Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Social Security

Ever since Social Security began in 1935, there have been more workers paying into the system than retirees withdrawing. The excess payments are saved in the Social Security Trust Fund. Social Security benefits to today’s retirees are paid with earnings from current workers and with money from the trust fund. A demographic shift known as the “baby boom” is underway, with more retirees receiving benefits than workers paying into the system. As you can imagine, the balance of the trust fund is declining. According to a report published by the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees earlier this year, the trust fund is expected to be depleted by 2033. So what happens then?

One of two things will happen in 2033 if reforms are not implemented before then. Social Security taxes will rise for current workers or benefits will fall for current retirees, or some combination of the two. According to estimates, if all of the shortfall were to be shouldered by the retirees, benefits would need to decrease by 25%. It’s unlikely that politicians will have the courage to take on social security reform before 2033. So why am I telling you all this?

Well if you’re of a certain age you need to decide when to start drawing your social security benefits. The longer you wait the bigger your check will be…for the rest of your life. Benefits starting at age 62 are less than if you wait until 65. And much less than if you wait until 70. How long you should put off collecting social security depends on how much of your own money you saved and how long you think you’ll live. If you wait to collect, it takes years to make up the social security benefits you would have received starting at age 62. But if you live to a ripe old age you may wish you had waited. Tough to know what to do. Here’s something else to think about, another factor to plug into your equation.

If your social security benefits were to be slashed because of the depletion of the social security trust fund in 2033, it might make sense to start receiving benefits as early as possible before any cuts are implemented.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Burger King Pursues Tim Hortons

Burger King wants to purchase Tim Hortons, the Canadian doughnut chain. You can read all about it here. As my mother-in-law once said on a trip to Canada, those Canadians LOVE their doughnuts.

The deal involves a tax strategy known as inversion, where Burger King's corporate registration will be moved to Canada to take advantage of Canada's lower corporate tax rate. A couple of observations.

I am shocked to learn that even Canada has lower corporate tax rates than the US. In the world of global corporate competition, our tax structure puts us at a disadvantage with the rest of the world.

In the article, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio is calling for a consumer boycott of Burger King. His energies are misplaced. He would do better to work to level the playing field for American business in a global economy. After all, corporations are owned by stockholders like you and me.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Get These Now Before You Hurt Yourself

I wish I had done this years ago. I've always used generic ear plugs but I felt like I was not protected. The generic plugs are uncomfortable, difficult to insert and do not work for me. Coming away with ringing ears after 2 days of snowmobiling finally pushed me over the edge. I made an appointment  for custom fitted hearing protection with an audiologist at East Central Audiology in Forest Lake. The audiologist squirts a gel into each ear that conforms to the shape of your ear canal. In a few minutes the gel hardens, is removed and sent off to Starkey Labs, where they manufacture the ear plugs you see here. I can use them in the wood shop, snowmobiling, shooting or running a chain saw. I would even bring them along if I ever went to a rock concert again. Once you get the hang of it they insert easily. They are very comfortable and stay put. They are easy to clean. The string is handy for removal and makes them a lot harder to lose. They cost me $160, which I was able to pay using our medical plan flex spending account. You should get a pair of these too. Or you could wait and be fitted for Starkey Labs hearing aids later.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Superior Hiking Trail

It's almost hiking season and I can't wait to hit the trail. That being said there is still 2 feet of snow on the ground along parts of the north shore of Lake Superior. I've compiled a load of my pictures from the trail into a video slide show with some great music. Take 15 minutes, relax and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

German Potato Salad

I was just asked for Jean's German Potato Salad recipe. Since I just spent the time to type it up I thought I'd share it here. One word on sugar. In all savory recipes I feel the amount sugar can be cut in half with results more to my liking. But that's me. I'm passing this recipe along as it is written.

German Potato Salad

1 lb bacon
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
3 teaspoons salt (can use less)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons flour
2/3 cup sugar (can use less)
2/3 cup vinegar
1-1/3 cups water
8 cups cooked cubed potatoes

Cube bacon and fry. Return 4 tablespoons bacon fat to skillet and add celery, vinegar, pepper & water and flour. Bring to a boil. Pour over potatoes & bacon in a 3 quart dish. Cover and bake 30 minutes @ 350 degrees.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Amazing Views of a Nesting Great Horned Owl Family

We spent Easter Sunday watching an amazing display put on by a Great Horned Owl family in their nest. Sorry, I know my headline is a little misleading. I don't actually have any pictures of the birds. The only telephoto lens I have is on my old film camera and as good as they are, smart phone cameras just don't work out in situations like this. So if you've got some big glass I can lead you to the nest. The nice thing about this birding adventure is that you can leave your safari gear at home.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Treasure Found...Bailey No. 7 Jointer Plane

A young couple recently started a business in beautiful downtown Remer called the Rusty Bucket. I guess it's kind of an antique shop, art gallery and curio shop. My friend Mike welded together a 15 foot long fish sculpture out of old bicycle parts that he sold there for a respectable piece of change. I'd been meaning to stop by and check the place out. Hearing their ad on KAXE reminded me to do just that next time I was in town.

I introduced myself to the proprietors and strolled around looking things over when I spied a couple of old woodworking planes. They fell out of favor when power tools showed up but everything old becomes new again and now many woodworkers seek them out to use or just collect. As I reached through the clutter to grab one of the planes I sent the contents of a nearby shelf crashing to the floor. I picked everything back up and tried to put it all back where it was and then I sent another load to the floor. I was seriously embarrassed but the owner Scott kindly laughed it off. Fortunately nothing was broken.

Well I didn't really want to buy an old plane that needs some TLC but after my thrash-about I decided it was the least I could do. So I looked the planes over and chose the Bailey No. 7 jointer plane. Jointer planes are big long affairs used for straightening the edges of boards, a process known as jointing. There is a schematic out there to determining the age and quality of old Stanley Bailey planes based on the location of patent dates and other tell-tale signs but I did not have that information with me. This plane was a little rusty and obviously heavily used but the blade was sharp and the blade depth adjustment nut worked smoothly. The rosewood tote, while slightly chipped was still in tact and the knob looked to be in good shape too. So I grabbed it and carefully walked to the register and paid for it without further incident.

I got back to the ranch and looked up the Stanley Plane Dating Flowchart. As I worked my way through the flowchart I learned that my plane was a Type 12, which means it was made between 1919 and 1924 and was the first of the Stanley "Sweetheart" planes that are known for high quality materials and workmanship. Stanley has reintroduced the Sweetheart brand for planes it makes and sells today but collectors feel they are not the same at all. I'm very happy to have this plane. I paid a fair price, I did not walk away with the bargain of the century but I did get a great old plane that I can't wait to clean up and put back to work. I just hope Scott and Kara will allow me back into the shop.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What Wondrous Love Is This

What Wondrous Love Is This...I heard this hymn in church on Palm Sunday and it struck me with it's simple beauty. It's described as a Christian folk hymn from 1811. I looked all over youtube to find a version that was similar to the tender way Andrea played it at St Joe's and could not find one, but this one is very nice too.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Einstein the Musician

Albert Einstein, celebrated German physicist and the man who brought us E=mc2, the worlds most famous equation, once said that had he not become a scientist, he would have been a musician. "Life without playing music is inconceivable for me. I love my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. I get most joy in life out of music." Einstein said.

Historically, art and music have long influenced scientific minds, allowing them to develop ways of thinking beyond observing empirical data. Einstein preferred listening to and playing Bach and Mozart pieces to help his creative imagination. Einstein's son  explained that his father's fascination with playing music was just an extension of his thinking process, allowing music to overcome mental roadblocks. Some of his greatest insights came during periods of improvisation.