Posted in advice

The Plan

We all love plans.  We love when things go according to plan.  We plan for vacations, weddings, and even for college.   We plan for our future.  From the time of being little children, we start planning what we hope things will be like when we are adults.  When things don’t go according to THE PLAN, everyone loses their minds.  Many of the problems we have are because we weren’t planning for plan A to fail.  The only thing you can count on is that things will and always change. We seek order in a universe where chaos can only increase, and yet we still find it hard to plan for the most definite thing.

So, what is definite?  Death is definite.  We are all going to die someday.  Some of us will have a long life and others, unfortunately, will die young.  It may be an accident or on purpose. It may be something we can control or something we have no control over at all.  Regardless of how, it is inevitable that we will die.  Yet, very rarely do we plan on death.  Why? Because we’re dead. At that point, we don’t have to care about anything let alone the plans we made. 

The problem is that the people left behind care.  They care about the plans or the lack of plans we made for them after we have left this plane.  Many of the plans that we make while we are alive circulate around the idea of staying here longer and enjoying our time while we are here, but rarely about what will happen when we aren’t.  So let’s talk about the level of planning we do in life, and then dig into the planning we should do when we are gone.

I love going to the gym and working out, so that I can eat whatever I want, and so that I can go places without wanting to take a nap every five minutes.  I can’t go to the gym everyday because of the weather or because so many people think they can hit their fitness goals in the first months of the year (I call them the resolutions).  They take up every piece of equipment at the gym, and have absolutely the worst form.  Then give up after they didn’t lose 50 pounds that first month, and wonder why they didn’t hit their target while downing a cheeseburger every day.  They made this plan and I made mine, they ruined my plans and now I have to make new plans.

Those new plans mean that sometimes I need to eat things  that I don’t 100%  enjoy because nutrition is a thing too.  I have to figure out how to match the effort that I put in at the gym at home, and not everything that is helpful for your body can be consumed through just everyday foods.  The amount of calories we would have to consume to get 5 grams of creatine is absurd.  If you want a good amount of protein, among other nutrients, you may not be able to burn all of those calories with your new at-home workout.

Today, there are so many options to workout at home.  It hasn’t changed much in 40 years.  Back then you bought a tape and put it into your VCR.  Today, there is an app.  The big difference is instead of having a room full of tapes or DVDs you have access to as much if not more than ever before on your phone, computer or smart TV.  From beginner to expert, from slow to fast, from light to heavy you can find a home workout that will work for you on one application and with nutrition plans.  I have a membership to my local gym, but I have backup in Beachbody now called BODi for when the gym is full, or I just don’t want to leave the house.  I use the supplements and the diets, so that I hopefully will be here long enough to see my grandkids graduate high school, maybe even college.

My dad went to the gym all of the time, and watched everything he ate.  My grandparents made it to their 80s.  My father howerver worried all the time, and that worry regardless of his fitness took him from us at 60 almost 61 years of age.  He had been to the hospital many times for stress attacks, and one day it turned into a heart attack.  My dad did have a plan, and my mom can live comfortably because of it.  They saved money, but my dad also had multiple life insurance policies and retirement plans that took care of all the things my mom needed and the things she will need.

Sitting at the funeral home taught me a valuable lesson in the cost of losing a loved one, and what plans have to be made for their final farewell.  The funeral for my father was well over $20,000, and that was just for the plot, vault(which was required), coffin, transportation and labor.  He got the second least expensive coffin, the least expensive was cardboard and still cost almost $10,000.  Death cost about as much as a car without all of the financing options, and not nearly as joyous as getting a new car.  The last thing anyone wants to think about when saying goodbye is the price tag.  So while death is definite and difficult, many of us never seem to plan for it.  That lack of planning makes it so much worse for the ones left to deal with it.

At least my dad was older and had his debts paid off, so my mom only had to worry about the funeral costs.  So many of my friends have died these last couple of years.  Some of them made a series of bad decisions, some died from health issues outside of their control, and others died tragically in accidents they could not foresee.  I know a lot of people my age have mortgages, car payments, student loans and so on.  Those debts don’t magically disappear with our death, and  our spouses and kids may have to take those over so they don’t lose the house, car or go bankrupt.

So, one plan we should all adopt is saving our money for when we die, and making sure that if our death happens sooner rather than later, there is something in place to provide those that remain a sense of stability.  So, they don’t have to worry about how to survive and much less how to bury their loved ones.  If you have debt or a young family, there is nothing wrong with having a life insurance policy, at least enough to cover a funeral.  You can increase those plans to whatever size you may need if you want to pay off debts or supplement the loss of your income for your spouse and children.  When you are old you may not need those anymore, because you will have saved up your money to basically insure yourself.

Make your plans.  Go on vacations, have date nights. and go to college.  Make your plans to stay here as long as you can, but make a plan B for your family just in case plan A doesn’t work out.  Whether you need a plan to stick around longer or a plan for when you aren’t, I can be of assistance.  From nutrition to exercise to financial planning to insurance, I would be glad to help out with any plans that may need to be laid out.  

Posted in Uncategorized

Wasted Time and Money (Part 1)

As promised, I said I would discuss college and here we go.  How valuable is a college education?  To answer that we need to view it from a return on investment perspective for each class that is required.  Not all classes are created equal, and some are required just to justify other college degrees.

We spend over 13 years going from kindergarten to our senior year in high school, and every year we get some form of English, history, physical education, music, and other random electives.  Then we go to college because we were told we had to if we wanted a good job, and have to take those same classes all over again no matter what degree you want to get.  But can anyone tell me the purpose of English class once we get to high school?  Maybe some people had a different experience than I did, but 9th through 12th grade English did little or nothing to prepare me for the real world.

English should be about teaching kids how to effectively communicate an idea to an audience, not reading books that need English to English translations.  You know what I am talking about.  No one except English teachers understands Shakespeare, yet every year we have another Shakespeare play to read.  I am an engineer, if I did my presentations and wrote my reports like Shakespeare, would I still have a job?

The other favorite authors are no better, go ahead and recited Mark Twain in public and give me a count of your bruises if you made it out alive.  Salinger wrote one book about a cursing teenager, that somehow inspired crazy people to assassinate other people.  While I do not necessarily believe in toxic masculinity, Hemmingway made a living off of promoting it.  And let’s not forget Dickens, who wrote about poor orphaned children, in Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and David Copperfield, but is best known a story about a greedy man who gets scared into being a good person on Christmas.

That is just high school, then to get my engineering degree I had to take two more years of English in college.  When I mention this to people after the fact, I get the same response, “It was to make you a more well-rounded person.”  To which I respond, “That is what high school was for, but I am paying for this now.”  And those English classes were not about putting together reports to communicate the results of the experiments we did in engineering class, it was more literature written 100 years before I was taking that class.

I would have understood a little better if they had me take a technical writing class, but instead I got to learn the same stuff I learned in high school, and pay for it.  I at least took those classes at community college where it cost about a tenth of the price as it did at the University of Houston.  I am convinced the only reason we have to have more English classes in college, is so all of those English majors have a better chance of finding a relevant job when they graduate, instead of having to learn something new on the job.

At the end of the day, about half of the time in college falls into the same category as those English classes, a complete waste of time and money grabbing scam.  And much like hazing, we all feel like it is a right of passage, and think our kids have to suffer like we did.  How about we drive down college costs, but cutting out the worthless classes, can we could all save about half of our money.

Posted in Uncategorized

Kids Sports Conundrum

Kids love to play games, from the moment they discover a ball to the time they make friends, they find a way to play and compete. Competition is a good thing, and a wonderful thing that makes everyone strive to be better, whether at a game or just life in general. Keeping competition healthy is the key, because too much of a good thing can be bad.

My daughter plays competitive volleyball, and I don’t mind it because she wants to do it, even though it is a massive amount of time. Between leaving work early for practice, having to wake up on the weekend like we’re going to work, along with having to spend a whole weekend away from home in a hotel, there is a lot of commitment to volleyball.  I am not expecting or really wanting my daughter to be volleyball star, so when we go to practice and the tournaments I am just there to have fun and support my daughter.

I think it is good for her, because while she doesn’t like losing, she still has a smile on her face, a laugh in her heart, and has learned that hard work and team work have when the tournament is over. But I see other kids and parents who are sad, crying, or angry after a loss, and I wonder why do something if it is going to ruin your day or more. We always talk about good sportsmanship, but isn’t part of it enjoying the opportunity to play whether you win or lose?

Even though my daughter loves playing the game, she has injured her shoulder, and because the practices are long, we stay up late to finish homework.  She is still a good student, but once you make the commitment for the year, it is difficult to walk away in the middle if grades or their body start to suffer. Since I brought up college in my last post, I think it is important to acknowledge a lot of kids are playing these sports to get into college, and preferably get a scholarship, instead of just for fun.

I have to admit that I think it is difficult (not impossible) to get a degree that will lead to a good paying job (which is reason for college in the first place, right?) if all of your time is spent training for a sport, and that most college players aren’t going into professional sports for their career. So, between injuries, the amount of time that needs to be dedicated, possible education sacrifices, and the money that needs to be spent to play, is it worth it if you’re not just doing it for fun or a hobby (after all it isn’t supposed to be job)? If we remember that hobbies can be a commitment of time and money (whether they are trains sets, model planes, card collecting, video games, sports, etc.) then maybe we can enjoy sports, like the other hobbies, a little bit more.

Posted in advice

The College Paradox

As many of you will find out as the blog moves forward, I am not a huge fan of college, namely from value and return on investment standpoint. I am not saying that there is no place for college, just that there are parts of it that I think need to change. Full disclosure, I have a B.S. in Civil Engineering, but still think half of my college was a waste of time (I’ll get into that in later posts).

Anyway, what is The College Paradox (as I am calling it)? It is the culmination of 2 ideas that independently seem awesome, but together have a hard time coexisting. Those ideas are all of us wanting our children to do better than us and go to college, and the fact that we, as Americans, want to buy American. But lets be honest, who is going to go to college to work on an assembly line, be a plumber, a welder, an electrician, or name any of those things that we need in civilized society. But do those jobs require going to school to get more English, Art, and History exposure?

Whether you go to the hardware store, Walmart, or Best Buy, those places and just about all of the others sell things are made in China, Mexico, Thailand. We have to ask ourselves do we want to by American so bad, that we would be willing to tell our children that they need to go work in a factory making pens, drills, or iphones. I mean there are some degrees that so worthless, your kids may be doing that anyway to go with his $100,000 hole he dug.

If you want to buy American, teach your kids the value of hard labor (not just hard work). We need to be a self sufficient country, and teaching our kids that they can make a good living without at least 4 more years in school (2 of which are basically an extension of high school, I will never understand why I needed a visual/performing art to be an engineer), would be a good start. There is honor in being a plumber, electrician, welder, etc. Maybe we should tell our kids they don’t have to right to college after high school, and let them work a real job and discern what they want to do in the future during that time.

The benefit of going this route, is your kid, or you, won’t have to dig a hole before they climb the hill.