Tuesday, September 28, 2010
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WEALTH noun: an abundance of material possessions and
resources; the state of being rich and affluent
Americans measure wealth in various ways. Some by the size of their
bank account, some by the size of their home. Others by the size of
their heart, or the state of their health.
For the sake of this article, we're going to use the measure
officially recognized by economists and government programs. That is,
an individual or household's net worth.
Net worth is defined as the value of your assets like your home,
investments or other possessions minus your debt. We all know what
debt is when we pay those pesky monthly bills.
Just a few days ago, Forbes released its annual list of the 400
richest people in America, all of whom boast a net worth over one
billion dollars. The list included folks with various backgrounds and
pedigrees, including technology, investment professionals and the
energy sector. Four of the top ten are members of the Walton family
of Walmart fame.
Among the newest entrants on the list you'll also find the youngest -
Facebook founders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz (both 26)
along with cohort Eduardo Saverin (28). Their success best
exemplifies one of Albert Einstein's most famous quotes: "Imagination
is more important than knowledge."
Not that these men don't rank among our countries brightest, but
it's through bringing their dream alive that they earned this status.
The Forbes list comes at a time when the net worth of Americans
declined after showing four quarters of steady growth. The reported
decline for April-June 2010 is attributed to stock prices and home
values. Stocks have bounced back, but it will take some time before
home values do the same.
And that may well be the prime factor in recent census data
indicating the growing gap between the rich and poor in our country.
Statistics reveal the top 20 percent of earners in the U.S., those
earning $100,000 or more annually, receive nearly half of our
country's total income. Those below the poverty line receive a measly
This gap represents the greatest disparity among the Western
But is this gap really such a bad thing?
It depends on how the wealthy choose to use their resources. And
what kind of example they set for others among their ranks.
The wealthiest man in America, Bill Gates, is a prime example of
charity in action. He stepped down from his lofty position at the
company that brought personal computers mainstream to devote efforts
to the charitable foundation he and wife Melinda founded in 1994. The
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to supporting health
and education around the world, with its largest single grant of $1
billion given to the United Negro College Fund. Other causes
supported by Gates generosity help support hunger, homelessness,
animals, family support, environmental and human rights issues.
One of the largest contributors to the Gates' efforts ranks number
two on the Forbes list. He is none other than Mr. Gates' close friend
and confidante, Warren Buffett. His $37 billion donation to the Bill
and Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest charitable donation by an
individual in history.
Yet Buffet's reach extends beyond that of his good friend to aid at-
risk/disadvantaged youths, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, cancer causes
and blood marrow and organ donation.
Film makers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg both made the Forbes
list. Lucas supports causes involved with fighting AIDS, those for
child welfare, education and the creative arts.
Spielberg used his earnings from directing the Oscar winning film
"Schindler's List" to establish the Righteous Persons Foundation. The
Foundation funds projects which impact modern Jewish life. According
to the web site, it funds programs that "engage the Jewish youth, to
support the arts, to promote tolerance and to strengthen the
commitment to social justice."
In 1991, he co-founded Starbright, a foundation dedicated to
improving sick children's lives through technology-based programs
focusing on entertainment and education. The program later merged
with the Starlight Foundation, dedicated to improving the quality of
life for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses and
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently donated $100 million to
the Newark School System. This 26-year-old is following in the steps
of those who preceded him among our nation's wealthiest. And if he
continues in their path, this is merely the beginning.
Philanthropy isn't limited to Americans. Austrian millionaire Karl
Rabeder is shedding himself of all of his worldly possessions to help
the poor in Central and Latin America. His personal fortune was
estimated to be close to $5 million. In an article appearing in the
October 2010 issue of "Reader's Digest", Rabeder is quoted as saying
"For 25 years, I worked like a slave for things I didn't want or
need….. So we work for the future without ever being able to live for
A divorce and trips to South America changed his focus on life.
Rabeder began a micro-credit venture to enable and empower the poor
to earn a gainful profession and provide for their family.
None of these causes would succeed if it weren't through the
compassion of those wealthy enough to make a difference. Every human
heart wrenches at the thought of a cancer-stricken child. But
healthcare only addresses a portion of the problem.
Education is our key to tomorrow. Yet our current system is broken.
And there just aren't enough taxpayer dollars to reinvent it.
Poverty and homelessness plague our country. Who among us has the
resources to make a difference? It's those that top that Forbes 400
list. And without them, this nation would be much poorer. No matter
which definition we apply.
TIPS FOR SELLING YOUR HOME
Are you trying to sell your home? In the real estate market, there
are less people buying homes today than there were a few years ago.
What does this mean to you? Well, it could mean that your home will
be on the market for a longer period of time or that you may have to
reduce your selling price. This is not good news; however, there are
some things you can do to help make your home more attractive to
those people out there right now that are looking to buy. This
article will go over just a few basic things to help make your home
Keep it clean.
Clean your home from ceiling to floor. This is especially important
if you have an older home with an outdated kitchen and/or bathroom. A
dirty home will make prospective buyers wonder what else is not being
maintained in the home or what problems might be hidden underneath
all the dirt.
Make sure it works.
Make sure everything works, from the biggest item to the smallest.
This includes everything from the heater/air conditioner down to the
front porch light. Put new bulbs in all of the lighting fixtures,
make sure all switches and outlets are in working order, make sure
all the faucets and toilets work, and clean out the gutters.
De-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter.
You may like all the family photos you have spread across the top of
the piano, all the books crammed into the bookshelves, and all the
knickknacks on top of the coffee table, but to prospective buyers
this just looks like clutter or worse... it can make it harder for
buyers to imagine themselves living in the space or it could make
your rooms look smaller. In addition, having too much furniture in a
room may make it look smaller. Look at it this way; if you are going
to move, you are going to have to pack it all away anyway. Start now
and help make your home more appealing. Once you have packed it all
away, move it off-site. It does not pay to pack up all your items and
then stash them in your closets and/or garage. The goal is to make
your home feel as big and roomy as possible. Packing your closets to
overflowing will not help. Buyers want to be able to see how much
storage space is available. So while you are at it, de-clutter your
Keep it neutral.
You may love the hummingbird curtains in the kitchen and the blue
flowered shower curtain in the bathroom, but unless they have the
same taste as you, these items could be a turn-off for prospective
buyers. It may make sense to invest some money in purchasing more
neutral items. New bedspreads, throw pillows, curtains, and shower
curtains are all inexpensive items that can make a big difference in
making your home more appealing. Remember, the key is to purchase
more neutral items that coordinate with the colors already in your
Set the stage.
The big word you hear nowadays is "staging." In its simplest form,
staging your home is making your home more attractive to potential
buyers by adding, removing, rearranging or redecorating items. This
could include everything from putting your oversized recliner into
storage to adding a vase with flowers on an end table. There are
companies that will come in and stage your home for a fee, but before
you go that route, talk with your real estate agent. Your agent
should be able to give you some idea of where to start and whether or
not you might benefit from professional help.
Doing all of the suggestions listed in this article is a start, but
there are also some other basic things you can do whenever you have a
showing, such as: open all the curtains to let the light in; close
all the closet doors; close all the kitchen/bathroom/bedroom drawers;
close the lids on all the toilets; pull the shower curtain across the
tub; put away any clean or dirty laundry; put away any stacks of
magazines, catalogs, or mail; and put away toys. Little things can
make a big difference.
Spruce it up.
One of the best ways to update a property is to give it a new coat
of paint. If you can do the painting yourself, this is a relatively
inexpensive way to help freshen your home. A top-quality interior
latex paint will help hide many imperfections and a fresh coat of
paint on baseboards and ceilings will liven up your rooms.
These are just a few suggestions to help you sell your home. As I
mentioned previously, your real estate agent should also be able to
help you with ideas to make your home more marketable. For other
ideas and information, check out realtor.org.
The monthly consumer confidence index fell to 48.5 in September, its
lowest point since February and down from 53.2 in August. Economists
were expecting 52.5 for September. This index was based on a random
survey to 5,000 households from September 1st to 21st by the
Conference Board, a private research group.
Some economists have said that the recession is technically over,
lasting 18 months and ending July 2009. However, corporate hiring
remains slow, keeping unemployment hovering just below 10 percent.
The Federal Reserve noted last week that it will take action if
things get worse. As fall leaves turn, we continue to look for
Today’s Market Rates
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Dow Jones Industrial Average
(Up 430.09 or 4.12% since 12/31/09)
(Up 32.60 or 2.92% since 12/31/09)
(Up 110.44 or 4.87% since 12/31/09)
|10 Year Treasury Bond Yield
On The World Wide Web
Who made Forbe's list of the 400 richest people in America? Find out.
You don't have to start out rich to make a difference. Three friends
from the University of Notre Dame wanted to earn some money selling
books. And have contributed over $8 million to support global
literacy in the process. Buy books online for a
Running errands? Calculate the
optimal route with driving directions.
Tip of the Week
Exercise caution when posting your status on a social network. In
just the past few weeks, an emergency dispatcher was fired in
Wisconsin for revealing drug use; a waitress got canned for
complaining about customers and the Pittsburgh Pirate's mascot was
dumped for bashing the team on Facebook. One study done last year
estimated that 8 percent of companies fired someone for "misuse" of
"You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what
you really need." - Vernon Howard
Today in History
1968 - The Beatles' "Hey Jude" goes number one where it stays for
The trucking company Elvis Presley worked at as a young man was
owned by Frank Sinatra.
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