Sunday, August 28, 2016

Pill Box Memories

D'Lane called me last week to reminisce about our Youth group trip to Europe in the summer of 1972.  After flying into Belgium it was a short trip to a farmhouse in Solrinnes, France near Maubeuge.  Our mission was to salvage as much materials we could from a building that would become a youth center for a local church. 

As I recall we spent the first two weeks doing the reclamation before traveling to Germany, and Poland to talk with Albert Speer (Hilter's Architect and author of "Inside the Third Riech") and then visit East Berlin and Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

One of my most vivid memories was during an evening before dinner several of the high school guys began exploring the beautiful Northern France countryside.  We came upon an abandoned German Pill Box jutting up in the middle of a field.  This is not a picture of the exact Pill Box but my memory is that it is close. 

This discovery is every boy's delight- especially those like me who spent countless hours watching Combat and Gallant Men TV series in the 1960's .  Fearless, I knew that many Pill Boxes were connected with underground tunnels.  So I rushed inside the box to see the hole that was either a tunnel or lower level bomb shelter.  Naturally I wanted to jump down in (no flashlight, no matches nothing).  As I was about to shinny my way down the hole, my partner in discovery grabbed my shirt to prevent my entry.  "Wait", he said and proceeded to throw a rock into the dark crevasse only to hear a splash of water.   Yes, who knows how deep I would have found myself under water before hitting bottom.

Now trying to recreate that memory, I discovered the power of information on the internet.  Yes - every interest is covered.  There is actually a group (and website) fascinated with the history, purpose, preservation and location of these structures - The Pillbox Study Group (PSG).

That first trip to Europe was full of stories that I still enjoy retelling to this day - Poland Bumper Cars, Even/Odd Elevators, Steak Tartare, Polish Zolty, and more. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Active Investing Mountain

Today I was instructed to clean my office by M.L.  One of the most unsightly piles (yes I manage and file papers by piles) is all the correspondence since 12/28/15 from the Prime Clerk office regarding the Magnum Hunter Bankruptcy.

TWO FEET of paperwork with over 80 Federal Express envelopes delivered to my door (nearly one every other day).  The postage alone must exceed $500.  This mountain was the result of R.M. encouraging me to write the Judge asking him to consider Chapter 7 bankruptcy vs Chapter 11.  That innocent letter was recorded in the Prime Clerk office and I was listed as an "interested party". 

And.......  I continue to get paperwork even after the ruling (in favor of the Chapter 11) at the house.  I've decided to stop collecting it to add to my pile and will throw it away today.

My Magnum Hunter stock and preferred is now worthless - along with many other sorry investors..  While painful - it is not financial significant (I feel sorry for those that invested their retirement in Magnum) and I can add this to the list of other risky investments I have made (and have gone bankrupt) over the years (i.e. Symbolics, Learnout & Hauspie, Euro Tunnel, Euro Disney, Nortel, Presidential Casino, Webvan etc.).  

What have I learned in 40 years of investing? -  that passive investing (index investing) is the proper way to invest for your life savings.  Remember LeBouef's Law from his book "The Millionaire in You" -   -  "Invest your time actively and your money passively"

Does that mean you should avoid those tempting get rich quick ideas, or brilliance of buying the early Microsoft?   No - but only if you treat it like gambling and entertainment.  Expect to lose it all - "play money" is the term.  Also expect the time spent to be wasted also.  Don't have the illusion that the time spent on these activities will get any great return also (other than interesting topics at lunch or dinner).

But...... there is a whole industry focused on active investing arguing that with enough time and intelligence (and many add diversification), you can "beat the market".  There are plenty of stories and testimonials about those who have done it.  Just ignore the Nobel Laureates - Markowitz, Sharpe, Miller, Kahneman, and who cares about what Adam Smith, Bachelier, Samuleson, Fama, French, Galton, Sinquefield, Malkiel, von Hayek, John C. Bogle, and yes.....   Warren Buffet himself say.   Listen to those who will profit from your fees -  they have your best interest in mind.

But in the Financial Planner's defense -  They can protect you from yourself....... and TWO FEET of paper :)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Brighter Faith

Today at FMBS we discussed Faith - and what that means.

I remember asking R.M. on our road trip from Wilmington to Cincinnati to describe something that requires a leap of faith.  As he pondered the question he replied = "The trust in our monetary system".  He was reflecting the mystery that we all can use this paper money as a means of economic exchange that provides ongoing  security, and sustenance in our daily existence. Yet there are plenty of examples where money and monetary systems have failed or completely changed in our society.

But what about the faith in a higher order (even higher than money) - maybe faith about God and even an afterlife - something beyond daily existence.  I just finished a documentary movie "Flight from Death - The Quest for Immortality that was inspired by Ernest Becker's book "Denial of Death".   "Wealth is  a symbolic barrier to Death" was a comment by one of the scholars interviewed.  So faith in money (Wealth) is just an illusion of temporary mortality here on earth.  "Social Death" may occur as a result of poverty here on earth. But you can even have "Social Death" as a millionaire (e.g. poverty in relationships).  So faith in wealth is an illusion.

So how does one "get" faith?   G.M asked this morning.  Is it an on and off switch?  Or is it like a dimmer?  For faith in God, I believe that the Holy Spirit can't be turned off - it is always on.  So the light gets brighter and darker with each moment of worldly tests.  You can see faith in action through others. In fact like a room full of lights - the luminosity increases with both more lights and greater lumens. 

Brighten your day - turn up the dimmer switch.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

ERA - Eternal Retirement Account

While at Scott River Lodge, upon my suggestion to read Ron Blue's book "Splitting Heirs", S.L. suggested I read "Money, Possessions and Eternity" by Randy Alcorn.  Of course, had read Randy Alcorn's book "Heaven" during my early Heaven Board research, so this recommendation was an easy "sell". 

At first glance the book seems daunting - 504 pages, 22 Chapters and additional appendices and 840 Bible Verse references.  But I have found that nudges occur for a reason.  I'm now on Part 2 - "Seeing Money and Possessions in Eternal Light.  As I was preparing today for SVP Cincinnati's Membership Committee meeting some of the coincidences just converged.

S.L had also asked : Why I had chosen SVP Cincinnati to invest my time and treasure vs a faith based activity?   I didn't have a pithy or quick response.  Yet in today's planning, I feel making investments in SVP Cincinnati is building eternal wealth.  As Randy Alcorn puts it - Jesus isn't saying (Matt. 6:19-24) it's wrong to invest.  He's saying, "Don't make a stupid investment, make a smart one". 

That's what SVP Cincinnati is all about - Engaged Giving and Investing Smartly (vs Checkbook Philanthropy).  I will present an idea that came to me to help build the retention,  renewal, and relations of our Partners - SVP Philanthropy Night (Some Very Philanthropic Discussions).  Groups of 3-6 Partners will dine and discuss topics of significance instead of the typical chit chat on meaningless affairs (like our current politics).  With the help of my other Partner's we will create a list of 10-15 questions in Philanthropy to discuss - JIGS (Joy in Giving Scenarios). 

So the to S.L.'s question - SVP Cincinnati  is like making deposits into my ERA (Eternal Retirement Account).  It's just another form of asset allocation with eternal dividends :)