Outside Economics

Its Coming: Learn How to Respond

Posted by Wendell Brock, MBA, ChFC on Fri, May 27, 2016

With this being memorial day weekend perhaps it is appropriate to address the idea of mourning or grieving with those who have lost loved ones. So, what can you do when you or someone you know loses a family member or a close friend is a topic that I think everyone needs to pay attention to. Grief is real. It is intensely personal and can only be moved forward by the person feeling the loss. Helping someone through the grieving process is not instinctive and can be very hard - learn what you can so you can be of more assistance. memorial_day.jpg

Understanding this I thought I would relate a few personal examples. I am the youngest of seven children, five boys and two girls. My father passed away when I was 23 years old, I was single and in college. Fast forward nearly 30 years and my oldest daughter got married and the day after we arrived home, the first phone call was from a lady I had never met informing me that my very good friend and business partner had passed away from a heart attack the night before. There was a funeral to help plan and a elegy to write.

Within a span of 22 months I lost four people I was very close with, my close friend and  business partner, my brother-in-law, who was my best friend and help keep me on the right path as a teenager, we backpacked the John Muir Trail together; my oldest brother, who was my first business partner; and my angel mother, who continues to bless my life by her example of faith and strength. 

Considering my business of financial planning at times I have had to deal with the passing of a client or a family member and help people through the financial stresses of settling an estate (not probate). All the life insurance claims, filed changing accounts to the beneficiary, etc. The over-riding element others should express to those who are grieving is kindness.

Karen de la Cruz, Professor of Nursing says, “Researchers have suggested many grief models over the years, such as Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), but these are just constructs for trying to make sense of an experience that usually doesn’t make much sense. And they can do harm when used to dictate how a person “ought” to grieve.”

de la Cruz continues, “The five stages are rough guidelines. They don't happen in order and they’re much more fluid than was originally thought. You can go back and forth between them, you can be in more than one stage at once, and not everyone goes through every stage.” 

“People grieve according to their own temperament, coping style, age or stage of life, relationship with the deceased, and previous experiences with death,” says de la Cruz.  

While there is no right way to grieve, there are wrong ways to treat those who are grieving. A friend who lost her father a week ago, commented that Monday night she was out with some friends and her boy friend, when someone happened to play a song that was played at her father’s funeral. She got a little teary eyed about and one of the fellows in the group said, “@#*^ life happens, get the @#*^ over it!” Clearly a horribly wrong thing to say. (Not to mention the fact that using foul language is inappropriate.) 

Sue Bergin’s, a hospice chaplain and bereavement counselor, for 10 years, shares a list of what to do and what not to do - to support grieving friends or family.

  • Don’t assume you have to talk. A hug or a squeeze of the hand can be more comforting than words.
  • Don’t tell your own grief story unless asked.
  • Don’t offer advice - of any kind.
  • Don’t assume that if someone has faith in the next life, they will have less need to grieve.
  • Don’t say things like “He’s in a better place” or “At least her suffering is over”. Any sentence that begins with the phrase “at least” is received as minimizing and isn’t comforting.
  • Don’t impose your personal beliefs about death and the afterlife on the griever.
  • Do give grievers your full, focused attention.
  • Do share your memories of the loved one and encourage grievers to share theirs.
  • Do invite grievers to short, low-intensity activities, such as a lunch, family home evening, or a walk or bike ride.
  • Do allow a griever to express his or her honest feelings, including anger at God and anger at the deceased.
  • Do share a book or other resource that has helped you with grief.”

I like this list, it provides some great counsel and clear thinking about what to do and what not to do. It reminds me of a talk I heard years ago by Sally Karioth, Ph.D., she said something to the effect, don’t say to the person “if there is anything I can do please just let me know?” The griever will never call and impose, after all often they don’t know what they need. She said the best thing is to “jump in and do something”… go mow their lawn if it needs it, bring them a bottle of soda pop, or a meal, clean their house, just don’t get in the way, try to do things that do not impose on the person too much as they need their space too. 

My favorite is to take or send a big bag of Peanut M&M’s with a note that says, “here is something to share when people come calling.” However you can show kindness and give a listening ear is best. I hope that we will all be a little more sensitive to those who have lost someone dear in this life. While this topic does not have much to do with economics, it does matter deeply to the people affected by a loss.

Source BYU Magazine



 "Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that."  - Norman Vincent Peale


Topics: Grieving, Grief

My Tax Dollars Go Where?

Posted by Wendell Brock, MBA, ChFC on Fri, May 20, 2016

Now that you are recovering from the pain of settling your tax bill with the federal government, Taxpayers often wonder, where does all their tax money go? The Office of Management & Budget breaks down where tax payments go each year, allowing Americans to see what they’re getting.

For fiscal 2015, the federal government took in over $3.2 trillion in tax payments (that’s $3,200,000,000,000) a record year compared to previous fiscal years. The federal budget for fiscal year 2015 ran from October 1, 2014, to September 30, 2015. The total figure amounts to approximately $21,833 for every person in the United States. 

Federal-Spending-2015.jpgIts important to note that the what is paid in taxes and what the federal government budgets are two different numbers - the difference is the deficit and is borrowed from the federal reserve bank and other countries around the world. The 2015 deficit was $439 billion. While the 2015 deficit has come down from previous years, the total public debt continues to rise. The debt continues to rise because every year we add the current year’s debt to the pile already on the books. Bringing our total debt to over $14 trillion dollars today, which is clearly unsustainable. Our nation’s debt is at the level of our GDP - meaning that if we the public spent an entire year working and producing everything this country produces and paid 100% it on the debt we might pay it off, depending on interest rates.

Another area of spending that is interesting is federal civilian employees, their wages and benefits. I am never one to complain about what someone earns, after all that is the free market we live in, which I completely support. However, it takes a lot of tax payers to support just one federal worker. The average take home wages for federal employees are $83,034 per year. Benefits cost the tax payers another $35,532 per employee; bringing the total compensation for 2015, to $118,566 per employee. (These figures do not include the military.) This is quite a bit higher than the average american employee of the average american company.

The wage gap between federal employees and the private sector continues to grow according to the CATO Institute. Using 2014 numbers: federal employees earned an average of $84,153 and the average private sector employee earned only $56,350. When considering wages and benefits, the gap is larger: $119,934 for federal employees and $67,246 for private sector employees. I could not find the private sector earnings for 2015, but I don’t think they caught up to the federal employees compensation in one year. 

I remember as a teenager my father explaining to me why it was wrong for the federal government to allow federal employees to unionize. He explained that in the future wages would be out of control and that the employees of the federal government would stop being true public servants.    

The mandate to reign in federal spending and to balance the budget must be accomplished. We simply can’t go on for ever running up such deficits and incurring so much debt. Congress and the president must stand up and do what is right. Period. All of these little pet projects of a million here or a million there have been adding up and now they have caught up to create an uncontrollable flood of debt that soon will wash away everything in its path. We all need to stop hanging onto these pet projects and shutter a few federal agencies. 

And the public needs to learn more self-reliance so they can stop thinking they “need the federal government to solve all their problems.”

Source: Office of Management & Budget, CATO Institute



The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men. Attributed to Plato


Topics: self-reliance, tax dollars, Federal Government, tax payers

Want to Improve Your Credit Score

Posted by Wendell Brock, MBA, ChFC on Thu, May 12, 2016

The other day I was in a store that was having a closing sale nearly everything was 70% off. I struck up a conversation with the manager who was losing his job. I asked him about what he was going to do next. He told me that he had been with the company for 21 years and he was not sure, but he was going to just hang out until he decided and found the right opportunity. Then he said this, “when I learned that the two companies merged, and in the future there was a chance I might lose my job, my wife and I decided to get completely out of debt. So we have no debt and can live on very little.”  It was just over two years after the merger that we spoke and the store he managed was now closing. I though how insightful. I was thrilled to learn of another person who was debt free and had the freedom to choose what to do next.

Slavery-equals-debt-1024x676.jpgBecoming debt free should be a goal of each person. I have seen young college graduates who have finished school with well over $200,000 in student loans. As one client was telling me it is “discouraging”. The bondage of debt is discouraging! And what do many young graduates do - load up more debt and buy a new automobile! This debt can be extremely onerous! Read more about auto debt here.

This weeks article is mostly coming from a friend, Shawn Lane who is the Chief Operations Officer at Financial Renovations Solutions, (FRS). His company has helped many people improve their credit score and at the same time get more of their debt paid off. Being debt free greatly strengthens your financial position. Simply put, It is FREEDOM. 

Unfortunately some people find that they have slipped so much into debt that creditors start calling and some accounts get sent to collections. Shawn provides some answers in those difficult situations:


Will paying off a collection account improve my credit score?

I get this question a lot. Although I would never suggest NOT paying your debts, you need to be very careful when paying a collection account. If you are 100% sure you owe it, then maybe you should pay it (more on this later). However, if your goal is to improve your credit score, paying it will likely have the opposite, negative effect.

The FICO scoring model treats collection accounts as closed accounts, and the balance on these accounts have no impact on your credit score. What matters most is “the date of last activity”, which is the date the original debt went bad, or the date of your last payment to the collection agency. This means that a $150 collection account from last month has more negative impact to your credit score than a $3,000 collection account from last year. Therefore, paying it will not increase your credit score. In fact, often times paying it will drop your credit score even more by creating new and more recent activity on this account. 

Further, paying a collection account does NOT remove it from your credit report. You end up spending your money and reducing your credit score.

If you plan to pay a collection account, first secure an agreement with the collection agency to remove the entire collection account from your credit report upon receipt of payment. Better yet, make them first prove you owe the debt by sending them a debt validation letter AND make the credit bureaus prove they are reporting the account 100% accurately on your credit report. If they can’t prove it, they must remove it! Utilize the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, as these protect consumers like you and me! You will have a very good chance of getting the account deleted from your credit report, which WILL increase your credit score.

I know Shawn has worked with people all over and is straight up honest in what he does. He truly cares about his clients. If you would like to contact him, click here, he will provide a free consultation. Everyone of us knows someone who needs help with their debts, pass this article on to them, you never know what will really flip a switch with someone. I wish you the best of luck in obtaining real freedom, by becoming debt free.



"Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential." ~ Winston Churchill



Topics: debt, credit score, debt free, freedom, collections

People Who Are Still Breathing NEED This

Posted by Wendell Brock, MBA, ChFC on Thu, May 05, 2016

Two weeks ago the world lost a very talented musician, Prince. While I must admit I have never been much of a fan of his work, or some genres of most modern musicians, he was amazingly talented. And I am sad for his family's loss. He was young - only 57 years old - young by society’s standards where we routinely expect people to live active lives into their 80's and maybe into their 90's. 

Prince is estimated to have amassed a large estate between $300 to $500 million. This was news to me as I had no idea how large his estate was. I think this is fantastic. For those who know me I thrill at learning of people's successes in life, however they define their success. That is one reason I love what I do - helping people achieve success with their financial goals, whatever they may be.

Back to Prince. I was surprised to learn that he died with no personal estate plan. He chose to use the one the State of Minnesota had planned in their estate laws instead - he died “intestate” (without a will). Now this is simply crazy! This is the example of why everyone needs at least a will, and should have a personal estate plan prepared by a real estate planning attorney.

probate-court.jpgNow it is estimated that approximately 55% (40% federal and 15% state) of his estate will go off in estate taxes. Think about this, he worked from a young age (teenager) practicing the guitar to become a world famous musician, amass a large estate because of his successful use of his talent, only to pay huge income taxes all his life and then the final rub to pay another 55% when he passes away. That works out to be $165,000,000 to $275,000,000 paid to the government (state and federal)! 

Not to mention that his estate maybe tied up in probate court for years to come. What a nightmare for his family!

Here is a person who could easily afford the best advice possible from the sharpest legal minds in our country, but chose not to do so. Clearly he had attorneys who helped review his contracts and other investment advisors who helped him manage his money. It saddens me to think not one of them sat him down and said someday you will die, you should be prepared. Perhaps they tried to do this and he ignored them, like many young people who think they will live forever.

Those of you who are young - or better yet those of you who are still breathing, young or old - need a valid estate plan. Not one referenced by the drive by financial planners, self-prepared on some internet website for $29.99. Don't create problems for those you leave behind - go see a real attorney who specializes in estate planning and get it done right.

Now you may be saying I am not wealthy like Prince; that is not the point everyone needs an estate plan if you own a home, cars, business, or any other assets, you need a plan. Besides a will or trust a proper estate plan also includes certain documents needed while you are still living, like a Medical Power of Attorney, a Living Will,  and other documents. 

If you are part of a second marriage, you need an estate plan. I have personally seen a father disinherit his children and grandchildren and everything went to the second wife, completely different from his wishes. These things happen all too often. If you don’t know of a good estate planning attorney you can I can provide you with more information I know several. I wish you all the best in the proper planning for the future disposition of your hard earned assets. 



"Death is not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate" ~ Ambrose Bierce

Topics: Estate Planning, Will, Trust, probate


Wendell W. Brock, MBA, ChFC

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