Saving for Retirement

People are living longer while dark economic and political clouds approach from the horizon. What can individuals and families do to help protect their financial future? How can we best care for ourselves and those we love?  

By Mark D. Harris

America and the world are aging. In almost every land, the number of workers is falling relative to the number of retirees. Fewer workers result in less revenue from profits and taxes. Corporate and government pension systems (such as Social Security in the United States) try to maintain payments to retirees, so governments incur more debt and private pension funds become underfunded. As fewer men and women marry, and fewer couples have babies, the workforce continues to shrink, and economies begin to fail. The entire financial system becomes less stable.

Meanwhile, inflation is over 7% and interest rates make your eyes water. Experts predict financial gloom, and no one seems to know how to dodge or divert the coming storm. For many governments, cost cutting is politically impossible, and their main solution is to print (create) more money. Furthermore, politicians shift more costs to retirees themselves. For example, Medicare is charging the aged more and more for health insurance, at just the time that the elderly need it the most.

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Business Models for the First and the 21st Centuries

Businesses and other organizations can be understood in three different types. Facilitated Networking, Value Added, and Solution Shop business models, and combinations thereof, have existed since before Rome ruled. Modern entrepreneurs will benefit as they think of their endeavors in these ways.  

By Mark D. Harris

Several women at a baby shower share stories about giving birth, providing tips to an expectant mother on how to make delivery easier and less painful. One older woman provides a beautiful baby dress, while another shares the address of a bargain store.

A farmer plants acres of grain. He and his family labor over their fields for months, watering and weeding while the crop comes in. In due time, they harvest an abundance. They keep some grain for their own consumption and sell the rest.

Two colonels pore over a map on a battlefield, discussing how to defeat the enemy dug in on a ridgeline nearby. They are not sure of their opponent’s strength and disposition, but they are losing the initiative and need to act soon.

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Financial Statements, Stock Price, and Truth

Financial statements provide the most important details about the financial health of a company. In aggregate, they indicate how a whole sector is doing. How do you read them? What do they contain? What useful information should be in financial statements, but is not? How can management manipulate financial statements to deceive outsiders? Learn it all here!

By Mark D. Harris

Introduction

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires annual statements (10K) and quarterly statements (10Q) from all publicly traded companies. These reports inform stakeholders about the company’s earnings and other key factors that influence the behavior of lenders, investors, employees, analysts, ratings agencies, governments, and others. These stakeholders rely on company management to report accurately.

Stock price, at least in theory, encapsulates all the pertinent factors of a company, such as management, product, demand, and other internal and external factors, and summarizes everything stakeholders need to know about a company. In the real world, however, stock price can be affected by firm characteristics and can be manipulated by managers seeking their own interests over the interests of shareholders.

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Maximizing Customer Value and Engagement

Businesses exist to serve their customers. Self-perpetuation, environmental sustenance, social issues, and even shareholder value maximization are of little importance if the customer is not served. How can companies, and other organizations, give their customers their best?

By Mark D. Harris

The rug dealer at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul carefully poured the Turkish apple chi into a small cup. “Here, my friend,” he said as he handed the cup to me. He sat down close by and asked, “How is your family?” Thus began ten minutes of chit chat before we even mentioned the silk rug that I had admired when I came in. The small talk would have gone on longer, but my American impatience cut it short. By the time we were done, the rug dealer had $500 of my hard-earned dollars, and I walked out with a beautiful rug that probably cost less than half that to make. The dealer may have congratulated himself for fleecing another rich American. I congratulated myself on buying a rug that my wife would like, having a fascinating experience, and helping support a Turkish businessman and the economy of a third world nation. A fair deal, I figure.

Buying and selling across the world

Americans walk into a store, find what they want, check to see if the price is reasonable to them, and if it is, they buy the item. Rarely is there any dickering between buyer and seller over price. My experience in northern and western Europe has been the same.

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