By Ron Armstead, Executive Director for the Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Braintrust
Washington, DC (BlackNews.com) — President Obama at the recent White House Congressional Medal of Honor (CMOH) ceremony said, “no nation is perfect, but here in America, we confront our imperfections and face a sometimes painful past, including the truth that some of those soldiers fought and died for a country that did not always see them as equal…”
The ceremony marked the culmination of a Pentagon review and Congressional legislative mandate in 2002, the result of which concluded that only one Black had been denied.
Despite the fact, that Congressional members such as New York Senator Charles Schumer have fought long and hard to honor Sgt. Henry Johnson’s heroism during World War I with the Medal of Honor, Schumer recently saying, “the federal government should not wait another day to honor Sgt. Johnson with the Medal of Honor.” While, in 1942, U.S. Rep. John Dingell of Michigan (father of retiring John Dingell, Jr.) and Senator James Mead of New York submitted a bill authorizing FDR to give Seaman Dorie Miller
the Medal of Honor. And over the past several years Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Democrat of Texas with the support of the Congressional Black Caucus, and others, have filed legislation to waive the statute of limitations so that Miller could receive the Medal of Honor. And, the latest, but by no means the last, the family of the late First Sgt. Alwyn Cashe, who served in Iraq was recommended by one of his commanding officers, and is ironically buried in Sanford, Florida, continues fighting unabated for the Medal of Honor.
By example, Sgt. Cashe died from burns over 90% of his body suffered in Iraq, while rescuing half-dozen soldiers from a burning Bradley fighting vehicle. His actions earned him a Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and a posthumous Silver Star. However, C. Douglas Sterner, a national military historian, and expert on military awards proclaimed Cashe “had become the perfect example of a CMOH wrongfully denied.” While several military generals, including Lt. Gen. William Webster, declared in his estimation,
SFC. Cashe had joined the ranks of previous CMOH recipients on that fateful day.
No Blacks received the CMOH during World War I and World War II, until Cpl. Freddie Stowers, who shortly after his death in WWI was recommended. However, it took 73 years after he was killed-in-action before President George H.W. Bush posthumously recognized him in April of 1991 at the White House. And, again, in 1997 President William Clinton awarded seven Black World War II veterans (six posthumously) with only one Lt. Vernon Baker, 77 years old still alive.
Fortunately, if it were not for Gen. Colin Powell, Chief of Staff’s request and independent review by Shaw University the President Clinton WWII CMOH awards ceremony at the White House, which he attended, would not have happened.
Although President George W. Bush awarded the civilian equivalent to the Tuskegee Airmen with the Congressional Gold Medal after being sheparded through the House by Rep. Charles Rangel, Democrat of New York, and the Montford Point Marines being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal with President Obama’s signing of the bill orchestrated by Rep. Corrine Brown,
Democrat of Florida, these are the only two special occasions in which a larger number of living individuals were collectively and publically recognized at an official U.S. Capitol ceremony in 2007 and 2012, in Washington, DC. This fact can’t be minimized, nor its socio-psychological and political significance underestimated.
But, I also say, that nobody really knows exactly why it took 57 years for Army Sgt. Cornelius Charlton, who was awarded the CMOH in 1952, to become the only Black CMOH recipient from the Korean War buried in Arlington National Cemetery. But, these are only a few examples of an ongoing problem. Thus, we can compile an impressive list of names to document the past 20th century’s backlog of denials to stimulate a national conversation about military discrimination, bias, research and the lack of national recognition, or advocacy before the highest Black elected officials in the land, and now the Commander-in-Chief Barrack Obama.
During the Vietnam War, no Blacks who served with the U.S. Marine Corps became the recipient of the CMOH, and lived to tell about it. And equally important, in comparing the awarding timeline of Army Staff Sgt. Melvin Morris, 40 years after his service in South Vietnam, some say, nothing much has changed since Sgt. William Carney, Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry was awarded the CMOH approximately 40 years after the Battle of Fort Wagner, SC, 1863, during the Civil War. He is the first Black thus so awarded. While prior to Sgt. Morris, the last Black awardee was Cpl. Andrew Jackson Smith of the Massachusetts 55th Volunteer Infantry, who also served during the Civil War, and was nominated, but denied by the Army. Currently, Smith holds the record for the longest time between the actual date of action the Battle of Honey Hill, SC, 1864, and the awarding of the CMOH, approximately 137 years later on the last day of the Clinton Administration in 2001.
Moreover, the problem of awarding the Medal of Honor and national recognition dates back approximately two centuries to the Civil War of the 19th century, when President Lincoln commissioned it. Since that time there have been 3,487 recipients, including 88 Blacks. However, the problem has persisted throughout the 20th century, and up until the 21st century involving denials due to discrimination, or bias, and next delayed recognition. A further illustration is the late William Raspberry’s column ‘Two Heroes, No Medals of Honor,’ (1988) examining two Black war heroes quest for posthumous CMOHs: Sgt. Henry Johnson, a WWI infantryman from Albany, New York, and Seaman Dorius ‘Dorie’ Miller, a WWII hero from Waco, Texas. The column cited, although the military services, while not discounting their heroism, have steadfastly refused to go along with any attempts to grant Johnson and Miller the Medal of Honor. While countering at the same time, that although no Black soldier was awarded the Medal of Honor during World War I, approximately 50 Black soldiers were awarded the DSC, the Army’s second highest award for valor in combat, for their extraordinary heroism in WWI. But, according to the late Dr. W.E.B. Dubois, an African American intellectual, a secret communiqué concerning Black troops sent to the French military by Gen. John J. Pershing, Commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in Europe indicates the extent of pervasive military discrimination, or bias – “we must not
eat with them, must not shake hands with them, seek to talk to them, or to meet with them outside the requirements of military service. We must not commend too highly these troops, especially in front of white Americans” – dated August 7, 1918.
As we commend President Obama for bestowing the 24 CMOH awards, as a result of the Pentagon review and Congressional action much more remains to be done. Needless to say, Congressional members such as Sen. Charles Schumer, Reps. Charles Rangel, Corrine Brown, Eddie Bernice Johnson and others, and a host of Black service member families are continuing their ongoing campaigns for justice. While we are really disappointed that the entire 20th century wasn’t reviewed given that the Pentagon set the bar at the DSC for the assessment of discrimination, and given that the military’s reputation for providing a level-playing field, or less-discriminatory environment than civilian society over the past many decades was at stake, or on the line. Lastly, one can only imagine what will be revealed in 2014, the beginning of the 100th anniversary of World War I, known as ‘the War to End all Wars,’ particularly the new scholarly research examining the role and return of WWI Black soldiers from
overseas, and what lessons can be learnt from their experiences in dealing with widespread discrimination, bias and violence.
Again, I ask, who will speak for them, or us?
Ron Armstead serves as Executive Director for the Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Braintrust, and is a past consultant to the late Secretary Jesse Brown’s Veterans Administration’s Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans. He can be reached at [email protected] or via his web site at www.veteransbraintrustonline.com
Nationwide (BlackNews.com) — Milagros Aguas used to pay someone to prepare her taxes until her employer filed for bankruptcy and she lost her job. That’s when a friend recommended AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, a program that provides free tax assistance and preparation for low- and moderate-income filers, particularly to those age 60 and up. “It helps me a lot,” says Aguas, of Washington, D.C., who recently had her taxes prepared for the second year by Tax-Aide volunteers. “It’s easy. There is no charge for the service… and the volunteers are very nice and helpful.”
Millions over the years, though, have taken advantage of Tax-Aide. Started by a few AARP volunteers in 1968, the program has since grown to more than 35,000 trained volunteers in more than 5,000 locations nationwide. Last year, 2.6 million taxpayers used the service for their federal and state income tax returns. One recent morning, a group of Tax-Aide volunteers at the Chevy Chase Community Center in Washington, D.C., waited for a snowstorm to subside and taxpayers to come in.Most of the volunteers were new to the program, and each had reasons for wanting to spend 10 weeks on other people’s taxes.
“It’s like the ultimate sudoku,” says William Slade, 67, who had been a tax preparer for H&R Block for 25 years before retiring in 2008. “There are more moving parts to the tax code than almost anything else.”
That, along with dealing with each taxpayer’s personal story, “makes it more fun than any other intellectual activity that you can imagine. Better than chess. Much better than bridge or cribbage.”
Tamara Belden, 63, also volunteers to give her brain a workout, saying she’s read that learning things gives people a mental edge. That wasn’t her only goal, though.
Belden, who retired as a budget analyst with the Library of Congress and now works as a part-time tour guide, is weighing whether to become a paid tax preparer. The experience with Tax-Aide gives her the chance to see if she likes the work. She does so far and enjoys the interaction with taxpayers.
Recently, Belden prepared a return for a 30-something couple who were overjoyed to learn they were getting federal and local refunds totaling $1,500. “You would have thought I was the fairy godmother,” she says. New volunteers say they underwent five days of intensive training — with homework.
“It was rigorous. It was like taking a crash college course,” says Susan Phillips, a 65-year-old retired teacher. “It was challenging, which I liked.” Training leads to IRS certification. Even experienced volunteers undergo annual training to keep them up to date on the tax code.
Volunteers can spot overlooked tax breaks, though they say that regular Tax-Aide clients often are quick to point out deductions. “Our clients keep us on our toes,” says Dick Riegel, 72, a retired Air Force pilot and coordinator of the Chevy Chase site.
Tax-Aide doesn’t handle complicated returns, such as those dealing with royalties or farm income. And though the program focuses on helping older taxpayers, it’s open to all ages.
“On a single day four years ago, my first client was 18 years old, filing his first return, and my second client was 102,” Riegel says.Volunteers commit to four hours a week for the duration of tax season.”Many people do much more than that,” says Dorothy Howe, the assistant national director of AARP Foundation Tax-Aide. The typical length of service is seven years, although some have been with the program for more than 30 years, Howe says.
Still, the program loses 10 percent to 20 percent of its volunteers each year through attrition and must replace them. Ideal candidates enjoy working with numbers, are comfortable with computers and are not afraid to ask for help, volunteers say. They also must be discreet, patient, easygoing and good listeners.
“You do have times where a taxpayer gets anxious because he or she thinks they owe a lot,” Riegel says. “And we get spouses who are newly widowed, so we have to help them through that first period.”
Slade recalls an 80-year-old taxpayer who had always done his own return until this year, when his taxes suddenly got complicated. The man had inherited money from an annuity and distributed the cash to others as the deceased had wanted, although this triggered an income tax for him, Slade says.
Slade was able to walk the man through the situation, and as it turns out, the tax bite was much less than feared. Brandy Bauer, communications manager for economic security with the National Council on Aging, says her group refers people to Tax-Aide.
“AARP is a very trusted [organization] for a lot of older adults, my mom included,” says Bauer, whose 72-year-old mother uses Tax-Aide. “It works for her. She does it every year,” Bauer says.
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide’s 35,000 volunteers are ready to start serving taxpayers. With over 5000 locations nationwide, the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program is prepared to assist millions of low to moderate income taxpayers of all ages with special attention to those aged 60 and older. Visit www.aarp.org/findtaxhelp or call (866) 623-1115 to get FREE help with your taxes.
Marietta, GA (BlackNews.com) — The growth in children of color has surpassed the majority. Still, the availability of products, specifically books and dolls targeting multi-cultural children is extremely limited. There are few multi-cultural storylines that feature tween/teen girls and a limited number of dolls available in the market that effectively capture the beauty of the multi-cultural girl.
To find dolls created in the essence of the multi-cultural girl requires extensive hours of searching and a variety of vendors and websites. Finding books that capture the attention of young girls and feature characters they can relate too is yet another challenge. Introducing Double Dutch Dolls- a brand that blends the true beauty of today’s girl with books, dolls and accessories that are trendy, hip, and fashionable. Double Dutch Dolls is a quality, product line that fuses beauty, fashion and style with a multi-cultural flare.
“The world is changing and we are now a beautiful rainbow of colors and cultures. Today’s beauty comes in all shades and the Double Dutch Dolls mission is to celebrate the multicultural girl. We have received an amazing outpouring of support from mothers, daughters, grandmothers, granddaughters, aunts, etc. who are excited about our books and dolls. We are thrilled to know that we are touching the lives of young girls.” – K. Charles, Founder, Double Dutch Dolls
Meet 14-year old Kaila Bradley, the fierce fashionista and her identical twin sister Zaria, the classic, cool, braniac. Always together and always dolled up, they are known as the Double Dutch Dolls, and are the stars of a brand new multicultural book series and line of 18” fashion dolls for young girls. Along with their friends Sascha, Alainna, Trinity, and Kadence the girls navigate the ups and downs of middle school friendships, gossip, peer pressure and boys.
“I have some young friends who are reading the first book about the Double Dutch girls; they love the book. They are in the process of saving their money to be some of the first girls in their group of friends to own the dolls. They are very excited about all the dolls, the dolls are really beautiful, and have great story lines.” – Linda V.
The first book in the series, “Double Dare”, now available, introduces all 6 multicultural characters. The second book, “Double Trouble”, available April 22, 2014, continues the exciting adventures of Kaila, Zaria and their friends as they navigate the challenges of being a girl today. The line also includes 18” fashion dolls based on main characters Kaila and Zaria Bradley along with fun accessories. Look for the rest of the Double Dutch Dolls characters coming soon.
Double Dutch Dolls is a new and exciting line of multicultural dolls, books, and accessories for girls. The characters are African-American, Hispanic, Biracial and Multiracial, representing today’s tween/teen girl.
For more information about the Double Dutch Dolls, please visit the official website at http://www.doubledutchdolls.com
or email [email protected]
Written by The Skanner News -Posted on March 31, 2014
The nation’s 250 Black publishers will head to Portland this summer for the National Newspaper Publishers Association 2014 convention.
In past years the convention has visited Atlanta, Ga., New York, Nashville, Tenn., Chicago and Seattle. This year for the first time the convention will be hosted in Oregon.
“The Portland Observer and I are very fortunate to host this distinguished group,” said Bernie Foster, The Skanner News’ publisher and former vice chair of the NNPA Foundation’s board. “We have members coming from all over the United States and even from Toronto, Canada and the Caribbean.” Click here for more info.
John J. Vento
Hoboken, NJ (March 2014)—Is America failing finance? It appears many of us are…and very few others are anywhere near the Honor Roll. A 2013 survey conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found that 40 percent of Americans would give themselves a grade of C, D, or F when rating their personal finance knowledge. The same survey found that 39 percent of adults in the United States report that they have no savings.
In the aftermath of the financial crisis that left many Americans reeling, the reality is still bleak: Instead of living the American Dream, many are living paycheck to paycheck. John Vento says all of this is why the need for personal finance education has never been greater.
“Part of the reason the 2008 financial crisis had such a widespread reach is that many Americans simply didn’t have the financial literacy to protect themselves in such a crisis,” says Vento, president of his New York City-based Certified Public Accounting firm, John J. Vento, CPA, P.C., and the Certified Financial PlanningTM firm of Comprehensive Wealth Management, Ltd., as well as the author of Financial Independence (Getting to Point X): An Advisor’s Guide to Comprehensive Wealth Management (Wiley, 2013, ISBN: 978-1-1184-6021-4, $40.00, www.ventocpa.com). “They lacked the firm understanding of fundamental financial concepts and strategies and the ability to manage money responsibly.”
Vento fears that a lack of knowledge persists, and worse yet, that it is being passed down to the next generation.
“Many young people look to their parents for guidance on money issues,” he notes. “Unfortunately, many parents lack a strong understanding of financial matters, and as a result, they miss opportunities for saving, lending, and basic financial services. We need to break this cycle—and one way to do so is to make financial literacy an educational focus in high schools, colleges, and universities.”
April is Financial Literacy Month, and in order to spread the word Vento will partner with members of Congress from the Financial and Economic Literacy Caucus* (See below for more information) to speak at high schools and universities in the New York City area. His immediate goal is to educate children and young adults on the importance of becoming financially literate before they enter the workforce. But a broader goal is to make financial literacy an educational requirement in the nation’s schools.
“I truly believe the most dangerous threat to our nation and its citizens is a lack of financial literacy,” says Vento. “Americans still struggle to make wise financial decisions because these concepts are not a focus in our education system. So when we reach adulthood, it’s either sink or swim—and too often we make bad financial decisions and suffer the consequences later in life.
“Our educational system devotes a considerable amount of attention to teaching students about the dangers of drinking and driving, using drugs, and practicing safe sex,” he adds. “But, unfortunately, the topic of financial literacy is largely ignored. Throughout our lives, we will encounter many questions and problems relating to money, but every one of them will fall, in some way, under one or more of the following 10 financial literacy lessons.”
Below Vento outlines the lessons that a comprehensive financial literacy curriculum should include. This curriculum should be a core component of the requirements to graduate, so that students will be better prepared to deal with the financial realities of life. This lesson plan can be used by educators in high schools and colleges throughout the country.
Lesson 1: Live within your means. “Living within your means” is living on less than your take-home salary and any other resources you receive, such as income from an annuity or a trust. Living within your means does not mean existing from paycheck to paycheck. Living within your means does not mean living on credit or on loans. Living within your means does not mean turning to parents or friends to pay the tab when you cannot quite meet the rent or need to buy a new computer. It means not only figuring out how to pay for your needs and wants, but budgeting your income so that you still have a little money left over.
“The single most important step any individual must take to become financially independent is to commit to living within his or her means,” says Vento. “In addition to living within your means, if you are ever going to get to Point X, you must also save money. Therefore, ‘living within your means’ includes not only such necessities as shelter, food, utilities, and clothing, but also payment into your personal savings. Ideally, that payment should be 10 percent or more of your gross pay.”
Lesson 2: Understand taxes. The average American family pays more than one-third of its income in federal, state, and local income taxes—and even more in property taxes, excise taxes, sales taxes, and other hidden taxes, such as taxes on cigarettes, liquor, and certain luxuries. In other words, for just about everyone, taxes are our biggest personal expense, by far.
“In order to reach Point X, it is imperative that you understand the basics of our tax system, and that you practice careful and strategic tax preparation and planning so your personal tax burden does not deplete your income unnecessarily, and your wealth accumulates quickly and safely,” explains Vento. “Tax laws are incredibly complicated, and there is no reason for you to read up on or understand the virtually infinite ins and outs of the often-arcane U.S. Tax Code. Most people do need help from professional tax advisors to benefit from tax strategies; however, you should have enough basic knowledge about taxes and the tax system to ask the right questions and find the appropriate help to suit your own unique financial and tax needs.”
Lesson 3: Determine your financial position. Determining your financial position does not mean simply knowing your annual salary or identifying how much you take home in every paycheck—although that is definitely part of it.
“In order to live within your means, you must have a precise understanding of your financial assets, liabilities, and net worth by preparing a Statement of Financial Position,” notes Vento. “You also need to know—and to track on a regular basis—where all your personal funds are coming from and going to: This is your Statement of Cash Flow. Finally, after taking a careful look at your current financial position, you must determine your financial goals, whether for five years, ten years, or throughout your retirement years. Only then can you realistically budget for the future—and of course, reach Point X.”
Lesson 4: Manage debt. For many people, debt is a scary concept, although it need not be. The fact is there is good debt and there is bad debt. Understanding the difference between bad debt and good debt is imperative to becoming financially literate and financially independent. Basically, good debt is money that people borrow for purchases and situations that, in the long term, will help them amass wealth and ultimately reach Point X. Some examples of good debt include student loans, business loans, certain investment asset loans, and some personal-use asset loans (such as an affordable home mortgage). In contrast, bad debt is money that people borrow (usually on a credit card) for the purchase of nonessential expenditures as well as many personal-use assets.
“When you do not use debt properly, that can lead to significant financial hardship and can prevent you from ever becoming financially independent,” says Vento. “However, when you use debt to leverage yourself in the pursuit of accumulating wealth, it can be a very powerful tool.”
Lesson 5: Insure your health and life. Even a sound, carefully planned investment strategy can fall apart if you have not prepared properly for unforeseen problems concerning health and life. If you or a member of your family is hit with a prolonged illness, a severe injury, a disability, or death (especially of the primary wage earner), the planning and investing you have so carefully developed can quickly disintegrate.
“Health insurance and life insurance help protect you and your family from the unexpected,” explains Vento. “The premiums you pay will provide you with the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your assets and family will be protected, if and when the unexpected happens. Having the right kinds of health and life insurance at the appropriate stages of life is as important as the insurance itself. Your particular situation will determine what type of insurance you need, what kind of policy or policies will work best for you, and the amount of coverage you should carry.”
Lesson 6: Protect your property with insurance. Protecting your property by implementing the proper risk management strategies is critical to achieving and maintaining your financial independence. The type and extent of insurance you need will change throughout your lifetime, as will the types of assets and the extent of wealth you have accumulated. The three major personal property risk management issues include homeowner’s insurance, automobile insurance, and umbrella liability insurance.
“You should consult with your property liability insurance agent or broker to fully evaluate your needs so that you can determine proper coverage to meet those needs,” asserts Vento. “It is critically important to remember you should always secure your new insurance coverage before you drop your old policy. You never want to leave yourself unprotected without proper coverage in between policies. Obtaining the proper homeowner’s, auto, boat, and personal umbrella liability coverage can provide you with the peace of mind of knowing you and your property will be protected. Being unprepared for the unexpected can rob you and your family of your pursuit of financial independence.”
Lesson 7: Pay for college. Many people, parents especially, worry about covering the ever-growing expense of getting a college education. Of course, it’s possible to get academic or athletic scholarships or grants. But most young people will need additional funds either from their parents’ savings or through student loans.
“With the skyrocketing cost of college, it’s important that you start planning early,” says Vento. “Parents and rising college students should take advantage of college savings programs such as Internal Revenue Code Section 529 plans, Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, savings bonds, financial aid (such as federal grants, loans, and scholarships), as well as education tax deductions and credits. Understanding how scholarships, government grants, and student loans can help is essential.”
Lesson 8: Plan for retirement. Everyone should be planning financially for retirement, regardless of how old or young they are. Especially given that people coming into retirement are facing concerns that retirees did not face 20 or 30 years ago, including living longer and supporting themselves throughout turbulent financial times.
“The longer you wait to start saving for retirement, the harder it will be to accumulate the amount you need to be financially independent,” says Vento. “Remember, one of the most valuable investment assets you have is time; the more years you save the greater your chance of financial success. By far the easiest way to do this is by contributing to your employer’s retirement plan, or if that is not available, to an individual retirement account (IRA). Implement a retirement saving strategy that allocates a specific dollar amount or percentage—I recommend at least 10 percent—of your salary every pay period. Therefore, you are paying yourself first, as though saving for retirement is your number one required expense. In fact, saving for retirement is not an expense because it adds to your investable assets, but treating it as such is of utmost importance to your success.”
Lesson 9: Manage your investments. The rewards of proper investing can be very generous when investors adopt an investment discipline that allows them to purchase quality investments and then allows those investments to take their course. This may have been best said by Warren Buffett, the primary shareholder, chairman, and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway who is also considered by many to be the most successful investor of the 20th century.
“It is critically important that you select an investment model that you are willing to stay with, even in the worst of markets,” notes Vento. “The appropriate investment plan for you should be the one that provides you with the highest potential rate of return in the long run that is within your risk tolerance.”
Lesson 10: Preserve your estate. If you do not take the necessary steps to preserve your estate, unintended beneficiaries may take a significant amount of your estate instead. These unintended beneficiaries include the federal and state governments, the state administrator, attorneys, and perhaps even relatives you have not spoken to in decades. The money you may spend today on a qualified estate attorney may save your estate significant dollars in both estate taxes and administrative costs down the road.
“Estate planning, which I should stress is not just for the wealthy, can give you peace of mind by assuring your family’s financial security will continue even after your death,” says Vento. “It can significantly reduce estate taxes, administrative costs, and assure that your loved ones will be taken care of. It allows you to dispose of your assets as you see fit, with consideration given to your heirs’ individual needs.”
“It is critically important that people of all ages understand these 10 lessons and work within them productively—that they become financially literate,” he concludes. “But if we help younger generations avoid the bad habits that have crept into the way so many Americans manage their finances today, we really have a great opportunity to set them up for a brighter future. And when they are more prosperous, the economy as a whole will be more prosperous.”
# # #
*The Financial and Economic Literacy Caucus provides a forum for members of Congress to work alongside the Financial Literacy and Education Commission to highlight public and private sector best practices and organize financial literacy legislation, seminars, and events.
About the Author:
John J. Vento is author of Financial Independence (Getting to Point X): An Advisor’s Guide to Comprehensive Wealth Management (Wiley, 2013, ISBN: 978-1-1184-6021-4, $40.00, www.ventocpa.com). He has been the president of the New York City-based Certified Public Accounting firm John J. Vento, CPA, P.C., and Comprehensive Wealth Management, Ltd., since 1987. His organization is focused on professional practices, high net worth individuals, and those committed to becoming financially independent. He has been the keynote speaker at various seminars and conferences throughout the United States that focus on tax and financial strategies that create wealth. John has been ranked among the most successful advisors of a nationwide investment service firm and has held this distinction since 2008.
Mr. Vento brings with him his vast experience from working with KPMG, one of the big four Certified Public Accounting firms, where he specialized in audits of the medical and dental professions and the financial services industry. He has been an adjunct professor at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY, as well as Wagner College in Staten Island, NY. John has also been an advocate for promoting financial literacy and has been a lecturer throughout the New York City Public Library system.
John J. Vento graduated from Pace University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in public accounting, and continued on to earn an MBA in taxation from St. John’s University. He is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants. Mr. Vento is also a Certified Financial PlannerTM (CFP®).
Ginny Grimsley -National Print Campaign Manager News and Experts
Throughout life, we encounter a number of “financial impact points” — pivotal events with the potential to make our dreams come true, say financial advisors Chris Snyder and Haitham “Hutch” Ashoo, co-authors of “Exiting Strategies: The CEO’s Seven Critical Steps To Cashing-Out of a Business, Managing and Preserving Wealth.”
“The sale of a business or real estate is one of those,” says Chris Snyder, co-founder with Ashoo of Pillar Wealth Management, (www.pillarwm.com). “With the right planning, it can become your ideal retirement.”
Unfortunately, sellers often make fundamental mistakes: They underestimate how much money they’ll need for their retirement; they overvalue their business or property; and they often fail to properly invest the proceeds in a diversified portfolio of equities, bonds and money markets for income.
How can you turn your business or property sale into your ideal retirement? Snyder and Ashoo offer these tips:
1. Determine the retirement lifestyle you desire, and how much money it will cost.
If you don’t know how much money you’ll need, you can’t identify how much you need to net from the sale, Ashoo says.
“How many homes will you have? Do you see yourself traveling? Creating a charitable organization?”
Create a detailed list. How much money will it cost you each year? If you retire at 55 or 65, odds are good you’ll enjoy a 30- to 40-year retirement.How much will you need for that length of time?
“When you meet with your wealth manager, insist on running that number through 1,000 different ‘launch’ scenarios – what we call a ‘space shuttle’ analysis – to test whether it will meet your expenses under a wide variety of market and world conditions,” Ashoo says.
“You can’t rely on an Excel sheet analysis based on fixed rates of return and fixed expenses for the rest of your life. It’s a sure way to financial disaster because there’s no such thing as zero risk.”
2. Get an objective valuation of your business or real estate.
Very often, Snyder says, he and Ashoo work with clients who have a vastly inflated idea of how much their business or property is worth. When they decide to sell, they either can’t because no one will pay what they’re asking, or they get far less than they expected.
“People often attach an emotional value to the asset, particularly a business or legacy real estate,” Snyder says. “Hire a merger and acquisition professional to provide you with a real market valuation for your business, or a real estate appraiser to do the same for property.”
If the value isn’t where it needs to be, you may need to make some lifestyle changes or hold onto the asset longer.
Another caution: “If you performed step 1 thoroughly and you are confident you need $15 million for your retirement and someone offers you $20 million, take it,” Ashoo advises. “Don’t hold out for $23 million just because you think that’s what it’s worth.”
3. Invest the proceeds prudently and in a way that will generate income.
Once your real estate or business is sold, you need to build a diversified portfolio of equity, bonds and money markets that will balance your risk and generate an income, Snyder says.
“Modern portfolio theory holds that 93 percent of the return on your investment is based on your mix of these asset classes,” he says
Adds Ashoo: “But prudent investing entails not accepting more risk than is required to achieve your retirement lifestyle.” Don’t rely on a simple risk questionnaire to make that determination for you, the two say.
Again, have your wealth manager run your portfolio through a “space shuttle’’ analysis to test how it will perform under many different conditions.
About Chris Snyder and Haitham “Hutch” Ashoo
Chris Snyder and Haitham “Hutch” Ashoo are co-founders of Pillar Wealth Management, (www.pillarwm.com), of Walnut Creek, Calif., and co-authors of numerous published works including “Exiting Strategies: The CEO’s Seven Critical Steps To Cashing-Out of a Business, Managing and Preserving Wealth,” available as a free download at their website. The two specialize in customized wealth management advice to affluent families. Their unique five-step consultative process for new clients ensures they have a deep understanding of clients’ goals. The two have a combined 51 years of experience.
If you would like to run the above article, please feel free to do so. I am able to provide images if you would like some to accompany it. If you’re interested in interviewing any of the experts mentioned or having them write an exclusive article for you, let me know and I’ll gladly work out details.
Jeffrey Young -The Huffington Post
On the last day to sign up for Obamacare, evidence appears to be mounting that what started as a disaster may turn out a success.
Monday is the deadline to enroll in health insurance for 2014 via the health insurance exchanges created by President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and it’s clear that many waited until the last minute. The looming deadline and fear of the penalty for not getting covered has driven millions of people to the exchange websites, enrollment events and health insurance companies over the past few days.
HealthCare.gov and some state-run health insurance exchanges suffered software glitches and buckled under heavy demand Monday.
The final rush could push the total number of private insurance enrollments well past the 6 million figure touted by the Obama administration last week. Obamacare sign-ups may wind up closer to the 7 million originally predicted for the first year.
“It’s kind of the lead-up to Christmas right now, and all the last-minute shoppers are out,” said Brian Lobley, senior vice president for marketing and consumer business at Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia.
Read More Here.
Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity; the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve. - Earl Grollman Grieving the loss of a loved one is a universal experience, yet the manner in which we grieve is unique to each individual. As adults age, it sometimes seems that loss and grief become a part of life. We look around and notice that friends, relatives, siblings and even children are dying.
Not only does this cause older adults to mourn the loss of their loved ones, but they also begin to realize that they, too, have more days behind them than they do ahead. In other words, their finiteness becomes more real. Information on the website SHARE.com advises that the profound effect that grief and loss have on older adults is exacerbated because they may be coping with the decline and death of family members and close friends, as they are simultaneously experiencing a variety of "living losses" in their own lives, such as health issues, loss of independence, energy and lifestyle. Moreover, an emotional support system that previously existed may no longer be in place because friends and confidants have passed and adult children are busy with their own lives. To that end, bereavement can be especially painful and lonely for seniors. According to SeniorCare.com, “Society may forget about the special needs of older adults who are grieving.
Life changes dramatically when they lose a spouse or close friend. They struggle to find ways to navigate life absent a long-time partner or friend. In addition, when a grandchild dies, grandparents grieve twice: They grieve the loss of the grandchild while carrying the pain of their own child’s suffering.”
While nothing can take the pain of grief away, there are ways for older adults to navigate through their grief and restore hope. One way to work through the grief process and pain of loss is by talking about it or getting support from others who can relate to the situation and feelings. It is also critical to understand that grief is a process—not an event—and everyone must move through that process in his or her own way and pace.
The degree to which older adults cope with feelings of sorrow, anger, loneliness, confusion and despair that accompany grief and loss may depend on their ability and willingness to process emotions. Older adults who have learned how to communicate their feelings and needs, who have the freedom and permission to vent their deepest emotions and who have cultivated an attitude of acceptance, humility, peace and faith over time, are better able to cope with grief. Those who tend to hide or repress their feelings and do not share or interact with others, struggle with grief and depression more. The ability to turn grief into an opportunity for personal and spiritual deepening, come to terms with life as it really is and renew a sense of purpose for living also depends on having a support system. No matter if older adults live alone, in a retirement community or with family members, those who have trustworthy, non-judgmental and empathetic friends and relationships, often work through the grief process quicker.
Studies from the Grief Recovery Institute indicate that in an overwhelming majority of cases, depression and anxiety can be the result of unresolved grief issues. The study concludes that, “You can't think your way out of heartbreak. It is like trying to paint a room with a hammer. It is not your head that is broken; it is your heart.” It is also entirely possible to mistake depression for grief or for grief to turn into depression. Grieving over losses is normal and healthy, even if the feelings of sadness last for a long time. Losing all hope and joy, however, is not common. Distinguishing between grief and clinical depression is not always easy, especially since they share many symptoms. However, there are ways to tell the difference. Grief is a roller coaster involving a wide variety of emotions and a mix of good and bad days. Even in the middle of the grieving process, an individual will have moments of pleasure or happiness.
On the other hand, with depression, the feelings of emptiness and despair are constant. Nearly everyone has suffered from depression at one time in his or her life. It can affect anyone, at anytime, at any age. Depression transcends racial, religious, and ethnic boundaries. And, while both genders suffer from depression, women report it twice as often as men do. Depression in older adults and the elderly is often linked to physical illness, which can increase the risk for depression. Chronic pain and physical disability can understandably get you down. Symptoms of depression can also occur as part of medical problems such as dementia or as a side effect of prescription drugs.
Detroit, MI (BlackNews.com) — Ms. Alison Vaughn, founder/CEO of Jackets for Jobs, proudly partners with Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Gamma Lambda Chapter, at a clothing drive held in honor of her work helping men and women in their quest to gain employment. The event was held on March 8 at the Alpha House on Detroit’s west side in the midst of Women’s Day month.In the U.S., Women’s History Month is an annual declared month worldwide that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. Primarily, the donations received were men’s suits to support JFJ men’s division. The APA, 107 year-old organization, continues to carry out its mission to develop leaders, promote brotherhood and academic excellence, while providing service and advocacy for communities.
JFJ, now in its 14th year is a nationally recognized non-profit organization based in Detroit, maintains its mission providing career
skills training, employment etiquette and professional clothes it receives from a number of supporters throughout the nation to provide men and women with the assistance they may need to enter or reenter the work force.
“My Brother’s Keeper” was recently launched by President Barack Obama, some believe, and is one of the most prolific initiatives of his administration. The MBK initiative is striving for a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to build ladders of opportunity and unlock the full potential of boys and young men of color.
He notes by the time young men of color hit fourth grade, 86 percent of African American boys and 82 percent Hispanic boys are reading below proficiency levels — compared to 54 percent of white fourth graders reading below proficiency levels. Both are more than six times more likely to be victims of murder than their white peers — and account for nearly half of the country’s murder victims each year.
JFJ and APA have long been doing the work in the Detroit area that benefit men, women and kids facing tough circumstances and fully embrace the MBK concept. JFJ was brought into being from a desire to help families transition from welfare to employment.
“President Obama’s approach in targeting support for young men of color is what we have wanted for quite some time. It takes a village and a nation with the adequate tools to affect the masses, cut off the pipeline to prison and build strong, productive families, Vaughn said. “It begins and ends with our men, and I am honored to work with the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.”
The APA, with more than 700 active chapters sprinkled over the globe, embraces President Obama’s idea of creating opportunities for boys and young men of color. The more society as a whole participates in solving issues that plaque our youth, the more sustainable the nation. We have been observing the work of Ms. Vaughn for several years and wanted to support her efforts to be of service to others,” said APA Detroit president Burke Gaddis. For more information, visit www.gamma-lambda.com
JFJ has been assisting clients with employment for 14 years and has assisted 15,000 plus individuals with employment interview etiquette and professional clothes. The organization has been supported and applauded by ABC’s “The View”, NBC’s “Today Show”, the cast members from the NBC show “The Apprentice” and Oprah’s O Magazine. This JFJ is funded by Detroit
Employment Solutions Corporation and is charitable arm of TJ Maxx.
For more information, visit www.jacketsforjobs.org.