Today’s homework kids, will be to …….

I will start with a disclaimer and a “survey says” question. First the question, just so you are at least a little curious; On a scale of one to five, with one meaning I am living but barely to five representing you’re living the high life, how would you describe your financial situation? It’s a rhetorical question so don’t send me emails with your pick but do answer the question for yourself. Second is the disclaimer. I am a math geek and this blog will have a fair amount of math in it.

With that made clear, here goes. As a math geek; 1. I love solving math problems, just ask my kids. Every where and anywhere we went there was a potential math problem looming. Their favorite, okay my favorite, was the semi on the highway problem. It goes like this. Most semis will have the length of their trailer posted somewhere on the back of the truck but the standard is 53 feet. The tractor is another 12 feet for a total average length of 65 feet. If I am traveling 60 mph, my wife would say if only, and I have them start counting the seconds from when my front bumper passes the trucks rear bumper up to the moment my front bumper passes the tractors front bumper, the question posed is “How fast is the truck going?” Someone out there will say can’t you just shadow the truck and check your speedometer? Bet your kid is still asking you to tell them the answers to their homework. By the way, this will keep your child busy and less likely to ask the proverbial how much longer till we get there question and possibly even avoid the worst case scenario of “She’s invading my space.” Enough said on loving math problems as you can simply speculate on the living math hell my daughters grew up in. 2. I love statistics. I have never seen any game, especially games of chance, or demographic that can’t be expressed with statistics. As a teacher, my students would be tasked to make up survey questions and then go out to find the real data. In yet another project, they would use statistical math to calculate the number of theoretical license plates printed in the sequence leading up to my personal vehicle license plate. And again, I know what you are thinking, “He gave them his license plate number?!” What were you thinking? Of course I didn’t give them my license plate. I was a middle school math teacher? The very first survey question would have been, on a scale of one to five, what is the damage risk level to my car of a 7th grade student seeking revenge? Obviously it was the principal’s license plate. And 3. I firmly believe that statistics in the wrong hands can be grossly misleading if not just plain false. Have you seen the latest poll numbers of your favorite politician as put out by their own party? One that always bothers me is that two out every three dentists recommend, fill in the blank here, toothpaste. I suspect that company’s product was filled in that blank. There, you now have my manifesto, and for that matter, most of the math you will need to contemplate.

Those who know me well, as I hope my followers do, know that I finished my career in the finance world. Loving statistics, see above, I came across this tidbit, okay, I deliberately looked it up. It would seem that the total asset value of households in the U.S. is estimated at $113 trillion. The total U.S. debt of those same households was $15 trillion resulting in a net wealth of $98 trillion That’s trillion with a T and twelve zeroes behind it. I mean look at it, $98,000,000,000,000. But, that begged the question, here comes the math problem, how much is that per individual U.S. citizen? There are, at last count, 329 million folks living here in this great country. I’ll save you reaching for your calculators, but I bet my grandson can do the math in his head, that’s $297,000 per person, and that would include individuals like my five year old granddaughter. Factor out those under the age of 21 and the population drops to 197 million changing that wealth number to roughly $497,000 per individual. Wait, what? Feeling short changed? Remember, you still need to subtract your total amount of debt before you arrive at your personal total. I am betting that many of you might be willing to trade positions and settle for that national average.

So what’s my point? Well the obvious one is whose got all the money? If your household, all the adults in the house times the $497,000 per person exceeds the average, well I sure hope you answered that survey question I opened with, at 4 or better. If your household doesn’t exceed the number and you still gave yourself a 3 or better, maybe you already see my point. It’s not what everyone else has that I don’t, but what I have and what I am able to do. I could go further into the weeds and tell you that the top 1% of US households hold 20% of the total wealth, or roughly $20 trillion. ($20,000,000,000,000) Their average wealth then jumps to $6,000,000 per individual! But now I’ve put the spotlight on what I don’t have and that is the complete opposite of the point I am trying to make.

We are a consumer nation and that fact tends to cause us to view the glass as half empty. That in turn leaves us with the feeling that we don’t have enough, or that we deserve more, or just that we might never be satisfied. I asked my opening question before I gave you the statistics for a reason. How did you answer it? Glass half empty or glass half full? Had I posed the statistics first, would it have changed your answer? Don’t let statistics overwhelm you. They are averages at best and you are better than average. Of that I am sure.

If you were waiting for me to go all, no offense, Bernie Sanders on you, I just wouldn’t. I may share his belief that wealth could be spread a little fairer and maybe accomplish more if we got over our political war on taxes, but at the end of the day, what truly counts is your attitude on what you have, not what you want. Heck, what would I do if I had the wealth up there in that 1% bunch. Oh yeah, I’d likely give to those with less. But that’s just me, because I already have enough.

Back to Normal?

The last time I saw a movie in a theater had been almost three years ago. Yesterday, finally, my wife and I returned to the theater for our favorite five buck Tuesday date. We sat, at the edge of our seats, through Top Gun Maverick. It felt good. It felt normal, almost. Remember when this whole Covid-19 thing was going to inconvenience us for a few weeks, maybe a few months at most?

Here we are two and a half years later. Some things are back to normal. Some aren’t. Some might never be. I could say the world has changed, and many will profess that very sentiment, but the truth is we changed. We have changed the way we do so many things. We have changed the processes. Many of us have changed the way we socialize, where we socialize. Most of us have come through this with a different outlook. For some, more positive. For others, more negative.

The pandemic has challenged our perception of freedom. It has made some of us demand our rights, while sadly, being willing to suppress the rights of others. We have always seemed to be a divided nation, but the pandemic seemed to push us even further apart. It seemed to focus our anger and then the isolation seemed to cause us to direct that anger outward, and often at the wrong people.

We have so many issues to deal with as a nation. Equal rights, not just for a few but for everyone, black or white, male or female, gay or straight. Climate change, whether you want to call it global warming or just admit that the climate is in fact being changed by our very behavior, our insatiable desire for everything fast and convenient, for our unwillingness to pay the price of doing it right. For common sense gun laws to protect us from ourselves. And please don’t tell me its the bad guys that have all the guns even as you tell teachers to arm themselves against the next potential attack. Why are we not dealing with these issues? Why are we at the very least, still dragging our feet. How has Congress become so isolated from the reality of who it is they are supposed to represent. When did it become only about the party and the money it took to get them elected? When did they forget that they are supposed to represent us? When did we all get so distracted?

I will not blame everything that’s wrong on the pandemic. It only focused things in an all too often negative light. I will also not blame a lone individual for everything that doesn’t work out my way. I will leave that last one to politicians and their political ads that attack and blame while offering no solutions or the plans needed to implement them. I will, however, hold people responsible for their actions, whether they directly impacted it through their involvement or just incited it by their rhetoric.

The solutions to our nation’s problems, our world’s problem, start with our own actions. If we want equality for all, then let’s start treating each other as equals. Let’s see the person, not their color, their sex, or their religion. And if we want to slow down or maybe even one day stop global climate change, then let’s each agree to do our part. Recycle, reuse, maybe pay a little more for products made with our environment’s well-being in mind. Let’s do business with businesses that take steps to protect the environment. And let’s speak with our votes. If the candidate is living in reality denial, has no solutions, is unwilling to compromise for the good of the nation, for us, then we vote them out. We are far more powerful than we think. And when we act together, we can become a force for change.

It might have been serendipitous that the first movie I saw after that long pandemic break, was one chock full of testosterone, speed, and comradery, but it seems it was the nudge I needed to break out of my latest episode of writer’s block. Just one more step toward normal.