Direction of Your Life

Do you feel like life is just a little out of sync? In the crazy world in which we now find ourselves, it is critical to create a safe place to give you hope and optimism. The best method of creating this stability in your life is to create and monitor your activities and emotions with a life plan.

Life planning has become an industry unto itself. There is more to your life than financial matters. You have relationships, hobbies and other activities that can’t be purchased with money. By properly setting your goals and life plan into motion, you have found your “true north”.

When you have properly placed your passions and actions into a formulated methodology that increases your probabilities for success, you are on your way. Think about these three aspects of life when planning your future. First, remember that life is finite. This is not a morbid tale but one that gives you urgency to seek your best life on your terms. If you are granted only twenty-four hours to do what you want to do in life, would you be doing what you are doing now?

Your happiness depends on the framework you have placed around yourself. Friends, community and family, all contribute greatly to the quality of life you lead. It is not all about money. I know several people who are very rich in worldly goods but bankrupt of happiness. On his deathbed, a very successful real estate developer in California told a young Darren Hardy that he made one mistake in life – he is poor. When the confused teenager looked at the dying man, he exclaimed, “You have 7 houses worth millions of dollars, cars worth millions of dollars and other investments that contribute to your overwhelming wealth! How can you say you are poor?” The wise, old man pulled the boy closer to him and, in a raspy voice wrecked by radiation and cancer treatments said, “I am poor because I spent all of my time making money and failed to create true wealth by having relationships with others.”

The second aspect of life is future thinking. Too often we find ourselves mired in the world of today. Thoughts of life in the future seem fleeting and so far out of our realm of thinking that they are irrelevant. By applying a little of your current assets and income to your future, you would be amazed at the potential results. The Chinese proverb comes to mind about our future. It states, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.” Don’t allow the irreversible passage of time rob you from a lifetime of happiness by merely enjoying today beyond your means.

Lastly, the aspect of life that makes the most impact is choice. Og Mandino, the New York Times Bestselling Author, wrote in his book titled, Choice, “The key is choice. You have options. You need not spend your life wallowing in failure, ignorance, grief, poverty, shame, and self-pity. There is a better way to live!”

Live your life with passion and happiness. Set your future in motion as you define it. The best method of accomplishing these actions is to focus on your future while living for today. A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional can help you plan for the best outcomes in your life. This choice is a simple one…

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The Power of Ownership

You have worked hard for many years to accumulate the assets you utilize to sustain your retirement. This balance sheet of tangible and intangible items may last beyond your needs. What are you to do with the remainder of this estate?

As the owner of the assets, you possess a tremendous power of control. You may have heard, as I did, that “you can’t control what happens after you die”. Of course, this is a false statement! To benefit those you love, it is important to properly describe beneficiaries and charities in your estate planning. But there is a simpler method of transitioning assets to your loved ones. The secret is proper asset titling.

Let’s assume you own a parcel of land and a home in fee simple title. The property has no mortgage or claims against it and you wish for your children to own the home after you die. Instead of probating the property as part of your estate, simply consider the retitling of the deed to the property. Depending on the state of domicile, or location, of the property, you may be able to transfer the property to your beneficiaries (i.e., kids or other loved ones) through the filing of a transfer on death deed.

This process is simple and effective. However, there are a few caveats to this type of transfer. For example, the beneficiaries named on the deed must convert the title to their own name(s) within 90 days of death or the beneficial statement of the deed is void. Most real estate in Oklahoma may be conveyed to beneficiaries in this manner. 

Other assets such as bank accounts may be transitioned to beneficiaries in a similar manner. By placing a paid-on death designation on the account, upon your death, the named individual(s) will receive the balance of the account without the process of probate. Checking, savings, certificates of deposit and other banking accounts may be conveyed using this type of designation.

Your individual retirement account and Roth accounts may be transferred to your heirs by using properly prepared designation forms. These qualified accounts require the naming of beneficiaries when establishing the accounts. Should you not be clear on the person(s) you wish to leave the account at the time of funding and opening, many people simply leave the assets to their estate. In my humble opinion, this is the last option. If you were to prematurely die, the assets will be owned by your estate and many tax planning options are lost.

Other types of investment accounts may be conveyed with a transfer on death designation form. You may name as manner beneficiaries as you desire to receive a portion of the account upon your death. 

Life insurance policies require a beneficiary to be stipulated when procuring the policy. One horror story comes to mind where an individual divorced later in life to marry a much younger woman. His wife of 39 years was his beneficiary when he purchased the policy a year after they were married. During the divorce the assets were separated and support was sought for the wife. He agreed to pay alimony for a set term of years to resolve further property division. 

As part of the divorce agreement, the paid-up life insurance policy and its $2,000,000 death benefit would remain in his ownership. After marrying his new bride of 28 years of age only two months after the divorce decree was filed, the man dies of a heart attack. Thinking she had just become a millionaire; the new bride attempts to claim the death benefits of the life policy. To her surprise, and angst, her new husband had not changed his beneficiary on the life policy even though he had been advised by his financial advisor to do so. The moral of this story is to annually verify your beneficiary designations name those you truly wish to receive your assets. Meanwhile, the ex-wife is smiling all the way to the bank!

A best practice in September of each year is to review two tasks: 1) check your beneficiary designations on your financial and other assets; and 2) check the battery in your smoke detectors.

If your estate plans are not complete, or existent, seek out a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional to help you plan for the best outcomes in your life. See you on the jogging trail!

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The Federal Reserve’s Role in the Economy

One of the most influential organizations to our economy in the United States is the Federal Reserve Board. Many people don’t notice the substantial impact the decisions of the governors of this board effect on the lives of citizens.

Why is it important to understand the role of this agency in your life? It affects how much you pay in interest on your mortgage, car loans, credit card balances and other credit instruments involving the banking system of our country.

The Federal Reserve Board (referred to simply as “the Fed”) was created on December 23, 1913 through the Federal Reserve Act. Seven Governors guide the functions of the board with each Governor appointed by the President and confirmed by Senate. A full term on the board is fourteen years with one Governor rotating off the board every two years.

Primarily, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve are charged with serving the public interest by promoting effective operation of the U.S. economy. This charge is accomplished by regulating the banking system and managing the economy to maximize employment and manage stable prices of goods in the country.

One of the most powerful committees of the Federal Reserve Board is the Federal Open Market Committee. This committee is charged with maintaining orderly markets by reviewing economic and financial conditions, determining appropriate monetary policy and evaluating the risks to long-term goals of price stability and sustainable economic growth. Twelve members govern this committee consisting of the original seven Governors of the Federal Reserve Board and five of the presidents of the regional banks of the Federal Reserve of which the President of the Bank of New York is a permanent committee member.

What does all of this have to do with you, the citizen? Everything! Think about the credit card you have in your wallet. The interest rate charged by banks for unsecured debt is typically higher than that charged for a mortgage collateralized with real estate. The Federal Reserve Board is the primary policymaker that establishes the discount rate (the rate at which banks participating in the Federal Reserve System can borrow money from the Federal Bank) which serves as the basis for calculating loan rates.

The Board of Governors meets every other Monday to review economic data for purposes monitoring progress. Should the Fed desire to slow down the money supply in the economy which would slow inflationary pressure, a simple raising of the discount rate will be entertained. 

Inflation is the invisible effect that all consumers feel when buying gas, groceries or other goods. The U.S. Dollar is directly impacted by the inflation present in the economy and buys fewer goods when inflation is higher.

If you wish to make your retirement income last a lifetime, contact a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional to help you plan for the best outcomes in your life. See you on the jogging trail!

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It’s About More Than Numbers

Too often we paint someone with a broad brush as to their contributions to the world solely based on the group in which they are a member. For example, medical doctors may specialize in a field that allows them to focus on a specific area of the human body. These physicians are capable of providing you general advice and medical care but may also provide you greater, more detailed, information pertaining to a particular illness such as kidney ailments or cancer of the brain.

Wealth advisors are individuals who may specialize in certain areas of financial matters that a particular segment of the population needs. For example, many wealth advisors focus on corporate executives and their unique compensation opportunities. Other advisors may focus more on the intricacies of Social Security Benefits and less about long-term market investments.

To be certain, your life is more complex than simply working with numbers to reach your lifetime goals and dreams. It is vital that you consider the qualitative factors in your life as much, if not more so, than you do the quantitative factors. My case in point is the life of a lady we will call “Jane”. By all outward appearances, Jane had all that was needed to sustain her the remainder of her life and leave a legacy for her children to expand their wealth. A couple of years after her husband’s passing, we asked Jane if we could meet to discuss the important matters in her life. She assumed we were talking about her accounts and showed up with her Financial Organizer we provided when initiating the relationship.

Immediately, we recognized that Jane had not understood what we wished to discuss with her. After explaining the importance of happiness in her life, we asked her a few simple questions to initiate this subject. “What is one thing that happened recently that made you smile and one thing that was difficult?” She looked up at me and began to create a big smile on her face. She exuberantly stated, “I had the best time recently volunteering as a cancer patient attendee!” I asked her, “What of that process made you so happy?” She responded in a way that made me realize she had found a new purpose in life. “When John was dying, I had no one that understood, truly understood, what I was going through at that time in my life. By helping these terminally ill individuals live a more fulfilling life and knowing that someone understands the palette of emotions they are experiencing, helped me heal and find happiness again.”

We continued to discuss this wonderful opportunity for Jane to serve and offered her some qualitative advice. “Why don’t you establish a self-help group or lead others in the process of caring for terminally ill individuals that provides dignity, understanding and compassion?” This new form of serving her fellow man gave Jane the emotional support she needed to truly live again after the loss of her husband.

As wealth advisors that specialize in retirement planning, we place a significant amount of importance on helping clients understand, and navigate, the maze of life after the loss of someone special. We are proud of our technical competence and expertise. More importantly, we are most humbled that our clients know that we are here as a resource for more than numbers.

As humans, we are all different in some way. However, we all need emotional support, in addition to financial advice, to truly live a rewarding life. It is not all about the numbers unless you are talking about the lives you touched in deep, emotional moments that helped them see life in a better way. 

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Millennial Perspective: Planting Roots in a Pandemic

As a millennial, buying a home is already hard enough. Trying to save up enough money for an average 6% down payment, trying to determine how much home we can afford, trying to find the time to house hunt, and battling debt to income ratio. Now we are dealing with a seller’s market with some of the lowest interest rates we have seen in years and a pandemic. Many of my fellow millennials are trying to take advantage of these low rates, but it has been a bumpy ride for a lot of us. Throughout this article I will recount my personal experience buying a home as well as the experiences of others in my generation in the past year.

Let us rewind to March of 2020. I know, this is not the best month that we have all had, but it was certainly looking like it was going to be for my husband and me. We had found a home that we both loved at a price point that was perfect in a buyer’s market and we were prepared to take this giant step towards this milestone. We settled on an offer with the seller, signed a contract, and we were on our way. Then the pandemic hit. 

Our situation completely changed. We were no longer in a place where we could get the home. Thankfully, our sellers, lender, and realtor worked with us and we were able to essentially pause the whole process. It was only supposed to be two weeks, right? Then two weeks turned into a month, then two months, and so on. When we finally got back to a place where we could proceed, my husband and I ultimately decided that the time was not right and we needed to wait until COVID-19 blew over, so we ended our contract. 

Ending our contract and losing the opportunity turned out to be a blessing in disguise because we also decided to move closer to family. Not being able to see anyone and not knowing if we may ever see them again due to a deadly virus makes you think about where your heart is meant to be. We packed everything up a few months later, moved across the state, and devised our new plan. We would rent for another year and look at plans to build our dream starter home the following summer. Then the market flipped, and construction costs rose nearly 130%! It was back to the drawing board for us. 

The small community we are now living in is growing and many houses on the market are new construction. Since this was no longer a viable option for us, we would need to find a completed home, but any homes that were listed were typically off the market within 24 hours, were pocket listings, or they entered bidding wars which drove the price up tens of thousands of dollars. This made our search a little tricky. Thankfully, an opportunity to buy a perfect home fell into our laps. We are now back on track to buying our first home. It feels that we got lucky.

I have seen many of my friends post on social media or reach out with the news that they have also found a home. It is great news, and it makes me happy to see so many people in my generation finally able to reach this milestone. I have discussed experiences with several of them and their stories sound very familiar. They spent countless hours searching for homes on sites like Zillow and Realtor.com with little luck. When a home is found and an appointment is secured to view it, it is off the market. You do not get a lot of time to think about the investment you are about to make and practically must sign an offer within hours of viewing the home. The whole task can be very daunting compared to last year’s market. However, with today’s low rates it is something that we simply cannot pass up.

All this to say, hang in there millennials. The timing for buying a house is perfectly imperfect right now. Do not get yourself down if a home falls through. It just means that something better is waiting for you around the corner. Buying a house is a huge step and you do not want to get roped into something that you will regret. Keep searching and the right opportunity will come to you!

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Extra Time to Fund IRA For 2020

Whenever someone tells you something that seems too good to be true, often your presumption is correct. However, since 1974, individuals have enjoyed the opportunity to “keep their money and report a tax deduction” which seems too good to be true. Sure, there are some rules and caveats that must be observed to take the deduction but overall, the Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is a powerful planning tool for your future.

Many changes have been enacted that impact IRA investors. The basic premise of “having your cake and eating it, too” continues for these types of accounts. Due to the recent IRS announcement of postponing the original due date of individual returns, you have another month to contribute to your IRA and take a tax deduction for 2020. Further, if you live in a declared disaster area, such as the State of Oklahoma, the President’s declaration postpones the filing due date for individuals to June 15, 2021. Ultimately, you can fund your IRA on or before June 15, 2021, and take a tax deduction for 2020. 

Too many individuals fail to take advantage of IRA benefits. Some misconceptions are often the cause of this misunderstanding. Many people think they are too old to contribute to an IRA. The SECURE Act of 2019 eliminated the age limit for traditional IRA contributions. No longer are you limited to contributing to your IRA at age 70½. Many of our citizens continue to work during their retirement years. By earning income, the taxpayer may be eligible to contribute to their IRA until such time they no longer work. This is a game-changer for second career individuals!

Another misunderstanding is that single-earner family inability to contribute for the non-working spouse. Assume one spouse, age 30, is working outside the home while the other is caring for the children. If the working spouse earns income, and meets other criteria, she can contribute $6,000 to her own IRA and her spouse can make a spousal IRA contribution of $6,000 to a traditional or Roth IRA based on his spouse’s income.

One of the most common excuses or misconceptions I hear from individuals when talking about saving for their future by contributing to their IRA is that they simply can’t afford it. You are not required to contribute the maximum each year to your IRA to achieve tax benefits. Every dollar you contribute to your IRA is a possible reduction to your taxable income. A little unknown is of the tax law known as the Saver’s Credit may be helpful to you in reducing your tax burden. Lower income workers who make IRA contributions may claim the credit.

If you are single and earned $32,500 or less for 2020, you may qualify for this credit against your income tax burden. The maximum amount of credit is limited to the first $2,000 of your IRA contribution and you may claim a 50% credit for a maximum of $1,000 against your income tax liability. One of the best methods of teaching your children the power of investing and allowing compound interest to help them accumulate is the gifting of funds to their traditional IRA, or better yet, a Roth IRA.

Assume your granddaughter has landed her first job as a teenager and it pays her $10,000 for 2020. Being a wonderful grandfather, and noting this is an excellent teaching moment, you gift to your granddaughter $2,000 to her Roth IRA. She will receive a Saver’s Credit of $1,000 on her 2020 income tax return. 

Individual Retirement Accounts are powerful tools that can yield tremendous tax-deferred savings over time. Start early and teach your children the power of compound interest. Albert Einstein, the famous theoretical physicist, is reputed to have said, “Compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… he who doesn’t, pays it.”

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Stimulus Funds Are Not Free Money

You can always count on change occurring in life. First, a pandemic that intrudes in all aspects of our world and, second, the federal government creating responses to the environmental changes. Many Americans will receive, or may have already received, additional economic stimulus payments in the amount of $1,400. Congress has an interesting approach to naming legislation and this most recent law is no different – The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

To receive the full amount of stimulus payment, individuals in the U.S. must have a Social Security Number and report adjusted gross income on their 2021 income tax return of $75,000 or less. If the adjusted gross income is higher than $75,000 but less than $80,000, the recipient will retain a portion of the $1,400. In other words, if you report $80,000 or more on your income tax return for 2021, you will be required to repay, through a lower refund amount, the advanced stimulus payment.

One of the changes for this round of stimulus payment is those who qualify for the funds. Unlike previous stimulus payments in 2020, the current stimulus funds are available to individuals, children and non-child dependents. For example, a family of four would receive a total stimulus payment of $5,600. This is helpful for families that are suffering from the effects of COVID-19 but, as my dad would always warn, “nothing in life is free”. The total cost of The American Rescue Plan Act is $1.9 trillion. As of the date of this writing, the United States of America owed more than $28 trillion to its bondholders and other creditors. This debt equates to $85,000 per citizen and $224,000 per taxpayer!

How do we repay such a debt burden? Well, I have good news and bad news. Let’s start with the good news. Individuals who are age 50 or older may not see a significant change in their share of the indebtedness or reduction in their lifestyle due to draconian income tax rates imposed on their earnings. The bad news is that our children and grandchildren will be carrying a heavy burden during their lifetimes to pay for our current overspending.

But, wait, there are other means of resolving our colossal debt balance. One of the most painful would be to cut government spending. Have you ever been given something and had it taken away once you were getting comfortable with its benefits? Not much fun. Cost cutting is one of the most effective yet politically costly methods of resolving our national debt. 

Another painful method to resolving the debt crisis (and that is what we have) is to increase tax rates on taxpayers’ income. At one point in the history of our country, to fund World War II, the top marginal rate for income tax was 94%. I am not advocating we return to such a drastic increase in taxes but paying taxes is a price for living in a civilized society.

Perhaps the most convenient, and difficult, method of paying off the national debt is empowering our economy to grow at a faster rate. There were decades in the United States that our country’s growth rate would average 3% annually. What would happen to our country if we could double our growth rate to 6% for a 5-year period? Full employment and taxes rolling in to the U.S. Treasury at a much higher volume would provide the resources for liquidating the national debt.

To fairly apply these potential pain points, to all citizens, equitably is the most difficult task of any elected official. If we consider the opportunities that we could offer our future citizens by paying off our debt and investing that portion of our annual budget in the areas of technology, infrastructure and job creation that improve quality of life, we could truly increase the lifestyle of all citizens.

Now that you understand “free” stimulus isn’t actually free, how do you feel? My goal was not to bring about negative feelings but rather for all of us to fully acknowledge that my wise, old dad was correct – “there are no free lunches in life, someone is paying for it”. 

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The Millennial Perspective: Workplace Woes

We all face several issues in the workplace at one point or another, but sometimes it feels like millennials get the shortest end of the stick. Lazy. Know-it-all. Entitled. Inexperienced. Job-hopper. These are some of the stereotypes that you may hear uttered about millennials in the workplace. We cannot say for sure why these are the stereotypes assigned to our generation, but we have certainly grown resilient and can roll with the punches. Some may call out those that use their stereotypes and receive, “well, you’re different than other millennials,” but is that really the case?

No two millennials have the same experience, so I reached out to others in my generation to gain their perspective of this ongoing issue. I had many respond with similar, unsurprising answers including a lack of respect from colleagues and being the person that everyone seeks for technology challenges. The lack of respect can stem from many reasons. The most common reason that I have seen is because of our “young age.” Yes, we are young, but I think that the fact that much of our generation is heading into their forties often gets forgotten. Because of this issue, we find ourselves fighting to prove our worth even though we already hold the job. The lack of respect can also come from this idea that millennials are lazy and entitled. However, in reality, many millennials work one or more jobs just to make ends meet due to lower wages, or worked while in school just to pay for school due to higher tuition than the generations before us, two subjects I have covered in previous articles.

When job searching, many millennials come across as inexperienced and unfit on job applications because they recently joined the workforce or they have changed jobs many times. Although, the bulk of our generation has most likely been in the workforce for at least a decade. Some may even argue that recently graduating from college should be sufficient experience to gain entry considering they have the most up-to-date education in terms of technology, techniques, and possibly laws or regulations. This is where we start to get into the know-it-all and job-hopper stereotypes though. As a young girl, I was taught to believe in myself and work hard for what I deserved. If someone feels that they are being treated unfairly because of their young age, despite their true work ethic, why should they continue working for that company? This is where many millennials see stagnation in current work situations and feel that they are being forced to change jobs to improve their standing. The era of companies being loyal to workers and offering pensions, benefits, and achieving middle class status has largely disappeared. It can be a difficult choice to stay with a company when you barely earn enough money to live. This of course, does not apply to all companies. Occasionally millennials will find themselves working with an employer that pays decently, respects their employees, and provides a good working environment, in other words, they put their employees first. This is type of position is practically a “needle in a haystack” in today’s society. Most hard-working millennials will move around because they know that companies would let them go if needed and it is our own responsibility to do what is best for ourselves, especially in today’s turbulent economy.

Millennials feel that the stigma placed upon us, just because of the years in which we were born, should not hold us back from the same opportunities the generations before us experienced. Stereotypes are rarely true for an entire group of people and should certainly not be something that affects someone’s livelihood. Give your millennial employees and job candidates a chance to show you that they can work just as hard as anyone and can bring real value to your teams. You will be glad you did.

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The Millennial Perspective: Office Space Evolution

The traditional office space can be described as a cubicle or office with a desk, chair, and computer. However, the traditional office space has started to evolve for some. If you look at tech companies like Google, their office spaces are far from “traditional.” More and more businesses, especially those that have a large number of millennials on staff, are leaning more towards this open office concept where there are no defined spaces. Instead workers are free to sit where they please and wherever sparks the most motivation and focus. Now in recent times, the office space has once again evolved into something a little more secluded. However, instead of going back to the traditional setting, millennials and many others have found their offices in their own home. 

When COVID-19 made its way to the United States, businesses began shutting down or transitioning to a remote work setting, if possible. Some of us have now found ourselves in a whole new working environment away from our office mates and in the comfort of our own homes. For some this was a welcomed change. For others this change may be less than productive. For myself, I found that I enjoyed working from home. I was more focused on the task at hand and what I needed to get done throughout the day. However, I can’t speak for every millennial in this situation, so I once again reached out to my friends, I asked them if they worked from home due to or before the pandemic. I also asked them if they preferred working from home over a traditional office setting and what they did for a living. I had quite a few friends respond. Some opted to leave their traditional settings to work from home before the pandemic, others decided to start their own business out of their home, but the majority found that this was their new normal as a result of the pandemic.

Many of those commenting found it difficult to deal with balancing and finding the divide between work life and home life. Several of them also mentioned that they got burnt out because of the continued work mode they found themselves in. They missed the face to face interaction with members of their teams and have even found struggles in keeping their team members motivated. Those with children struggle because their kids may not understand the situation completely and required their parent’s attention, although they are attempting to set boundaries to help with this. Some have welcomed the extra time to spend with their significant others and children, but still find that they are getting burnt out. However, despite these challenges they may not want to return to the traditional setting full time even after the pandemic is over. Providing a mixture of remote work and in-office work gives them a chance to avoid burn out on either end and may empower them to stay more focused and motivated. As for their office set up in their homes, they all provided very different answers. Some preferred a private space to make it feel less like home. Others created an office space where they could still interact with their families while others had a space designated for their home office but wouldn’t consider it a “formal” office space. No matter what setting you prefer or what generation you belong to, I feel that we are all facing challenges with our office settings these days while trying to figure out what the new normal will be going forward.

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A Brighter Day Is Coming

The pandemic initiated a change in our community that has brought momentous and abrupt disruption to life as we know, or knew, it. I can remember the simple task of driving to one of my favorite restaurants, sitting down and enjoying a great meal. I fondly recall the waitstaff and their smiles while they served me multiple glasses of sweet tea… Oh! I think I was dreaming just now.

Good news for everyone reading this column – life will return to normal soon. But what does “normal” mean? This simple term once understood by all of us will be redefined in the near future. As the government mandates guidelines to safely open our communities, states and nation, there comes to mind the one variable that can’t, or won’t, be controlled by an edict – our citizens. Will we have the confidence to sit in a crowded restaurant or enjoy a theatre without the somber thought of illness lurking in our memory? I say YES!

One of the most important lessons to learn about capitalism is that this form of an economy works when transactions are being negotiated and labor performed. While businesses continue to define their approach to safely returning to their pre-pandemic routines and functions, a product must be created and sold to a buyer that is willing to part with an asset, their hard-earned cash.

I predict, with great confidence, that our country will return to its former greatness as the world’s best economy. The question as to how long this process will take is the difficult one. To make progress in opening our economy you should remember the traits of our grand tradition. Think about the five characteristics of capitalism: 1) economic freedom; 2) voluntary exchange; 3) private property rights; 4) profit motive and 5) competition. 

Economic freedom is the primary driver of entrepreneurism. We have choices in how we wish to live our lives. “The harder I work, the luckier I get” is often quoted as the basis for the American Dream. Each of us can control our destiny but it takes hard work, dedication and a willingness to accept risk. Currently, our economy is suffering due to a lack of activity caused by an invisible creation of risk. However, we will return to a vibrant economy because of the love of freedom by men like Alexander Graham Bell who desired to speak with others across miles of terrain, Thomas Edison whose inquisitive mind desiderated to light the world with the flip of a switch and Benjamin Franklin who curiously sought to understand electricity and its effects on tangible objects. These men were considered pioneers of their day. Laughed at and mocked by the citizenry because of their unique and unorthodox attempts to conquer unknown areas of life only to see themselves ordained as great men of invention when the world gasped at the benefits afforded our civilization by their creations.

The characteristic of our capitalistic economy that has been the basis for commerce, since the days of pharaoh, is profit motive. In marketplaces across the globe, people gathered to exchange goods and services for the sole purpose of creating income and lifestyle for themselves. In the modern era we continue to seek a profit on the goods we create and sell while retaining the control of our own destinies. It is important to note that our economy is based on this premise and this one characteristic will be the hinge in which our country swings forward from this pandemic.

To truly bring our economy back to the state we appreciated before COVID-19, we must embrace competition. In our state, our primary source of revenues was gross production taxes from oil and gas drilling activities. We are a resilient people that have experienced this type of contraction in our state economy many times before. To revitalize our economy, we must initiate action and take ourselves to the marketplace. I am not telling you to spend your money, I am asking you to invest in the future of our state. Not only do we require investment from private individuals to resuscitate our economy, we must establish an efficient transaction base for the free exchange of ideas and goods. Today is the day to bring a concerted effort of our citizens to the capitalistic economy. To do so in a safe, yet productive, manner would be a catalyst to bringing back the days we so flippantly took for granted prior to the pandemic. Just look overhead, the sun is rising on a new day in the land of paradise that I affectionately refer to as the “Greatest State in the Union”, my home, Oklahoma!

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