Posted on Thursday, 27th July 2017 by

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I vividly recall visiting my house parents room in 1959. My brother and I were in a home for boys and our house parents had just purchased a console color TV, the first any of us had seen, and it had a remote control! Each time she changed the channel you could hear the motor activate, quit an invention for its time.

Times and circumstances have changed considerably since then. I’ve always been a history buff and I believe I missed my calling; I would have enjoyed digging up the past and exploring historic sites around the world had I had the opportunity. In one of my favorite books, John Adams by  David McCullough, a passage on page 32 states, “Adams’ father and mother lived no differently than had their fathers and mothers, or those who preceded them.” How reassuring that must have been to know that what lay ahead essentially is what came before you, little change and certainly far less stress and worry.

Today, each new invention or automation improvement keeps us on our toes and we certainly can’t predict the future based on what transpired in the past like in John Adams time. Can you imagine telling our parents about a smart phone… Hey mom, I have a portable phone in my pocket, it’s also a TV… YES mom I can watch TV shows on my phone. Oh by the way it’s also a camera, movie camera, audio recorder, radio, calculator, watch, timer, GPS, and heart monitor. I can also pay our bills with it, deposit checks, and can use it to buy things at the store!!! Do you want one mom?

That’s only a fraction of what the iphone can and does for hundreds of millions of us today. What can we expect tomorrow? How about autonomous – self driving – cars and trucks, space travel, solar panels powering homes, 3-D printing, and factories filled with robots… not filled with working people like in the past! WOW, our parents and grandparents would be amazed. We experience never ending changes in a constantly revolving world. It’s no wonder why we often want to step off the train and just appreciate our surroundings, marvel at the simpler things in life like our beautiful grandchildren, and reflect on just how hard it was for our parents that had little and yet did everything to nurture those who have spurred this evolution.

Today life, in America, is so much better for everyone that works to make the things they desire happen. Circumstances won’t change overnight, like so many insist on today, it takes time, motivation, and a never ending desire to get to where you want to be. It is basically up to the individual and no one can make it happen for you, you have to be the catalyst in the equation… If you aren’t willing to put in the time and effort don’t expect miracles. They only happen in the movies.  It’s your choice and you will have to live with and accept the consequences either way.

My father died in 1951 leaving my mother at age 37 with four small children, me being the youngest at a year and a half. My mother had a 6th grade education and struggled to make ends meet. I recently found a letter from Social Security in the early 1950s showing that she received a $30 monthly benefit for each child after my father died. We survived on that along with whatever work my mother could find which included working in a diaper laundry, envelop factory, housekeeping, and operating the old fashioned elevators you see in the 1930s movies to selling cosmetics door to door. I was, by necessity, a latchkey kid long before that term came in fashion.

Many would consider my early life a disadvantage, for me it was motivating, rewarding, and well worth the sacrifices that we encountered. Starting out with less builds character and the desire to succeed at whatever you do. My mother, even with meager means did without everything to support her four children. She would save for months to buy things that we needed for school and I don’t recall us ever eating out, going to a movie theater, or taking vacations. We had what we needed, the love of a selfless mother and the necessities of life. Could many survive on that today?  I say, who could ask for more.

I’m getting a little off track, yet I love to wander and muse about life in general. I started out marveling about a TV remote! What brought this bout of nostalgia on was a recent Comcast Xfinity cable upgrade.  We were losing service for brief periods each week and our TV picture wasn’t what it should be with HD service. Plus our bill was too high. I called Comcast about my concerns and they reduced our monthly bill, upgraded us to their new higher speed service, and changed out our main box and remote.

The new remote is voice activated and with a verbal command you can change  channels, record a program, search for movies, etc. Now all we have to do is hold the talk button and say the channel or service we want. It works great and the new HD box provides a true HD picture, a huge improvement over the old CRT screens we grew up with.  Another HUGE advantage is that if you find a movie that you like that has already started you can press info and then select “Play From Beginning.” What an advantage. In the past you would have to wait for the next airing that could be months away. They also included STARS, HBO, and Showtime with our new 2 year contract! Call your cable provider and ask them to reduce your monthly bill and you too may be pleasantly surprised.

For over two years now my wife and I have abandoned prime TV – CBS, NBC, and ABC – to streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Movies (Prime), on demand, and premium channels. We became tired of the never ending stream of commercials, sometimes as many as 9 or more before returning to the program. After the endless stream of commercials ran you forgot the plot or what you were even watching. The main advantage is NO COMMERCIALS for the most part plus you have the availability of an almost unlimited amount of content. We typically watch an entire uninterrupted series. For example we watched “Party of Five,” a 1990s 7 season series and it took us six weeks or so to view the 140 episodes and again without any commercials. We watched the excellent series Midwifes on Netflix and we are now finishing the Game of Thrones from HBO. The Game of Thrones has a lot of nudity in it so be aware.  I and my wife would be embarrassed to watch this series with our adult children!

CD Rates Rising

Slowly but surely CD rates are rising selectively. You have to watch for special rates. The Clearview Federal Credit Union in Pittsburgh, PA is offering a 2% APY yield on 20-month certificates of deposit with a minimum investment of $1,000. It still seems low but by today’s standards 2% is better than you will get from almost any other financial institution. Some online banks are offering rates between 1 and 2% but they are few and far between. Check with your local credit union and if you are in Pennsylvania call the Clearview Federal Credit Union at 1-800-926-0003 to find an office in your area.

Request a  Federal Retirement Report™  today to review your projected annuity payments, income verses expenses, FEGLI, and TSP projections.

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Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein by the author are not an investment or benefit recommendation and are not meant to be relied upon in investment or benefit decisions. The author is not acting in an investment, tax, legal, benefit, or any other advisory capacity. This is not an investment or benefit research report. The author’s opinions expressed herein address only select aspects of various federal benefits and potential investment in securities of the TSP and companies mentioned and cannot be a substitute for comprehensive investment analysis. Any analysis presented herein is illustrative in nature, limited in scope, based on an incomplete set of information, and has limitations to its accuracy. The author recommends that retirees, potential and existing investors conduct thorough investment and benefit research of their own, including detailed review of OPM guidance for benefit issues and for investments the companies’ SEC filings, and consult a qualified investment adviser. The information upon which this material is based was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but has not been independently verified. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any opinions or estimates constitute the author’s best judgment as of the date of publication, and are subject to change without notice. The author explicitly disclaims any liability that may arise from the use of this material.

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