Retraining, The G.I. Bill and The Beatles

"If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat... ‘If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.""Taxman" as performed by The Beatles

If a business owner or entrepreneur can become wildly wealthy, good for him or her. Applying overly aggressive tax rates to the 0.1% or even the 1%, many of whom are new arrivals in this elite income category, makes no sense for our economy. How, then, do we deal with wealth and income inequality?

Economic Growth and Tax Law Correlations

"Tax the rich...feed the poor... ‘Til there are no rich no more?" — "I'd Love to Change the World" as performed by Ten Years After

Should we soak the rich to solve wealth and income inequality?  European nations attempted to and found their tax policies ineffective. Seeking more friendly tax havens, many of their wealthier citizens simply moved their businesses and residences abroad. Levying a wealth tax on Americans would likely produce similar results. In an era when the U.S. is struggling to keep businesses operating here at home, tax law changes which drive them elsewhere will likely prove counterproductive to our national economic goals.

Shutdown - Markets Crave Stability and Certainty

"Houston, we have a problem." — from Astronaut Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) speaking to Flight Director Gene Kranz (Ed Harris) in the movie “Apollo 13”

While rewatching this Ron Howard classic recently, I was reminded of the bold initiatives that characterized our space program and inspired Americans everywhere. As most know who followed the flight of the Odyssey in 1970 or watched the movie, our engineers, scientists and astronauts brought the damaged spacecraft home utilizing less amperage than is used by a small kitchen coffee maker. That Lovell, Haise and Swigert returned to splashdown safely is a miracle, a true milestone in the annals of American ingenuity.

China has now successfully landed a "rover" on the far side of the moon. So while we are still ahead of China in space exploration, it's obvious that they're making headway.

Seinfeld, The Diner Bill and Gregg Allman

"These days I seem to think a lot... about the things that I forgot to do... for you... And all the times I had the chance to." — from "These Days" as performed by Gregg Allman

George Costanza is in a diner and he thinks he's having a heart attack and tells Jerry and Elaine. Right about then the bill comes and George looks at it. There's a mistake and he's been overcharged. The trio delay rushing George to the hospital so he can complain to the waitress about the erroneous amount.

This genius episode of "Seinfeld," written by Larry David, tells us a lot about our relationship with money. It's something we care deeply about, even when we think we're dying.

Winter, SAD and the January Effect

"Ain't it foggy outside... all the planes have been grounded; Ain't the fire inside... let's all go and stand around it."
— from "Sandman" as performed by America

All four of our seasons enthrall me. Sometimes, though, I love winter just a little less than the others.

Days are shorter. Outdoor activities take a backseat to indoor gatherings. Last year's national winter flu epidemic was historic. More folks pass away in winter than in other seasons, especially older citizens. There's even an illness associated with winter and decreased sunlight and lowered serotonin levels: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

So why do stock prices traditionally increase in January, right in the heart of cold, depressing weather? Or does the January Effect actually exist?

The Challenge of Income Inequality

“Some folks are born into a good life; And other folks get it anyway, anyhow…”
— from “Darkness on the Edge of Town” as performed by Bruce Springsteen

If Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg knew their personal annual income was limited to $2 or $3 million, would they have studied and innovated and worked

Here in America, we are limited in how wealthy we can become only by our imagination, creativity, drive, persistence and ambition. Putting limits on CEO compensation or individual wealth isn’t the way to deal with income inequality. If we limit CEO pay to 50 times what the average employee in the company makes, say $50,000 a year, CEO compensation in that company would top out at $2.5 million annually. Now that's a very nice salary, but this type of "cap" violates what we know about incentives and motivation. Huey Long and others advanced this “limit the top earners” concept during the Great Depression. It failed then, and it should fail now.

How Hunger, Income Inequality Hurt Us All

“And I’ve gone to bed hungry many nights as a lad...” — from “In The Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad),” as performed by Merle Haggard

One of the most famous photos in American history is that of a starving mother during the Great Depression. The woman is gaunt and thin, her countenance worried. Then, hunger was commensurate with soaring unemployment.

The face of hunger in America has changed, but the problem is growing more severe. Many families suffering from a lack of food today are headed by employed adults who still can’t afford life’s essentials. And this is not only bad for those suffering families, it’s bad for the wealthy, too, in ways in addition to obvious humanitarian concerns.

Do We Have a Retirement Savings Crisis?

“Do I have enough saved?” is the overriding question that permeates every conversation regarding retirement planning.

Savers who avail themselves of basic tax sheltered and tax free plans usually enjoy a greater probability of reaching their financial goals. Granted, there are millionaire retirees who haven’t utilized tax-deferred vehicles, but the majority of Americans who have accumulated significant savings have done so partly through the use of these plans.

Men Are From Mars but Women Travel There

“I’ve been everywhere, man; I’ve been everywhere; man; Crossed the deserts bare, man; I’ve breathed the mountain air, man; Travel, I’ve done my share, man; I’ve been everywhere.”
—from “I’ve Been Everywhere” as performed by Hank Snow

One of the fascinating dynamics of retirement is the difference in attitudes many men and women harbor about travel. Women like it. Men? Not so much.

Yes, this is a generalization, and it’s obviously not always true. But it’s been my experience that women simply seem to enjoy travel more than men during their retirement years.

If you could transport and replant the Louvre, Broadway theaters, the Caribbean and Hawaii, the Sistine Chapel, the south of France and a quaint Italian village into downtown Destin, my husband would gladly visit several times a week. Then he’d come home at day’s end. One of the reasons he espouses for not being a fan of travel is the hotel experience. “I’ve slept in enough bad hotel beds to last several lifetimes.” And, “I always get the room next to the ice machine.”

Auschwitz, Tragedy and the Dance of Life

“Some dance to remember... Some dance to forget...” — from “Hotel California,” as performed by The Eagles

For an entire year after the war, she did not speak. And she hoarded food like an animal while recuperating in a Swedish hospital.

Now, at age 93, she performs the rumba, the foxtrot, the merengue and the tango.

All of us face significant life difficulties, including financial challenges and concerns. Many of us obsess over market movements, investments and our bank balance. Few of us, however, have experienced the cruelty and loss that has plagued the life of Manhattan resident Helena Weinrauch.