with racking up tens of thousands of dollars in debt to get a degree in18th century French Poetry, Gender Studies, Social Justice, or some other useless major.
  • Car Payments - New car fever grips the middle class, with excuses like "I need it for work" and "safety and reliability." But, in reality, a well-maintained used car can be just as safe and reliable as a new car. Keep it clean and washed, and it'll probably be fine for work, too. Also in this category are payments for boats, motorcycles, ATVs and other expensive toys.
  • Loans or early withdrawals from retirement funds - Not only does this deplete your retirement savings, but may have severe tax implications.

Solutions

Reading through the above lists, the solutions should be obvious - Don't do those things! But how to get there from where you are now is the real question. Here are three ways to get there:

  • Build capital (emergency savings) - This is HUGE to your financial success. Do whatever it takes to build savings: Work extra hours, get a second job, have a massive yard sale, sell those expensive toys (ATVs, boats, home gyms, and so forth), downsize your car to get out of the payment, maybe even downsize your house if it is more than you really need... 
  • Be happy living within your means - This is an attitude adjustment, which is especially hard for many people. You CAN be happy without a brand new car, or without taking a Caribbean cruise this year, or without yet another pair of $300 shoes. Don't worry about what your neighbors have, or what your friends might think about you. Live within your means, and be happy with it.
  • Delayed gratification - Back in the days before credit cards, installment plans, and payday loans, if you wanted something you had to save money until you had enough to buy it outright.This meant you had to wait to get it. These days, Americans feel entitled to whatever they want, and entitled to it NOW! Banks and credit cards companies have made fortunes off this entitlement attitude. Developing a little patience will go a long way to you making your fortune!
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Need help with debt and personal finances?  I highly recommend Dave Ramsey's books, website, and radio show. 



Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Falsely-named "Equality Act" is a Deceptive Attack on Religious Freedom and Women's Rights

H.R. 5, the so-called "Equality Act" is scheduled to be voted on this week in the House of Representatives. Its stated purpose, in brief, is "to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation." But, as always, the devil is in the details, as the saying goes. In reality, the bill guts religious freedoms, limits parental rights, and even endangers Women's Rights. 

In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Franklin Graham summed up the concern many Christians have over the so-called Equality Act: "This week Congress is scheduled to vote on H.R.5, the Equality Act, a bill that represents what is being called “the most invasive threat to religious liberty ever proposed in America.”

"I and other Christian leaders wrote a letter to congressional leaders about the Equality Act. Contact your representatives in Congress and urge them to protect our families, our children, & our future by voting NO on the Equality Act."


"Congress needs to hear those who care about religious freedom loud and clear. Let’s light up the phones on Capitol Hill and the White House! Call your elected leaders about the Equality Act today at 202.224.3121."

The letter Graham and other Christian leaders sent to congressional leaders read in part: "As those tasked with the leadership of the church, and as those seeking to humbly convey Biblical truth for the benefit of every man, woman, and child in society, we the undersigned cannot remain silent concerning a dangerous bill pending in Congress known as the Equality Act (H.R. 5). Not only is it incompatible withGod’s Word(the Bible)and the historic teaching of the church, but the Equality Act is also riddled with threats to religious liberty and the sanctity of human life. For these reasons, we must state that we adamantly oppose this proposed legislation."

The letter goes on to give three main reasons the Equality Act should be defeated: 

"First, the ideology enshrined in the Equality Act—which falsely equates one’s sexual conduct with immutable characteristics like skin color and ethnicity—is a falsehood that openly contradicts the scriptural mandates we were given for our good (1 Thess. 4:3-8). We cannot remain silent and allow this lie to harm countless men, women, and children—whether in this or any other legislation. Passage of this coercive measure would lay the groundwork for this lie to enter classrooms across the nation, as public educators could be compelled to teach it to their students. No family would be safe from the long reach of the Equality Act."

"Second, the Equality Act would gut religious freedom protections—even the freedom currently enjoyed by houses of worship. Under its changes to the employment nondiscrimination provisions in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, some houses of worship would be barred from ensuring their leaders and other employees abide by their beliefs about marriage, sexual behavior, and the distinction between the sexes. Women who identify as men would have to be accepted as men and therefore potentially eligible to serve in positions reserved for men (such as a Catholic Priest or Jewish Rabbi). Religious employers that fall under Title VII may be forced to offer insurance coverage for medical procedures (such as hormone therapy or surgery related to “gender transition”) that violate biblical teaching. Finally, the Equality Act would expressly do away with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act’s application to its provisions, thereby precluding any religious freedom claims which clergy or others might bring.Under such restrictions,the pathway for the gospel would slowly be closed off.

"Third, the Equality Act is unacceptable because it is anti-life and creates a right to demand abortion from health care providers. The termination of human life in the womb is unacceptable to any biblically and historically faithful Christian. The responsibility to care for the “least of these” (Matt. 25:40) is a fundamental responsibility of Christ’s church, and any proposal that undermines a culture of life must be rejected."

The letter can be read in full on the Family Research Council website (link opens as a .pdf).

Concerns over the confusion and vagueness of "gender identity" is causing some feminist leaders to voice criticisms of the bill, including that it would render Title IX protections meaningless, allowing transgendered men to fully participate in women's athletics and compete for women's scholarships. They also claim that the bill would expose women to sexual predators claiming gender identities in order to gain access to women's shelters, bathrooms, and locker rooms.

Even if the bill passes ther House, it faces an almost impossible battle in the Republican-controlled Senate. Also, President Trump has already said he would veto the bill.
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Monday, May 13, 2019

Children Massacred in Assault on Syrian Christian Town

The following is an unedited press release from International Christian Concern. Visit their website at https://www.persecution.org/ for more on the ongoing persecution and genocide of Christians around the world.

Six Dead and Eight Wounded as Heavy Shelling Targets Believers

05/13/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the Syrian Christian town of al-Suqaylabiyah came under heavy assault on May 12, 2019. Five children playing near a monastery, and one woman on a nearby street, were killed as a result of heavy shelling. Eight others, including six children, were wounded. The assault against the town continues through today.

“The kids went out to play after some days of calm,” Father Maher Haddad, a local priest, told the Associated Press. The report continued, “A rocket struck near a group of children, instantly killing five and wounding others… the woman was killed in a nearby street by a separate rocket.”

The deceased children were aged between six and 10. While two of the children’s names have not been made public, the names of the other three children are Inzik Ruzuk, Suheir Jarzas, and Jessica Samardzin. The name of the woman killed is Hala Makaskas.

The author of this assault is unknown, although it was observed that the rockets were fired from nearby Idlib. Al-Qaeda affiliate Tahrir al-Sham is active in Idlib and has a history of attempting to seize Christian towns in the area of al-Suqaylabiyah. However, some believe that the rockets originated from militants backed by Turkey through the National Liberation Front. The town has suffered widespread material damage as a result of the attack.

Syrian state media says that the regime is currently retaliating against the al-Suqaylabiyah attack, although whom they are targeting is not clear. This retaliation comes in the context of the regime already having increased its own assault on Idlib through raids and the dropping of illegal barrel bombs.

“The rebel-held areas of Idlib province and northern Homs province have been under sustained attack by the Syrian regime since April 30, killing and wounding dozens while forcing some 150,000 people to flee their homes in rebel-held areas,” reported al-Araby.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that the violence in the broader area has increased at an alarming pace. It said, “The death toll rises… 450 people in the period since the morning of the 20th of April 2019 until the 12th of May 2019.”
 
Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “The Syrian Civil War is a sad example of the indiscriminate killing of civilians and senseless violence. As the situation escalates in Idlib, many have warned that an increase of targeted massacres would be the result. It has started—with Christians paying a high cost as they are often viewed as vulnerable, second-class citizens. Their villages have become a pawn in a greater strategy for the multiple factions involved in the civil war. We must keep the families of the deceased in our prayers, and offer up continued prayers for the safety of those believers who find themselves caught between Syria’s warring sides.” 

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Important Documents, and How To Secure Them

Paperwork. Its the bane of modern civilization, and the more government we get (and we're always getting more government), the more paperwork we are required to keep up with. But, in order to function in modern society, we need that paperwork. It true now, it will be true during future any future crisis we may face, and it will be true even after a collapse. Despite the common prepper fantasy of a post-collapse world in which there is virtually no government (such a lovely dream), the truth is that even if the government totally collapses, a new government (probably worse than we have now) will form. And the first thing they will want to do is see our paperwork. You just wait and see.

In all seriousness, in modern life there are important documents that we need to keep up with, like it or not. This begs two questions: What are those important documents? and How do we best secure those documents so that we have them when we need them?


Important Documents you may need include:
  • Birth Certificates
  • Marriage Certificates
  • Death Certificates 
  • Wills, Powers-of-Attorney
  • Military discharge papers
  • Copies of credit cards, bank numbers, and other financial info
  • Contact information and account numbers for insurance, investment accounts, utilities, etc. 
  • Tax, insurance, and other financial records
  • Copies of driver's licenses and social security cards
  • Title & Registration information for your vehicles
  • Passports
  • Medical and immunization records
  • Health Insurance information
  • Pet Records (registration, vaccinations, etc.) 
  • Copies of your high school diploma and collage degrees
  • High School and College Transcripts
  • Contact information for family, friends, co-workers, etc.
  • Home and Property deeds
  • Mortgage information  
This is only a partial list of possible documents you may need to keep. There may be other documents you'll need depending on your own particular circumstances.  

You probably already have paper copies of most of these documents at home in desk drawers or a file cabinent. Your first action step is to collect everything together, look through what you have, and see if you are missing anything. If so, start collecting copies of the missing documents. 

Next, organize and store your important documents together in a secure place, probably in your home. A lockable, fire-proof safe, file cabinent, or ducument bag will work nicely. ROLOWAY makes a large-capacity document bag that is fire-proof (to 2000 degrees F), water-resistent, and lockable. It is available on Amazon for about $45. This is a great storage solution for most folks.


Copies of important documents should be included in your bug-out bag. These can be digitized and loaded on an encrypted USB memory stick (for a free and easy encryption method, see my article from February). I carry a USB memory stick on my key chain and a back-up in my bug-out bag. I personally like and use the rugged GorillaDrive menory sticks (I posted a review to my website). You could also put an encrypted copy of your documents on your smart phone.

However, in a SHTF situation, you may not have ready access to a computer, so it might be wise to have hard copies of some documents. I have two 9x6 clasp envelopes containing documents that fit easily in my bug-out bag without adding a lot of weight or taking up much room. Insert them in a plastic zip bag for waterproofing.  

In your bug-out bag, you don't have to have everything as paper copies. That would just take up too much room. For example, when I recently refinanced my home, the mortgage paperwork was over 160 pages long. No problem on a memory stick (the mortgage company emailed me the entire package as a .pdf), but I'm not lugging a hard copy of all that around with me in my bug-out bag. Instead, I just put the two-page summary (which has all the important numbers and information) in the 9x6 envelope I previously mentioned.

Keeping copies, paper or digital, of your important documents off-site (away from the originals) is a good idea. I recommend keeping a seperate set at your bug-out location if possible. Another possibility is keeping a set at work or a trusted relative or friend's place.

What about bank safe depost boxes? This could be an option for some people. Just remember a few things: First, you won't have 24/7 access to the documents, as banks are generally closed at night, on weekends and holidays. Also, in many SHTF circumstances, banks may not open during normal business hours becuse of inclement weather (such as blizzards or hurricanes), natural disasters (earthquakes, wildfires), or "bank holidays" during financial disasters. Finally, if you are forced to suddenly bug-out it is doubtful you'll have time to swing by the bank to collect your documents, even if the bank is open.
 
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