It’s Time to Outlaw Student Loans

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Now hold on. Before you think I’ve totally lost my mind, hear me out on this one.

More than two decades ago, when Hillary Clinton was busy working on her plan to nationalize our nation’s health care system (yes, that would be when she was First Lady), the idea of how to stop spiraling health care costs suddenly hit me: Outlaw health insurance.

The reasoning was basic economics: Sellers charge what the market will bear. Because consumers didn’t pay their health care costs out-of-pocket (that’s what health insurance is for), they had no incentive to “shop” for the best price. As a result, the market (i.e., those health care consumers) could bear almost any price. Given that, it was only natural prices skyrocketed. (Well, that and an unconstrained tort system that made medical malpractice one of the fastest growing industries in America.)

Now consider college costs. They’ve skyrocketed, too. Why? Because the financial “aid” Continue Reading “It’s Time to Outlaw Student Loans”

How to Protect Yourself From Being Hypnotized Without Knowing It

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Have you ever been mesmerized? It happens all the time. To everyone. It’s like when you look at one of those pictures with all these tantalizing shapes. They dazzle your eyes, preventing you from seeing the real picture hidden within. That’s what being mesmerized is like. And you don’t even know it’s happening.

Several years ago I found myself in San Antonio to make a presentation about how research in behavioral finance identifies useful techniques to help people save for their retirement. A fellow came up to me. He had read my book 401(k) Fiduciary Solutions and told me he felt every professional should read it. Then he asked the question no author ever wants to answer: “So, how is your book selling?”

I didn’t know the best way to respond, so all I said was the coy, “I’d like sales to be better.”

Then he told me something fascinating, something I had never heard before. He revealed Continue Reading “How to Protect Yourself From Being Hypnotized Without Knowing It”

A Career vs. A Calling

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Every college graduate faces this same unknown upon graduating: How can I begin my career?

The last few weeks of college produce a rush of events. With long-term deadlines expiring in rat-a-tat-tat fashion, students push themselves at the end of their final term as if on autopilot. Their Spartan goal is to just survive from one deadline to another. Decision making becomes autonomous. They focus on “the quickest way to get from Point A to Point B” (with “Point B” almost always being walking across the stage to receive the coveted diploma).

In all this confusion, there comes a moment when the student thinks “did I fire six shots or only five?” In other words, and in a translation those not acquainted with the Eastwood canon might recognize: “Did I forget to unplug the iron?” With everything complete, there’s a few days respite before graduation when the student has a chance to breathe. That’s when there’s finally time for the student to assess things. That’s when the gnawing feeling that they forget something important takes hold.

Immediately after the celebration of graduation ends, there’s a temptation to view the Continue Reading “A Career vs. A Calling”

Old Granite Face Proves the Futility of Man Against Nature

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No one really knows for sure when it happened. The best guess says the event occurred sometime between the dark night of Friday and the lonely early morning hours of Saturday. A moist fog had covered the Cannon Mountains since Thursday. The rain only intensified on Friday, with nearly an inch pouring down into the deep crevices of the wrinkles in the weary face of the Old Man.

But it was the fatal freeze that finally did him in. As the evening turned into night, the temperatures plunged twenty degrees to within two degrees of the all-time low of 22⁰ set in 1966. The wind and rain, the freezing and thawing, the brittle sun-borne baking had taken their toll. All the King’s horses and all the King’s Men couldn’t keep Humpty Dumpty from falling again.

And fall he did. His chin gave way first. That was the keystone. For more than twelve thousand years, the weight of the four granite slabs above it rested on this protruding piece. Perhaps giving new meaning to “sticking your chin out,” nearly 80% of this bottom piece projected into thin air with no visible means of support. The remainder of the chunk of rock – a mere two feet in total – rested on the mountain’s ledge. This is where the Continue Reading “Old Granite Face Proves the Futility of Man Against Nature”

A New Beginning

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There’s nothing like strolling out to the pitcher’s mound for the first game of the season. A new season ushers in a new beginning, and with a new beginning comes new hope. For someone like me, the games may be of the past, but the smells aren’t: the sweet fragrance of the freshly mowed outfield; the gritty dryness of the dusty infield; the melts-in-your-mouth aroma of broken-in leather. With these smells, of course, bubble up the feelings of old: the promise of a clean slate; the dreams of achievements yet to be; the comradery of brothers only shared experience can forge.

Admit it. If you’ve ever played Little League Baseball, then you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve ever coached, then no doubt you’re amazed how a new generation of kids Continue Reading “A New Beginning”

Cuomo Albany Über Alles

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The ambitious lawyer took no time to achieve his goal. In less than a decade, he had moved from being a partner in his New York City firm to a major real estate investor in the Albany area before finally relocating his family to a county located on New York’s farthest boundary. There, within a short span of three years, he had used his New York City and Albany connections to place his own ally in the position of county sheriff and get himself elected to the assembly. There, he steered the powerful New York-Albany axis towards his own political ends. Those constituents he left in the hinterland? Once he went to the assembly in Albany, no one cared about them. He didn’t. His wealthy backers in New York City didn’t. And the powers that be in Albany didn’t.

Sound familiar? After reading the above, you may be thinking of the poor underserved Continue Reading “Cuomo Albany Über Alles”

How Atari’s Asteroids Helped Launch THE SENTINEL

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Life is a never ending series of wagers. Each decision you make is a bet that can have long-term consequences. Sometimes you make the right decision. Sometimes the decision you make doesn’t seem right but turns out to be the best decision you ever made. Such was my case in 1982. I turned down a $30,000 fellowship that fulfilled my dream of taking complex concepts of astronomy and spreading it to regular people across the land. I decided against that offer because I thought I had a better one. Although it paid slightly less, I accepted a job at a New York City consulting firm. Because it fulfilled my dream of being the communications go-between with the technical folks on one side and the non-technical folks on the other. Of course, who knew I’d get laid off before I even graduated? In the end. I accepted a non-descript, less-than-entry-level, dead-end job that paid roughly a third of that fellowship.

Sounds like I made the wrong bet at the beginning of this series of decisions.

But, you know what? Life has a way of turning lemons into lemonade. In the first segment Continue Reading “How Atari’s Asteroids Helped Launch THE SENTINEL

The Incredibly Weird Way I Landed My First Job and Accidentally Started a Life Long Career

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Remember that oft-postponed Honeoye Falls-Mendon Rotary Club meeting I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. It finally happened. We had a sumptuous supper at Mendon 64 and, as always, the conversation was jovial, inspired, and ever enlightening. If you don’t know by now, Rotary does an awful lot of good things in our community. I like organizations that do an awful lot of good things in our community. I like the organizations like the Honeoye Falls-Mendon Rotary Club.

Betsy and I were delighted to be the appetizer for the evening’s dinner. And by “appetizer,” no, I don’t mean Hilary and Molly named a pre-dinner dish after us. Rather, I mean we provided the entertainment prior to that delicious dinner I referred to in the first paragraph. During our short presentation, I offered a never-before-told story about the beginnings of The Sentinel. (The end of this story was alluded to briefly in the never published Carosa Commentary entitled Banzai! that was “reprinted” on our Throwback Thursday page seven in the March 23, 2017 issue of The Sentinel.)

It occurred to me it would be unfair to our vast ocean of readers to limit knowledge of “the rest of the story” to the select group of Rotarians who attended the March 22nd meeting. Upon further reflection, it seemed there are actually two lessons in this story. Rather than consume an entire page of print, I’ve decided it best to create a two-part Commentary.

Lesson #1: Never Let Bad News Defeat You and Never Underestimate the Power of Curiosity
Our story begins in the spring of 1982. It’s roughly thirty-five years ago to the day that I Continue Reading “The Incredibly Weird Way I Landed My First Job and Accidentally Started a Life Long Career”

Praising Pranksterism

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Perhaps you heard this story explaining the origin of April Fools’ Day. Prior to the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar in 1582, April 1 marked the beginning of the new year. When Pope Gregory XIII blessed the calendar that would inherit his name, he not only replaced the Julian Calendar, but he simultaneously shifted the start of the new year to January 1. Those who continued to believe the new year started on April 1 were made fun of; hence, the start of April Fools’ Day.

Of course, this may not be the true explanation. For one thing, April Fools’ Day was celebrated in England well in advance of their adoption of the Gregorian Calendar. In addition, this conclusion was not deduced from any hard historical evidence, it was arrived at circumstantially. In fact, the earliest actual reference to April Fool’s Day may have been Chaucer, whose Canterbury Tales (published in 1392) referenced April Fool’s Day in the Nun’s Priests’ Tale. Eloy d’Amerval wrote a poem in 1508 that contains the French phrase “poisson d’avril,” which is the phrase one shouts after pranking someone on April Fool’s Day. Finally, there is the comical poem written by Flemish writer Eduard De Dene entitled “Refrain on errand-day/which is the first of April.” This poem was published in 1561, a generation before the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar.

A professor of history at Boston University who specialized in popular culture by the name of Joseph Boskin offered a more convincing origin story. In 1983, Boskin was in Los Continue Reading “Praising Pranksterism”

Snow Day, March 15, 2017

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There’s something totally relaxing about sitting in the comfort of your warm home while Mother Nature unleashes her winter fury all around you. Why does it relax me so? It’s not because I’m taking the day off from work. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I can work anywhere, anytime, 24/7 (as long as the electricity is working, but that concern was so last week for most people and so two weeks ago for me, but more on that later…). It’s not just because I can rest easy, knowing my family is safe with me (or safe wherever they are).

That’s all true, but there’s something else that relaxes me. It’s knowing that I’m sharing a common experience with everyone else in our broader community. There’s something to be said about this collective involvement. When a snow storm beyond a certain magnitude strikes, everyone stops. Well, they stop once they’re finished raiding the local grocery store for such essentials as milk, bread, and (fill-in-the-blank-with-your-favorite-non-nutritional-snack). Once prepared, we all head home and wait.

Admit it, are you like me? Do you agonize in anticipation waiting for that first flurry? Do you Continue Reading “Snow Day, March 15, 2017”