Category Archives: Evaluating Vision: Does It Work?

Free College: What “Free” Really Means

Money Sign Burning FREE

   The average person, in the course of a 20-30 year career, will pay anywhere from $24,000 to $87,000 more in taxes after receiving a “free” college education. And that’s not even the worst of it.

   Recently, I asked students if they would vote for someone who promised them free college and a resounding yes reverberated through the realm. Then I asked them a question they evidently hadn’t considered: Would you vote for free college if it cost you more in taxes than the actual student loans? The answer? “Who cares?? It’s free now!”

The “Younger Gen” Mindset

   Many students are not known for their fondness for planning ahead—nor, to be fair, are most people in their teens and twenties. So it’s not too terribly surprising that they really don’t know or care what “free” college will inevitably cost them. Many will say “nothing;” they don’t actually believe that candidates will really raise taxes to pay for free stuff. But when Bernie Saunders was specifically asked whether he would raise taxes, not just on the rich, but on the middle class to pay for free college and healthcare, his answer was a straightforward, “Yes, I will.” So, we know it’s going to happen. But just how much will that increase be and what does that mean in terms of costs for young folks who just want to get an education? Let’s break it down.

Current Tax Rates

   The first thing we need to realize is that tax rates are calculated in income steps. For example, after all deductions, your taxable income is currently calculated at the following rates:

  • your first $9700 is taxed at 10%;
  • your next $9701 to $38k is taxed at 12%;
  • your next $38,001 to $51k is taxed at 22%;
  • your remaining income above $51,000 is taxed at 24%.

   Now then, let’s take Jake, who has $40,000 in taxable income after all deductions have been calculated; Jake will owe $4606 in federal taxes at the current tax rates. Now, let’s say someone comes along and raises Jake’s middle class tax rates, even a little, perhaps at the following rates:

  • $9700 is taxed at 12%;
  • $9701 to $38k is taxed at 15%;
  • $38,001 to $51k is taxed at 25%;
  • remaining income above $51,000 is taxed at 28%.

   This is a conservative tax hike; real tax-increase rates could be higher. However, even at this small raise in rates, Jake will owe an additional $1103.00 per year in federal taxes. (Of course, when he gets a raise, he’ll owe more.) Furthermore, over the course of a 20-year career, Jake will pay $22,060 in extra taxes! If he works 30 years, he’ll pay an additional $30,090.

   And here’s the kicker: It doesn’t matter whether Jake ever went to college himself or not—he’ll still be paying for everyone else to go.

Get Real

   Many students take out loans to pay for college. And while no one particularly likes to have to do that, it’s better to do that and be debt-free in ten years than to get “free” college and pay twice what it costs in higher taxes. And that’s not all. No one should have to pay back their own student loans and pay back everyone else’s because higher tax rates kicked in after they graduated.

I hope that’s clear: If you’ve already graduated, you’re not only paying for your own college education, but every day of your 30-year working life, you’ll be paying for someone else’s “free” college education.

   Not convinced? Here are more numbers based on taxable income (after deductions), indicating how much of your hard-earned money will be going to pay for other people’s college education:

  • Making $50,000? You’ll pay $1403 more in federal taxes per year; $28,060 over 20 years; and $42,090 in the course of a 30-year career.
  • $60,000? $1703 more per year in taxes; $34,060 in 20 years; and $51,090 in 30 years.
  • $100,000? $2916 more per year in taxes; $58,320 in 20 years; and $87,480 in 30 years.

   The amount you’ll pay in additional taxes in the course of your working life will be enough to provide “free” college for two, three or even four students—far, far more than you would have paid for your one college education. And here’s more good news—if you’re married and your spouse is working, you’ll be paying for the “free” college education of five, six or seven other people.

The End Game

   Whether you’re still young enough to get “free” college or you’ve already graduated from school, you’ll still end up paying a great deal more in taxes during your working life than if you had simply paid for your own education, even if you had to take out student loans.

  The bottom line is this: At the end of your career when that extra money you forked out in higher taxes is not there for your retirement, you’ll realize that your “free” education cost far more than you’d ever imagined—and not just in terms of money—but in quality of life, security, and peace of mind.

   And there’s no freedom in that.

 

 

 

Some Things You’re Just Not Supposed to Talk About.

Blood-Moon1-650x541

SOME THINGS YOU’RE JUST NOT SUPPOSED TO TALK ABOUT.

   Did you know that hell doesn’t exist? I didn’t either but it’s on the internet. And apparently some pastor is preaching it, so it must be true. And who am I to argue with a pastor? I think his premise is that God is not that “mean”—he would never create such a horrific place. But, having been to Baltimore, I’m not so sure.

   Rhetoric aside—there is a hell. Unfortunately, I wish I were joking about the existence of pastors preaching that hell isn’t real but, sadly, that’s no lie; they’re out there.  Furthermore, the concept of hell is not the only foundational principle in scripture that they’ve decided needs a little makeover—there are many more. So, just for the sake argument (because—why not?), let’s see how well those revisions stand up to a little truth and common sense.

Hell—Yes or No?

   The fact is that there are a growing number of churches where the concept of hell has been banished from doctrine altogether based on the flawed assertion that because God is love, then he would never be capable of creating a place designed for the sole purpose of torturing poor, unsuspecting humanoids. If I may say—that contention makes about as much sense as AOC on a good day. Here’s why:

  • If there’s no hell, then Christ died to save us from—what?
  • The existence of hell does not negate God’s love for mankind. In fact, if He didn’t love people, why would he have endured any death for mankind much less the unreservedly horrific crucifixion he bore on the Cross?
  • On a personal note, just because I don’t let you into my house with mud on your shoes, doesn’t mean I don’t love you; you just have to lose the mud on your shoes and you’re in. Likewise, just because God doesn’t let you into his throne room with sin on your soul, doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. It does mean He is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon sin” (Hab. 1:13); it does not mean He could just tolerate sin if He felt like it. Moreover, He did die so that you could be cleansed from sin. So then, if He can have no intimacy with sin, and if He died so that you could be cleansed of it, what more do you want from Him? But regardless, bottom line—his house, his rules.
The Word of God—Is It or Isn’t It?

   Another little pet rationalization made by those who don’t like what’s in the Bible is that it isn’t really God’s Word anyway so why do we have to do anything it says? You don’t. It’s a free country. Just remember that freedom of choice does not equate to freedom from consequences.

   Some years ago, in the midst of a particularly long and painful season of life, I experienced a crisis of faith in which I realized that if I were going to walk the difficult path God was asking me to walk, I needed to know that He was truly real. However, I knew I couldn’t be certain of that unless I really believed, beyond a doubt, that His Word had actually been written by Him and not “coauthored” or altered or made up entirely. In short, I asked Him to prove to me that He actually wrote the Bible. (Yep, I did that.) And He did prove it. Within one week, I heard the same teaching from Josh McDowell and Charles Stanley on the impossible mathematical odds of prophecy in the Bible coming to pass through sheer coincidence. Break it down:

  • First, the Bible contains three types of prophecy: predictions concerning the nation of Israel and the Jewish people; Old Testament predictions identifying the coming Messiah; and End-Time prophecy.
  • There are over 300 Messianic prophecies in the Bible and the odds of just eight of those 300 happening randomly by chance are one in 1023 (that’s a 1 followed by 23 zeroes).
  • The odds of the whole 300 happening through sheer chance are literally impossible to calculate.
  • No other holy book from any other religion contains prophecy validating its divine authorship.

The bottom line is that a person has to have more faith to believe that many prophecies could possibly have come to pass through random coincidence than simply to believe that there is truly a God who predicted those events in the Bible, thereby proving that He wrote his Word.

The “Good Person” Myth

   I used to believe that there was some cosmic scale in heaven and when we die, somehow God manages to pile our good deeds on one side of the scale and our bad deeds on the other, and whichever way the scales tipped would determine where we’d spend eternity. And let’s face it—unless we grew up in bubble wrap, we all thought that at some point. Moreover, just about every other religion bows to some version of the “good person” dogma. Reincarnation, for example, is the same deal except that you have unlimited lifetimes to straighten out your karma. (But did you ever wonder: If you’re really bad in your last life and come back as, say, a cockroach in the next, how do you work your way up from there? By being the best cockroach you can be?)

Here’s the problem with the “good person” argument: If we could be “good enough,” then Christ died for nothing.

   Think about it: If any of us could possibly be good enough to get into heaven without any supernatural intervention, then wouldn’t God just let us do it? Why would He have sent His son to suffer and die? After all, what parent would even consider sending their child to die in the first place, much less for someone who didn’t need it?

   So that must mean we do need it.

And… So What?

   We may not think that this whole concept of people twisting the truth of the Word is really all that prevalent and so it’s not really that big a deal—right?

   So wrong.

   Altering the truth of the Word of God equates to one thing: deception. And this deception is wide-spread and becoming more so every day. And that makes it a very big deal.

   The real truth is that however we think about these three concepts in this life—the authenticity of the Bible, the reality of hell, and the method by which we are saved from hell—these will affect how we live and how we teach others to live. And it will affect something else as well: our eternal destinies. Can we afford to get that wrong?

   Maybe it’s time we talk about it.

 

 

(pic by AzDude)

 

 

 

Operation Plan B

Car Crash 6 cropped

   There is no Plan B.

   Ever seen that t-shirt? Here’s what I’d like to know – why isn’t there a Plan B? Back-up plans make it less intimidating to go after Plan A.

   There is one question I always consider when deciding whether or not to take a risk: “What’s the worst-case scenario?” What can I potentially lose, break, or damage – and can I afford to lose, break or damage that thing? What will chasing that dream cost me if it tanks? Will I lose a little money? some money? all my money? How much can I afford to lose? Same with time – how much lost is too much? (No matter what else it costs, pursuing a vision will always require time.) Will the time, effort or money I put into that dream cost anything in terms of relationships with family, friends or colleagues? Is there a risk to reputation? Health? And if any of these risks materialize, what then?

   What’s the worst-case scenario? And is there a fix?

Plan B is all about the fix. What will you do if the worst happens? That’s your Plan B.

   Now if you’re thinking that having a Plan B is for sissies, let me ask you this: Do you have car insurance? Life insurance? Home owners’ insurance? Medical insurance? Aren’t those all Plan B’s? If you get into a car accident (and that’s not Plan A) who will pay? Who gets sued? Not you – if you’re insured. Here’s another: some folks make a pre-nup before the vows in case the marriage goes, well, less favorably than hoped. Plan B. Or this Plan A: vacation on the Riviera. But if money’s tight, it’s Plan B: Peoria (Illinois, not Africa).  

   Face it – we all have Plan B’s.

   In Jane Austin’s Northanger Abbey, the not-so-nice Isabella becomes engaged to James Moreland – and stays engaged to him until she’s certain of an engagement to Captain Frederick Tilney who has way more cash. James, poor chap, is her Plan B; if she can’t find someone worth more, she’ll settle for James.  (I won’t tell you how that turns out.)

   I’m certainly not suggesting that your Plan B be a “settle” proposition but rather a plan in place to give you the courage to go after Plan A – to fulfill your dream and, ultimately, your destiny. Buy that beach house (to write in, of course) – just make sure you have flood insurance. House on the Pacific coast? Flood and earthquake insurance. Debating a college education? Go after that degree – what’s the worst that can happen? It’ll take longer than you thought? Time’s going to pass anyway; will you have anything to show for it? How about money – will your dream cost more than you thought? Maybe. But are you satisfied with your current wage?  Or what happens if you open that business and – worst-case scenario – it’s an epic fail? What then? It depends. Define “failure”. Does that mean that you have to debrief, regroup, remarket, and then take another crack at it? Or does it mean that you go bankrupt and lose everything? If, given the competition and the market, ruin is a possibility then perhaps the acceptable risk is too much. And if that happens, perhaps there is no fix.

   Maybe there is no Plan B.

   If there’s no possible Plan B for a worst-case scenario, then perhaps the better part of wisdom is to move on from that Plan A.

   What if there are no foreseeable catastrophic consequences should you experience a dream fail? For example, what if you write that book and then no one’s lining up to publish it? I can’t guarantee it’ll be published but I can guarantee what will happen if you don’t write it: for the rest of your life you’ll regret not giving it a shot.

   What if?

   That’s another essential question: What if I don’t activate Plan A? Will I be able to live with myself or will I regret it for the rest of my life? Regret is a bankruptcy of the soul for which there is no Plan B.

   So – formulate your Plan A, prepare your Plan B and – launch.

   The world is waiting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Up with “Image” Ads? How NOT to Market Your Business.

baby-with-tatoos

          Having worked at an ad agency once upon a time, I can almost tell when a television or radio ad was conceived by a bunch of people sitting around a conference table and brainstorming the pitch. Take, for example, that Laughing Cow cheese. (You know – the little, individually wrapped one-bites that cost more per mouthful than a Mercedes?)  Did you ever wonder how in the world they came up with the name “Laughing Cow”?  I don’t know for certain because I wasn’t there, but I’m willing to bet it went something like this:

            “We need a unique name – something that stands out from all the rest.”

            “Okay, then that rules out any use of ‘diary,’ ‘farm,’ or ‘cheese’ – although it is cheese. How about we focus on it being healthy?”

            “Cheese? Healthy? Are you kidding? No one in Alabama, the ‘deep-fry’ capital of the world’ would even buy that! The only thing with a higher fat content is bacon.”

            “He’s right. Why do you think they only wrap one bite at a time?”

            “And with all that wrapping, we can’t even tag it as convenient.”

            “That’s for dang sure!”

            “So what image are they trying to sell?”

            “Well, it tastes good.”

            “What cheese doesn’t? What else you got?”

            “How about the whole comfort food thing? It makes you happy!”

            “That might work, but how are we going to sell ‘happy’?” (Smirk.) “It’s not like we can hire a laughing cow!”

            Silence.

            “Why not??”

            “That’s perfect!”

            “I know just where we can get one…!”

            And the rest is advertising history. But let me ask you this: If you’ve ever bought that cheese, was it because the cow was laughing?

            I thought not.

            The thing about “image” advertising is that the client and agency want you to focus more on how the product or service makes you feel than on the selling points of the products themselves. And one of the biggest markets for this? Women. See, according to image, women don’t make decisions with their heads; it’s all emotion. So if Madison Ave. can just make women “feel” good about a product, they’ll buy it. They don’t care how much it costs, how long it lasts, or whether it even works! And don’t worry about their husbands; they’ll buy anything their wives tell them to buy…

            Don’t believe me?

            It all started a couple of decades ago with “The Softer Side of Sears” campaign. That’s us women, by the way – apparently, we’re soft (in the head). That ad campaign began to sell “man” things for Sears like refrigerators, mowers, and Craftsman tools. How? Showing women cuddling with their families around the new fridge or tossing a ball with the fam on the freshly-cut lawn or – you get the pic. You’ve seen it enough.

            And then there are the kidlets. I see them in the dumbest ads. One of the early TV ads was the baby placed inside of a Michelin tire (picture an inner tube). “Because so much is riding on your tires.” Remember? The subliminal message: You don’t care about your kids if you don’t buy Michelin tires.

            Since that ad, it’s gotten even more ridiculous. Do you ever wonder how stupid they think we are? (Never doubt that Madison Avenue thinks we’re stupid.) Take a certain insurance company, for instance. Have you seen the ad where there are two moms, each needing an estimate for a damaged car? One mom is an idiot wreck, her three boys running madly around the inside the car mechanic’s dark garage while she pulls her hair out trying to keep them from running under the jacked car? One of them is even missing? Meantime, the other mom is standing serenely in the sunshine, clinging to her two well-behaved children, Statue of Liberty positioned conveniently in the background. The point is that this mom is soooo busy caring for her two well-behaved children that she can’t possibly make it to a garage to get an estimate, so she has to pick an insurance company that does it for her. News flash, mom: You probably don’t want the insurance company picking the garage and getting the estimate for you. Of course you don’t think of that – you’re too busy hugging the kids. Or chasing them around the garage. Here’s another news flash for both you moms: All five of those kids are school aged – which means they’re tied up for seven hours a day, five days a week, ten months of the year. And neither one of you can find time to get to a garage without them??

           Sigh.

          Frankly, the only time I want to see kids in an ad is if someone’s selling diapers, Cheerios or there’s a sale at Toys R Us.

          But the best of the worst are the Subaru ads. They show all kinds of gooey family scenes with lots of kids included and the tagline, “Love – it’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru.” Can I just say – I don’t care. I want to know what really makes a Subaru: the brakes, the engine, the speakers – any details would be great. I’d also like to know the price range. I’m not particularly interested in some teenage actress playing somebody’s kid learning to drive. Sorry. To prove my point, I’ve taken my very own poll on that campaign:

Question: Has anyone ever bought a Subaru because love is what makes a Subaru? No? Me either.

           Last but not least – all of the places that “treat you like family”. Am I supposed to pick a car dealership or a dentist or a restaurant because they “treat me like family”? What’s that even mean?? Do I get a free root canal? Are they going to take me to dinner? Pay for the kids’ college? In addition, I don’t care whether it’s a family business or whether it’s been around since the Civil War; that doesn’t guarantee a good product, service or price.

          Maybe you could just focus on the product, service or price?           

          If you’re marketing your business – whatever it might be – may I simply suggest that you stay away from image campaigns that say nothing about your business? Here’s the image those project to any thinking person: Consumers are stupid and easily manipulated. We’re not. So just give us the facts. What do you do or sell? How good are you or your products? What’s the bottom line? That’s all we want to know – despite what the pricey experts are telling you. Want a really original concept? Forget the kids, forget the sappy emotions, forget the “we’re-all-family” routine.

          Just tell the truth.

         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is It Time for A Revision of Your Vision?

hamlet-i
Mel Gibson as Prince Hamlet

     As many of us have realized as we travel the road through life – especially if we’ve been on that road for any length of time – sometimes the road deviates and we find ourselves on a different path than we expected to be on. Sometimes we find ourselves on little bunny trails which end up leading right back to where we wandered off in the first place, and sometimes the road takes us someplace entirely new. The thing about that is we never know how it’s going to turn out. But you know what they say about the “road less taken”? Take it.

     Having said all that, some of you noticed that I didn’t post on Monday – which I normally do. And I was going to – I had no plans not to – until Sunday evening when I sat just listening for what the Lord might say to me for the new year and suddenly, there it was: “Cut the posts back to once a week.”

     “Really?” I wasn’t certain I’d heard right. “Is that really You, Lord?”

     “Yep. It’s really me.”

     I won’t verbatim the whole conversion but the gist is that God wants me working on a revision of a book I’ve written and, in the interest of complete honesty, I was trying to avoid that. Really trying. Hard. It’s going to be an epic task requiring lots of changes and rewriting and frankly, I just wanted to do something new.

     Have you ever gotten to the place where you’re just tired of working on something you’ve been working on for a long time and you just want to move on? Probably. We all have. But we learn endurance and all that – you know the drill.    

     However, I think (scratch that – I know) that the real reason I didn’t want to do any revision on the book was because I simply didn’t know what to do. I knew it needed some changes but, as I said to the Lord, “I got nothing.” And then He showed me something that changed everything.

     He said, “Look at the word.”

     Me: “What word? Your word?”

     “No, the word ‘revision’. You like taking words apart. Take it apart.”

     “Okay. Hmmm…root word: ‘vision’. ‘Re’ is a prefix meaning ‘do over’ – as in “review,” “restart,” “renew”. So… ‘revision’ means ‘do the vision over’?”

     “I’m going to give you a new vision for this book.” 

     And so it’s begun. I sat down on Monday, January 2nd, and worked on the book until after dark, trusting God for the new direction He wants to take it. The funny thing is, as I was listening and writing and listening, I realized that it was on January 2nd several years ago that I first received the idea for this book.

     What are the odds?

     However, even though I’m working on a book that I thought was finished, I might still have had time to post twice a week – except that, in addition to the book, I’ll be working on another assignment. I have a friend to whom, many years ago, God had given a vision for a type of ministry but, in the years since, she’s  not had time to implement it. As a result, her vision ended up “on the shelf” as so many of our visions often do. Yet it was just this past weekend when she had a sudden revelation that, after all these years, it’s now “go” time for that vision to come to life. The fun thing is that I get to be a part of it – but it will take time.

     Sometimes, a new year brings a new season. And, as with all new seasons, things change. For me, because posting on both Mondays and Thursdays takes several hours a week which I won’t have anymore, I’ll now be posting on Thursdays exclusively until – well, until I’m told otherwise. And in the meantime, I’ll be listening for any shift in the wind.

     I’m reminded of a scene from one of my favorite plays, Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In it, Hamlet’s best friend, Horatio, tells Hamlet that if he feels he should not do something, then he should follow his instincts. But Hamlet admonishes Horatio that he’ll do no such thing because God controls everything, even “’the fall of a sparrow’”. If something is supposed to happen now, Hamlet says, it will and if it’s supposed to happen later, then it won’t happen now. (Act V, scene ii)

     What about your vision? Is the Lord saying something to you for this year about reviving it, revising it or even about moving on to a whole new vision?

     As Prince Hamlet once said, “’The readiness is all.’”

 

 

 

 

   

Pick Your Pain.

Girl's Eye In WindowWe increasingly live in a world where people are separated into two camps: there are those who understand that for that “dream come true” scenario to happen, you have to work – and there are those who either don’t know that or don’t care to know that. Their dreams are just “supposed” to happen.  

     The fact is, you are your own fairy godmother; you’re the one with the wand. If you choose not to use it, then the dream won’t happen. Period.

     Why do people not want to work? Because work is, well, work. It requires sacrifice: it requires doing things we often don’t like, it requires long hours, it requires inconvenience, it requires putting up with unpleasant circumstances or (dare I say it?) people, it requires going without. It isn’t always fun. And it’s sad how “fun” seems to be the new standard in terms of which activities are of value and which are not.

In short, work is painful. We give up something now in order to get something later. That’s how it works.

     Or it doesn’t.

     We can play now – and then have to work twice as hard later. That’s painful – especially when everyone else we know is reaping success now because they didn’t play when it was time to work. Working to save money comes to mind – or at least not spending gobs of it when you don’t have it to spend or you’ll need it later in life. We may not have enough to save early on but then we shouldn’t be spending what we don’t have. Want a reason? Because “later” always comes.

     Pick your pain.

     We can play now – and then regret a missed opportunity later. I’ve said it before and I’ll hammer on it again and again: there’s no pain greater than regret. Skipping that job opportunity or business op because it would require too much work. Or missing that opportunity to go to school when you had the chance – or (here’s a thought) to learn something while you’re there. (I always tell kids that if you’re going to college to party, stay home; it’s stupid to take out loans to party.)   Opportunities take work!

     Pick your pain.

     The ridiculous idea that we can go through life without pain is more than just a stupid concept; it’s destructive. More and more people are becoming angry at the concept that they must work to achieve. When people can’t handle the voluntary pain and sacrifice of hard work, then they end up with the inevitable pain and heartache of having declined the opportunity to work.

     Here’s the bottom line: you can endure good pain and reap the satisfaction and profits of it or you can suffer bad pain and reap the sorrow and tragedy of it. There aren’t any other choices.

     Pick your pain. And choose wisely.