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This Ain’t Your
By Peter “Coach Pete” D’Arruda
enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” -
I was a
“honeymoon baby.” That is, I was a souvenir of my parent’s
honeymoon. I was born exactly nine months to the day from when it
started. My arrival was a mixed blessing at best. My father, a full
time student working on his Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Physics,
and my mother, also a college student, needed an addition to the
family like they needed a hole in the head.
To say that I
grew up in a family of modest means is an understatement. But we
never went hungry. One of my earliest memories is that of a large
metal can on the kitchen counter stenciled with the words, “peanut
butter,” in bold, government-style letters. Sitting next to it was a
plain box marked “cheese” in the same stark lettering. I would learn
later that it was something called “government surplus,” a precursor
to food stamps. It was free, but you had to be poor to qualify for
Wants versus needs
Things got a
little better as I grew older, but not much. There was little money
in the house. What there was went to pay for necessities like
nourishment and shelter. Those were needs. As I remember it, there
was never a problem in our home making a distinction between needs
and wants. Needs, I came to conclude, are absolute and gnawingly
apparent. Wants are arbitrary and usually frivolous.
It troubles me
that today’s society, especially in wealthy countries like the
United States, is defined by its craving for instancy. Baby boomers
started the push button era sometime in the 1950s and soon,
consumers were hooked on instant coffee, instant tea, frozen TV
dinners and so many labor-saving devices that kitchens couldn’t
contain them all. Now, we are addicts, and we have passed the habit
on to our kids. The line of distinction between wants and needs
always seems to blur when there is plenty, but usually comes back
into sharp focus during hard times.
According to a
survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Social and Demographic
Trends project, Americans are rethinking what they can and cannot
live without. It used to be that most folks saw such things as
microwave ovens, home air conditioning and TVs as luxuries; now,
more people see them as necessities. Do you have a cell phone? Could
you part with it? Half of those polled said they viewed cell phones
and personal computers as necessities. Food is a necessity. You
can’t eat a computer. Would you go hungry to keep your cell phone?
That is the true test, I suppose.
recession has a way of teaching us priorities. Since the era of
abundance in the 1990s, the television, the most sacrosanct of all
luxury items, is now considered a necessity for only 52 percent of
those surveyed — down from 64 percent. The media bombards us daily
with things that are attractive and appealing. Advertising moguls
are paid millions to find new ways of making us want the things they
dangle before us. Credit cards make them easy to purchase. It is no
wonder that some think there is a giant conspiracy out there, the
purpose of which is to prevent anyone from saving anything! I know
my mother would see it that way. “It’s a game,” she used to say.
“And it goes like this: You have money in your pocket, and everyone
around you is trying to get it out.”
still come back to me every time I leave a Best Buy store with some
new gadget that I felt sure I could not live another day without. I
get that little tingle of conscience they call “buyer’s remorse.”
Debt versus savings
America is addicted to credit the way drug addicts are hooked on
narcotics. The actual number is hard to nail down, but one source
recently stated that the United States owes more than $2.5 trillion
in consumer debt. Even if it’s off a billion or two, that’s a lot!
How much is a trillion?
Our standard nine-digit
calculator can’t display it. It’s a one followed by 12 zeros.
A trillion one-dollar
bills, laid end to end, would reach the sun.
A trillion dollars
amounts to $3,333 for each of America’s 300 million people.
a children's book author, says in his book, “How Much Is a
"One million seconds
comes out to be about 11½ days."
seconds is 32 years."
"And a trillion seconds
is 32,000 years."
With that in
mind, here are a couple of staggering statistics. As of this
writing, the United States federal deficit stands at $1.7 trillion.
The national debt stands at over $15 trillion. The debt is incurred
when the government spends more than it takes in. It is the debt
that creates the operating deficit that resets annually. These
deficits are paid for by the government selling interest-bearing
This is where
you gulp and swallow hard. If the federal government were ever to
default on its promise to pay periodic interest payments or to repay
the debt at maturity, the economy would spin into chaos and
collapse. It is the interest on the national debt that gives the
shivers to those who track this and understand what it means.
That’s why the
question is often asked, “Will Medicare and Social Security be
around when I retire?” The answer is yes, if you retire before 2024.
The answer is maybe if you retire after that. According to the
trustees who report on those programs annually, Medicare’s trust
fund will run dry by 2024, and the Social Security will dry up in
2033. We say maybe those programs will still be here because steps
will probably be taken to preserve Medicare and Social Security.But
it remains to be seen what form those measures will take, and how
the face of Medicare and Social Security will change as a result.
the Employee Benefit Research Institute, about
60 percent of American
workers say their household savings and investments total less than
$25,000. According to the book, “The Narcissism Epidemic,”
published in 2009, average credit card debt in the United States
exceeds $11,000 -- triple what it was in 1990. That’s just credit
card debt, and doesn’t include what we owe on our houses, boats,
How much are
Americans saving for retirement? Not nearly enough. The average
American worker spends 94 percent of disposable income. The EBRI’s
report breaks down by age group the retirement savings of America as
Under 35: $6,306
35 – 44: $22,460
45 – 54: $43,797
55 – 64: $69,127
65 – 75: $56,212
It’s all a
matter of priorities. I do not recall ever going out to eat as a
kid. Even after our belts were a little looser and we no longer ate
government cheese, my father and mother were both too conscious of
laying a foundation for our family’s future to waste money on
something as frivolous as ordering from a menu. To this day,
regardless of my financial situation, my eyes still go to the right
side of the menu first, where the prices are listed. I can’t help
it. It is a habit I learned from my frugal parents, who knew the
value of a dime, and even more so the value of a dollar.
Any surplus was to be used
as a foundation for our future, not wasted.
Today, when I
see young people eating out in a fancy restaurant, I can’t help but
wonder if they have taken care of the necessities of life first. If
not, then they are eating on borrowed money that will eventually
have to be paid back by someone. I don’t mean to sound like the
curmudgeon who resents seeing others experience joy. It just makes
me wonder if we are perhaps headed in the wrong direction as a
people -- a pampered society, not one of industry and thrift.
Could it be
that retracing our steps back to those taken by an earlier
generation might be the best way to move forward to the rich lives
we all envision for ourselves?
Peter J. “Coach Pete” D’Arruda has 21
Years experience in the financial arena. Author of 4 books.
Co-author of 3 books. Investment Advisor. Registered Financial
Consultant (RFC). Certified Financial Educator (CFEd). Host of
nationally syndicated FINANCIAL SAFARI Radio & TV shows. Numerous
guest appearances on CNBC, BNN, & Fox Business Channels. Quoted in
Wall Street Journal, Smart Money, Kipplinger, AARP Magazine, and
(Peter “Coach Pete” D’Arruda became a client of the Insurance Pro
Shop in 2008)
“Wisdom is knowing what to do next, skill is
knowing how to do it, and virtue is doing it.”
David Star Jordan
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The Magic Word
Success does not come
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seriously make up our minds to become. Whatever we seriously
decide to do is naturally linked to our genetic possibilities.
Just pursue your natural aptitude.
“Attitude” is the magic
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attitude shapes that life for better or worse. Develop a winning
attitude. Each of us creates his or her own life largely by our
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It is then, our attitude toward life that determines life’s
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effect. What we sow we’ll reap. What we give we’ll get. Change
and your surroundings will change. Each of us shapes his or her
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Most people begin their day in neutral. They will simply react
to whatever confronts them. These are the people of our
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Beware High Impact!
By Forrest Wallace Cato
Recently friends have congratulated me
on my new radio program on the CBS radio network.
At first glance, the above sentence
seems simple and clear. But, the above sentence is not very subtle. You do
not think this is subtle at all. A very brief second glance reveals that
sentence to be an all-too-obvious attempt to impress you. Unfortunately the
sentence is so awkward, amateurish, and ineffective, that the result is the
exact opposite of what was intended. Some elementary thought before the
sentence was presented would have helped.
The lesson here is: If you want to
draw attention to something then you should know how to draw attention to
something, or risk blundering. Don’t go for high impact! High impact usually
means you are boldly proclaiming as in yelling. Do not yell your message!
Think first. Wouldn’t a line whispered be more readily accepted? Certainly
the “softly” stated line would be more endeared, cherished, and believed?
Shouldn’t you respect your listener or reader’s intellect? Like “hard sell,”
the high impact approach often invites scrutiny and resistance. Why
encourage scrutiny with such a clumsy and phony line?
Close scrutiny might reveal that once
a week the originator of the self-promotional line pays $300.00 for an hour
or two on a low-wattage small town station claiming to reach 5,000 with
their shotgun blast, but actually this may reach possibly 2,300. Dreams of
becoming the next Dave Ramsey are fine, but Ramsey’s media exposures and
image building efforts are all highly skilled, professional, and carefully
Financial planner Phil Calandra,
host of a popular, award-winning, and long-running, Atlanta radio talk
program, explains: “A little scrutiny leads to the realization that
countless financial planners ‘that you never heard of,’ have or once had,
local radio programs in some small market areas. This often includes
Internet radio programs with zero listeners. Most ‘hosts’ call these
‘shows,’ but they are ‘programs,’ and yes there is a difference. I have met
very few planners with radio programs who actually knew what to do to
generate prospects from their radio broadcast. Thus, most such programs are
simply a waste and contribute little to anything other than possibly to
their egos. Their ratings are usually so low that they don’t register any
numbers. Unprofessional radio ‘programs’ are seldom a move-up to fame or
Phil Calandra is one of the many
remarkable success stories from Cato & the Insurance Pro Shop
Recently I placed a client on a
network TV program to “talk” for 20-minutes about his new legit (not
self-published) book. Despite my best prepping, this client was pathetic
when required to “perform.” He kept repeating each question slowly, then
hesitating, making sounds like “errr,” and “ugh,” and appearing to struggle
mentally -- searching for words to “pull out” and deliver. Then he would say
something overly simple, always speaking very slowly. He always ended his
responses by repeating what he had just slowly stated.
This client thought he could easily
“wing” the network TV interview because he had experience on his own local
independent radio program. But in the “big league” he was quickly terminated
because he was so boring and such a turn-off to a national TV viewing
audience. He jeopardized my chances of making additional placements with the
involved producer who thought I was “nuts” for vouching for this guy. Gone
was my hope of getting a good demo video (sample) of him being interviewed –
this would have been for use in attempts to place him on additional TV talk
shows. Of course, my client had no idea why he bombed.
Lesson here: Standards are enforced on
network or cable productions as these are professionally produced. But on
independent radio programs, little or no standards are enforced or even
involved. Ask yourself, how impressive is an amateur radio program with no
enforced standards? Who is going to be interested, much less impressed? Such
amateur programs usually go for high impact. And high impact is often a
The One Place Where
High impact is effectively used by
comedians when absurdity or humor is the objective. In show biz this is
called “lapping.” The term is derived from the vaudeville practice of making
something so obvious or so simple that you literally “place it in the lab of
each audience member.”
Frequently I am too blunt with clients
and others because I am guilty of forever assuming they know more than they
actually know about image building. Because of my lack of patience (that
grows each year), I become too blunt and the end-result is that some people
are offended. I struggle to not be so blunt, but I still repeat this
In your do-it-yourself efforts to
build your image, learn when to avoid often going for impact so you do not
merely repeat a mistake. For the person who uses high impact, it seems
obvious to do this. But what is really obvious is that the person often
doing this does not know what he or she is doing.
Forrest Wallace Cato CNN World News Headquarters, Atlanta, GA
High impact can hardly be called a
technique as this is merely the response that comes from lack of knowledge,
not being skilled at effective communication, not enough thought, or no
High impact branding for everything is
still taught by a few elderly self-styled trainers in a few disciplines, but
this has largely faded from the PR and marketing communications worlds (and
schools) during the past thirty years. Advertisers have long known this.
Today impact branding is only a small part of creating, establishing, and
maintaining a desired image within a targeted marketplace. All-impact
branding becomes self-defeating. For centuries all propaganda and
information agencies, plus news agencies, in all countries, have also know
Again this relates to selling. Lesson
number three: Never yell what is so important to you that you reveal how
important it is to you. Insert what is so important to you in a low-key and
more honest or accurate way and your propaganda message is more likely to be
accepted. I am saying, “be more subtle, sort-of slip it in, and tone it
down.” Everyone “reads between the lines” and forms their opinion based on
their conclusions, not on what you shout, especially if you are shouting
TASS and ITAR, the Russian news
agencies, often present their one propaganda line surrounded in what is
known as “soft” copy. Soft copy is honest, comfortable, non-screaming, and
non-questionable paragraphs, all known to be true and accurate. They do this
because the acceptance rate is so much higher and far more effective for the
inserted single propaganda line. They have learned centuries ago: Don’t go
For your image building, or in any
efforts to impress someone, there are times when high impact is appropriate.
There are far more times when it is more effective for you to be subtle and
not insult the intelligence of anyone. Seldom should you go for high impact.
People who skillfully lobby in Washington well know this and message
High impact often discredits the
“image picture” you are attempting to paint and thus exposes your ulterior
motive. If you are attempting to get your audience to reach your conclusion
then intellectual skill is needed. Even repetitive impact branding efforts
over time will not work. Doing this means you are giving your target
audience no option but to accept your boast, claim, or POV, (point-of-view).
“One of the big errors
professionals make is boldly proclaiming to the world how great they are.
What people hear is how amateurish, desperate, or needy they are. Prospects
will steer clear of an amateurish, desperate, or needy professional. Success
stories told in a matter-of-fact way are significantly more effective than
bold statements about self-greatness.”
Sandy Schussel JD, Author, Speaker, Sales Trainer
The skillful image-builder addresses
one person when writing or speaking, and always offers an opportunity for
the target person to reach his or her own conclusion based on that person’s
evaluation of the provided content which may include a subtle and logical
propaganda point surrounded by “soft” known-and-believable truths. Why
multiply your odds of image building failure by being ignorant (having a
lack of knowledge) of the proven process? Understand that overt impact
brings risks of appearing “high handed,” and even amateurish.
"All of the top achievers I know are life-long
learners. Looking for new skills, insights, and ideas. If they're not learning,
they're not growing... not moving toward excellence."
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