Good Vibrations

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by yogi » 28 Nov 2018, 17:29

I remember the Northstar engine Cadillac used. It was a great idea to use only the number of cylinders that were necessary, but GM never did figure out how to do that properly. These days it might be easier given all the computers in the engine compartment, but the Northstar was all mechanical and forever in the shop. Perhaps that isn't the model you owned, but I've heard from a few other Cadillac owners about how difficult it was to keep the car out of the shop. When I said I'd prefer a luxury car to any other, I did not have an American made car in mind, especially nothing made by GM. It's all about quality.

All three of the major American automobile manufacturers were bailed out by the government (your tax dollars and mine) during the past couple decades. Both Ford and GM are in dire straights as you read this and Donald Trump is pissed off royally at GM for the current predicament they are experiencing. The fact of the matter is that none of the American based auto companies can compete with off shore manufacturers. It's the cost of labor that is killing us in this country. That high labor cost is what forces outsourcing in other countries and the elimination of production workers on the robotic build lines. Even with all that cost reduction, the Big Three have a lot of trouble staying profitable. If you look into it you will find that the labor unions are pretty much the root cause of high costs in the automobile industry. It's not just the outrageous hourly wages but also the fringe benefits. It typically costs a union shop two or three times what they give an employee in salary to keep them employed. All that expense has to be covered by the selling price of the product.

I'm also certain that you will find quite a few examples of industries wherein the price of their products have historically exceeded the cost of living. Pharmaceuticals and housing are two that I can think of right off the top of my head. I understand how you would think these corporations are simply greedy and feeding their executives' bank accounts as well as their investors with all that inflated profit. It's true that an executive paid multi-millions of dollars seems like legal robbery, but that's misleading. The employees under the management of that executive are costing the company billions. Those employees are also benefiting from the highest standard of living in the world because they are being paid so well. I guess that could seem greedy to those who do not enjoy the quality of life we have in this country, but that's the benefit of operating a free enterprise economy. It gives people an incentive to do better, even it it costs more.

There has been a lot of talk about letting the likes of GM go down if they can't sell an affordable product. Of course that is what they deserve. But consider how many tens of thousands of people would suddenly be unemployed if GM crashed tomorrow morning. Not only that, think about their pension funds that would be non-existent after a bankruptcy. Plus, if GM didn't exist anymore, from whom would you buy your automobiles? (Tesla? LOL) It would most likely be from a foreign company because none would be made in this country after GM bites the dust.

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by Kellemora » 29 Nov 2018, 11:34

Being raised in St. Louis County, I learned to hate Unions before I started my working career.
This was not unfounded as I entered the trades they controlled.
Their sole purpose was to keep you from advancing your career! But I managed to despite their blocks.

I love the Free Enterprise system too! And do not have any qualms about how much an owner earns, because in a true business, the owner makes the business grow, keeps it profitable, and suffered hardship for many years in the process. In most cases, the owner usually makes less than he is paying his employees until he becomes established. Once established he may take a higher percentage of each sale, but this percentage usually diminishes as sales and the company grow. It diminishes because part of what he was making is reduced to pay more executive staff. If the owner was able to glean 10% of the profits after the company became stable for himself. As the company grew, the owners percentage was often whittled down to only 5 percent, then down to 3 percent. At 10% he may have only made 35 to 50k a year. At 5% he might be making 100k a year, and after more growth, even at the reduced amount of 3% he might be clearing over 250k a year.
This is what Free Enterprise is all about. He earned it through volume sales of a good product, and probably at the same time reducing the price of the product as more competition tried diluting their sales.

Where the Free Enterprise system fails is when fast talking hot shots come into a well run company, often after they have gone public, and eventually take over the company. This same hot shot keeps doing this, buying up one company after another, until he gets so big, he dictates what the companies he bought up can and cannot do.
A company who built their reputation on serving the customers with the products they want, is soon ordered to eliminate all products except their top selling items. They may lose a few thousand customers, and make many of their customers who stay and buy only the top selling items disgruntled.
Company costs escalate exponentially, and the hot shot earned his millions and is running everything into the ground. So the board replaces him with yet another hot shot for big dollars who begins cutting as many corners as possible, most of which affect the workers and benefit the execs.

Take a look at the soda water companies. They often started with a single product, selling in a single store, and working to get more stores to carry their product. Over time they added more products. The companies grew.
Then when they began buying out each other, and being run by the hot shots, now they are all suffering, and instead of doing the right thing, they keep trying costly ridiculous mistakes, and have not learned it doesn't work. To cover the cost of these fad items that die out in a year or two, they quit selling their slower moving products.
Much of the problem with the slower moving products was they were not stocked by the stores in the first place. People can't buy what isn't on the shelf to buy. Sadly, many will buy an alternative product by the same company, even if they know it is bad for them.

For most of my life I was called The Pepsi Kid, because you never saw me without a Pepsi.
After I took a medicine that caused me to become a Diabetic, I had to forgo sugared soda.
At that time, Pepsi had the perfect alternative sold under the name PepsiONE.
The trouble with PepsiONE was, very few stores stocked it, and even those that did only had like three cartons, on sale if you buy four cartons, which you couldn't because they only stocked three. Can't buy what they don't stock to sell!
Eventually Pepsi turned their back on Diabetics and discontinued PepsiONE.

I never did like the taste of Choke-a-cola, but they came out with Yellow Cap Coke. So, The Pepsi Kid was FORCED by the Pepsi Cola Company to buy from their biggest competitor. But the same problem exists as it did with PepsiONE. The Choke-a-cola company cannot seem to keep the Yellow Cap Coke on the shelves in stores. And like the gimmick with PepsiONE, a store that does carry Yellow Cap Coke, only stocks three cartons, especially when they are on sale but you have to buy four, which is impossible because they only stock three.

I began hunting for another alternative and finally found one. Diet RC was better than PepsiONE or Yellow Cap Coke, it tasted great and did not have Ace-K in it. Plus I found a store who would order Diet RC for me by the pallet load, and sell it to me for only a few cents above his cost. This was great for about six or seven years. Then out of the clear blue sky RC decided to discontinue their Diet RC. They were the ONLY company who sold a Cola that did not contain deadly Aspartame, and it did not have the questionable Ace-K in it either. The one and only perfect cola drink on the market, and they discontinued it. They promised to have it back on the market in mid-September, but obviously they lied.

This leaves only ONE soda water company making a Cola Soda suitable for Diabetics, and trying to find their product is like hunting for hens teeth. Even a company as big as Walmart, who stocks thousands of cases of sugared soda, only stocks 3 to 6 cases of the Yellow Cap Coke, and those are hidden on the back of a shelf that only someone with longer arms than most can reach back and get them. This is NOT how you market a product successfully! Customers can't buy it if it is not there on the shelf where they see it or reach it. And for this blunder, the CEO's are being paid a zillion times more than they are worth.

Seems odd with the growing population of Diabetics, the soda industry would turn their back on us.
Perhaps some new company can come in and cater to the Diabetics with a product like Diet RC!
Of course, the minute they make a dent in sales, one of the hot shots will buy them out and discontinue the product.
So they can shove something like Pomegranite Mango Cola down our throats which nobody will buy more than once.

This is exactly what I see the car companies doing as well. Trying to sell the kinds of cars nobody wants, and/or using so much false advertising they manage to get a few folks buying the deadly garbage they are selling. They try to use a computer to overcome the hazards of the vehicle, and that is all they push on the ads. Not the fact the way they build the cars now are nothing but hazardous death traps looking for a place to have an accident.

OK off my soapbox.

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by yogi » 01 Dec 2018, 16:17

Well before I got my first job with Motorola, a non union shop to this day, I was told by a long time union member that the problem with labor unions is that they kill the individual's incentives to do better. It's not so much a plot or conspiracy as it is the union having the power to negotiate in the workers' best interests. Even the least productive grunt will be paid the same union wage as the most efficient high productivity jock. So, what's the point of even trying when it's all done for you? Some people thrive on that kind of environment. Unfortunately, managers can't make good decisions if they have to cater to the whims of the unions, which brings me to the bottom line of all companies.

I realize that large global enterprises are not the same as a mom and pop small business, but they all have the same purpose, or bottom line. The reason a 'for profit' company exists is to maximize profits. There are a lot of good souls out there who may profess to have higher standards than that, but even those good souls will be without a job if the profits are not forthcoming. The fast talking hot shots you talk about are experts at keeping the bottom line profits healthy. They do whatever it takes and have often been accused of lacking ethics and/or sympathy for the common man. To you it must appear that some hot shot is deliberately ignoring the needs of the diabetics who drink soda, but to that top gun it's a matter of emphasizing what is most profitable. Your soda needs, I'm sorry to say, are a niche market when compared to the Coke main line for example. So why would a low profit product be emphasized at the same level as the core product? It's not, and it's good business to maximize profits.

There probably are a thousand excellent reasons why you chose not to make your own soda, and I can't fault you for any of them. All the components are out there and you have the skills to produce the product. My first guess would be that the payoff would not be enough to warrant your time and effort, which is just another way of saying the bottom line isn't compelling enough. A market analysis would give you numbers and charts to show how little influence the diabetic soda drinker has on the total market. Then again, it may be worth the effort to satisfy your own personal needs. It's something to think about.

In other news, I have a confession to make. For all the years I've stayed low tech in the telecommunications aspects of my life, I finally conceded that the old flip phone has served me well and needs a rest. I did gone buy a Pixel 3 XL and it was delivered today. No doubt I'll have a few stories to tell as I use it more and learn how utterly fantastic it all is. Having used it for an whole three hours now, I can tell you that it is a remarkable invention. It takes brilliant pictures, and has a built in personal assistant. I've been tinkering with those things all afternoon and am awed by it all. As you might suspect, there is a price to pay for all this wondrous artificial intelligence. I had to give Google permission to spy on my life so that it can customize the assistant's services to my needs. I had to think about it for a while, but it's no more information going to Google than is going to Microsoft for whom I am beta testing their software. Sharing my personal life with more than one huge corporation doesn't make it a good practice, but the benefits and services seem to be a fair trade off. Anyway, I have not yet connected to a cell phone network and am amazed at what can be done without the phone. The Pixel is currently tethered to my LAN's router and can do just about anything my other computers can do. The only difference seems to be that Pixel does it in compact format. I'm impressed at the moment, but it's only a 50/50 shot that I'll indefinitely continue to like what it's doing. Stay tuned for more updates.

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by pilvikki » 02 Dec 2018, 10:00

ah, this reminds me, is there a phone-friendly version of BF? loki is sitting more and more idle, in the bookcase! now as i can only run it for a short while, before it balks having gotten hot under the collar again. bloody nuisance as i actually have stuff to do on it. i've asked and asked about getting HRH into the shop since july, but well, you know, priorities and all that... :bleh:

i keep hitting something on my phone screen and it immediately launches into "one moment, google assistant will be with you shortly" or some such. i've never actually used it. let me know if i should. :mrgreen:

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by yogi » 02 Dec 2018, 10:21

I have a feeling that I'm going to love "Google Assistant" - she has a pretty sexy voice. :mrgreen:

From what I can tell Google's PA (personal assistant) is full of artificial intelligence. Of course it starts out being utterly stupid and you have to allow it to keep track of your life in Google-land. Once it listens, sees, reads, and records everything you do, the PA will be able to do some remarkable things catered to your personal needs. Like remind you to take your pills at 9PM every day.

Smart as it is, you don't need a PA to come on over to this web site. I'm still learning about it all myself, but I can only guess that if you tell your PA to take you to it will do it. Otherwise, simply start up your browser and type in our name as you normally would. I just did it on my Pixel to see what we look like. Not bad, if I must say so myself. I'm using an Android based system, but I would suppose we will look great in iOS or Windows mobile as well. Personally I find it a pain in the a$$ to use the keyboard on the phone, but if it's all you got, then go for it. Let us know how it works out for you.

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by Kellemora » 02 Dec 2018, 13:04

50% of Americans drink soda. 9.4% of Americans are Diabetics. If only half of them drank soda that would be a 4.7% market share, which is nothing to turn your nose up at. Most major national companies consider having 1/2 of 1% of a market share as 100% saturation of the market for their product.

As the photo developing industry dwindled, obtaining the special proprietary refill canisters for specialized automated machines became as scarce as hens teeth. With over 5,000 of a specific line of machines still in operation, Agfa decided it could no longer supply the market. Many companies began refilling their specially shaped bottles themselves.
I was already bottling my product on a small scale, and after talking with a few of these photo developing shops, Agfa contacted me, and sent a garage full of their bottles for me to fill.
I could fill the bottles for less than half of what they say it cost them to fill them, and I was paid more than triple of what the true cost of filling those bottles required labor and machine wise.
The problem for them was sales were not high enough for them to bother with the products for their machines anymore.
This was a boon for me, because it increased my daily packaging level by ten fold, and the profits were enormous by my standards. Sales only dropped a little each year as companies retired the old machines that used specialized bottles.

It's sorta like each ink jet printer, or laser printer, uses their own proprietary cartridges.
When sales for that style cartridge diminish, they quit making them, which gives 3rd party manufacturers a short-term chance at filling the fading niche market.

Inflation has turned our society into a disposable one. Many trades have been lost because mega-manufacturing has made some products disposable, because the cost to repair has increased beyond the cost of replacement. In many cases, even the replacement parts cost more than the original product.

I have an exhaust system here that uses a fairly cheap blower motor.
To buy just the replacement motor costs around 21 bucks.
To buy a completely assembled new unit ready to install only costs 18 bucks.
To save on installation, I pop out the motor and slip it into the old already mounted unit and toss the new housing parts in the trash.
Same thing with shoes, cheaper to buy new than have new soles and heels installed.
Or getting a small appliance fixed, etc.

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by yogi » 02 Dec 2018, 15:35

So, is the economy demand-pull or supply-push? In other words who is controlling the market for goods and services? Is it the product suppliers or the consumers of said products? The beauty of our free market system is that it can supply anything the consumer will buy and at a reasonable price. Some people would prefer to re-sole their shoes but most people will buy new ones instead. The manufacturers are typically responding to what the market wants. That response is what increases the bottom line.

Having said all the above, we also know that everyone has their own preferences. Some people will be disappointed by the competition in the free market. I think that's where you are with your need or a drinkable soda. You might have a significant percentage of diabetics who would buy the special soda, but the question is how profitable is it to manufacture and distribute? The reason you don't see more diabetic soda is because it isn't profitable. It doesn't matter what the market share is to those hot shot corporate marketing dudes.

Agfa came to you for the reasons I stated above. You could do the job cheaper and help them improve their profits. Both you and Afga suffered the same problem, however. The demand for the special canisters dwindled. You were able to outlast Agfa because your overhead was way less than theirs.

Inflation isn't always bad. It's been steady at 2.5% for the last dozen years or so. That's on a par with the growth rate of the economy in general. It's a good example of how increased demand can lower the supply and up the costs. You would think corporations would ramp up production as a result of the increase in demand. They do in many cases, but the increase in sales for a "new and improved" product outpaces the profitability of maintaining an old line. GM didn't invent the idea, but their automobiles are epic examples of planned obsolescence. Inflation is also good for net worth. Basically all you have to do is maintain the status quo and you will be worth more each year inflation is positive.

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by Kellemora » 03 Dec 2018, 11:31

The soda water companies all claim to try and address the diet and diabetic market in a positive way.
Unfortunately, in their quest, they often play dirty pool.
They came out with Coca-Cola LIFE, and Pepsi TRUE, made with Stevia, however they also contained sugar.
They were reduced calorie, but still high in carbs, so self-defeating.

Folks are trying to cut back on sugared drinks, due to the high amount of sugar in a can or bottle of soda.
Almost all Diet Soda's are made using deadly Aspartame, but since it is the only thing available for those on a diet, they accept the risk and drink the diet drinks with Aspartame and Ace-K anyhow.

Right now, Diet Coke Yellow Cap is the only drink on the market almost safe for diabetics, but still contains Ace-K.

As companies get too big, they must produce such high volume of a product to warrant the high speed equipment needed to meet the demand of their normal line of products.
Even so, almost all companies have side-line items they still manufacture. But may only produce one run each week instead of daily continuous running.
The cost to manufacture is no less or no greater than their other side-line items. Distribution is already in place, shelf space in the stores is already leased and/or controlled. The trucks are already making their rounds of deliveries. So I see no additional distribution costs involved.
Have you EVER been in a grocery store to find the supply of sugar based soda missing any from the shelves? They usually have 10 to 20 or more shelf slots filled with their sugared soda brand, and only 1 slot for the Sucralose sweetened, and it is almost always empty. In other words, they don't stock the shelves based on actual sales necessity.
They also cannot get an accurate count of sales demand if the shelf is always empty. They don't know how many people took a look at the empty shelf and just shook their head and went to shop elsewhere.
You can't sell what you don't stock on the shelves! So of course sales are low, can't get it if it's not there to get.

Inflation is based on a set of certain products, which are not necessarily mainstream products.
If they took all products into consideration, inflation is super high on many products. Plus they never include the hidden taxes and excise taxes that drive the cost of some products out the window.

Gasoline is roughly the same price all across the continental USofA. The difference in pump price in different states and cities has to do with the taxes added to the gas to get the pump price. The taxes added to a gallon of gas far exceed what gas cost only a couple of decades ago. We will never see 35 or even 40 cent gas ever again with the taxes on a gallon of gas 46 cents per gallon and more.

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by yogi » 04 Dec 2018, 09:14

One way to understand the soda market is to keep in mind that the major manufacturers are selling products that maximize their profits. They are not in the business of supplying products to people with special medical needs. Diet sodas are the result of people wanting to look young and beautiful. Just ask any marketing jock and look at the advertisements for said sodas. The fact that Coke is selling a diabetic specific drink is good will, not good business. This is indeed sad because they only need a certain amount of good will to keep up their image. Thus the empty shelves. A lot of the new drinks are intended to boost sales overall by fueling trendy pop culture. The need to put deadly chemicals into soda for that purpose isn't relevant. I know you understand what I'm talking about here because you have often cited the big pharma people for being profit greedy instead of providing actual cures/treatments to their customers. Same goes for soda.

The measurement of inflation is based on a Consumer Price Index (CPI) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It covers a lot of territory and is based on a standard set in the early 80's. It's a lot like the stock market indexes. The value of today's stocks is based on what they were valued at when the standard was established. Because the economy is so dynamic it is necessary to have a reference point for comparison. That's what the CPI is all about. Thousands of prices are measured from all over this country on an ongoing basis. I doubt that it's a perfect measurement but it is a commonly accepted practice.

Gasoline prices are based on the market price of crude oil. Back when you could fill up your tank for 40 cents a gallon a barrel of crude was $2.90, or if you take inflation into account that is $$24.00 per barrel in today's dollars. In 2017 the average barrel of crude costed out at $42.75, but there were times when it went well over $100 per barrel. My point here is that the price of oil has only doubled in the last 50-60 years. That is way way below the rate of inflation for the same period of time. As you point out, however, the added taxes are what has a huge effect on the price at the pump., And, by the way, it's the pump price that is used in the CPI calculations.

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by Kellemora » 04 Dec 2018, 10:43

I don't disagree with anything you said above.

Gonna change the topic here although it is relevant to the above, as far as income vs cost of living goes.
I had to spend a fortune in attorney's fees to get the small amount of social security, because at first they claimed I have no benefits at all coming, despite the fact I had paid into the system since I was 14 years old.
I was lucky and the attorney agreed to accept $70.00 per month which was 10% of my monthly SS check for three years to cover his bill. This was about one-third less than he normally charges too. He also kept fighting my case even after they came up with lesser figures.

I don't have the data at my fingertips right now. But my late wife, had she lived to collect SS would have received a check for around 1,488.00 per month, based on the projected benefits amount page she received from the SSA each year.

Had I not remarried at age 55, I could have drawn on my late wife's which was slightly higher than my projected benefits amount page. My amount changed drastically downward when I stopped working to take care of her. It was cheaper for me to stay home as a caregiver than pay what the caregivers cost. I did work during the times she was in the hospital, but not enough to alter my projected SS.

In 2001, my projected SS page showed I was eligible for around 1,200.00 per month, give or take. So was not a deterrent to getting married at age 55. I was also working full-time after my late wife passed away, and back on the blue side of the ledger so only figured my SS would go up a little after taking off work to care for my late wife's final years.

After 9/11 my career was shot and I was going in the hole fast. Rather than file for bankruptcy I called an auctioneer to come in and auction off everything except my clothes, a few keepsakes, and boxes of pictures, plus what tools I thought I would need to work, and I only kept the minimum of those.
On the sad side, sales were much less than I expected, but on the bright side, I was able to pay off all of my debts and owed nobody anything when I packed up and moved south. I was totally debt free.

After I moved south, I once again became a caregiver. My wife's dad, the healthy one, passed away suddenly, leaving no one to care for his wife who suffered from bone cancer for years and was an invalid.
When I received my projected SS page in 2004 the amount dropped to under 600 dollars.
And in 2006 it dropped again to zero. I figured this was a mistake and started looking into it.
I was getting nowhere, so in 2008 I hired an attorney to look into it for me.
He did so for a small charge of less than 150 dollars, and offered some advice for me to follow.
So, I was back fighting with SS again on my own.
They said they only go by my last 5 years income record to determine how much I get, which would make it zero.
After a couple of months of arguing with them, the did agree to go back 10 years, which still made super low, less than 200 bucks a month.
So I called the attorney back and he agreed to take my case, but warned it could cost close to if not slightly over 3 grand to fight them. After he studied my and their paperwork, he agreed to the deal mentioned above. 10% of what he could get for me per month for 3 years. He also suggested I start taking SS at age 62 instead of waiting till age 65 because the amount he could get now would be higher than he could get for me in 3 more years because of how they do their calculations.

Although he only got me 700 bucks a month, because I was still paying in through my small tabletop business, the amount climbed to a little over 800 bucks, before they took out for all the things they take out, so even with the increases, I was still back down under 700 a month. Even today my check has only climbed up to 726 bucks a month.
By the time I pay for my Supplemental Insurance, I have around 500 bucks a month to cover, house and car insurance, medicines, taxes, and utilities. My utilities alone average around 300 bucks a month. So I'm out here trying to pay all the rest of the recurring expenses with only 200 bucks a month. Not an easy task for sure!
I'm not eligible for food stamps, or even a freeze on my real estate insurance, they always have some excuse as to why not.
Meanwhile, a neighbor two doors down, gets welfare, food stamps, and a ton of other stuff all for free. They also have two new cars, and are always on the go, eating out, taking in movies, or going to the expensive tourist attractions. Neither adult has a job, although one of the kids does work at a fast food place for $2.35 per hour.

I had better stop here before I say something I shouldn't!

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by yogi » 04 Dec 2018, 14:03

It's pretty hard for me to come up with a good response to your last post. I love this place, but life in America isn't turning out to be what it was promised when I was a kid. I'm not as naive now. So that might have a bearing on my POV, but something ain't right.

I've not read anything by Donald Trump, our so-called president, but I have talked with others who have. I've also read comments by his biographers. All these people tell me that Mr Trump believes democracy is a failure pretty much for the reasons you describe in this thread. Our system of governing has a lot of inequalities and a lot of corruption to support it, enough to make one think a viable alternative might be communism or some form of socialism. Those two systems attempt to put their citizens on an equal footing as opposed to our democratic way of forcing people to pursue the "American Dream." For many it's a nightmare, unfortunately.

I didn't know much about the social security system until I became an active beneficiary. I still don't know a lot, but I think I have the basics down. The retirement benefits come as a result of an annuity established by the payments we make into the system. Our premiums are invested and the benefits are derived from the earned interest and dividends along with any increased capitalization. There are laws in place to force normal insurance companies to keep a pool of cash in reserve at all times so that they have liquid assets to pay out claims. The SSA was doing exactly that for many years. But then things changed and claims outpaced earned income. The reserve fund shrank and laws were passed to allow the SSA to operate out of current income instead of out of the earned income from the reserve fund. Thus, you hear a lot of bitching from the young people who are paying into the system so that the government can send you and me a check every month. Also, the initial fund was untouchable. I'm not sure when that changed but it doesn't seem like it was too many years ago. Now, part of the federal budget uses the Social Security fund as a guarantee against it's debts. In theory they can wipe out Social Security to pay off some bonds.

The first thing I learned was that my benefits were based on my highest annual income averaged over 35 years. Because those first years of my work was done for peanuts that brings the average way down. If you miss a few years out of the 35, then you can run into what you are experiencing. I don't see how it could ever go down to zero unless you failed to pay into the system or worked for the railroad - they have their own version of social security. It's incredible that a lawyer would be needed to calculate what your average income is over 35 years, but apparently that is what happened to you.

The entire concept of social security has been a philosophical debate for as long as I can remember. There are people who feel the government should not be responsible for supporting it's citizenry with a guaranteed minimum income, or healthcare, or a place to live. Then there is the opposite end of the spectrum who believe that is exactly why we pay taxes, i.e., for the government to take care of us. We could debate the pros and cons, but what will that do for you? Hopefully it would relieve some stress, but there isn't much our discussions can do to improve the system.

Your story reminds me of people I worked with at Motorola. Some of them had their roots in India and Viet Nam and a few other exotic sounding places. Those people invariably would tell me how the can't understand how our government can get away with not taking care of their older generation of citizens. I would laugh and tell them it's all designed to entourage us to improve our own lives and not rely on the government. Well, I can't think of anybody I ever met and who worked harder at improving or maintaining their life any more than you, Gary. And what is the government's response to that? They made you fight and go into debt just to live at a subsistence level. I'm guessing that wasn't your idea of the American Dream.

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by Kellemora » 05 Dec 2018, 13:35

My college thesis was about the Social Security System.
Technically, it is the most marvelous system ever developed, even if it did begin more like a Ponzi Scheme, it was necessary to start that way.
I don't remember the exact dates anymore, but there was a short lag time after SS started until it began paying out. But they knew they would eventually catch up and become self-sustaining. They eventually reached this goal four years ahead of the projected time frame, somewhere around 1972 to 1974 I think.
After it reached self-sustaining status, there would still be a certain length of time, something like 10 or 12 more years before no one would be receiving social security in excess of what they paid in and the system earned.
Self-sustaining meant they were no longer using reserves to pay claims, or worded another way, they were no longer using new money intended for those paying into the system.
Around 1986 give or take a few years, there was not a person alive who would not reap the benefits of what they paid into the SS system, the money was theirs, and no longer used to pay previous retirees.
This was the true balance point for Social Security.
Something very important about this balance point too!
If for some reason, a new system was started, and no one paid into the current social security anymore, there would always be enough funds in the previous system to cover everyone who paid into it.
In other words, it was totally impossible for Social Security to go broke! The money was there to pay each and every one of us when we retired. It was only our own money plus interest we were getting back, it wasn't used to pay anyone else.
That being said.
The government borrowed from SS at an agreed upon interest rate.
The government defaulted on their payments, so they reduced the amount of interest on their own, putting SS in a minor bind. However, after this incident, the government did pay back the principal, only to steal it all back from SS for their own use with no interest, they would handle paying the retirees.
Had the government not stolen the money from SS, in 1999 the excess funds were to be reallocated by increasing the amount pensioners received back of their own money. So what the government did was a real kick in the face to all retirees. They stole the funds and then failed to even give cost of living increases a few times since.
When Trump first started running for the office of president, it was claimed that any person 70 years of age or older, who was not receiving at least $1,180.00 per month from SS, their amount would be raised to that level. As election time drew near, the figure was upped to an even $1,200.00, but it never came to pass, and apparently died out.

About my SS situation. They did NOT use the highest 35 year spread. In fact, I never heard of that method, not even when we were fighting over mine. When I went to collect, they only looked at your last 5 years of employment. And if you squawked loud enough, they would look at the last 10 years. Which in my case was still no help.
I worked my entire life from age 14 to 48 at full-time jobs. I was self-employed earning more per year than all the previous years combined, and paying into FICA fairly large amounts of money. Good thing I was earning a lot of money, because I was paying out to hospitals for my late wife an average of 26 thousand dollars a month for what the insurance didn't cover. And after her insurance capped out, I paid the hospital more than 300,000 dollars before I couldn't do it again. What they did was shipped her downtown to Firmin Desloge a charity hospital, until I refinanced my house to the hilt, and sold off my income producing properties to get her moved back again.
This is what killed us. Selling off the income producing properties meant I couldn't pay the mortgage on my house, unless I could work full-time again. She was spending more time in the hospital, which gave me more time to work, and when she was home I had a home nurse sit with her during the day. Just barely holding our own when she ended up back in the hospital for the last time. I had to borrow to pay for her funeral expenses, even though we had a plan partially paid for. But then I could get back to work full-time again, which I did, and then some.
I was finally able to see the blue side of the ledger when 9/11 hit and ended my career as a home renovator.
My only option was to auction off everything I owned to get out from under the debt load.
As I look back, in retrospect, I probably should have filed for bankruptcy, but didn't.
We got absolutely zero help with any of her medical bills after her insurance capped out.
And the banks are partly to blame for this. They made me put most of the company assets in my name before I could use them as collateral for a loan. This is the main reason we had to sell off my sources of income to cover her medical bills. You can't own anything to get any type of help at all. Even if your house is mortgaged for more than it is worth, it is still considered an asset, so no help. Grrr.

Enough of my woe's.

I was raised in a Home Rule community. It eventually became a 4th class city which ended Home Rule, and the city went downhill after that. So much so, my family moved out of that town.
You're right, America is nothing like what it was like when we were raised.

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by yogi » 05 Dec 2018, 16:38

How SS benefits are calculated:

That document is current as of 2018, but I know you applied some other year. Perhaps the rules were different back then. What I don't understand is why your lawyer didn't know about this. I'd have to trust him/her more than what I could find on the web, but I applied in 2009 and had the same information back then. Go figure.

I paid into FICA for 36 years. Many of those years I could not max out the payment because I wasn't making enough money. I never sat down to calculate it but I'm guessing that I am already damned near close to having received all the money I put into it. Actually I am closer to having received twice what I paid in premiums. I am pretty sure you are correct about the system originally being designed to be self-sustaining. However, when us Baby Boomers started making claims, the output was greater than the input. And that's not counting all the fudging the feds did with the books. If I recall the numbers correctly, SSA will be insolvent somewhere around 2026. To be honest I'm more concerned about the government remaining solvent than I am about SSA.

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by Kellemora » 06 Dec 2018, 10:15

Back when I did my thesis, when 1999 would eventually roll around, and considering the average life expectancy at double the then current projections, there was no way SS would ever become insolvent. In fact, it would continue to have increasing excess funds if they didn't up the amount being paid out to retirees, which would be the baby boomers.

Most of the numbers they give us now has to do with the fact the government took their money and reneged on the interest they agreed to pay. This was a black mark because the money was removed from being invested for the benefit of seniors.

One other problem is SS had to pay out for things they were never supposed to have to pay out for.
Even so, look at the high number of folks who paid into the system who never got a dime back.
These funds also go into the excess funds pool, and some were used to cover shortfalls of early retirees before the 1980's.

I wish I still had a copy of my thesis. It gave the sources, dates, and amounts, all of which were verified.
I also got an A on it too!

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by yogi » 06 Dec 2018, 14:18

Who am I to argue an 'A' grade on a degree thesis? LOL

I can't say that I did the same amount of investigation that you did for your thesis; all I can share with you is what I see as current information off the Internet. Not the most reliable source, but a lot of thesis papers depend on it too. The other likelihood is that we are talking about two different things.

My information showing insolvency for SSA being 2026 (2028 actually) is incorrect. That is the projected run out date for Medicare’s hospital trust fund. Retirement benefits will not exhaust it's trust fund until 2034. I'm quoting these numbers from an article by PBS who I suspect you put very little trust in. They, however, are getting their information direct from the annual trustee reports on Social Security and Medicare which you can find here: I'm certain the realities of it all were different in 1999, the year of your thesis, than they are today. Exactly how different is something I have no way of knowing.

Having said all the above, It's hard to imagine that the SSA and all it's subsidiary funds will be allowed to go bankrupt. Unfortunately, the current administration in DC is hell bent on exactly doing that. I'm not sure there is enough time to straighten it all out even if the administration changed tomorrow.

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by Kellemora » 07 Dec 2018, 11:44

I think all the current projections have to do with 'after the fact' the government took all the money from SS, so it is no longer being invested or earning interest.

The government took over the roll of paying retirees their social security benefits, instead of paying back the money they took from SS. So the way I see it, any projection about SS running out of money is the same as a projection for the USofA running out of money, and finding they have no lenders left to borrow from.

They (the government) should have just left SS funds alone, it wasn't theirs to take, it was ours!

So YES, a lot has changed since I did my thesis. What used to be black and white, first turned gray, and then the gray faded away into government bureaucracy.

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by yogi » 07 Dec 2018, 13:38

It certainly is "our" money in the social security super fund, but it's the government's to manage. It's a lot like taxes. All of the government is paid for with our money, so why the heck aren't they doing what we are paying them to do?

I think FDR invented Social Security as part of the New Deal to help the country avoid another depression. Well, that worked for a few decades but it wasn't that many years ago when we went through a severe recession which most economists would call a depression. My guess is that Social Security saved a lot of families from disaster in that recent fiasco. The way I remember it, the Social Security trust fund also saved the government from bankruptcy. It was all on paper, of course, but I have a feeling the rules changed. It's still our money in there but it's diluted with other people's money. For all you know my monthly checks are coming from the money YOU put in. LOL Look at it as an insurance policy. You only get to pay the premiums. The benefits are spelled out in the contract. Unlike insurance companies, the government can change the terms of the contract at any time.

Every investment fund I ever owned issued an annual report. Motorola would issue a financial disclosure for it's Profit Sharing (401k) each year too. The idea behind doing that is for participants to look over the report and decide how to invest going forward. Most folks I know can't read a balance sheet so that those disclosures were meaningless. Nonetheless, they were audited and true to form. So, that's what all the trustee report for SSA is about. It's just a status report. You are supposed to decide what to do about it. Unfortunately, you can't do anything but cry over Social Security. There is no opting out choice.

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by Kellemora » 08 Dec 2018, 11:33

I had four different retirement plans, and had to cash them all in to pay for my late wife's medical bills.
Apparently I had forgotten about one of them from my early working years. I was just fortunate they didn't overlook me, and when I turned 65 they started sending me a check for $42.01 each month. It comes from US Bank who is the trustee for the account, and I guess they took the initiative to track me down.
Meanwhile, I've had to fight tooth and nail just to get all of my life insurance policies corrected and updated.
Even with the data right in front of them, whoever entered the data made one mistake after another.
Took me nearly three years of sending forms back and forth before they finally had it all straightened out.
And then when they sent me the final package, I found some more serious errors. Like the wrong beneficiary on one.
I called and they said it is correct in their computer, so I asked how the printout could be wrong then.
This got them to scrambling to figure out what happened. But I finally got a correct copy for each policy.
All that over five, 500 dollar paid up policies. I think I spent more in hours working at getting them corrected, than my beneficiary will realize from them.

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by yogi » 08 Dec 2018, 15:38

I know what you mean about insurance policies. Something simple like a change of address just screws up their entire system. It turns out that dealing with the Social Security people was easy compared to getting the records straight with some of the other insurance people I deal with. All but one of them have websites with user profiles. You would think that changing the contact information on the website would update all the records they are keeping. Why have a website in the first place if it can't do that much? In each case I made the corrections but ended up having to talk to a live person in order to set the records straight. Invariably they would say the website is not correlated with the hard paper copies. Then there is the online version of CVS I deal with. Good luck trying to keep prescriptions straight with them.

When mom passed away I discovered that she too had a few of those paid up $500 life insurance policies. I was pleasantly surprised when we cashed them all in. The pay out was three or four times what the face value of the policy stated. She must have had them since she was a kid. The surprising part was that the insurance company was still in business. LOL

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Re: Good Vibrations

Post by Kellemora » 09 Dec 2018, 12:39

The insurance company I was dealing with stores their policies under the owners name.
Apparently they have no other way of looking them up, or at least that is what they kept telling me.
About fifteen years ago, when I moved south, I filled out all five forms necessary to update each policy to my new home address. Then followed up a year later with a change of beneficiary, which again required one form for each policy.
I used the same owner name on all the original change of address forms, and used the same owner name to change the beneficiaries. They never contacted me about any problems, so I assumed everything was handled.
Never Assume!

I think it was about seven years ago, my original company sold out to another company, but I was never notified of this.
Then about four years ago, that company sold my policies to another company, and I was notified they took possession of three of my policies and changed the serial numbers of the policies to fit their system.
This is when the trouble started, I asked about the other two policies. They claimed they didn't have them, so I contacted insurance company number 2 in the chain. They said all five of my policies were sold to number 3 in the chain.
So I started contacting them again, asking for a copy of each of my insurance policies.
I still have the Originals of each policy, so gave them the original serial number on each one.

Now Dig This!
NONE of my previous changes were ever recorded, however, they did have my current address on file, which is how they notified me they had three of my policies.
They suggested I send in a new change of address form and change of beneficiaries form for each policy. Which I did.
They sent me letters saying "The name I sent does not match the Owners Name of the policy." With no explanation as to what the heck they were talking about.
About four or five phone calls later, I finally spoke with someone who had me send them proof of who I am first. This meant my old St. Louis and new Knoxville Drivers Licenses, a copy my Social Security Card, and a copy of my Passport.
At least I had the phone number and person I spoke with so we could catch each other once again.
After a lengthy verification process and numerous questions, the person finally agreed to tell me what the problem was with my Owners Name.
Despite the fact they had the paperwork showing exactly how I spelled my name, when they updated the files, they spelled my name differently on each policy. Now that I had the spelling they used, I could send in a new form for each policy changing it from the name they had used, to the name I wanted them to show as the Owner of each policy.
One we finally got this all squared away, then I had to do the change of beneficiary form for each policy.
Here we are, once again, back to the Owners Name does not match.
Whoever is entering the data did it differently and had my name different on the policies once again.
Took another month or so to get this part straightened out again.
Finally, I sent in the change of beneficiary, and requested a copy of each file to make sure they were correct.

The person with whom I was working, had quit the company and I had to start all over with another person.
This new person gave me entirely different information that the previous person, regarding the spelling of my beneficiary names. After they sent me the Bundle as they call it, for each of my policies, not only did they spell the beneficiaries names differently on each one, they actually had people listed as beneficiaries on one policy that were were removed over twenty years ago.
I'm back on the phone with them and they say everything is correct in the computer.
I said great, send me a new Bundle for each policy. Guess what, one of the policies was still messed up royally.
Plus they could not find one of my policies at all anymore to send me a Bundle. Hey dudes, you sent one a couple of months ago.

I was getting fed up with them and their mistakes, so thought I would contact the government to see who controls the insurance companies.
Would you believe, there is no Federal Agency to oversee insurance companies.
They are governed by State Agencies.
My home state could do nothing. My current state could do nothing. So I contacted the state who licensed the current insurance company and holder of my policies.
After an exchange of a few form letters, they finally requested a copy of each of my insurance policies, plus any correspondence done by mail. This was a huge pile of paperwork I had to send to them, close to 100 pages.
They sent me a letter back saying they received the documents they requested and have scheduled a review of them next month. It was nearly two months later when they sent me another letter, along with a single form, most of which was already filled out by them for me.
Apparently they had access to data I did not have. I say this because the form showed the Original Serial number of each policy, the Serial number assigned by the next company, and the Serial number assigned by the current holder of my policies. It also gave the original agents names, what book the policies were recorded in, and a bunch of other information I had no idea what it was.
On the next page of the form was my name, properly spelled out the way I wanted it on all the policies. And on the page following was my list of beneficiaries, also spelled correctly, and what percentage each held of the policy. Below the primary beneficiary were the secondary beneficiaries and their percentages.
Talk about a precise and clear form stating exactly how my insurance policies should read.
One form (of several pages) I verified as accurate, and made a copy to send back to the state signed and dated as they requested.
Less than two weeks later I get a new form, similar to the one they sent for my approval, already filled out, with instruction to sign and date it and send it to the insurance company.
This did the trick. About two weeks after I sent it in, I received a Bundle for each of my policies, and they were all identical as to Owner Name and Beneficiaries. Although they were spelled using an initial on some, I was told that didn't matter except on the Owners Name, which has to be spelled out the same on each policy. They were, so all is finally good. I hope!

Sorry this got so long, I didn't intend for it to.

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